My trip to China was something that was very spontaneous and yet has had a lasting impact on me. I decided to take part in a volunteering programme with GotoCo and travelled on the 2nd June from Heathrow to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Beijing and finally Beijing to Guilin, landing on the 3rd June.

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Anxieties

I was so so so nervous. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a while and taking the plunge on such a trip was a huge milestone for me personally, even if it meant that I had horrific panic attacks everyday for a week prior to leaving. I had to say goodbye to my family and boyfriend who were my comfort blanket and I took this opportunity to be independent for myself and learn what I was capable of – disallowing my mental illnesses to have control over me.

I had the weekend to get adjusted to my surroundings, meet the lovely Hargun from MA, USA who was going to be volunteering with me, and get over the jetlag before starting my 3 and a half weeks at a nursery in Yangshuo.

The Nursery

The nursery was slightly out of the town with stunning views. Every time I looked out the window I was blown away by the scenery – nothing like I have ever seen before. I’ve included a photo of the view from the teacher’s office, just to give you an idea.

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I was lucky enough to teach a class of 10-15 children, aged 2-3 years old, that kept me on my toes all day! They were the most adorable children who put a smile on my face everyday and made being 5000 miles from home seem so easy. Obviously, the language barrier was something that made lessons hard and I would be lying if I said it was a breeze and everything I planned was a success. Sometimes things got lost in translation with the teachers so I had to change my ideas so that they could help explain to the children and we even had a day where the power went out, rendering us hopeless!

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Excuse the sweaty, red face and humidity (it was 99% wtf!) ruined hair. This is my adorable class

Exploring Yangshuo

Alongside having the time of my life working with such cuties, Hargun and I frequently explored the area on bikes with dodgy brakes. The town had a road conveniently named ‘West Street’ where we went if we had got slightly tired of the staple Chinese foods and were craving a pizza and diet coke. The shops featured typical tourist souvenirs that I couldn’t help but get (I’m a sucker for overpriced tourist rubbish!) and it was where we spent a lot of our evenings.

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A tourist shop in West Street

Hargun and I also took part in a calligraphy lesson with one of teacher’s relatives from the nursery. Those couple of hours were probably one of the best moments of the trip and it happened to be the day before I left so I didn’t get the opportunity to return. Stone was so lovely, making Hargun and I personal posters about friendship, love and life.

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This is my favourite photo! Writing ‘everlasting’ which quickly became my favourite

The Benefits

I feel that my trip helped hugely with my anxiety. I was forced in to circumstances I would previously have avoided and yet I didn’t spontaneously combust like I thought I would (shocking, eh?) I made some great international friendships which I am so grateful for and I learnt how to travel alone through countries where I can’t speak a word of the language. Flying still isn’t my forte but at least it’s getting there! I mean who enjoys turbulence anyway!?

I thought to end this post I would include a few more photos from the trip to give you an idea of what we did. I feel super blessed to have been able to go on such a trip and I hope you enjoyed reading my first real post!

 

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Cave Exploring

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Birthday girls

Ella x
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Well done to everyone who has got a place at university this year or is moving on to further education of some sort!

I thought it was perfect timing to give you guys some tips on student budgeting and how to look after your finances. I know it’s boring and most people would rather go out and enjoy being a student but trust me it will come back to bite you!

Tip Number 1: Pick the Right Student Account

When I got to uni I had completely pushed back the idea of shopping around for different bank accounts and just stuck with my trusted Barclays account. I suggest checking what banks are available on your campus for convenience if you need their help. To give you a low down of a few:

  1. Santander: Many people I know moved to Santander when they went to university and think it’s the best! They offer you a 4 year free railcard which is fantastic (it’s around £30 a year normally) and from what I’m aware, your overdraft is automatically provided.
    http://www.santander.co.uk/uk/current-accounts/student-graduate-current-accounts/123-student-current-account
  2. Barclays: The best and worst bit about Barclays is that you have to make an appointment to obtain your student overdraft. This is crappy because who can be bothered reaaaally but then also fabby for the same reason – it totally put me off getting an overdraft and therefore forced me to budget.
    http://www.barclays.co.uk/current-accounts/student-accounts

Tip Number 2: Take Advantage of Student Discount

Unidays and NUS are both fantastic for student discounts. On Unidays, you can get Apple Music half price at £4.99, 15% discount from Dell, 50% off the Financial Times as well as the average 10% discounts from retailers. They have a great app too which I am forever using in Chiquitos to get 25% off food.
https://www.myunidays.com/
NUS is also fab, providing 10% off at the Co-op, 25% at the Odeon and 25% off National Express. Their card is only £12 a year which is great when you think of the savings!
http://www.nus.org.uk/en/nus-extra/

Tip Number 3: Get a Job!

This is obviously one of the most common pieces of advice given to students but take it with a pinch of salt. I’ve seen people massively over work themselves with their degree and employment and personally I wouldn’t recommend working more than 12 hours a week on top of your study as it can very easily become too much.
Also, make sure that your employer is aware of your student status – might be a bit of a shock if you disappear at Christmas for a month without notice!
Retail is often very good flexible work for students, as well as bars/restaurants and any on campus shops or cafes that work for the student union. I often worked in my holidays away from uni and didn’t work while I was there so that I had a small income now and then to get me by.
I recommend using Indeed, Totaljobs and Student Beans which is where I have had the most success getting jobs.

Tip Number 4: Weekly Budget

It’s hella boring but hella necessary. It doesn’t have to be a detailed spreadsheet of your income but make a rough budget for yourself every week to stick to. This particularly goes for food. Eating out and getting takeaways seems fab the first few times but wait until the dreaded fresher’s extra pounds creep up on you!! If you take my advice, do a weekly online order as you can get a great idea of how much you have spent. Definitely buddy up with others to avoid charges too (normally it has to be over £40). ASDA is great for cheap, good food and mysupermarket.com is handy for comparing your online orders to get discount.

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Tip Number 5: Buy and Sell Cheap

Course books can get crazy expensive very quickly so I suggest checking eBay and local Facebook buy and sell pages to get them for a good price – the same goes for selling them on after use. Also, in your second year, you may need to buy extra furniture and you can get some great deals from previous students who need quick cash.

Tip Number 6: Drunk Smart

I have learnt the hard way with this one! Avoid taking your debit card out with you for several reasons. 1) You may loose it 2) you spend waaaaaaay too much which isn’t fun checking the next day. I’d definitely ensure that you’re only going out on a student night as it’s when you will get the best offers on drink; a local’s night can be a lot more expensive.
Find a cash machine near where you live that doesn’t charge to withdraw and stick to it! My campus had a machine that was used by so many people that you could only take out £20 notes, only prompting you to spend more than you needed to.

Tip Number 7: Washing

This was something I hadn’t even thought about when I started uni! Washing was crazy expensive so I often abused my lovely mother by bringing it back with me whenever I could. I would definitely suggest doing your washing with someone else and splitting the cost as it can definitely eat away at your bank balance over time.
Also, my college didn’t allow you to use certain washing products in their machines so check before buying. I often used handwash in my sink for my underwear which soon caught on with others in my flat!

Tip Number 8: Organise your Dates

Print out your student finance dates so that you’re aware of when you’ll receive your loans and any bursaries you’re eligible for. Be aware though that it is often a few days late so don’t push your balance to the last couple of pennies in hope for a lump sum. I recommend not getting overexcited by a lot of money coming in and instead finding out what dates you have to pay your rent, how much it is, and moving it in to a separate bank account which you don’t touch (remember to move it back when you have to pay though!). This helped me a lot as it gave a more realistic impression of what money I had and how long it would last me.

I felt this post would be useful for many people starting (or already at) university as they’re all points I have learnt over the past year and have meant that I have been able to afford what I want to do and avoid relying on large overdrafts!

Ella x
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I feel like writing a blogpost has been something I have thought about doing for a long time but never actually got round to doing.

I think that everyone is becoming more and more aware of the overcrowding in the blogging and YouTube community (consequently scaring off newbies and attracting the more corrupt) whether it’s commonly admitted to or not. I’m ashamed to admit that I was one of the scared off newbies, unable to afford an expensive camera and blog. However, I’ve come to realise that it really doesn’t matter if you don’t own the new Canon camera and that you haven’t bought a domain. At the end of the day (ugh, I hate that phrase!) all that matters is content.

What a lovely little segway in to what I want this blog to be about! I don’t want this space to be confined to being a ‘fashion and beauty’ blog or a ‘lifestyle and travelling’ guide so I thought it best to leave it open to whatever seems right to discuss with you all (or probably just myself if nobody is interested in me!) I love fashion, I watch YouTube hauls everyday, scourer clothes websites to see new trends and frequently have to hide from my bank balance when I get overexcited with an online sale. I also love travelling. I recently went to Yangshuo, China which I will tell you all about soon and my boyfriend and I love visiting new places together. I’m crazy organised… like yeah, crazy. I hope to be a Personal Assistant after university and so I’m getting pretty good at budgeting and organisation which I want to share tips with you when I can. Finally, I feel like this space is a great platform for discussing mental health issues, something which I hold close to me, and discussing what we can do as a community to better the understanding and awareness of hidden problems.

I hope that you enjoy my plans of what I have to share with you and I hope to hear from you soon!

Ella x

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