2017: A Review

Coming to the end of 2017 I thought it would make a nice record to look back throughout the year, which has been full of adventure, hard work and new challenges.

Entering 2017 at a house party with some of my closest school friends, I could never have plotted out some of the events of 2017, but in that lies the excitement of being at a stage in life where there are so many changes and opportunities. A few days after sipping prosecco with the girls that know me best, I was back on the long train to Exeter, stopping at what always feels like every village. I returned to submit a couple of papers I had slaved away at over Christmas, and to sit an exam. It turned out that being booed by my sister for not helping her with puzzles on Boxing Day paid off; I did well in the papers I submitted, and my Christmas miracle came in the form of a 1st in an ‘Advanced Statistics’ exam… for someone who has always disliked maths, this really was a Christmas miracle.

2017 was filled with many familiar events, including my seemingly annual concert. This year I went to the Drake Boy Meets World Tour at the O2 with my best friend and fellow RnB fan in February. The music was fantastic and the stage was a pleasant surprise, with a huge moon and stars flooding the arena.

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The highlight of the year was most definitely my field trip to Brazil. I remember deciding I wanted to go on the trip to Brazil when I went to the University of Exeter’s Open Day back in 2014, and this dream was fulfilled in March. I flew via Lisbon to Rio and stayed in the Atlantic Forest’s Uniao Reserve where I estimated the carbon stocks of different trees, saw Golden Lion Tamarins, tried lots of weird and wonderful foods, and swam on Copacabana beach. I am really hoping my first trip to Brazil will not be my last. After the trip, I travelled around Rio with a classmate and her Brazilian friend. I felt so care-free on this adventure, and loved every minute of the ‘Brazilian BBQ’ (huge party) in the forest, sipping my first ever Caipirinha, and visiting the best museum I have ever been to – The Museum of Tomorrow. One of my ongoing goals is to improve in giving presentations, and although I am still far from a natural, myself and two classmates presented our project in Rio and managed to get a 1st on the presentation – a real sign of improvement and something that has since increased my confidence when speaking in public.

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Not a bad Airbnb view

Inevitably, April and May are not my favourite months. Long hours in the library, the sun shining out the window, and Roland Garros on the TV. A lot of guilt coming from just a couple of hours of playing tennis, or taking a lunch break that’s a little too long. I always become very intense over the revision period and it does not bring out the best in me, but a new addition to my 2017 certainly helped this year. In March I had been given the all clear that my sesamoiditis had mostly healed (basically a repetitive stress injury in your foot common for tennis players and ballerinas, or people stupid enough to wear high heels on a regular basis.), and with that news I was keen to get running! Throughout school I had always been into sport and in netball and hockey I was always a wing – I love to run – but after a dislocated knee, followed by a broken ankle, I had considered myself lucky that I could maintain a decent level in tennis and did not want to push my luck with running. My boyfriend, a keen triathlete, helped me in March to get into running, largely with the help of Strava and a new found love of parkrun! Running is a very time-efficient activity and allowed me to get fresh air, exercise, and a revision break without causing me to feel guilty about time away from the desk – from the spring I was hooked on running. Throughout the year this passion grew and grew, with my first parkrun in May, my first 10k race in June, joining the University Triathlon club in September, running my first Half Marathon in October, and representing Exeter in the BUCS Sprint Duathlon in November! I think that series of events indicates how much I have enjoyed running in 2017 – and to end the year I managed a new 5k PB last week!

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Took up cycling in 2016, fell in love with it in 2017

Running wasn’t the only new item to feature in 2017. I travelled to 3 new countries in 2017 – Brazil in March, Guernsey straight after exams in June, and Croatia in September. Split is a wonderful place and I really cannot recommend it enough! I booked the most amazing airbnb and we really made the most of our week there – exploring Split itself, but also venturing out to Trojir, Sibenik, Krka Waterfalls, and trekking up Marjan Hill three times, including a sunrise! This year I went to the Eden Project in Cornwall for the first time, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go, and in my last year at Exeter I FINALLY made it to the Tar Barrels night at Ottery St Mary (worth a google)!

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Hvar, Croatia

In September I moved into a flat with my boyfriend. Its a perfect location, and we’ve made so many nice touches, happy memories, and delicious food there already! It’s a nice relief coming home from the library each day in a warm, cosy, safe, hassle-free environment, and I think it’s really helping both of us get through the notoriously challenging third year. After living in a cold (freezing is more accurate), often lonely house last year, quite far from campus, this has been a welcome change. We celebrated our second anniversary in November, and are looking forward to all the new memories to make in 2018.

These snapshots make my year sound very exciting, but 2017 was as much a learning curve as it was an adventure. Over the summer I took on an internship in an industry that really wasn’t the perfect match for me, and the long commute to London with the infamous ‘Waterloo upgrade’ going on really didn’t improve my mood. I would come home tired and (I admit) a little grumpy, and then have to cook dinner and take measurements for my dissertation study. This left me very little time for the things I enjoy, with the Wimbledon fortnight passing without me watching many matches at all. This gave me a new fondness for weekends! At University, for me anyway, weekends are really just an extension of the week, especially in third year when you do not have that many contact hours throughout the week. I always spend the bulk of my weekend studying, and therefore I haven’t had this ‘Friday feeling’ that I had over the summer in a long time. I spent some amazing weekends in Gloucestershire visiting my boyfriend, riding my bike through the beautiful lanes, venturing up to Stratford Upon Avon, and exploring more of the UK. Although the 10 weeks in London over the summer were tough, it gave me the kickstart I needed for my graduate applications in the Autumn.

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A weekend in Gloucestershire – Tour of Britain stage finish in Cheltenham

So in a nutshell, that was my 2017! I mostly spent the year trying new things (food, countries, sports), but keeping my work ethic the same! With all my friends so busy with Final year exams, applications and dissertations I haven’t been able to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, but the imperfections of 2017 are perfect for creating New Years Resolutions!

What is to come for 2018? I am really excited about this year; I think it is going to be one of the most memorable years I’ll ever have! Finally, after the last two years apart, I will be spending NYE with my boyfriend, which should kick the year off in the best possible way. I haven’t got any January exams this year, so despite lots of work on the dissertation, I am feeling more refreshed than the previous couple of years. Alex and I are starting the year with a short trip to Sweden in January, and then it’s back to the hard grind! I know this is going to be possibly the toughest term, with my dissertation to hand in, and 3 modules, as well as the looming finals! I’ve tried to get ahead with the dissertation, and hopefully, the effort from last term, and last year will get me to graduation with a grade I can be proud of! Just today I received my Interrail pass in the post, and I am so excited to explore Italy with my sister in the summer. I enter 2018 with a great deal of uncertainty – I am waiting to hear back about graduate opportunities, and so currently I don’t know what I will be doing or even which country I could find myself in, come the autumn of 2018. Instead of letting that unknown scare me, I am trying to be excited by it, and hope that my hard work and perseverance will propel me into a happy and exciting new chapter. So here’s to turning 21, graduating, planning my future, and travelling to new places and new cities in 2018! I hope it’s going to be a year to remember, in all the right ways.

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REDD+: A Failed Story in Indonesia?

Interesting article on Indonesia’s progress (or lack of) towards goals set out under REDD+.

Public Policy Indonesia

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and REDD+ (which also includes carbon stock enhancements) play a key role in tropical countries with rich forest resources and troubling deforestation issues. The original idea for REDD came from RED, which is a payment mechanism to reduce deforestation and to mitigate climate change. In 2003, at the ninth Conference of Parties (COP 9) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Milan, the idea of compensation for reduced deforestation was brought up by the Amazon coalition at a side event. Later, at COP 11 in Montreal in 2005, Costa Rica and Papua Guinea submitted a formal proposal on behalf of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations to request the inclusion of deforestation reduction in the Climate Convention.

In response to the request from developing countries, at COP 13 in Bali, the Norwegian government established their $1.6 billion International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), which sought to fund tropical…

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The Carbon Brief & the IPCC

This term, as well as my dissertation, I am taking the modules ‘Climate Change and Its Impacts’ and ‘Tropical Forests in a Changing World’. For each of these, I have had formative presentations and summative essays to prepare for, and a key source of information for these courses has been the IPCC reports, specifically the most recent report – AR5.

https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/

These reports are known as the bible for science on climate change, yet, the more I have used them I have noticed a couple of flaws. Recently I have been looking for information on climate projections for the Amazon, but instead of creating a logic chapter on this important ecosystem that stores over 100 billion tonnes of carbon, the IPCC includes this information in a chapter called ‘Central and South America’. Therefore a lot of Amazon-specific projections are lost within a generalisation for the entire continent of South America. Given the global importance of the Amazon for carbon sequestration and land-use/deforestation/degradation challenges, targeted projections for key climatic variables and implications for carbon storage would be a lot more helpful for researchers and policymakers.

About a week after considering these limitations, I came across this interesting video of Katharine Hayhoe talking about how she would improve the IPCC report-writing process and bring it up to speed in the technical age. She is a professor in the department of political science at Texas Tech University and director of its Climate Science Center.

I think it’s really important to engage people in climate science and I really think supporting graphics, videos and websites need to be published alongside the reports to appeal to a wider audience. As a third year studying Geography, even I admit the reports are dense, and reading one chapter thoroughly can take several hours. That’s why I love the Climate Brief. It’s a site I came across a couple of months ago, and I’m so glad I did. It manages to find the perfect balance between science and journalism, giving briefings on climate negotiation meetings and environmental issues in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the reader with numbers and technical jargon. Best of all are the graphics!  The Carbon Brief creates interactive maps and clear charts to convey the most important messages. I can really see this as the future of climate change communication. I really recommend subscribing to their free weekly briefing, where you get an email every Friday summarising the week’s updates. I have shared this site to a friend of mine studying Law at Exeter and she’s found it really helpful for her Environmental Law course, as it provides accurate, detailed science in a condensed, imaginative way. I can see real potential in this kind of communication, especially for people with time constraints, unable to read the lengthy IPCC reports, or visual learners who benefit from infographics to support text.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/

Drop me an email (ng311@exeter.ac.uk) or comment below if you have any similar resources to recommend. What are your thoughts on the future of climate change communication?

Good luck fellow students for any submissions or exams coming up! It’s a tough point in term, but keep pushing all the way to Christmas!!

Journey to my first half marathon

As many of you may know, I just completed the Great West Run Half Marathon in Exeter last weekend. I was really happy with my time (1:54:08), as my goal was to complete it, and if possible, run around the 2 hour mark. Since finishing the run I have had a few people ask me how I trained for it, especially as I haven’t been running for that long, so I thought I would share my hints and tips for anyone wanting to run their first half marathon. It was a great sense of achievement and I hope to run another one day (despite the pain afterwards).

GWR Half Marathon 2017

Background: I have been playing tennis since I was 6/7 years old and at school I did a bit of everything (tennis, netball, rounders, hockey), but I have never really been a ‘runner’. Yes there is a fair bit of running in tennis, and I was a wing in both netball and hockey, but before March I had not contemplated running over 5k.

My boyfriend Alex does Triathlon quite competitively, and recommended when I was starting out to get the app ‘Strava‘. I cannot thank him enough for this recommendation. It is a great way to document your runs and watch yourself improve – you can also take inspiration from other people you follow and run their routes! It has a facility to plan you route, which is great for me, especially when I was starting out because my sense of direction, and being able to judge distance is not the best..

 

Reigate Priory parkun – always lovely to be a tourist and try different routes

Looking back at my first run in March … I rather pathetically ran 2.6km at a pace of 5:19/km. I think that proves that I was definitely no runner 6 months ago. I slowly built the runs up to 5km and them I ran my first Parkrun (also one of Alex’s suggestions). I’m sure you have heard of parkrun before, but it is basically an initiative to get people running with free, timed 5km runs starting at 9am every Saturday. The first one started in Bushy Park, and they are now all over the country. I did the one in Exeter before I finished for the summer, and then over the holidays I tried out all the parkruns around me. I live in Surrey, 30mins from London, and therefore I am very lucky to have so many routes around me, with a nice mixture of the Surrey Hills and flat city routes! Alex and I even did a parkrun in Guernsey at the beginning of summer, where I managed to get 10th female (not because of my fast time but because there were so few people running)!

So as well as the parkruns, I started to build up the runs to 7km, and then I decided to enter the British 10k in London, which was a great event and really got me used to the kind of atmosphere to expect in a big race. I would really recommend if you are planning to run a half marathon, to run a 10k 2-3 months beforehand, so you can see how much more training you have to do or if you need to make any adjustments to your routine. It was also good for me to test out what to eat before and after, how much water to take on the run, the equipment I like etc… It was a really, really hot day in July when I ran my 10k, so being able to complete the run in the top 10% of females, was really encouraging for my half marathon effort.

I decided the perfect combination for me running is my ipod shuffle and my running watch. Halfway through the summer I got a Polar M400 that I saw on a great deal, and I absolutely love it because I can see how far/fast I am running without having to take my phone out, unlock it etc all whilst being a sweaty mess! I don’t particularly like running with an armband, and I like to have as little as possible on me, but this I worked out over the months beforehand. The week before the half, I went on a long-ish run to test out if I liked the energy gel I had, and to get a final bit of training in. The week of the half, I didn’t do any running, just tennis, and the usually commuting by bike that I do. This way I wasn’t a complete vegetable, but my legs were as fresh as possible – tapering is apparently what they call it!

Stumbling upon lovely areas during a run

The half was great fun and I’ve got a nice medal to remember the event! If you have any questions about starting running, or attempting to do your first half marathon, I’d love to answer them! Happy training, and good luck to anyone with any races coming up, whether its your first parkrun or a full marathon.

Freshers for the last time

So I’ve been back in Exeter a few weeks now and it has been just as manic as usual. Although I’m not getting quite as lost, or getting as overwhelmed by the flyering on the Forum Hill, its still been a hectic few weeks.

Rougemont Gardens in Autumn

I left my stuff in Exeter with Our Spare Room over the summer, so I was first busy unpacking all of that, along with the stuff I had brought from home. My new flat is looking just how I wanted it to now, and suitably there are 4 maps on the walls! If you are a Geographer without a map, you need to get yourself a National Geographic pull-out map ASAP. Our Spare Room (OSR) was recommended to me by a couple of international friends who had used them the previous summer, but I personally have mixed opinions. I wasn’t able to get picked up at the end of summer for various reasons, and in September I had to bring back all my wheat, so it would have been a bit of a squeeze to bring everything back. OSR are the cheapest out there (that I know of), with their price of £1 per box per week. If you pack sensibly you can fit a lot in the boxes, and they provide you with them which is great. One downside is that they give you a morning or afternoon pick up time which would be 9-12 or 12-5, which means you have to stay in for that time, which for me was really annoying when the end of term was so busy. But the main problem for me was when I changed my drop off date. I was originally going to come back to Exeter a bit earlier – to go cycling, unpack, and enjoy Devon a bit before term started. However, I organised a work placement very last minute after my holiday, so I pushed back my drop off date by three days when my flatmate arrived. It costs £20 to change the date, no matter how far you are moving the date, and then you have to pay for the storage – so to push it back 3 days it cost me something like £25, which was really not ideal. Great otherwise – but something to think about if you might need storage over the summer.

So once I was unpacked I was in the labs in Amory. The lab technicians had advised that the labs get very busy further into the term, and seeing as I had so much to do, I wanted to get in there asap. So this is what I had to do with my wheat:

  • Weigh it wet
  • Measure it wet
  • Pop it in the ovens for 2 days
  • Weigh it dry
  • Measure it dry
  • Cut it up into small pieces (<0.5cm length)
  • Put it into a machine to be ground to something that resembled flour (this took the longest time because each sample took 5 minutes to grind, I had to thoroughly sterilise the equipment between samples….and I had 92 samples)
  • Measure out 5mg of each sample, put it into a tin capsule and squish the capsule to the size of a peppercorn

This process was very time consuming, but I’m glad its over and I can press on with the data analysis! I’m just waiting on the results of the CN ratios, but starting early was definitely a good idea, and there weren’t any queues for equipment. I really recommend doing a lab element in your dissertation – its really nice to have a break from computers and do something practical, and the lab staff were so friendly and helpful throughout the whole process.

This year I have also joined a new society – Triathlon. The first two years, I was a member of the badminton club, and absolutely loved it, but the sessions clashed with my timetable this year and I felt like trying something new. So far I’m very impressed – nice people, lots of sessions, and a good mixture of indoor and outdoor activities (although the circuits have left me struggling to walk).

Ready to depart with EUTriC for a Sunday Cycle
Circuit Training with EUTriC at St Luke’s Campus

To break up the lab sessions, I caught up with a few friends at The Exploding Bakery (a favourite of mine), tried the new ‘Funk Thursdays’ at Unit 1, went to the good old Firehouse of course, and ran a bit in preparation for the Great West Run Half Marathon in mid-October. I went to the Freshers fair, and came away with a good number of freebies, not as many as I managed as a Fresher, but I did a decent job. I seem to have developed a bit of a sniffle – not sure if it counts as Freshers Flu if you’re a 3rd year and you only went out once, but it’s a tiring couple of weeks for everyone.

At the moment I’m doing some readings, researching for my dissertation, and preparing masters applications, so I guess it’s still a pretty busy time. I hope you all had a great Freshers’ Week and are enjoying the beginning of term – push through the introductory lectures, yes you have them for every module, yes they are boring, but the fun stuff is to come!

The Forum, Freshers’ Fair

A message for a younger sister

I have a sister who is 17, and of course she’s busy tapping away on her laptop drafting out her personal statement, and we’ve been on 3 open days this summer. This has all made me think about where I was when I was 17, and how the work I did before I was 17 has given me all the opportunities I have today. Many students rush in their last year of University or Sixth Form to fill their CVs/personal statements ready for submission, but you cannot cram years of genuine commitment into a year.

If I could give one tip to my sister, and all students one year, or 5 years below me, it would be to say ‘yes’. A career workshop after school or in you lunch break – it may be boring, an hour may seem like a long time, but you may meet an important contact, or hear someone talk about your future employer – so say YES. A part-time waitressing job may be tiring and poorly paid, but it could give you the skills and one line of experience on a CV that your peers don’t have, and it can fund once in a lifetime trips that give you something to talk about in those awkward silences in interviews. Work experience in an industry you know nothing about may be the most boring week or your life, or it could be the discovery of a future career path… just say yes!

I said ‘yes’ an awful lot between the age of 16-18, and I couldn’t be more thankful of my younger self. If I wasn’t at the University of Exeter, I would have been at the University of York, whose offer came with a personalised letter and lowered grades because they were so interested in my 3 week volunteering expedition to Vietnam (as pictured) that I had undertaken just before I had applied for the place. If I hadn’t filled in a form at age 16 on the Prezzo website, having to justify what pizza topping I would be and why, I wouldn’t have been able to fund that trip (and at under £5 an hour, it definitely was a lot of hard work). If I hadn’t gone on a taster day at age 18 with Goldman Sachs, waking up at the crack of dawn and having to catch up on a ton of History A Level coursework, I may not have been able to show Lloyds Banking Group that I have a wider knowledge base than maps and Ecology, and may not have completed the 10-week internship this summer. Each yes is a stepping stone to something that you may not see coming.

I thought it would be appropriate to end with some quotes from one of my favourite books about hard work, perseverance and reward – Rafa: My Story. It just so happens that last night Nadal won his 16th Grand Slam, further cementing his status as one of the best tennis players, athletes, and role models of all time. The first is one of my favourite quotes, and I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling of greater satisfaction when you achieve in a tough subject or module, than one you have always been a natural at.

  • “The thrill of winning is in direct proportion to the effort I put in before”
  • “The effort I invest is great, but I don’t consider it a sacrifice. It’s true that I’ve trained every day practically since the age of six and that I make big demands of myself. And meanwhile my friends are out partying or sleeping late. But I haven’t felt this to be a sacrifice or a loss because I’ve always enjoyed it. That is not to say that there haven’t been times when I’d have liked to do something else—such as stay in bed after a late night out instead of training. As I say, though, I do have late nights. Very late nights, as is the way in Mallorca, especially in summer. I barely touch alcohol, but I do go out dancing with my friends and sometimes stay up till six in the morning. I might have missed out on some things other young men have, but I felt, on balance, that I’ve made a good trade-off.”

What to pack for Exeter!?

Off to Exeter in a few weeks? Here’s a list of essentials to start your shopping! Don’t take this as a complete list – there is so much to take I’m bound to have forgotten something! Good luck and if you find any great deals or can suggest any additions, please comment below! I have hyperlinked a few items to get you to the key sites – Amazon, Sainsbury’s Wilko, M&S and Argos have probably been the most helpful to me.

Bedroom

  • Mattress protector
  • Sheet – unfitted (because the uni beds are longer than usual single beds)
  • Duvet
  • Duvet cover
  • Pillows
  • Pillow cases
  • PJs
  • Diffuser (Sainsbury’s)
  • Photos – download freeprints app on your phone to decorate your room
  • Pins – for the corkboard in your room
  • Clothes (including a thick winter coat)
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Wellies and walking boots (very useful for Geography students in particular)
  • Walking trousers/outdoor clothes/waterproof (Bio and Geography students especially need these)
  • Hat/gloves/scarf
  • Shoes – sturdy (boots)
  • Surface cleaner
  • Laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent
  • Coins (for washer and dryer)
  • Clothes stand (dependent on if you want to air dry your clothes or use the dryers)
  • Hangers
  • Hairdryer
  • Passport/EHIC
  • Cheque book/Paying in book/banking documents

Study

  • Printer – I ordered this when I arrived in Halls
  • Chargers
  • A4 printing paper
  • A4 lined pad
  • Planner
  • Laptop (try and get a lightweight one if possible – your back will save you later!)
  • Laptop cover
  • Mouse
  • Hardrive (I back this up weekly)
  • Memory stick
  • Pencil case
  • Calculator – dependent on degree
  • Holepuncher
  • Post it notes
  • Scissors
  • Stapler

Bathroom

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Bleach
  • Air freshener
  • Loo roll
  • Face wash/moisturiser/whatever you use
  • Hairties
  • Shampoo (and conditioner)
  • Shower gel
  • Deodorant
  • Shower spray
  • Shower mat
  • Shaver and gel
  • Berocca

Kitchen (self-catered)

Other

  • Trainers
  • Sports kit
  • Tennis racket (other sports equipment depending on your hobbies)
  • (Bike – for second and third years, or freshers living in town)
  • Rucksack (sturdy, waterproof and big enough for a laptop) – there is a great selection on Surfdome
  • Portable charger
  • Small purse (all you need to take to campus is your bank card, ID and Student card so a giant purse taking up space is not necessary at all)
  • Earphones

Do a food order/go with your parents to the out of town Sainsbury’s to get stocked up before you start. I made a big mistake at the beginning of my first year – buying food in town and walking it 20 minutes back to Birks. To be honest, all the supermarkets are a fair walk from the halls especially when you have heavy cartons of milk, juice, and bulky items. From the second week in my flatmates and I begun our journey with Sainsbury’s. For an online order you need a minimum of £40, which is too much for the average weekly shop. Therefore, I would join up with a couple of flatmates to do an order and just bank transfer each other. We would choose and slot for delivery and this worked perfectly! If you have a lecture your friends can plonk your stuff in the fridge/freezer, ready for you to organise when you get back. This is also great for organising a party or Christmas meal, when you can all add a few bits in. Sainsbury’s remember your frequently bought items so adding your items gets quicker and quicker each time! Obviously Tesco and Asda etc all do delivery, but we were keen on Sainsbury’s, especially as the delivery charge was usually less than £1 each and they give you 1 hour slots so you aren’t waiting in for hours for your shop.

Food (a starter guide)

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil
  • Herbs/chilli flakes/whatever you like to season
  • Ketchup
  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • Rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Noodles
  • Milk
  • Coffee/tea/both
  • Sugar
  • Veg – whatever you like
  • Fruit – whatever you like (frozen berries are great because they are so cheap and last so long)
  • Chicken breasts – separate these into freezer bags once you are back in your kitchen and freeze the majority of them. I usually organise them into old takeaway or ice cream boxes so they aren’t getting confused with other food and things stay hygienic.
  • Other meat (your preference)
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Yogurt

Just don’t go crazy on your first shop until you know how much space you have and how much other flatmates use the freezer… My flatmates were very lucky because I eat mostly fresh food, so they had a little extra space in the freezer.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the kitchen. Everyone has different skills and experience cooking for themselves. My mum is a chef and I took Food & Nutrition GCSE so I was often helping out other flatmates who were cooking for the first time, which was a lot of fun. I personally loved being in self-catered accommodation and we really bonded in the kitchen and laughed at the different habits and tastes of people. I still remember the weird looks from my Italian flatmates when us English flatmates were finished washing up after eating before they had even thought about dinner.