Feliz Navidad:

As much as I enjoyed the festive season in Madrid; I’m glad I’m finally home for the holidays! Bring on Ploughmans sandwiches, Nut Roasts, Chocolate covered digestives, Mexican Fiery Sweet Chipotle Sensations and basically every other edible thing in the UK that I can’t get in Spain!

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Salamanca, Ávila, Sevilla, Segovia, Cádiz & Granada!

The past few weeks have been CRAZY. Trying to balance uni work with preparing for weekend travels throughout the busy week has left me burnt out. I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired but being able to visit these beautiful cities and villages and make memories with some of the best people I’ve ever met makes every minute of this exhaustion worth it… here’s a few highlights:

Salamanca:

Plaza Mayor at night & Convento de San Esteban (Los Dominicos) hallway and terrace (not Hogwarts)

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Ávila: 

Underground wall museum & Saint Vincent Basilica

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Sevilla: The most beautiful place I have ever seen; my favourite place in the world!

Catedral de Sevilla, Alcazar de Sevilla, Plaza de Espana

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Segovia:

Catedral de Segovia & Aqueduct de Segovia

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Cádiz:

Plaza de Espana, ferry from El Puerto de Santa Maríá, sunset on the beach

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Granada:

Alhambra, Arab Region & Catedral de Granada


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#Antes que morir, quiero…

Whilst in Gran Vía for brunch, a friend and I came across a pop-up event entitled ‘Antes que morir, quiero..’ a phrase which translates to mean ‘Before I die, I want to..’ which ended up being a wall full of individuals’ thoughts on exactly this, in several different languages.

After some more research, it came to my attention that this movement was an international project started by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans which quickly spread all over the world.

 

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#PrayForParis ‘BUT’…

Whilst scrolling through various platforms of social media, I’ve seen an abundance of posts claiming ‘#PrayForParis but…’ then going on to draw attention to crises in the Middle East, African and Asian continents. I’d just like to take a moment to really think about what this individual is suggesting; that one tragedy holds more significance than another, that one kind of death is more painful or more important than another. You’re turning someone’s grief into a political statement. In effect, you’re telling them this grief is misplaced because it is focusing on a Western tragedy.

As a Politics student, I am in full understanding of how bias the stories we are presented with are, how there is an imbalance of coverage from East to West but bringing this to attention during a Western tragedy is the least most effective and intelligent way to do this – by doing so, you essentially come across as ignorant, ill-informed, and above all, insensitive. Whilst you may want to bring attention to these issues, using the word ‘but’ is not the way to do this, especially in reference to another tragedy.

Let us focus on how France has helped other nations facing hardship; being the fourth largest European taker of refugees (statistics taken from and available at: Eurostat asylum applications) – France was there for others during a difficult time, so it’s only right we do the same during theirs.

I didn’t mean to offend anyone in my views, I think everyone has a right to say what they feel, though should consider the language they use when doing so.

Finally, my thoughts are with those in and around Paris, Beirut and every other nation tragedy is looming over.

 

Why I recommend a study semester in Europe:

‘Studying abroad is just another year at University, so I’m wasting my time, right?’ Wrong. And here’s 5 reasons why:

 

1.Independence: ‘Nothing screams independence like moving to a European country.’

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One of the biggest skills you’ll gain from studying abroad. Moving to a non English speaking country isn’t for the faint-hearted; not everyone is brave enough to make such a big change, and employers later in life will realise this, it’s something that can really set you apart. Studying in Europe makes you independent in many ways;

  • It gives you time by yourself to really start figuring out who you are away from the comfort of your childhood friends, flatmates and University clique.
  • You rely less on your parents, due to both the physical distance and the cultural differences which means they may not understand the nature of some of your issues.

 

2.Time period: ‘not too long, or too short.’

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Most people automatically rule out going abroad because they don’t think they’d cope well being away from home for so long. I was one of these people until I started thinking about shorter time periods: how I’d feel about a summer abroad, and then a semester abroad. A semester is the perfect amount of time to go abroad for because you’ll be in a mentality where you’ll want to travel and experience as much as you can because you understand your time is limited. Also, unlike with a whole year, for the 4-5 months you’re abroad, things will still feel relatively new and exciting, leaving little time to feel homesick!

 

3.Expanding that skill-set: Organisation, Time Management and of course, Languages.

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Studying in Europe is completely different to studying in the UK;

  • In most European countries, timetable construction is completely down to you; you have to enroll in your own modules ensuring there is no overlapping, that you have the right number of credits and that both your home and placement University approve your selections. This process alone requires you to be extremely organised, helping improve your skill-set from the very beginning.
  • Assessment is normally constant in the form of regular midterms and presentations, giving you the chance to improve upon your time management skills as well as communication and team work.
  • Learning a language is 100 times easier when you’re constantly hearing it around you. It’s not boring like it was at GCSE where you’re sat in a classroom doing lots of grammar. In Madrid I have found that people are patient with me and are happy to see me try, even if it’s not perfect.

 

4.The people: The Highlight

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It’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re studying rather than working abroad; you have opportunities in your classes, your housemates, and societies like the ‘Erasmus Student Network’ where you meet people from all over the world. Not only am I learning a lot about Spanish customs and culture on my placement, but about countries from all over the world, I’ve made friends from Canada, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, France and Germany…

‘I just don’t understand why women need the vote’ – Saudi Arabian student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘Who is the President of the UK?’ – American student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘People from Switzerland are Swedish’ – My unfortunate moment with the Swiss student in my Comparative Government Class.

Needless to say, Comparative Government gets interesting.

 

5.Travelling: ‘the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’

Travel

Your biggest expense with travelling around Europe is getting out of the UK; from there, it’s all about cheap trains and flights and Air BnB to see all of the wonderful things Europe has to offer! Your Erasmus Grant can help cover the cost of getting around, or it can be used for your rent so the money you’ve saved before placement can be put to good use. Furthermore, European countries are within good distance from the UK, so should serious homesickness or an important event require your presence, home is a short plane ride away.

 

#62MillionGirls:

Michelle Obama

62 million. That’s too big a number.

When I think about all the children in the world who are denied the right to be educated, it makes me appreciate my life that much more. My education has brought me so much; I’m fortunate enough to have been taught to read and write from a young age, move to a different city for University, a different country for an exchange programme. Everything in my life that I love – my friends, my hobbies, my travels – have come from the fact that I was afforded the opportunity to be educated.

In school I learned to read and write, read articles and books and thoughts that empowered me and made me feel like I could change the world. Reading and writing is something I will always love, it's gotten me through the hardest of times and made me want to share the brightest of times. I learnt about different customs and languages, allowing me to break cultural barriers and move to a foreign country. In school I learnt just how lucky I was to have an education; #62MillionGirls do not have this chance. Let's change that, #LetGirlsLearn
In school I learned to read and write: read articles and books and thoughts that empowered me and made me feel like I could change the world. Reading and writing is something I will always love, it’s gotten me through the hardest of times and made me want to share the brightest of times. I learnt about different customs and languages, allowing me to break cultural barriers and move to a foreign country. In school I learnt just how lucky I was to have an education; #62MillionGirls do not have this chance. Let’s change that, #LetGirlsLearn

 

Goodbye London, Hello Madrid!

This week I became a big girl and moved to a foreign country. The stress of organising my trip and getting all the paperwork done for this process was worth it. Of the little I have seen of you, you’ve been beautiful, Madrid, and I can tell it’s only going to get better from here. I can’t wait for the semester to kick start! #UC3M #Erasmus2015 #HalaMadrid

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Raksha Bandhan:

Raksha Bandhan is an Indian festival which celebrates the love, duties and responsibilities between a brother and sister. The tradition dictates sisters should tie a Rakhi (I don’t know how to describe this other than a colourful string) around her brother’s wrist to affirm their relationship; for her brother, a sister is expressing her love and hope for the well-being of her brother and in return, the brother pledges to protect his sister from danger, evil and harm.

Though many argue the ritual teaches girls from a young age that they will always need the men in their lives to protect them and this works against much of the progress feminism has made – especially within the last decade – I think we should focus on the other side of the argument; how this festival brings families and siblings of all ages together.

For many years I have witnessed my mother be reunited with her siblings who all live in different continents through the Rakhris that are tied in person and those that are sent in the mail sometimes up to weeks in advance to make sure they arrive on time. Raksha Bandhan reminds us to take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate our siblings; and reminds us the love we share with them is one of a kind.

 ~ Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of those who celebrated ~

'To the outside world we all grow old but it is our siblings that remind us of each other's hearts, the family secrets, feuds, loves and laughs and how we ultimately live outside the touch of time.' #HappyRakshaBandhan
‘To the outside world we all grow old but it is our siblings that remind us of each other’s hearts, the family secrets, feuds, loves and laughs and how we ultimately live outside the touch of time.’ #HappyRakshaBandhan

How many people would you impress if the world were blind?

A recent poll conducted asking girls between the ages of 15 and 17 who they thought was ‘the most beautiful’ scared the life out of me. There were five options: three of which Kardashians and the other two, Jenners. My confusion with this question mainly sat with use of the word ‘beautiful’. Yes, these women have what would be considered- for a lack of better words – perfect faces and bodies but what did these women do that made them beautiful to this magazine?

We constantly hear phrases like ‘beauty is more than just a pretty face’ being thrown around but let’s be honest, most of us – myself, too, at times – associate beauty with little other than physical appearances. Many of us blame the media for the caked and photo shopped images we’re shown, others blame the role models young people are choosing to idolise. No matter who you choose to blame it’s important to recognise the increasing pressure we put ourselves under to look like these images – a pressure that is powerful enough to drown out the other important things that contribute to our beauty; like the books we read, the causes we care about and most importantly, the things we do.

From a young age, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by intelligent and caring women who constantly taught me my appearance was the last thing I should worry about. Some of these women were educated with bachelors, masters and doctorates. Some participated in volunteer work regularly. Some traveled frequently and experienced different cultures. I’d like to think I’m a well rounded person and attribute this to the women I idolised when I was younger. I thought all of these women were beautiful because of the things they did, not because of the way they looked.

It saddens me to think there’s so many amazing women out there but the most read online stories and the most idolised women out there are those who do little other than look good.

This post was so different to what I normally write about but I think it’s something that isn’t said enough and poses a question we don’t ask enough – how many people would you impress if the world were blind?

‘If your self esteem is based on the way you look, you will never be happy with yourself. If you have the perfect body, it’s going to age. At some point you have to take control and shift the focus and decide who you are. What you take from the world and what you contribute is a thousand times more important than how you look.’