2015 Leader’s Debate:

With the general election fast approaching, political parties and their leaders seem to be everywhere you look. As a politics student, I couldn’t resist a post on the televised leaders debate. However, instead of focusing on the winners and losers, I want to share my thoughts on what the debate represents beyond the discussion of stances on different policy areas.

1. Presidential style campaigns: Voting for leaders if we like them, instead of policies 

In recent years, the growing focus on party leaders and their personal lives – most notably their spousal choices – has led to the belief the UK’s elections are becoming more and more like that of our American counterparts with prospective Prime Ministers running Presidential-like campaigns. Televised debates have been central to American Presidential campaigns since the 1960’s, being used as the first test to candidates ability to ‘President’ (represent national values, argue effectively, defend policy stance); though it wasn’t until 2010 when the UK had their first. The televised debates have the primary importance of seeing how the candidates handle pressure: side by side comparisons of how well they present their ideas and defend their parties from criticism. Days after the debates, talk shows, newspapers and social media held huge discussions on the body language, facial expressions and overall representations of the candidates. The debates increasingly showed voters deciding on whether they liked the party leader, as opposed to their stance on policy areas.

2. No longer a two party system

With the inclusion of the Liberal Democrats in the last televised debate and the surprising outcome of the coalition government from the previous election, debates on the UK no longer being a two-party system heated up. The 2010 televised leadership debates had a profound effect on the election results by being seen as the starting point for Nick Clegg’s widespread popularity, his fresh take aided the emergence of the Liberal Democrats as a realistic, feasible alternative to two-party ping pong with polls suggesting he ‘won’ the first debate.

Although many argue the inclusion of minor parties in the 2015 debate will do little to aid a bid for Prime Minister, these minor parties are given the chance to present themselves to a bigger audience by being on a platform almost everyone has access to; an opportunity minor parties often lack due to limits in resources and funding for grassroots action. In my opinion, the televised debate was most important for these smaller parties by helping them reach wider audiences. And to the surprise of many, the leader of a minor party, went on to ‘win’ this debate.

3. Women

Whilst watching the debate, I found it difficult to contain my inner feminist. Not only was the debate hosted by a female, but the stage saw not one, or two, but three female party leaders. Arguably the most successful performance of the evening – not just among the females, but all the candidates – came from the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon. My thoughts were a constant trail of ‘you go girl’ throughout.

 

To wrap this up, I just wanted to finish by urging those of you who can, to vote in this election. Vote for someone you like, vote for policies you like, or tick a random box if you think they’re all the same. Our ancestors fought for us to have this right, the least we can do is honour them by exercising it.

Diya 2015:

This March, Aston’s Hindu Society celebrated the tenth anniversary of their annual fundraising event, Diya at Birmingham’s Tower Ballroom. Diya presents students with the chance to experience the Indian culture by dressing in traditional clothing and enjoying an Indian three course meal whilst fundraising for great causes. The two main charities Diya fundraised for this year were first, the Divya Seva Foundation which looks to empower underprivileged and marginalized communities in less developed countries by providing the means for better education, health care and clothing. Secondly, Teenage Cancer Trust which looks to improve the services available and provide life-changing care and support for young people fighting cancer in the UK.

Throughout the evening we were reminded of these causes and the amazing work these charities do to help fight the problems in today’s society. One of the moments that really stuck with me from this event was a phrase from a speech made by the Vice President of Aston’s Hindu Society in which she said:

‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’

and I couldn’t agree more. Thinking about the work these foundations do and how important humanitarian aid is in helping shape you as a person, I got thinking about how I could spend this summer doing exactly that. I’ve always admired Aston’s Hindu Society for the pride they take in helping others and am happy to say they have inspired me to do the same.

With an array of catwalks, presentations, dancers and singers; a delicious three course meal; candy floss and popcorn stands upon arrival, Diya certainly lived up to all its expectations. Congratulations to the 2014/15 committee  of Aston’s biggest society for pulling off their biggest event. Diya 2015 was most definitely a success.

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February Book Review:

Book: Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’.

Being part of a culture that dances to music with lyrics that are degrading to women and idolises many for no reason other than their beauty, it’s easy to think you can’t be a Feminist. The term is increasingly associated with angry, man-hating women with bad hair cuts who have little luck with love, making many of us afraid of wearing the label with pride. With references to modern day cultural phenomenons and personal stories, Gay explains how it’s okay to like to dance to these lyrics and  Keep up with a Kardashian or two and still have firm beliefs in advancing the role of women in society because as humans, we are all flawed. We want what we know isn’t good for us because it makes us happy, and that’s more than okay. It’s okay not to have everything figured out, it’s okay to feel a little lost and it’s okay to indulge in guilty pleasures. Our flaws are what make us human, even those who look perfect, like they have it all figured out, have their moments of uncertainty. As well as teaching me about Feminism, this book helped me realise your mistakes and the challenges you face help shape you just as much as your achievements do.

‘I learned a long time ago that life introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you […] Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.’ – ‘What we hunger for’, Bad Feminist.

 

 

February Travels:

I feel as though I spent majority of my time this month on trains. For reading week this month, I got to visit my best friend at her University in Nottingham, family in Coventry and London and friends in Selly Oak. I’ve always said one of the best things about Aston is it’s location: being so close to Birmingham’s train stations means we’re connected to hundreds of locations. As well as this, the Aston University App has a Live Train Time feature which came in handy on more than one occasion this month:

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A few travelling tips I’ve found useful over this month:

1) Get a railcard; you save bundles.

2) If you’re picky about your toiletries like I am, travel-size bottles are your best friends. You save a lot of room carrying these instead of original larger containers. The Body Shop is one of many places that sell them.

3) Don’t forget, salads are included in the Meal Deal (This isn’t something specific to travelling I just thought I’d remind you all).

 

Sometimes, no matter how much fun you’re having with new people at University, you want to be around familiar faces; I’m lucky to have so many close by:

Nena’s Birthday Celebrations

 

 

January Book Review:

Book: Seth Patrick’s ‘The Reviver’.

Seth Patrick is one of few writers who is genuinely gifted with words, he doesn’t just have a good story but has told it so well. Every sentence is perfectly constructed, descriptions incredibly detailed and feelings described so accurately. The characters aren’t two dimensional, each have flaws and are provided with back stories as to where these flaws come from – rare for books focusing so heavily upon the supernatural.  It has a perfect balance of supernatural elements allowing you to immerse yourself in a fictional world but also an element of reality in the way it covers areas we are all familiar with – heartbreak, rejection, death. The style of short chapters and longer chapters having sub-chapters suits anyone with a busy schedule, you can read as little or as much as you’d like in one go. I really cannot fault this book – I’d recommend it to anyone.

 

 

Exams, Assignment Deadlines and Placement Applications – HELP!

2015 is welcomed by looming deadlines for assignments and placement applications and heaps of exam revision yet to be done! It’s no secret January is a stressful month for Aston Students but I’ve devised a list of things that ought to help with coping with all this stress – helpful not just for coping with university work but A-level exams too. (Apologies in advance for the length of this post)

1) Stay on top of things. If you do a subject based heavily on independent reading, lecturers will compose a module handbook full of recommended weekly reading lists at the start of the year for you to refer to throughout the module – do the reading alongside lecture notes for the week it is assigned! By doing this you avoid a build up of work, making exam period a lot less stressful. Also, module content – especially in the social sciences – tends to overlap and understanding the concepts in one module can help with the content of the other. For example, from all the reading I did for my ‘International Relations Theories and Issues’ essay I was able to use some of the information to help for my ‘Security Studies in a changing world’ module.

2) Find your revision space. It can be really difficult to get into revision after all the excitement of the Christmas period but I’ve found designating an area to nothing other than revision helps you get into a focused mindset. Whether it be a separate area all together such as the library or study rooms in the main building or a section of your desk space in your room, keep this area for revision purposes only. By doing this, you’re able to get into a revision zone and limit distractions. I’ve found that the University library is a particularly useful space, with areas separated by noise level – whether you work well in complete silence or with a certain type of noise level, there is somewhere in the library that is suitable for you.*

3) Eat well. In order for your brain to work well, you need to eat well. Living off of take out and meal deals simply because you can’t be bothered to cook is no way to live – it seems convenient at first but after a while, you get frustrated with the limited amount of choices available. As well as this, costs add up and it’s not the most economic way to feed yourself. I recommend making meals in bulk at once that can be reheated easily – like pastas, fajitas, stir-frys and all that jazz. However, if you’re not the best cook, there are a range of reasonably priced cafés in the Main Building serving a variety of hot meals – much tastier and much more filling than a meal deal.

Well, this post is super long so I’m going to finish up by sharing a sign I found rather disturbing in the uni library:

Makes you wonder what else people are doing in these basins
Makes you wonder what else people are doing in these basins

*Library noise levels by floor:

Ground – Nosiest; also the only floor you can eat on

First – Single silent study apart from the LDC

Second – Group study

Third – Single silent study

End of term 1:

When I started my first year, I was constantly told by those who had graduated just how quickly my 4 years would come to an end; at the time everything felt so far away and I had no idea where they were coming from, but thinking about how quickly this term went really put things into perspective. I can’t believe it’s already the end of first term and time to go home for Christmas!

I know it’s a little early to be setting new years resolutions but I’d like to think of these more as small things that could make a big difference – things I want to start doing once exams are over and blog about at the end of every month. (So yes, they’re basically new years resolutions, I just don’t want to call them that because I’ll inevitably give up by January 2nd if they are.)

1. Read. With my subjects based heavily on independent reading, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to read for leisure. Instead of spending snippets of free time on social networks, shopping or doing absolutely nothing, I’m going to dedicate more time to reading things unrelated to my course. To make this goal realistic, I’m going to set myself a target to complete a book a month.

2. Notice. After watching ‘The Imitation Game’ and learning how significant Alan Turing was in helping defeat Germany it made me realise I’ve never given much thought to learning about people who contribute positively to society or who do something worth people knowing about. Therefore, I’m going to choose a ‘Person of the Month’ to blog about too.

3. Favourites. For those who know me, it’s no secret I’m a beauty JUNKIE. I LOVE reading views and buying and testing new products, from make-up to skin care to accessories. I feel like this is something I do so often that I may as well blog about it. However, this category isn’t just restricted to beauty, it’s a general section to talk about my favourites of the month, whether it be food a shop or a brand, just something I discovered in the month and became a big fan of.

 

Before this post gets longer than I intended it to be (it already is!) I’m going to wrap this up with the pictures depicting highlights of this month:

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German Christmas Markets:

The best part about Christmas in Birmingham is most definitely the German Christmas Market. Starting from the Bullring and running all the way to the Birmingham library, the market is full of craft stalls, food and fun activities sure to get you into the Christmas spirit – the perfect way to have some family fun if you’re being picked up at the end of term. The market is probably your only chance to try an Ostrich burger and ride a Ferris wheel in the center of town with a breathtaking view of the city.

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Sam Smith at the O2:

One of my favourite things about studying at Aston has always been its location. Being central to the city, the doorsteps of Aston student accommodation are filled with things to do. As a first year, my best friend’s birthday present to me was tickets to see One Republic at Birmingham’s O2 academy and after that experience, I knew I’d love to come back to see more artists at the same venue. Situated just past New Street Station, the O2 is a short walk from campus, eliminating the need to make travel arrangements and be packed onto public transport at peak times. As well as the location, I liked the size of the academy because it fosters an intimate performance with the ability to feel close to the performer no matter where you’re standing/ seated. Also, due to the small size of the venue, you don’t have to spend hours queing because you’re close to the artist regardless. Sam Smith was amazing, I can’t wait to see Ben Howard!

 

Starting Second Year:

After spending almost three months at home, most students are itching to get back into the routine of university. As well as getting back to balancing reading with lectures, most second year students at Aston are also starting to think about their industrial placement year.

One of the main reasons I chose to study at Aston is due to its consistently above average graduate employment rate, which is mainly attributed to the university’s well established placement scheme. Although the placement year is something to look forward to, the thought of having to get stuck into application processes,interviews and assessment centers can be daunting to say the least. Fortunately, here at Aston we get more than enough support throughout the process, right from constructing the first draft of your CV to preparing for your first day. We’re given an hours talk once a week regarding placements with the content varying from where to look for a placement to constructing applications. As well as the support provided motivating us to find placements, hearing from final year students about their experiences makes the process a lot more exciting rather than daunting.

Another great thing about second year is getting to choose modules – you can start narrowing the focus of your degree to your main areas of interest. I found my first year modules – in comparison – to be more general and introductory than my modules this year. Although the work load is a lot heavier this year, my interest in these areas makes the reading a lot easier to get through and lectures more attractive to attend. Overall, although second year seems a lot scarier than first year, I’m looking forward to all the challenges I will face as a second year student.