Losing my smile

There is an increasingly widely reported phenomenon in popular culture called the “resting bitch face”. This is when your neutral facial expression looks unfriendly and unwelcoming. According to the Urban dictionary, resting bitch face is “a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.”

Well, I suffer from the opposite. My neutral facial expression is a smile. I am just a very happy person, I am always thinking of funny thoughts and I get excited about very little things (e.g. if a traffic light is already green when I walk to it – this is a cause for celebration) so 9/10 when you see me – I will be smiling.

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Smiling through life…

However, I have recently been noticing the detriments of being a visibly happy person. I feel as though it makes me appear to be approachable. Whilst this in itself is a positive thing – I love talking to new people! I live my life by the premise that strangers are just people who are not yet my friend. I pretty much assume I could be friends with anyone. Nevertheless, this perception of approach-ability also often makes me susceptible to unwelcome attention and uncomfortable bordering on dangerous situations.

As I write this, I realise that there is not a week that I have not suffered from microaggressions. You may think I’m exaggerating but let me just give a couple of examples of things that have happened over the past month:

Whilst I was on my way back from an internship in London, there was a man on the tube. I smiled at him, like I do to anyone who I make eye contact with (I once read this really moving article about how a smile can save a life. You never know what someone might be going through so I always felt showing you care even if it is just superficially through a smile was important!). Yet after smiling at this man, he kept staring at me. I began to feel uncomfortable. He moved to sit next to me and kept asking for my number, telling me he wanted to take me out that night. I said no. My stop on the tube came and I got off and so did he. He became aggressive, kept pressuring me to give my number, accusing me of not giving him a chance.

Just yesterday I came home from a long day spent revising in the library. I stop off at the local corner shop to buy peppers to cook dinner. As I’m paying, there are two men behind me. I’m smiling because I’m so excited about these peppers (they had just begun stocking scotch bonnet chilli peppers which made me really happy as they remind me of home!). These men took my smile as an invitation to talk to me (what in itself is not a bad thing).They begin asking me all these questions and as I try to leave the store they begin to follow me. One of the men tells me he is “in to black girls” as they begin leering towards me.

As I leave the store, hurrying home, willing my legs to move faster, reaching for my phone to call a friend for protection – my mind drifts to the worst case scenario – what if something bad did happen to me? I look back and still see these men nearing calling after me. I suddenly get flashes of newspaper articles with my face on the cover. And I think, what would it say? I was walking home from the library (not that it should matter) I’m wearing baggy harem pants, no makeup, a high necked long-sleeved sweater. The only skin on show is my face and my hands, it is barely 10pm…and I wonder, if anything were to happen to me, how would the newspapers twist the situation to make it my fault? How would society figure that I was “asking for it”?

And that is how I lost my smile.

I began thinking of all these situations I have been in where I have been harassed or made to feel uncomfortable. And I think: what if that stranger on the tube mistook the smile on my face for an indication I was interested? Even when I explicitly state that I am not, what if they mistook my friendly demeanour for “playing hard to get”. Lastly, I think of all the different people my path crosses on a daily basis within my standard walking route who I smile, wave or nod at – do they realise I am just being friendly?

Dear strangers, who behave in this way – you took away my smile. You have clipped my wings, reduced my vitality and put fear in my heart. Now when I walk – I look down with a dead pan face so as not to attract unwelcome attention. And whilst I do not want to internalise misogyny or accept male entitlement and normalise this behaviour. This is self-preservation. I do not want to be that girl in the newspaper.

I am sometimes brought into feminist debates where people ask my opinion on campaigns like “free the nipple” or “reclaim the night”. Whilst, I generally have a personal preference to be fully clothed rather than exposed, movements like these are so important. We live in a society where women’s bodies are policed and are unnecessarily sexualised. We live in a society of victim blaming, where we ask a woman what she was wearing when she was assaulted, essentially asking her to avoid being raped instead of telling men not to rape.

There have been countless incidents of women being victims of violence for rejecting advances from men. For example, Christopher Plaskon who killed a classmate after  rejecting his prom date proposal. There was Christopher O’Kroley who killed his co-worker for saying no to his romantic advances. Also,  Elliot Rodger who went on a killing spree for girls not fancying him. On Reddit, there’s even a whole subreddit called “Incels” and “Truecels” for men who are involuntarily celibate which is full of the most toxic and misogynist display of entitlement.

After every phone call home, I am told to “be safe”. And most parents say this, especially to their daughters, because they care about their children and have wonderful intentions. And I listen to them, I am safe – I try to make wise choices and avoid dangerous situations. Safety is so important but this is futile if this does not go hand in hand with teaching men not to feel entitled. What did all the aforementioned women who were killed by men do wrong? They said no. They were uninterested. They were living their lives.

So next time you question why we need feminism, after all, women can vote now? Remember that there is a girl out in the world questioning whether to even smile.

It’s just me, Dammy, learning to smile again

xxx

Check your privilege

About a year ago, I took a Buzzfeed quiz called “how privilege are you?“. It was during exam season and fellow procrastinators, will know how enticing these quizzes can be when they pop up on your timeline especially when you’re avoiding writing that essay you’ve been working on all day.

So I took the quiz and I think I got approximately 47%  of the privilege in the quiz. Which is not particularly high but is definitely not that low either.

According to the Oxford dictionary Privilege is…

A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

Therefore, when you think about it anyone can experience privilege in some shape or form.

For example, I experience disadvantages for not being white on varying levels everyday. Whether this is by not being able to find a single colour to match my skin tone at the make up counter at my local drug store, or wondering how “random” the random selection of my Dad at security in the airport was, or the fact that I even to have to consider “does he even like black girls though?” when talking to a guy I like.

If you do not have to consider the impact of your skin colour then chances are you have privilege. For example, I saw this premise encapsulated in its purest form in an instagram post of one of my friends a couple of days ago. It was a photo of her posing in the back of a police car, smiling from ear to ear with the caption: “Reading about the police force is more exciting when you’ve been to a police department and realised how uncomfortable the back of a cop car is”.

Wow. I had to sit there for a minute pondering whether this was real life. The post just screamed insensitivity and privilege. As a white female, her experience with police in America was exciting – just an opportunity for a good insta post. Yet, considering the political context of police brutality and #Blacklivesmatter…it’s easy to see the disparity in experience. What is a fun experience for a white female is as a scary reality for many black men. That is white privilege for you.

And what was particularly farcical about the whole post is that she would most likely identify as a feminist. So as a female she is aware of the disadvantage women face yet, as a white female cannot quite tap into the disadvantage others face for not being white.

However, that’s the wonderful thing about intersectionality, it means you can experience privilege in one area but be losing out in other areas. And it is so important we understand the muli-faceted layers of disadvantage others might face when understanding our own privilege.

Intersectionality is a word that was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and has recently become increasingly popular, especially within the context of femism. In a nutshell, it explains that all of an individual’s separate identities come together to create their overall identity. This overall identity includes things like gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age and disability.

This just means that each individual has many layers of their life they have to deal with. Therefore, it is impossible to truly see each part e.g. race separately and it is important to look at these issues holistically. This allows us to examine the varying dimensions and degrees of discrimination people face.

I tend to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle to make it a bit easier to process the concept…

Intersectionality

As a black female, there are definitely opportunities that are unavailable to me because I am not white or male. So often I suffer from racism and sexism. Likewise, there are so many ways that I am privileged. For example, I am able bodied, I come from a good background, I am cisgendered, heterosexual….the list could go on into all the nuances of the ways I benefit merely by belonging to a certain group.

Yet it is important to note that you cannot have privilege in an area you are disadvantaged. For example, you cannot have black privilege or female privilege or poor privilege. As these groups do not have institutional power. Likewise, privilege is not necessarily special treatment but things you get as a right, things you are entitled to purely because you belong to a certain demographic.

Acknowledging all these things does not make me a bad person. For the longest time, certain peers in secondary school would make me feel bad because of the advantages they perceived I had. I never did, but I always wanted to explain to them the sacrifices my parents have made for me to have a the opportunities I have today. All the missed Christmases, the late pick ups from school and the endless stress. But now I realise I don’t have to explain or make excuses for my privilege, I just need to have an awareness of it. And use the privilege that I experience to bring others up.

It’s the realisation that some people have to work a lot more to get what I often take for granted. This doesn’t mean I’m not working hard, it just means others have to work harder. For example, I wrote the post University: to go on not to go, a while ago. I’m so pleased it was able to help so many people but retrospectively, the post oozes out with privilege.

I worked so hard for my A level results and to get into University in general so of course, if someone else insinuated that I did not get there through sheer determination and diligence, it would be easy to see why I would be offended. However, every single member of my family have gone to University so for me, going to University was an expectation. Yet, lots of people do not have this privilege.

I imagine this must be what it must feel like for some of the Trump voters in America who keep being told about their “white privilege” yet feel like they’ve been left behind. It’s hard to see the privilege gained from your race when you’re struggling to pay rent or buy food. And then you see these seemingly disadvantaged immigrants in better jobs. This “white privilege” rhetoric can be difficult to understand when coming from a place of poverty. Yet being oppressed by poverty does not cancel out white privilege.

However, there are multiple oppressions at work and not all discrimination is the same. You cannot do comparative suffering. For example, you cannot compare the experience of white women to that of black men. Both groups suffer in many ways but it is not the same. 

I feel as though the reason people are so reluctant to accept their privilege is because we live in a culture of “one-upping” where we always want to out-do the last person. So let’s stop with the game of “whose suffered more?” as the hinders progression.Whilst I’m not trying to create a hierarchy of disadvantage, clearly some have a greater impact on your life that others.

So whilst I am not trying to demonise every white middle-classed cisgendered able bodied man because of the advantages they were born with. But it is so important to check your privilege. And by that, I mean you need to have an awareness of it.

Then take that awareness and do something about it. Educate yourself, talk about privilege no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, challenge the systems that privilege some and oppress others and become an an active ally, call people out on discrimination. Be aware and take action.

It’s me, Dammy, advantaged and disadvantaged all at the same time.

xxx

I am not your maid

So it has been over a year since I wrote Don’t Trust a Black Girl and even longer since I wrote The Everyday Racist. Collectively, those have been my most read posts and I am constantly surprised that they are still getting so many views and shares so long after they were written. I think it is so great that sharing my personal experiences of “blackness” have garnered the most interaction, because those type of posts are always the ones I tend to be the most nervous about and I spend the longest time hovering over the “publish” button.

But honestly, I am tired. I am so done with needing to talk about being black. Don’t get me wrong, this blog makes me so unbelievably happy and the “big issues” I tackle are my favourites. Yet, it is so tiring having to constantly think about being black. I genuinely (probably a little naively) thought that since writing The Everyday Racist, I would be done.

I was of the mentality that I could just be like, “Yo friends, racism still exists, these daily microaggressions against black people are harmful. Please stop doing these things. K, thanks, bye”. And then I could go about my merry way and dance into the sunset (well, I wasn’t quite this idealistic but you catch my drift).

That was until exactly 12 days ago and I had one of the most eye-opening racial experiences I have had in a long time. And this was when I truly realised the importance of instigating dialogue and utilising this platform to discuss race despite how uncomfortable it can and does make me feel.

So, it was by sister’s birthday and my family had come together to celebrate over the weekend in London. I made a vlog of the weekend here, and as you can see we had such a great time. We are hardly ever all together at the same time, so occasions like this are always so special.

Yet this one white American man nearly tarnished the whole memory for me. We were staying at the Hilton Hotel on Edgeware Road and I had gone to knock on my parent’s room to see if they were ready for breakfast (lol, they weren’t, classic mum and dad). And then on my way back to my hotel room, I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by the aforementioned white american man.

I am met with two towels which are thrust in my face. He then mumbles something about needing new towels, blah blah blah…

I stare at him confused. He then proceeds to place said towels in my hand and tells me that I need to come clean his room and change the towels. It still takes me a while to process what is going. Surely, it could not be, could it?

So I tentatively ask him: “You don’t think I am the maid, do you?”

He stops in his tracks, looks puzzled and then begins to laugh. He laughed. In between his guffaws, with a shrug of his shoulders, he merely asserts that he just assumed I was the maid.

As I sit here a couple of weeks after the incident, I can still feel the echoes of the burning behind my eyes and the heat on my skin as this man continued to laugh in my face at this “funny” situation. A laugh that evoked images of colonialism and slavery. A laugh that whispered the memory of subservience and the diaspora of a nation.

I boldly responded, “what about me made you assume I was the maid? Am I wearing a maid’s uniform? Am I pushing a maid’s trolley? What made you think I was a maid in the hotel rather than a guest”.

He had no response. No shame. No apology. Nothing. He just stood ambivalent to the magnitude of what he had just done.

I am not your maid…

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My “maids” uniform…

The whole situation frustrated me and made me question how some people might perceive me. The issue was and is, what about seeing a young black woman approaching, made this white man jump to the conclusion that I could not be a guest at the hotel so I had to be the maid?

Interestingly, the following weekend it was my mum’s birthday and I met up in London with my family again (this time, staying at the Hilton hotel in Paddington) and in the afternoon we watched the movie Hidden Figures, about the black women who helped NASA send John Glenn into space.

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It was such a great movie which I would definitely recommend for everyone to go and watch.  In the movie, there was a similar scene where Katherine G. Johnson brilliantly played by  Taraji P. Henson comes in for her first day at NASA and is handed a trash can to empty by a white man. She poignantly whispers: “I’m sorry. I’m … not the custodian.”

Of course, this black woman could not actually work at NASA in an academic capacity. Surely, she had to be the cleaner. Hidden Figures was set in 1961, it is now 2017. Whilst so much has changed since the 60’s, the journey is not over. If equality is the destination, then we are definitely not there yet. Usually racism today is not as overt as it used to be, modern day racism is much more nuanced as I wrote about in The Everyday Racist.

Yet, how can a situation so similar to one that happened in 1961, play out in 2017? I may be allowed to use the same bathrooms as my white counterparts but that does not mean I am equal. Whilst assumptions are still being made because of a persons skin colour, equality will never truly exist.

So don’t be that guy at the hotel, do not stereotype people. Stereotyping is harmful because it leads to largely unjustified and discriminatory decisions being made about a person solely because that person belongs to a certain demographic.

Do not be lazy. Stereotypes are the cowards way out of thinking critically and actually being present in situations. People naturally categorise people all the time based on arbitrary factors. I am acutely aware that I sometimes mentally do the same thing myself.

But just because we frequently do something does not make it the right thing to do. Together, we must unlearn these biases we hold against one and other. Regardless of whether they may seem to be a superficially positive entity or not.

All that hotel guest had to do was open his eyes and look at me, look beyond my skin colour at the actual situation and it would have been so clear that I was not the maid.

I get it, talking about equality all the time gets tiring. Trust me, I wish I lived in a world where I didn’t have to write about racism anymore. I wish being black did not feel like a heavy load that I have to carry everyday. Likewise, I understand that being constantly reminded of your privilege can be a tough pill to swallow.

In some ways, I definitely experience privilege myself – not everyone has the benefit of having two supportive and loving parents or can have cute weekends away so I know I have a lot to be thankful for. But it’s 2017 and black lives still matter, so let us keep moving forward.

It’s just me, Dammy, and I am not your maid

xxx

Before him, there was you

So today is International Woman’s Day. What a time to be alive! I have loved seeing people posting all over my social media accounts celebrating all these inspirational women, sharing their own experiences and pushing for a more equal society.

I had been wondering if I had anything to contribute to the existing rhetoric and all day  these 2 sentences have been floating around in my head:

After all, before you there was a me, and she was okay.

So right now I will learn to love myself first. Because being on my own does not make me alone.

Those are actually quotes from a spoken word poem I wrote last year called “Closure” (by the way, if you are interested in listening to my poetry, then just hit me up and I’ll send you a link – they’re currently unlisted on YouTube)

So round and round, those sentences have been spinning  in my head which was was weird as they are from a poem I wrote so long ago and had completely forgotten about. In lectures, in seminars, whilst I was making lunch…I couldn’t push these words I had written out on my mind.

Before YOU there was ME and she was OKAY

As I sit in bed towards the end of the day, I consider the importance of these words in relation to International Women’s Day and realise that there is a lot that can be learnt from them.

It seems as though from a young age, women tend to be painted this idyllic picture of a husband, marriage and a family. Now, don’t get me wrong – I can see why this can be conceptually appealing to some. However, this can often lead to women prioritising the wrong things in their life and often their happiness is dependent on a man.

Michelle Obama once touched on this subject in an interview, she said: “A lot of times we slip pretty low on our own priority list because we’re so busy caring for everyone else. One of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.”

I feel as though women are often expected to serve others and are taught to be nurturing and empathetic. These are all ostensibly positive traits. However, if they do not go hand in hand with self-love and empowerment, then I don’t believe a truly egalitarian society can ever truly exist.

Similarly, when “feminism” is depicted in the media, women are shown as these strong almost caricature super-hero type women. Whilst, this often has good intentions and can be great for empowerment but it can come at the expense of allowing women to be “human” and show weakness.

It can be tiring always having to consider others first and I can tell you from experience the “strong black woman ” mantra gets old after a while. Empirical evidence shows women’s mental health is deteriorating. Likewise, it also shows that women are more likely to prioritise their partner over themselves opting for the “mummy track”.

I do appreciate that not all women have the same ambitions (hey, would you believe that, not all women are the same. Shock, horror!). And I am certainly, not saying women who choose more traditional pathways are any less powerful. But in all spheres of life, it truly is important for women to begin to prioritise themselves.

I know for sure that my mother did not carry me for nine months so I can just be a shell of a woman or a ladder that others can climb up to boost themselves up.

So I guess this is just a call to action to all women. Whatever your situation. Your worth should not be dictated to you or be in relation to any man. Learn to prioritise yourself because after all, before him there was you, and she was okay. You are the key to your own happiness, no man can save you from your life and your worth needs to come from within.

It’s just me, Dammy, happy international women’s day!

xxx

VLOG: A week in the life

This is my twentieth post on this blog! In the tenth post, I did a vlog of my trip to Canada last Summer. People seemed to like that so I thought I would make another one! Here is a week in the life of Dammy…

 

I definitely think I prefer being behind the computer screen rather than in front of a camera! However, I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the things I get up to.

It’s just me, Dammy, and this is my life

xoxo

Don’t trust a black girl…

Last term I went to a talk titled the “Politics of black hair” by a fabulous new group at my university called ‘The Black Women’s project’. I left the talk feeling emotionally charged and since then I felt I had a lot to say about this topic. In this post I will be discussing some of the trials and tribulations of black hair and tackling some of the issues revolving it. I will not be assuming everyone knows the ins and outs of black hair so will try and explain it all as I go along to the best of my ability.

From braids to weaves to clip ins to cornrows, it is clear that I am always changing my hair. Last year I took a selfie every day and from that you can notice my varying hair styles. However, even this does not demonstrate the true extent of how much black hair can change.

I am sorry to break it to those of you who do not know, but when you see a black girl with a mane of curls or butt length blonde hair, it is not actually her hair. This is something many people don’t realise when they look at black celebrities such as Beyonce – yes, she is usually wearing a weave or a wig. (Weave = when you have your hair in cornrows against your head and get hair extensions sewn on top that).

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I was so in love with my hair like this but but nope, none of it was actually mine…

Don’t trust a black girl

This is something my sister recently said to me. I was using clip-in hair extensions , that way I could decide whether or not I wanted my hair longer or shorter literally in a matter of seconds (Clip-in extensions: a weft of hair with hair slides on it that you can attach and blend with your own hair).

Many people probably do not really know exactly what my hair actually looks like. Even I don’t know what my real hair looks likes half of the time because it is usually in a protective style (Protective style: a hair style that you put your hair in to avoid excess handling, heat and to promote growth e.g cornrows)

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My natural hair…

Over the years I feel like black hair has moved on from just being hair to being a political statement. I remember reading a news article online which argued that black girls were, “wearing oppression on their heads”. Whist I can see where the columnist was coming from in the sense that beauty standards  generally favour traits that are generally more common with other races e.g. long straight hair. However, I feel like it has gone too far and is actually putting women against each other. How you have your hair is an active decision many black girls have to face all the time.

Black hair as a subject matter has always been prevalent which is evident in the more contemporary cases such as Chris Rock’s documentary ‘Good Hair’, the emphasis on the hair of the Williams sisters and Michelle Obama. Just take the gymnast Gabby Douglas for an example. I remember being so proud to be black when I watched her secure the title of Olympic double gold medal champion. However, what did the media have to say about her? They criticised her hair. She had won two gold medals, smashed records and it was her hair that you found trending on social media.

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The infamous hairstyle that gained such a high level of media attention…

This is further demonstrated through the amount of opposition that Beyonce faced over her daughter Blue Ivy’s hair which she chose to leave in its natural state. It went so far that a petition on Change.org was created  to get Beyonce to do her daughter’s hair. And more recently the focus on Zendaya and her choice to wear locs, a look which has now been immortalized on a barbie doll.

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Blue Ivy’s hair…

Personally, the first time I decided to do something to my natural hair was for a production I was in. Aged fourteen I got cast in a production of ‘Hairspray’ and my natural hair just did not fit the part.

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Me as a Dynamite in Hairspray the musical…

This is something that black girls face from each other too. Why do we judge and critique each other for our hair style choices? For the past year and a half, I have been transitioning. And no, I do not mean I am in the process of turning into a man but this is also the term for when you have relaxed your hair and you decide to go back to your natural hair (Relaxed = Chemically straightened).

I did not realise it then but I had developed a complex about not being ‘black enough’ and subconsciously I felt that having an Afro would make me more black. Black women should be propping each other up and stop the development of reverse snobbery. Regardless of whether you choose to have natural hair or processed hair or whatever, black girls all face the same struggle. Why don’t we stand together? Enough with the #TeamNatural culture. I am all for black pride but not at the expense of putting others down. Is it not ultimately about self love and what makes you happy?

This problem of black hair goes so much further and reflects general societal outlooks towards different races.

What is the difference between a white and black woman deciding to use hair extensions or braided hair?

The recent marketisation of predominantly black features such as cornrows is a serious problem in modern society. It seems illogical to embrace black culture but not black people.  This is cultural appropriation. The key difference between me choosing to use hair extensions and when Kylie Jenner had braided hair is the variance in the power dynamic between the racial groups. This is the difference between appropriation and assimilation.  It is impossible to appropriate features of a dominant racial group who already experience privilege based on being the favoured aesthetics.

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Kylie Jenner’s cornrows…

So I guess this post was just a little insight into black hair and some of the associations with it. And remember, never trust a black girl! Would love to read your comments with your thoughts on the topic.

It’s just me, Dammy, and I am so much more than my hair.

xxx

Dear 2016 Fresher…

This is the second installment of my ‘university advice’ series (click here to read the first one where I discuss whether or not to go to university). I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am no longer a fresher so hopefully some of my experience can be helpful to those starting out or just an interesting read (click here to read about my first year experience)

Dear 2015 Fresher

1. All those £10 cash withdrawals add up.

It may seem really obvious before you go to university but it really is something to pay attention to when you get there. You would be surprised with how much you spend. Thinking back it was probably those frequent small withdrawals here and there. I had a friend who actually thought her account had been hacked and launched an inquiry because she did not realise how much she was spending. You do not want to have to miss out on all the fun stuff just because you do not have money so make sure you manage it well.

Particularly within the first month where you will have additional costs (freshers’ events, textbooks, etc). Make a budget and stick to it. Not checking your bank balance does not suddenly make money magically appear, just because you cannot see your low funds does not mean it does not exist. Trust me – I found out the hard way.

2. Your overdraft is not free money. It does not belong to you. Only use it as a safety net

Most student accounts come with an overdraft, for example, with Santander I get £1,500 automatically attached to my account. When you check your bank balance and see all that money sitting there it is easy to get tempted but it is not your money. 



I am not saying that you should not use it at all, as this is tax-free money which can actually help you build up a good credit rating for the future but be very careful with it. I have been so lucky that I have rarely needed to go into it ,however regardless of your situation do not spend your overdraft frivolously. Do not go into it if you have no prospects of being able to put that money back into your account.

3. “No vodka, no fun”

This is a direct quote from one of my flat mates during first year which I am sure was said in jest but leads on nicely to my next point. There is a very strong drinking culture at British Universities but do not be stupid about it, do not be that guy or girl who ends up outside the Student Union passed out in their own vomit. Have fun but know your limits and look after yourself.

However, just a reminder – although you come to university for new experiences and suchlike you do not have to lose who you truly are. If you do not want to drink – do not drink. You can still have just as much fun as anyone else. University and especially first year is the perfect time to make mistakes, question your values and truly decide for yourself how you actually want to live your life. However, do not be a sheep blindly following what your friends or your parents tell you to do. This idea of making your own decisions is applicable for all parts of your uni life.

4. Be safe

Whilst on the note of drinking, you need to make sure you make wise choices and are safe. This is not something that I have personally experienced but many of my friends who have gone to the big city universities have. This is something particularly to bare in mind during freshers week where you will be with people that you don’t really know. Similarly, make sure you look after yourself physically – ‘freshers flu’ is very much a real thing.

5. Have an open mind

You are going to meet so many very different people from different backgrounds so try not to be judgmental. University essentially reflects the world on a smaller scale therefore, learning how to be tolerant at an early stage will be really helpful in the future.

6. Be yourself

A lot of people go into uni with that ‘new year, new me’ mentality and I feel very uncomfortable with this. There is only so long you can keep up this false appearance and pretty soon people will see right through it all. Just be yourself right from the start and you will make the right kind of friends for you. That said, this does not mean you cannot aim to improve the person you already are.

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I dressed up as an ‘Angel’ for a ‘Witch craft’ themed social because I am not about that life…

7. Do everything

You are only going to be in first-year once so make the most of it. You do not want to get to the end and have regrets. Join all the societies that interest you and then get actively involved in a few of them. Not only can it help you in job applications but it is a really good way of meeting like-minded people and most importantly making friends.

8. If there is free food, go

There are so many events going on in the first week or so and they usually offer free food. In my opinion, you should not have to buy any food or even cook in your first week of university. If you organise yourself you can get food for each meal of the day. As a student you should never say no to free food. Well unless it is from a creepy man with a beard wearing dungarees in a white van but alas, I digress…

9. Keep a journal.

I have mentioned my university journal in previous posts and it is one of the best ideas I had. I started it the day before I moved into my accommodation and wrote all about my pre-university thoughts and then when I got there I wrote about all my first impressions and suchlike. It is so nice to read back and remember all the things you did when you first got there. You meet so many people and do so many things that it will all blur into one so it was nice to document it.

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