Summer Holidays for Students: Low Budget Ideas

Summer Holidays for Students: Low Budget Ideas

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As we are all aware, for most students university life comes hand in hand with a lack of funds, making post-study escapes abroad or within the UK a rather difficult, if not impossible feat. Undeterred by this inevitable reality, here is a list of ideas of budget holidays for students to get you started:

Camping

Although the notion of camping always reminds me of that hilarious Inbetweeners episode, for outdoorsy types camping is a fab way to explore the countryside and just escape the stresses of general life for a while. There’s always the option of glamping if you feel you cannot go without your luxuries-think WiFi, running water for those all-important hot chocolates and warm comfy beds. You can view a list of global campsites that welcome student groups here.

City breaks

Fancy soaking up some culture with your pals, snapping some amazing photos and exploring beautiful cities? STA Travel provides excellent package deals for European city breaks, including Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and Prague, with prices starting at just £119 inclusive of flights! The site also provides helpful guides to the various hostels and hotels available at each destination. You can check out their site here.

Volunteering

Organisations such as Original Volunteers pride themselves in providing budget volunteering experience overseas, with projects starting from just £37 per week. Opportunities include teaching English, working with children and getting involved with conservation projects. Check out their site here.

Visit family and friends

Why not make the most of your connections and catch up with old friends by taking the opportunity to visit relatives living abroad, or friends that are on their year abroad? As well as saving you money on accommodation, they will be clued-up on all of the best places to visit and could be your very own tour guide. Last-minute flights can be surprisingly cheap!

Festivals

Although technically not a holiday as such, volunteering at music festivals allows you free entrance and camping for the duration of the event in return for three 8-hour shifts. Other benefits exclusively available for volunteers are showers and hot meals. There’s only so long you can live on the myriad of pizza and burger stalls, let’s be real. My boyfriend and I volunteered at 2016’s Leeds Festival through HotBox events and loved it. Amongst shifts patrolling campsites in cooperation with the security teams, helping festival-goers with putting up their tents and stay safe, we managed to see so many bands including Biffy Clyro, Asking Alexandria and The Wombats. You can check out HotBox’s dedicated site here.

Airbnb

A cheaper alternative to hotels, Airbnb provides thousands of different accommodation options both within the UK and globally, giving students the opportunity to have more control over their holiday than pre-organised packages. What’s more, the options available are so much more quirky than your average hotel, including a bamboo cottage in Bali, a secluded treehouse in Atlanta and an Airstream glamping experience in Andalucia. Hosts also offer cultural experiences for a fee, largely based around art and design, food and drink, lifestyle and sports. Check out the options here.

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Technology and Student Travel: a Help or a Hindrance?

Technology and Student Travel: a Help or a Hindrance?

With the increasing popularity of technology in society, the prevalence of travel sites and apps in the travel world is hardly surprising, something that I have definitely become more familiar with during my year abroad. However, there remains some debate as to whether such resources can actually be detrimental to the authentic and intensely personal experience of travelling and whether they can in fact distract from it.

Unesco’s Institute for Statistics states that the number of international students worldwide is currently increasing by about 12% each year, thus highlighting the increasing popularity of study-based travel. But is technology a help or a hindrance to the many curious students out there, keen to don a backpack and explore other continents?

The internet has afforded us the ability to research possible destinations with great precision, to the point where you can search for your chosen hotel or hostel on Google Maps and take a virtual amble into town.

Perhaps the most well-known digital development in the travel world in recent years, coveted for promoting an increase in “DIY travellers” since its conception, Airbnb exploded onto the travel scene in 2008, allowing travellers to rent space in a private home or apartment online. “More people are travelling than ever before, and companies like Airbnb encourage younger people to explore sooner, and in a more cost effective way”, notes Tamara Lohan, co-founder of boutique hotels website Mr & Mrs Smith.

This concept is undoubtedly a natural development with the increased capability of technology to bridge the gap between those living in different areas of the world. “Technology has also brought tradition into the mainstream. The concept of staying in people’s homes when travelling is not a new one and dates back many centuries, but what technology has been able to do is accelerate this to a fast-moving and easily-accessible global phenomenon”, states James McClure, country manager for UK and Ireland at Airbnb.

Similarly, websites such as Trivago have soared in popularity in recent years, no doubt helped by the large-scale corporate advertising which continues to dominate our screens. These sites help you to create the perfect holiday from the comfort of your own home within minutes, providing instant comparisons in regards to price, customer ratings and facilities of potential travel methods and hotels or hostels.

Sites such as Skyscanner similarly allow us to compare prices of various airline carriers for the same flight, as well as showing the varying layover options.

With this plethora of websites and apps in mind, I was reminded of an interesting article that The Guardian published on the future of travel, debating how travel will differ in 2024 and beyond. The fact that this article is now slightly outdated, having been published in 2014, only adds to the sheer scale of the digital possibilities that may unfold in coming years: “Check in by robot? Budget space flights? Virtual holidays?”

It is clear that the effect of technology on our ability to plan our trips, book hotels and even niche aspects such as finding suitable restaurants for those with allergies before even setting off to a destination, is something that is only going to expand our horizons in the future.

However, whilst the practicality and efficiency of these sites cannot be doubted, there remains something special about improvisation: allowing yourself to get a little lost, genuinely explore and detach from technology for a little while whilst travelling. Physical travel guides such as the Lonely Planet series, as treasured by travel enthusiasts worldwide, should not be forgotten and arguably often provide a much more in depth and personal perspective of a destination than a generic website ever can.

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Top Five Books I Want to Read in 2018

Top Five Books I Want to Read in 2018

As a languages student with an ever-increasing pile of obligatory cultural books permanently residing on my desk, one of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to make a conscious effort to read for pleasure-original, I know, but important nonetheless. Here’s an insight into the top five books I am keen to read throughout 2018:

Graeme Macrae Burnet-‘His Bloody Project’

‘A fiendishly readable tale that richly deserves the wider attention the Booker has brought it’ – The Guardian

Having been part of St Chad’s College’s reading group who recently shadowed the 2016 Man Booker prize, I am keen to read Burnet’s second novel, which was included on the shortlist.  Reviews promise a psychological thriller set firmly in the 19th century, presented to the avid reader as a selection of ‘found’ memoirs. This all seems promising as a major fan of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Similarly to both of these novels, I am intrigued by Burnet’s use of multiple unreliable narrators, something which the intrigue of successful thrillers thrives upon in my opinion.

Ruby Wax-‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’

‘Ruby Wax has an extraordinary mind, and has brought it to bear with trademark wit and searing honesty’- Steven Fry

This self-help book written by much-loved comedian, actress and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, was brought to my attention earlier this year. As students, we are all too aware of the sometimes overwhelming nature of University life and the struggles it can bring along with all of its excitement and opportunity. Keen on improving my own mental health, I started reading this book a couple of weeks ago and was instantly drawn in by its chatty and honest tone, a plethora of witty anecdotes alongside clear and concise guidelines and tips. The book progresses in weekly instalments, each providing mindfulness techniques, with the aim of the reader trying to implicate these methods throughout everyday life. Given its recent glowing reviews, I am excited to discover the secrets of this book, a guide suitable for those who, like me, are completely new to the notion of mindfulness.

Phillip Pullman-‘Northern Lights’

‘Rarely, if ever, have readers been offered such a rich casket of wonders’ – Independent

A well-loved and infamous tale, I have been recommended this novel so many times and I am determined that this is the year that I will finally get round to reading it when I’m not reading for lectures. A guest at 2015’s Durham Book Festival, Pullman is widely renowned as the author for a generation, penning this novel as the first in his highly successful trilogy His Dark Materials.

Stephanie Perkins-‘Anna and the French Kiss’

‘Very sly. Very funny. Very romantic. You should date this book.’ –Maureen Johnson

Despite the fact that I have now surpassed my teenage years and supposedly left my multitude of dog-eared chick-lits behind, I must admit that I am still a sucker for the occasional YA novel. The Parisian-inspired cover instantly drew me in, given that I am due to embark on my own French adventure this year as part of my year abroad. A classic whirlwind tale of teenage romance, this is the kind of easy read that never fails to cheer me up on a rainy day and, given the raving reviews of my friends, I can’t wait to get started.

Rose Tremain- ‘The Gustav Sonata’

‘A powerful, profound and unexpected love story about envy, ambition and the enduring damage of unrequited love. It is a masterful, meditative novel’- The Guardian

Having read the first chapter of this book and having heard much of Tremain’s prowess as a writer of compelling historical fiction, I am so excited to have the time to delve back into it. Set in a small town in ‘neutral’ Switzerland post-Second World War, this touching tale of the transcendence of friendship through life’s hardships is enthralling from the outset. This novel is a powerful exploration of both the implications of the country’s quest for neutrality and the individuals’ quest for self-mastery, touching upon the difficulties and social tensions these may invoke.

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REVIEW: Panic! At the Disco – Death Of A Bachelor

REVIEW: Panic! At the Disco – Death Of A Bachelor

Debuted in January 2017 and quickly attracting major worldwide attention, Panic! At The Disco’s album ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ is easily my favourite album release so far this year.

As a die-hard Panic! fan, I feel that this album is reminiscent of early singles, retaining the upbeat style of songs such as ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ and ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’. However, the album also demonstrates powerful, more mature Sinatra-esque vocals from Brendon Urie, vocalist and last remaining original member of the band, demonstrating how the band’s sound has evolved.

Songs vary from ridiculously catchy and upbeat ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ to down-tempo ballad ‘Death Of A Bachelor’. The music video for the latter is particularly spectacular, featuring ever-talented Brendon in simplistic monochrome jazz setting, allowing us to focus on his powerful vocals.

A personal favourite for me is ‘House Of Memories’, which combines a repetitive and catchy chorus with fantastic lyric-writing and experimentations with elements of the electronic genre never heard before in the band’s repertoire. These developments and explorations of elements of different genres are exciting for both existing fans and those who have just discovered the band.

This is a feel-good album with catchy, relatable and often blissfully nostalgic lyrics, ideal for a quick pick-me-up. I would thus recommend this album to fans of Fall Out Boy’s newer releases, as many songs are reminiscent of the pop-rock energy of singles such as ‘Centuries’ and ‘Immortals’.

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REVIEW: My Experience of UK Music Festivals

REVIEW: My Experience of UK Music Festivals

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Self-professed eternal fan girl and lover of all things rock, it is somewhat impossible for me to decide which is the best music festival I have been to. Just think of that one friend you have that never outgrew their teenage emo phase, take away the Avril Lavigne-esque stripy gloves and studded belts horded from Claire’s accessories, and that’s my music taste right now.

I have particularly fond memories though of attending Slamdunk Festival over the years. Hosted in Leeds’ Millennium Square and across various city centre venues including the 02 Academy and First Direct Arena, for one day only each summer an array of bands take over our Northern abode. All Time Low, my all time favourite band, headlined the first Slamdunk I attended back in 2012, and more recently You Me At Six in 2015 and Panic! At the Disco in 2016. With acoustic sets and various stages dedicated to different genres, there’s bound to be something for everyone- from the first-time festival goer to the dedicated metal fan. The festival organisers offer Mega Tickets for die-hard fans wishing to attend Slamdunk at all three locations over the weekend (Slamdunk North, South and Midlands), as well as afterparty tickets with access to the post-headliner club night. With tickets costing only £44 for the entire day, this festival is such good value for money that I return year after year, and am looking forward to seeing Bowling for Soup headline to celebrate the end of exams this year!

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I have also attended Leeds Festival, both as a volunteer and as a regular guest, and have really enjoyed both weekends. However, opting not to camp was the best option for us given the minefield of tents overlapping one another and the permanent state of clutter of the site- some people do have a fab time camping though so possibly worth a try if you’re willing to overlook this! As a HotBox volunteer, a separate campsite is provided which is much more spacious, with facilities such as hot water, showers and hot meals. As a girl who just needs her luxuries, this was perfect, allowing us to give something back to the festival that we have enjoyed over the years through aiding festival-goers with putting up tents, finding their way around the site and generally staying safe, whilst still getting to see our favourite bands over the weekend. Biffy Clyro and Sleeping with Sirens were particular highlights for us, although we did have to watch the Red Hot Chilli Peppers throughout our volunteer shift over a sea of multicoloured tents!

You can find out more about the volunteering opportunities available at various music festivals through HotBox here.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

BOOK REVIEW: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

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The Gustav Sonata is beautifully rendered, and magnificent in its scope. It glows with mastery” – Ian McEwan

With such high praise from the renowned author of Atonement, Ian McEwan, I recently decided to delve into the fictional world of Rose Tremain’s literary landscape. A Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, The Gustav Sonata was recently shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award, I was therefore eager to make a start on this novel over Easter.

Set in a small town in neutral Switzerland during the Second World War, The Gustav Sonata offers a unique vantage point from which to explore anti-Semitic actions and persons. The book is split into three parts: Gustav’s challenging and fractured childhood, the initial meeting of his parents and their early lives together, and Gustav and Anton in their 50’s. This temporal shift is something that I always love within a novel, allowing the reader to contrast the circumstances of the characters’ lives in themselves with ease. It is particularly interesting to consider how Gustav’s rather fragile relationship with his mother, Emilie, most likely evolved from her problematic marriage to his father and her uptight and harsh exterior which is prominently represented throughout the novel.

Described by The Observer as a “perfect novel,” Tremain intricately blends historical fact with the fictional experience of the protagonist in order to create a convincing and engaging narrative. Passages such as the prosecution of Gustav’s father, Erich (for falsifying papers in order to save the lives of a multitude of Jewish people) are given particular weight when we learn that it is an episode based upon a true story. Tremain’s extensive research, which includes interviewing the family of a similar officer, enables her to accurately capture the multitude of conflicting emotions in an intensely personal and honest way.

Above all, this is a novel largely focused upon the notion of friendship, its limits and possibilities and the way in which it navigates the pressures of our fluctuating lives. At times touching and at others heart-wrenching, it is not difficult to draw parallels with the relationships depicted in The Gustav Sonata: the extent to which one may rely on a friend without taking advantage and the exploration of inter-generational friendship (for example, in the novel, between Gustav and his late father’s lover, Lottie Erdman).

One of my favourite novels of 2017 thus far, and a relatively short one at that, The Gustav Sonata is certainly a read that I would recommend to anyone for the approaching summer vacation, rich with both historical accuracy and narrative subtlety invoking convincing and personable characters.

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REVIEW: Asking Alexandria- The Black

REVIEW: Asking Alexandria- The Black

Asking Alexandria released a video for their latest single ‘The Black’ this week. This is the title track from their upcoming album ‘The Black’, due to be released 25th March via Sumerian Records.

Filled with monochromatic macabre scenes, the video perfectly encapsulates the raw angst of the single typical of the band. This track somehow succeeds in living up to well-received previously released singles ‘Undivided’ and ‘I Won’t Give In’ from the highly anticipated forthcoming album.

‘The Black’, the band’s fourth album, will be the first record featuring new vocalist Denis Stoff. His dedicated and intense connection to the band even at this early stage is clear from the quality of their newest releases. It is clear that he is already influencing the future direction of the band: ‘writing my own songs is important for me…I couldn’t be in a band where I’m not allowed to grow musically and pour my heart and soul into the writing process’.

This release has only increased fans’ anticipation and excitement for the album release.

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