5 Things I Wish I Knew During Freshers’ Week

 

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I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon of all these ‘x things you should know during Freshers Week’ type posts floating around, because if there’s anything I regret in life, it’s 75% of my university experience. It’s been five years to the day since I rolled up to my first year halls of accommodation, and if I could go back and do it all again, here’s what I’d want to know…

5) You don’t have to change everything about yourself! Real talk, I used university as a way to totally reinvent myself. I was gonna be confident, social, and not a giant nerd. This lasted a total of maybe three months before I crashed and burned and went back to my introverted little bubble. Eventually I discovered a nice medium between the two, but I still wish I hadn’t felt I had to become a completely different person to get people to like me.

4) It’s okay to say no! I knew before university started that I wasn’t a big clubbing person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about that alcohol, but I’m a bar person through and through. Large crowds make me anxious and I’ve never understood why you’d willingly go somewhere where it’s too loud to hold a conversation. I know, I sound like the life of the party. I tried to force myself to go clubbing multiple times a week to avoid being that person, but as well as taking a major hit to my bank balance, I was completely about dreading two nights of my week. Once I started staying in and discussing the linear logistics of Doctor Who with other likeminded introverts, I was much happier. And those times where I did go out, I enjoyed a hell of a lot more. Go figure.

3) But say yes to things too! WOAAAH WILDCARD. This is advice that I still carry with me to this day: saying yes pays off. You’re 18, living without parents for the first time, this is when you can really figure out this whole life thing. What you like, what you don’t, etc etc etc. Despite my crippling social anxiety, during university I helped write a satirical political sitcom, wrote a controversial (and insanely popular) newspaper article, and argued the finer points of gender identity and existentialism with my lecturers. All things I consider to have shaped who I am today. And this was the year that Netflix reached the UK, so it could have all ended very differently.

2) Make friends outside of your flat! It’s easy to fall into a safety blanket of friendship when you’re all thrown together in the same situation (especially with the aid of Never Have I Ever), but try and make an effort to befriend people other than your flatmates. After your first year you probably won’t speak to half of them again anyway, and it’s always good to have people to sit with in lectures. I definitely had more fun with the people I befriended through common interests rather than a shared kitchen.

1) And finally, don’t start dating someone your first semester and continue doing so until your last. Trust me, it comes from experience. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Remember, university isn’t the real world, so if you mess up that badly you can always start the whole process over again after graduation. Say by, oh I don’t know, moving to Spain. Heh.

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Lush Mask of Magnaminty (Self-Preserving) Review: A Test On Sensitive & Blemish-Prone Skin

I’ve dabbled with beauty blogging in the past, but since I’m strictly cruelty free and living in a country that still gorges live animals for fun, I can pretty much only go make up shopping in my biannual visits to the UK. But one of the few cruelty free brands that I do have access to in Madrid, is Lush.

Real talk, my skin is out to get me. It’s sensitive as hell, breaks out if I even so much as look at something chemical-y, and occasionally makes me resemble the lizard queen. Currently I’m suffering from my annual summer cold, so my skin is particularly bleh. For a bit of a pick me up, I decided to treat myself to a face mask. But because of said problem skin, I spent days agonising over the Lush website trying to find ~the perfect mask~. Most seemed to be for oily skin, so I didn’t want anything that was overly drying. But because of the constant mentions of words such as ‘calm’ and ‘gentle’, I figured that Mask of Magnaminty (Self-Preserving) was my safest bet.

Story time: I didn’t go to my usual Lush store for this as I was out and about in a different neighbourhood and figured I’d save myself the trip. After telling the Lush Lady what I wanted, she practically forced the tub into my hand, and stood there, staring. It was weird. Cut to a few hours later when I was finally home and I noticed that… the back label was all in Swedish. Pretty sure the shop assistant figured she’d give the foreigner the non-Spanish tub. Hashtag guiri problems.

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But back to the product, I’ve now tried it twice and I think I’ve formed enough of an opinion to blog about it. My first time using it, because my skin is the worst, I only put on a thin layer. I removed my makeup first with the Soap & Glory Drama Clean Micellar Water (which is great btw other than sometimes turning my eyes red à la Three Cheers era Gerard Way), rinsed my face, patted dry, and got to work.

Then I sat around for ten minutes taking selfies. Because duh.

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My first thoughts of the mask was that it wasn’t as solid and cakey as masks I’ve used in the past. I was free to contort my face into as many weird selfie positions as I wanted. There was a slight tingle, but nothing uncomfortable or even that noticeable. It just made me think it was working. On my second time using the mask, less scared that it’d turn my face bright red, I put on a decent amount of the stuff. And oh boy, that tingle. It makes your face feel hot and cold at the same time. I love it when my skincare products make me feel things, it feels like I’m actually paying for something. It’s definitely not an uncomfortable feeling though, but it makes me aware of why they say to only use it twice a week.

Fast forward to removing time, because nothing else noteworthy happened, I removed the mask with warmish water and a muslin cloth, rubbing in circular motions to try and get some sort of exfoliation out of the beads in the mask because lol why would I buy an exfoliator too? It came off pretty easy, although I did manage to absolutely soak myself in the process.

Here’s a lil timeline for ya:

Straight after use: My skin was super smooth! I kept wanting to touch it but didn’t because it felt all pure and magical after the mask.

An hour after use: My blemishes were looking a little red, but my skin is a bitch so that was to be expected. I presume a lot of it came from the exfoliation as well.

The next day: My blemishes seemed a lot smaller and definitely less red, which is what I wanted from the mask. My skin felt the healthiest it had in months. My cheeks seemed a little dryer than usual, but I took that to be from my rigorous scrubbing during exfoliation.

So there you have it, my review on Lush’s Mask of Magnaminty (Self-Preserving). I think it was a success, as my skin didn’t turn bright red like it has done every other time I’ve tried a face mask. I’ll definitely be incorporating this into my weekly skincare routine, and now I just need to concentrate on finding a new moisturiser that won’t break me out.

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THANKS LUSH, YOU’RE THE BEST ❤

My Favourite Language Learning Apps: Spanish

I’ll admit, after almost fourteen months of living in Madrid, my Spanish is pretty terrible. I got complacent. I learnt what I needed to know (restaurant talk, bank talk, basic pleasantries), and then just stopped. Whether it’s because I’m lazy or because shrieking ‘NO HABLO ESPAÑOL’ when people try to engage me in conversation is an introvert’s dream, I’m not entirely sure. But somehow it happened. Occasionally, however, I do go through bursts of inspiration and/or guilt over my terrible language skills, and crack down for a week or two… but it never lasts for long. Especially with a Spanish boyfriend who I can look at expectantly whenever anyone asks me a question. But with a new academic year comes a new eruption of determination. So I figured I’d review my favourites of the countless language learning apps I’ve used over the last year, in the hopes it can help other little clueless expats out there. De nada.

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Duolingo:

Duolingo seems to be everyone’s go-to language learning app, probably because it’s so easily accessible on both mobile and PC. My first experiences with it were a few years ago when I attempted to relearn German… which didn’t go great. But once I decided I was going to move to Spain, I decided to give it another try.

Pros:

  • The language tree is a great way to quickly see which areas you need to work on. It’s bright and clear and not cluttered, which doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to learn.
  • The point based system makes it like a game, and if you’re as competitive as I am, earning those lingots is a great way to get motivated when you feel like skipping a day. Particularly with the chance to ‘buy’ extra levels, such as the flirting pack, which I love to terrorise my boyfriend with.
  • The comments on the questions make it really seem like a community. Sometimes the example sentences on Duolingo are odd to say the least, and seeing what other people had to say about the hilarious statements is a good way to remind yourself that other people are going through the same thing.

Cons:

  • Along with the strange sentence choices, some of the topics on Duolingo are a bit useless. In the job category I learnt about soldiers and commanders and lieutenants, words that I barely ever use in English, whilst completely skipping out professions such as butcher and baker and, uh, candlestick maker?
  • The fluency percentage thing. There is no way in hell I have 47% fluency in Spanish. 4.7% maybe, but not this. How is this even worked out?
  • THAT DAMN OWL. It looks so disappointed when you miss a day, that I’ve found myself not going on the site for weeks because I can’t deal with his judgemental little face. Thank you, uncanny valley.

Verdict: Duolingo is a great starting point for language learning, and also a great supplement to other services, but as a whole it just doesn’t do enough to help you really learn a language. For vocabulary stuff, it’s great, but I found that it didn’t help progress my grammar at all, so I ended up talking like a simpleton all day (whereas now I can speak like a toddler, yeaaaah).

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Cat Spanish:

Cat Spanish was my first paid language learning app, and you can only use it on your mobile. I am a very visual learner, so Cat Spanish was great for me, as it uses hilarious and adorable cat pictures to help you remember phrases easier. It probably helps if, like me, you are obsessed with cats. This app is definitely more a memorisation type of learning, rather than teaching you to figure things out for yourself, and although that might not be everyone’s way of learning, to me it really helped me find my confidence and gave me a basis to work off of.

Pros:

  • Lolcat-esque images that relate to specific phrases. If you’re a visual learner, a cat rolling around in toilet paper might help you remember what to say if you need toilet paper (which came in useful for me when I couldn’t reach it in a store).
  • Small levels which feel manageable. The app only introduces a couple of phrases at a time, so you’re not overwhelmed by words and grammar and pronunciation.
  • It’s in Castilian Spanish! Most of the language apps I’ve tried have been in South American Spanish, which is completely useless for me living in Spain. My biggest language app pet peeve is that developers don’t clearly mark which continent their language is for. Cat Spanish means I can actually use the phrases I learn in confidence knowing that people will understand me (other than my awful pronunciation, of course).

Cons:

  • Sooooo much repetition. I know that repetition is key to learning languages (spoiler alert, I’m an English teacher), but this app really takes it to a whole new level. I find myself screaming ‘yes, yes, I’ve got it now THANK YOU’ at my phone when it’s asking me a question for the millionth time. This is particularly relevant in the part where you have a conversation with a cat… they don’t flow fluently and even if I didn’t know the answer it would be easy to guess anyway because they give you all three choices. Come on guys, give me a challenge.
  • Refers to itself as a ‘social language learning app’ but for those of us who don’t have FB friends also using the app (or don’t like connecting absolutely every account we make to FB), social doesn’t even come into it. It paired me up with some random people who I guess downloaded it at the same time as me, but they stopped using the app months ago. So for me, this is the most solitary of all three apps I use.

Verdict: This was the first app that really got me to stick my teeth into learning Spanish, and acted as a great stepping stone to me -finally- starting to understand the language. For me, the memorisation technique works really well, but other people might prefer a more grammar based approach. I love this app, and think it’s worth the money, but it will all depend on what learning style works for you.

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Memrise:

The most recent app I’ve tried, but definitely my favourite (and actually from the people behind Cat Spanish). I’ve been using this app all summer now and feel I’ve progressed more with Spanish in these last few months than the entire year I’ve been here. Like Duolingo, you can use both the mobile app or the website, set a daily goal, and keep up your learning streak… but for some reason it just works so much better for me.

Pros:

  • Whereas other language learning apps start at the very beginning, Memrise offers a whole variety of courses so you can start at whatever level you feel comfortable at. I’m currently dabbling in two different levels, so it really feels like a more personalised course than the others. Yay.
  • The option to skip levels is really useful. Sometimes constantly failing on one aspect makes you not want to continue, so when ser vs estar was getting too much for me, I jumped ahead to the next level, and went back to tackle the earlier level later.
  • The review option actually seems to work. As in, the things it chooses are phrases that I probably should be reviewing at that time. Unlike Duolingo which seems to make you review everything every damn day. It just makes using this app an actual pleasant thing to do instead of something I dread. Go Memrise!
  • When you’re struggling with a word or phrase, you get the option to pair it with a ‘meme’ to help you remember it. More of that good ol’ visual learning stuff again! For me, the word for wrong is an angry avocado.

Cons:

  • Sometimes I don’t really understand the order it teaches things in. Like taking a million different levels to teach me the numbers, something I learnt myself before I used this app in about ten minutes, but trying to cram every variety of ser and estar into one level. One of these things is not like the other.

Verdict: Memrise pretty much gives you the best of both worlds mixing traditional and visual learning together depending on when you need it. I feel as if Memrise is more customisable than other apps I’ve tried, making it more enjoyable to use as I actually feel like I’m getting somewhere. More enjoyable to use, better Spanish skills. Yay!

So I think it’s pretty obvious which tool is my favourite. Memrise just ticks all the boxes for me, and although I’m still guilty of skipping a day every now and then, I’m more dedicated to this app than I have been the others (owl or no owl). I’d recommend Memrise to anyone trying to improve their language skills, particularly the Spanish course. Of course, I’m supplementing my use of this site with a textbook and activities of my own creation (as well as, y’know, going outside and interacting with Spanish people), but I like to consider Memrise the centre of my current language learning endeavour, and I doubt I’d be as learning as much without it there to guide me.