The University Experience

Time flies when you’re having fun. A clichè which can be applied to the time spent at university. Having spent three years at Edge Hill University between 2012 and 2015, those will undoubtedly be some of the most memorable years of my life. I got the chance to improve my confidence in many areas of life, as well as gaining several transferable skills that would be essential for future employment opportunities. For me, it was my first time ever living away from home, and so was a huge change for me, as it would be for most undergraduate students. If you choose to live away from home for at least one year of your course, this will more than likely be a daunting prospect, albeit an exciting one. Having taken the decision to move out of the family home myself to embark on a three year journey, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone considering applying for a course at university, particularly if the university is a considerable journey away from home, although commuting may be a preferable option for some particularly if their institution is a short distance away from home.

Whilst it may not be for everyone, given the huge cost of tuition fees can be a huge turn off for many, or perhaps the amount of assignments that is required amongst other factors, I can assure you come graduation day it will all be worthwhile. Some however may choose to head straight into work, or perhaps begin an apprenticeship or training course after completing compulsory education, but whichever route you choose to take it is important to ensure that you choose the correct one that works for you in order to give you the best chance to make the most of life’s opportunities, and that you can be satisfied with the route you have chosen.

Fast forward three years, and the last few months of university were upon me. The thought of entering the big bad world felt overwhelming to say the least, but the end was in sight and I had to prepare for the fact that at least for the time being, I would have to move back to my hometown of Walkden and prepare for working life. For a while I was unsure on the career path I wished to take, however I now know that I wish to turn my passion for writing and social media into a career.

Graduation day came along, on the 23rd July 2015. I was accompanied by my parents and Grandmother, and when walking up to shake the hand of the University’s Chancellor, it was without a doubt one of the proudest yet most nerve-wracking moments of my life to date. I graduated with a 2:1 in English and Media and worked so hard to achieve the grade I was aiming for. All those hours spent researching and writing assignments in the library and elsewhere led to this very moment, and it had paid off. When reflecting on the time I spent at university, I have no regrets. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing people who I wish to stay in contact with for many years to come, having experienced moments with them that I will never forget. I made the decision to go to university not only to enhance my career prospects, but to improve my confidence, gain independence and enjoy life. All this was certainly achieved, and equipped me well for the years ahead.


On the Toon.

Today’s blog consists of a review of my recent stay at the 4 star County Hotel in Newcastle and I would like to share my experience of my first trip to the city. 

As a birthday treat for my girlfriend I booked us a one night stay at the County Hotel in Newcastle. Part of a deal provided on Livingsocial I saw it as the perfect place for us to spend our first trip away together and was something we could look forward to. We took the train from Huddersfield which was a journey of just over two hours. Arrived at Newcastle early afternoon to find the hotel conveniently situated directly opposite the station, absolutely perfect for those travelling to the city by train, especially those who chose not to travel light (including myself!) 

Check-in wasn’t until 3pm so upon arrival before heading into the hotel we had a brief walk to a nearby Yates’s to grab a bite to eat. Perhaps should have dropped off our luggage but we hadn’t walked too far. Once we had eaten we then proceeded to check into the hotel, greeted by a polite gentleman on reception who processed my Livingsocial voucher and informed us that our free bottle of Prosecco could be collected from the Hotel’s bar at our convenience.

We spent a couple of hours at the hotel and as evening approached, we went out for a meal together at well known Italian restaurant chain Bella Italia which was within walking distance from the hotel in the nearby shopping centre. Finding the place wasn’t the easiest of tasks despite enlisting the help of usually reliable Google Maps, yet despite the slight mishap we eventually found the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely two course meal. We skipped starters and each had a main and a dessert, which with a Groupon offer was only £18 between the two of us, plus the additional cost of drinks. 

We then began to explore the night life Newcastle had to offer. We weren’t expecting it to be too busy with it being midweek however we visited a few bars including Revolution, it’d be rude not to take advantage of their 2 for 1 cocktails offer after all! We visited a couple more bars and had our last drink in cocktail bar The Botanist. Whilst walking there we crossed paths with a large number of drunken students, some of whom were dressed in smart attire, others in togas. Must have been social night, not that this was a problem, must be a familiar sight given Newcastle’s reputation as a place renowned for its nightlife. All the bars we visited were within a short walk from the hotel and so no taxis were needed to be called. We had considered going into Bijoux, made famous by MTV Show Geordie Shore, however decided to give that a miss and head back to the hotel.

The following morning we enjoyed breakfast that was included as part of our stay. It was served between the hours of 6.30am and 10am and so we went down to the hotel’s restaurant to check out what was on offer. Amongst the selection was a full English breakfast, with several offerings of fresh fruit and a variety of cereals. And we were kindly offered a hot beverage to accompany our meal. We then headed back upstairs to make the most out of our late check-out of 1pm. Upon check out the receptionist kindly offered to store our luggage at the hotel which was much appreciated given that Storm Doris had unfortunately meant that the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and constant rain blighted the skies. Despite this, given our train home wasn’t until 19:10, we took some time out to explore the area, including the nearby Millenium Bridge. We stopped for a drink in the Pitcher and Piano Bar/Restaurant which was located on the Quayside. After spending an hour or so in here we headed back towards the centre to grab some food and decided on Handmade Burger Co, which was located in the food court at intu Eldon Square, where we had had a meal at Bella Italia the previous night. Our final stop was at the Starbucks located next door to our hotel, we ended up spending a lengthy amount of time here given that the weather left us with little option but to seek refuge indoors as much as possible. The time to head back home arrived. We got the train back to Huddersfield as scheduled but Storm Doris meant that the rail network had suffered several delays and cancellations but this only added an extra 30 mins into our journey. Could have been far worse I suppose!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would recommend the hotel, particularly due to its location. Pricing was very reasonable and despite a minor issue with the room (that being the toilet wouldn’t flush properly), the service we received was second to none and we particularly appreciated the hotel receptionist’s offer to store our luggage. In terms of the trip overall, despite only being a one night stay our first trip away together was a fun-filled, enjoyable one. Perhaps we might have been able to do more had the weather have been better but made the most of it nonetheless! Next stop, York!


Who Do You Think You Are?

To provide an accurate description of who I think I am, it would be appropriate to highlight the importance of family and your upbringing, which help define you as a person. This includes the values of life which your parents have a responsibility to provide you with, or at least that is what you would expect.

Firstly, I have lived in the small town of Walkden in Salford, Greater Manchester since I was born, and have experienced many changes, chiefly an on-going regeneration of the town centre, which has given it a much needed facelift, making it unrecognisable compared to ten years previous. Having never moved until I began university, it made the whole experience of moving to a new town ever more surreal, but equally exhilarating. Despite having lived in the same town my whole life, I don’t see myself to have a real connection with it other than my friends and family, but also my high school, St George’s, where I studied for five years. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school and I am lucky to still be in contact with the same group of friends I have had since first starting there in 2004, and I can recall several fond memories that I shared with them and others. Although I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped when it came to GCSE results, I was able to progress onto college where after completing an additional year I was able to gain entry into Edge Hill University, where I graduated from in July 2015 with a 2:1 grade in English and Media, one of my greatest achievements in my life so far, and something I can be proud of. Despite not really feeling much of a significant connection to my home town I am proud of my upbringing as I believe my parents equipped me with the necessary qualities in which I can build lasting and meaningful relationships with other people, no matter what the context, and this has allowed me to convey myself as a decent, caring person.

In addition to the values taught to you by your parents, as well as the place where you grow up, I believe one of the most fundamental aspects of life that can define a person is their progression through education, it is a necessity in the modern day and age in order to move onto bigger and better things. Without an education, namely primary and secondary, it can be difficult to fulfil your potential in life, and progressing onto college and university allows you to go that one step further should you wish to follow a specific career path, and additionally equips you not only with transferrable skills which are essential in the vast majority of employment opportunities, but also life skills which allow you to mature as a person, such as independence, providing you live away from home, that is. Furthermore, university allowed me personally to improve my confidence in most aspects of life as well as give me a taste of independence, which will be essential in future life when I eventually move out of the family home. Along with an education, I believe another important aspect to being content with life, is to never take for granted what you have, specifically your family, who are the people who you should not only be able to rely on through good times and bad, but who you can make feel proud of your achievements in your life by making informed, mature decisions.

In terms of my career, I have worked in retail for a number of years now but I am currently seeking a new challenge. It is My ultimate ambition it to work with content creation/editing and social media, given I have a passion for writing, and regular blog writing emphasises my commitment and desire to start a career within the industry.


Online Streaming and Piracy

Online Streaming services have undoubtedly changed the way we consume content forever. Long gone are the days where you had to visit your local video store to pick up the latest DVD, (along with your favourite selection of snacks of course).

Stores such as the ill-fated Blockbuster became the ultimate victim of this due to a change in habits of consumers across the world, ultimately leading to its demise when legal streaming services such as Netflix hit the scene. Services such as this provided a hugely convenient way to watch a huge library of films and TV shows from the comfort of your own home.

Streaming services have come on leaps and bounds since their inception, and become more easily accessible and affordable, with an vast array of content available at the click of a button. Internet connected devices such as games consoles and more recently television sets with built in Netflix streaming functionality have made it easier than ever to access content, and it is now even possible to watch via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Despite the popularity of such legal services as Netflix and its main competitor Amazon Prime Video however, they have failed to stamp out the issue of piracy, which has long been a problem for the film and television industries despite numerous attempts to combat the problem. Devices such as Amazon’s Fire Stick have the ability to have media applications such as Kodi installed on them, with a huge selection of add-ons available providing easy access to all the latest films, TV shows and live sport streams, albeit illegally.

This form of media consumption has overtaken pirate websites such as The Pirate Bay as the leading way of accessing content for free given how easily accessible and convenient it is to stream, as opposed to downloading it which perhaps would have been the case a few years back.

Legal streaming services have enjoyed vast increases in their subscriber bases and continue to do so, however their illegal counterparts have long been the option for many due to TV giants such as Sky, Virgin and BT being heavily criticised for the high monthly cost of their packages, particularly when bundled with added extras such as sports and movie channels.

All in all, it is hard to deny the fact that streaming services have had a profound effect on the consumption of media, which undoubtedly led to the struggle of aforementioned retail stores as they fell behind and failed to catch up to their online competitors. Consumers ultimately chose convenience over the now nostalgic trip to the video store, as online streaming grows from strength to strength in terms of the content available. Both Netflix and Amazon have invested heavily in the creation of original content, which has seen the production of dozens of highly rated shows and films released on a regular basis via the respective services.

It remains to be seen how long illegal services are an option for consumers, as their ever increasing popularity leads to the frustrations of copyright holders in the film and television industries respectively, and legal services and the authorities still have a long way to go in order to bring an end to piracy, despite their best attempts.