Life Lately; pre-Christmas celebrations, moving abroad & graduating

Pre-xmas celebrations, selling my first car, vacuum packing clothes in my suitcase, the carnage after a horrendous storm on our first day in Brisbane- unfortunately these people lost the whole of their roof of their house.
It's been a little quiet here over on Nomad Notebook but I've been a busy bee the past few weeks. Within the last month I've seen many friends for pre-xmas celebrations, graduated, packed up my life into two suitcases (how I managed this still baffles me) and moved across the world to Australia! Mr Nomad had been residing with me in the UK whilst I completed my Masters degree, but now I've finished we have moved back to his home soil of Australia for our next adventure together.

Whist it's been busy, it's been great to catch-up with some of my university friends and friends from secondary school, and we even managed to fit in a Christmas dinner before I left. I also got my university results for my Masters degree which I've been waiting for since September and I managed to get a Distinction for both my dissertation and for my overall degree so I'm over the moon. Studying full-time whilst also working part-time was really difficult but somehow I managed to pull through which is a great feeling.

Now i'm sat here in 26 degree heat and 70% humidity in a sundress writing this blog post- quite a contrast from wearing my hat and scarf in the UK (although it was over 30 degrees yesterday and we had the mother of all storms here in Brisbane with golf ball size hail stones which makes today seem mild). We had a nightmare journey over from the UK to Australia including a cancelled flight meaning we had to be put up in a hotel, and an extra flight from Manchester to Heathrow which added significant time onto the already horrific journey. Our airline also changed three times, but we're just glad to have arrived safely! I will probably write a post about the nightmare flight over as it's quite funny looking back on it and I definitely learnt some tips for long haul flights (like packing extra clothes and underwear in your hand luggage in case of cancelled flights and they refuse access to your checked in luggage..). 

What has everyone else been up to lately? Has anyone else moved abroad or had a nightmare flight?

Self-directed Learning Tips for School and University

Throughout my various schooling I've always felt a little dislocated from the classroom and lecture room setting. Whilst some people found it very easy to thrive in the education environment I have to be honest and say I struggled. I struggled in the classroom to make things work for me. My homework would always be above and beyond but during teaching hours I felt like I learnt very little and had to make up for it at home. I knew I was capable, evident in my homework and now my Masters degree, but it's been a long and difficult journey. The following tips are what I've learnt from my education experience, and how I've coped with a huge workload after school and outside of university lectures to succeed.

Read, read & read
Honestly, I have a very on/off relationship with reading but whenever I get into it I really notice a difference. It's inspiring and thought provoking. I used to read like crazy during the summer holidays and I actually think it stopped me going a little crazy when I didn't have a structured school timetable. Even reading the news and being up to date with what was happening around the world really supplemented my general knowledge and ability to participate in class.

Attend lectures and take notes
One thing I did throughout university was attend pretty much all my lectures, regardless of how tired or hungover I was. Me and my buddy Zoe would trudge to our 9am's and make sure we were there, keeping each other accountable. We didn't just sit there though- I found it very difficult to take in all the information that was often being reeled off by the lecturer. We took plenty of notes and made sure to catch up if we missed a lecture for some reason. When I found a topic particularly difficult,I re-read and sometimes re-wrote up my notes to try and get a grasp of a subject. This became really useful when it came to exams as I had a set of notes to go with the lecture slides that I could revise with.

Participate in group discussions and seminars
This is actually something I really struggled with (and still do) today. I find that the best way I learn is through discussion and interaction with others, but anxiety often got in the way of me participating in class. At Masters level I found it a little easier and found actually many other people were anxious in class. However, I do recall one class where my anxiety was through the roof every week (to the point where I would absolutely dread the class the following week after I'd just finished that week's class) and I didn't mutter one word throughout the whole term. Whilst this was poor of me, everyone in the class was on a different course (and had previous knowledge of the module we were doing of which I did not) and I found them extremely difficult to be in a room with. What was worse was knowing that everyone thought I had absolutely nothing of value to say and that I was frankly, stupid. If you ever feel like this, I highly recommend going to see the tutor running the class and tell them that you're struggling with the seminar environment. The tutor never did any group work or discussion (so I didn't manage to build any friendships in the class where everyone else knew each other), made us do individual presentations each week (which in theory I don't oppose but for me this was terrifying) and had absolutely no understanding how the class made me feel. If i'd have explained and asked her to do group work i'm sure i'd have been way more comfortable in the class as well as getting a lot more out of it apart from being worried all the time! I ended up getting a distinction in that essay for the module much to my tutor's surprise, but being part of the discussion would have really eased me a little into the class.

Bring notes to discussion and seminar classes
The anxiety I have over being the centre of attention made it difficult to speak in classes, however I found that bringing notes from my reading and research really helped me participate in discussions. It took the stress away from being nervous about the point I was making as well as helping me take away more knowledge and learning from seminars. I also found making a goal of participating once in seminars to really help build my confidence up to a point where I was better able to make use of class discussions.

Surround yourself with other people who want to do well
University has the advantage of putting a great mix of different people together. I've always been lucky in that I've had friends that have wanted to achieve and do well for themselves, so have had an interest in working hard, but I have witnessed some groups of people who spent the whole time at university going out and doing minimal work for their degree. Whilst some people can pull it off, I would have majorly failed if i'd have taken this path. Throughout second and third year in particular, I surrounded myself with people who wanted to get a good degree. Afifah was my trusty library buddy who also found working at the library was beneficial to her, and we also went to the gym together to have some chill out time. Sam was also my trusty housemate who i'd go to the library with on a Saturday morning with a flask of tea. My course mates also would spend a lot of time in the library doing their assignments and dissertations. Yes we messed about and had a lot of library breaks, but we also did a lot of work and we all did well because we put in the effort to supplement lectures and seminars.

What tips do you have for self study at school and university?

Recipe: Autumn Apple Upside Down Cake

A perfect recipe for a cold Autumnal day is this autumn apple upside down cake. It turned out surprisingly well and was a nice mid-week treat. I used some apples a neighbour had given us from their apple tree but any cooking apples will do fine. Normally we use our own apples as me and Mr. Nomad pick them from a local tree in the village, but we have stripped the tree bare so being given these was the perfect excuse to get baking! 

Autumn Upside Down Apple Cake

Yield: 9

  • 76g (1/3 cup) butter, cut up
  • 73g (1/3 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 6 small cooking apples (or equivalent), halved, stems removed, cored
  • 180g (1 1/3 cups) self-raising flour (I used Doves Farm gluten free) OR equivalent of plain flour and some baking powder
  • 134g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) milk (I used koko coconut milk, but you can use any)
  • 57g (¼ cup) butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla essence or almond essence

1. Preheat oven to 350F / 180c. Place the 76g (1/3 cup) of butter in a baking tin roughly 9x9x2. Place it in the oven for 5 minutes or until the butter melts. Take it out and sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter; stirring until it’s all mixed in. Arrange some of the apple halves in the mixture with the cut side of the apple down. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the sugar is bubbling.

2. Whilst that is in the oven, peel the remaining apples and then shred them with a grater then set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Add the grated apple, milk, 57g (¼ cup) of butter, an egg and vanilla or almond extract. Mix these together well until all combined. At this stage it won’t look very appetising but it will be good I promise! Once the sugar is bubbling in the tray in the oven, take it out and spoon the cakey mixture over the apples evenly. Some butter may be exposed but don’t worry about this.

3. Bake for 35 minute or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges and invert onto a platter (I used two chopping boards either side of the tin to make it come out without breaking). Cool for 20 minutes and serve! Perfect with ice cream or yogurt.

I made a gluten-free version by using Doves Farm gluten-free flour, and I used coconut milk instead of milk.

What autumnal treats have you been enjoying this November?

Travel Guide: Scotland Snapshot

When planning a trip to Scotland, it's actually really difficult to choose where to go. Although it's quite small, the distances between things are quite large and often require ferries. We took advice from both my dad who has motorbiked around Scotland for decades, as well as a mixture of TripAdvisor and general research. We had a fairly short time frame as we wanted to do the trip on a budget, so didn't reach the far North of Scotland or any of the islands as the ferries were quite pricey- but one day i'd love to go back there and do these. However, we still had a really good time and managed to find some great places to go, and all for free! Our main checkpoints for the trip were to explore the Scottish countryside and visit Edinburgh. We managed to do both of these and drop in to see my sister at the University of Durham on the way home.

Top 5 Attractions & Activities

1. Driving and exploring the Scottish countryside and lochs
This was actually my favorite thing to do in Scotland. True to Scotland's reputation, it was raining the majority of the time we were there so unfortunately we didn't get any good photos due to how dark and miserable it was, but the scenery remained stunning. None of our photos did it justice at all. We actually saw an Audi set that were clearly filming an advert around Loch Long.

Loch Long
Loch Long
2. Edinburgh Old and New Towns
Edinburgh was a funny place; it has a nice historic feel about it but I also found it quite cold with all the granite around the city. As we've lived in York for the past year, i actually think i preferred it in York but we still liked Edinburgh. We didn't end up going to the castle as the entrance fee was expensive, but we just enjoyed walking around the place. We also visited the obligatory Elephant House where J. K Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series.

Edinburgh City
View from Edinburgh Castle
The elephant house
The Elephant House
3. Poltalloch Estate & Church
This was a slightly strange one that i found on Pinterest. As a teenager me and friend were interested in urbexing (exploring abandoned buildings- not as strange as it sounds!) and taking photos and this place had a great history to it without all the usual security issues to contend with. We had a bit of trouble finding it as we had to drive through fields (which to us non-country folk felt a bit weird) and driving through private access ways, but the locals were really friendly and were happy to show us where to go reach the estate and church. You obviously have to be wary when walking around this place, but essentially it's an old manor house and gardens in which the roof was burnt down in order to avoid paying housing tax on it. It was fun to explore around and was a great bit of history. To get there is slightly difficult, but feel free to email me and i'll give you in depth directions!

Poltalloch Estate
Poltalloch Estate
Poltalloch Estate
4. National Museum of Scotland
We spent a good amount of time here, and would really recommend it to people with children as there's lots of interactive things to see and do including probably the best wildlife gallery we've ever visited. The building itself is a lovely bit of architecture and adds to the experience of exploring around the vast number of galleries.

National Museum of Scotland
5. Falkirk
Falkirk seems to be a hub of great places to visit, so was an unmissable location on the drive down to Edinburgh. The Falkirk Wheel is on a canal and instead of using the traditional lock system, uses a rotating wheel to move canal boats down to the next level of the canal. Parking was expensive, but you can watch the wheel for free, as well as walking up to the Antonine Wall (a stone and turf fortification built by the Romans before Hadrians Wall). We also visited Helix Park, the home to The Kelpies- 2 massive horse structures commemorating the heavy horse of industry and economy of the area.

Falkirk Wheel

The Kelpies
We actually had a lot of trouble finding somewhere good value for money in the West area of Scotland, but fell across The Village Inn; a B&B style accommodation but what felt like a hotel.  We paid £40 a night including breakfast and the room was really homely as you can see below. The bathroom also had a bath overlooking Loch Long which i definitely utilised!

The Village Inn, arrochar, scotland
The Village Inn, Arrochar

In Edinburgh we stayed outside of the city and got the bus in like many people recommended on TripAdvisor, as with a car it can be problematic and expensive. As we'd managed to find such a good deal at The Village Inn, we splurged a little in staying at The Capital Hotel but we thought it was also really good value for money. It was about £70 a night including a 3 course meal for two, but the rooms were huge, and also had a spa/pool/gym facility we used. The restaurant at the hotel- The Westview- also accepted the Taste Card (which allows you 2for1 or 50% off food bills) so we ordered dinner one night to the room as it was so good the previous night.

Edinburgh Capital Hotel
The Capital Hotel, Edinburgh

Where do you recommend or want to go in Scotland?

Savvy Student: 10 Ways to have more money as a student

1. Work before going to university and utilise your long summer before term begins. Getting a summer job or organising employment before getting to university can really reduce the worry of overspending, especially during freshers week. I had a gap year before attending university and worked part-time for half a year before going travelling. After travelling I still ensured I had a cushion of money in my bank account should I need it during university.

2. Budget before going to university and have a grasp on how much you have. In the UK, this normally consists of a tuition fee loan, maintenance loan, maintenance grant, any other bursaries or scholarships and of course any money you personally have. The key to making a sensible budget is to remember that a loan is  a loan, and not just free money. Work out how much money you have each week to play with, and come up with a suitable budget that leaves you with enough on the side for leisure activities, but that also saves a little bit in case there are any unexpected expenses. University is so expensive now that minimising the amount of debt you rack up is important whilst still making sure you enjoy yourself. These budgeting skills will help you so much when you leave education too.

3. Don't get sucked into bank freebies when choosing a student bank account. It's very easy to choose the closest bank to you, or the one offering freebies but make sure to do your research. Many of my friends dipped into their overdraft whilst at uni, so assess if this is something you're likely to do. If so, make sure you go for the biggest 0% overdraft bank account possible in case you run into money troubles. Ask yourself does the freebie such as a railcard make it worth getting a lower percentage bank account if you're likely to go into your overdraft? For some it is, and for others having a bigger overdraft is a necessity.

4. Learn how to cook and skip the ready meals as they're really expensive! Buying big batches of rice, pasta etc etc makes it a lot cheaper to eat as well as being way healthier.

5. Be shopper savvy and shop around for things. In third year me and my housemate Sam would often buy fruit and veg from the local market (which was waaaaay cheaper than any supermarket) and divide up things like big bags of peppers as we were both addicted to roast vegetables. And don't shy away from places like Poundland for basics like shampoo and kitchen roll!

6. Consider getting a part-time job to fund your student lifestyle. I actually didn't spend a lot of money at all at university, however I did have a car and insurance to pay and my maintenance grant wasn't all that big. I got a part-time job and worked only Sundays and the occasional evening and managed to pay for my weekly outgoings with it. During the summers I babysat when I was on holiday to fund petrol money and the cost of the ferry to France so I wasn't delving into my savings. I know a lot of my friends didn't have jobs during university, but they were able to ask for money when they needed it. Keeping as financially independent as possible is actually a really good lesson to learn at university and it prepares you for the "real world" afterwards.

7. Pre-drink and get water when you're out, trust me it saves so much money, as well as a hangover! I'd spend £4 on wine for predrinks and wouldn't have to spend anything else for the night. Tap water is always free in clubs, and they have an interest in making sure everyone keeps hydrated!

8. Ditch the fast food on the way home from a night out and have something you can munch on when you're at home ready. I often had chips in the freezer ready to cook when I got home which would also make me remember to down a pint of water! Some of my friends loved having toast, so would have that when they got in.

9. Share clothes instead of spending all that loan on the latest fashion pieces. Dresses and accessories often got circulated throughout our friendship group which saved a lot of money- especially on things you would only wear a few times.

10. Don't buy textbooks, just get them in the library. I had instances of people running to the library to get the books before everyone else, but with some books going for £20+ a pop, its worth the sweat! I became much better at this by my third year at uni, and often got the books out at the beginning of term ready to write my assignments as i knew once the deadlines started approaching there would be a mad rush for them.

What are your student money saving tips?

Feminist Role Models

Thinking of feminist role models was actually really challenging, but for all the right reasons. I'm surrounded by women who constantly inspire me, and really, all women are my role models, because lets be honest, we face a lot of shit. However, the women who inspire me the most are the ones that have gone above and beyond to speak out, often at their own expense, or who completely break the stereotype of acceptability for whatever reason. Whilst I could have written an extensive list of different women, I've listed 4 women who represent a different kind of inspiration to me.

Emma Watson- the one I've grown up with
An unsurprising choice in light of her UN speech introducing the heforshe campaign, but I've always taken a likening to Emma since being compared to her as a child (I think it was the eyebrows). She's an advocate for education which I really love as someone who wholeheartedly believes that knowledge equates to power. She stood up for Hermione's character stating how she admired that throughout Harry Potter, she never dumbed herself down as a female. Whilst she's arguably a little 'up there' to relate to, she has utilised her position in a positive way and I enjoy having someone similar in age who is interested in equality to follow.

Lara Croft- the one that shaped me as a child
Perhaps an odd (and maybe controversial) choice but one I've grown up aspiring to be like. I like how she's sporty and sexy. I grew up loving football and my favorite thing to do was play outside with all the boys. I was known as the "tomboy"; the one "who was actually good at guy things". When I wasn't outside playing football and being mocked for not playing with Polly Pockets and Barbies, there was something refreshing about playing as a woman on Tomb Raider. Lara Croft was responsible for my combat trousers but also the idea that in my head it was okay to be good and enjoy what boys did. I could be, dare I say it, attractive and sporty, and being good at football made me no less of a girl. Since becoming more interested in how inequality can affect children, I've found A Mighty Girl- a website where you can buy toys for 'smart, confident and courageous girls'- awesome! 

Cynthia Enloe- the one that has influenced me as a scholar
Cynthia is a feminist writer in International Relations who first raised feminism as a big issue to me in my field of research, and someone who made me realise why had feminism only been addressed in my degree at postgraduate level when it is such a developed area of research? Of course we all know inequality exists, but Cynthia made me aware of the inequality within my own research field of international security on a much bigger scale, and in ways I had never thought of. Her studies are really interesting- from a focus on different cultures re-instilling their subjugation to the invisibility of women to how bodies such as the military and the UN reinstill inequality through male dominance. She's also written a lot about ideas of masculinity and femininity- being judged as feminine based on a judgement of an issue or that an individual's own relationship to masculinity shapes what issues are important to them. She has made me realise just how important gender is within my own research discipline and how evolving such research is so important when I eventually pursue my PhD.

My Grandma- the one that reminds me I can when i feel i can't
A personal choice but one who defies the limitations expected of her as a female growing up. She did above and beyond what many thought impossible and ludicrous with the attitude of "can do". Excelling throughout school academically and in sports (and therefore has always been very supportive of me playing football), she worked for the secret services throughout WW2 surrounded by men who were paid significantly more due to their sex, using the Enigma machines that cracked German codes. However, working for the Government she subsequently got to travel the world after the war (I think my wanderlust can be partly blamed on her!) and she gained a lifetime of stories and experiences. She then went on to driving a car when it was thought quite frankly, ridiculous, and then became a teacher. She demonstrated a zest for life regardless of the limitations put on her.  

Join the F Word Monthly link up hosted by Elle & Kiersten

Who are your feminist role models?

New Domain!

This is just a little post to say Nomad Notebook has officially moved to! Although i haven't written many posts in the last couple of months, I've really enjoyed getting back into blogging and getting a domain was the next step for me. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything has moved across okay.

My Top 5 Travel Websites

1. Airbnb
Me and Mr Nomad love airbnb- a website where people rent out their homes for people to stay in. We have used it multiple times in different countries and have loved the ability to have a whole house with a kitchen (which saves us from eating out). It's also really nice to be surrounded by someone else's belongings like books; it really gives it a personal touch.  This is our go-to when it comes to finding accommodation when we are planning a trip away. There are some real bargains, especially in big cities where you pay a premium for hotels, or in remote locations that often lack hotels. You can sign up now and get a $28 off your first stay through mine and Mr Nomad's referral code

An example of a place we stayed in Ffestiniog, North Wales. Such a cute 2 bed-roomed cottage and only £35 a night.

Tripadvisor is another places we always check before we head to a restaurant, attraction or hotel. Whilst a restaurant may claim it is the best in the area, what do people who go actually make of it? Does a hotel actually look like the pictures that are on the website? Are there any tips when booking a hotel like asking for a room on the third floor with a view? Tripadvisor assists you with all of these questions. We have got into the habit of reviewing most hotels and restaurants we go to, ensuring we give credit where credit is due but also highlighting any improvements that can be made. 

Pinterest? I hear you ask, but yes- I always check here before we go somewhere. There's been a few places we discovered as a result of mooching on pinterest. Just make sure you check the places that are linked are accurate. For example, some pins have dead links or actually display somewhere very different to what the caption says. 

The Kelpies, Falkirk in Scotland. We found out about these via Pinterest.
The best place I have found to find flights. This website compares and finds the cheapest flights to wherever you search, displaying accurate and reliable deals. Many sites displaying flight deals are out of date which can be so infuriating. Also with skyscanner there is the ability to view a whole month rather than putting in specific dates which is really handy if you're not restricted by particular dates and want to find the cheapest available flights within a month time period.

If airbnb fails, then has been the best site for finding accommodation. Generally their rates are cheaper than others, but I do double check to make sure. 

Do you use any of these sites? What travel websites do you recommend?