You’ve Just Graduated – Now What?

About a year ago I donned the graduation gown and cap, and did what every graduate fears: walking across the stage to graduate without falling over in front of your friends, family and professors. Then to step out into the wide, wide world and take on adult, working life. It was terrifying, mainly because I didn’t have a fully formed plan that ensured a secure future and would make my parents worry less about me.

It is an expectation that many graduates force too harshly on themselves – to finish your years at university with a full time job waiting for you. Preferably a graduate job with an envious starting salary, promises of promotion and an exciting career to jump straight into. Those who achieve this are incredibly lucky and well deserving – people work hard to secure these opportunities that in today’s incredibly competitive job market it can feel like nothing short of a miracle. But what if you don’t have this waiting for you? What if, like me, you hoped university would inspire you to discover your dream career, only to realise at the end that you have only a vague idea what your dream career is?

If this is you and you’re about to graduate, then the wide, wide world might be feeling far too overwhelming and you wish you could continue hiding in libraries and procrastinating with Netflix forever. That’s the dream surely. Maybe you’re considering postgraduate studies, but it’s an expensive investment for the half-hearted. Maybe you just want a simple job to pay the bills for a while, because your brain is still feeling melted from years of essays, exams, and deadlines. Or maybe you just want to pack a bag and go anywhere your passport will take you.

Whatever plans or fantasies you have swimming about in your head, I just want to assure you that no matter what: it’s all okay. This is regardless of whether you’re about to leap into a career, take up a job, or spend the summer/year figuring out what your next steps are. It’s important to remember that life is just a series of steps and adventures. You don’t need a five year plan, and you don’t need your entire future decided when you’re barely into your twenties. You may even be surprised that most people are feeling just as overwhelmed as you are. Sure, it’ll be great to be on the career ladder so early in life – but if committing to a career isn’t what you want right now, or if it’s a career you’re not sure you’re passionate about, would it be worth it? It may be more fulfilling for you to try out a few things before you commit, or to just spend some time having fun or taking it easy. You’ve just graduated, you’re young, and instead of being scared if you don’t know what you want to do: be excited that it means you can do pretty much anything, and can take you anywhere.

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Travel Photography Tips

If you have a love for wanderlust, you probably also love to capture your memories of adventure. Travelling not just opens up your mind but also a world of photography possibilities. From stunning landscapes to once in a lifetime candid shots, each photo is unique and holds personal meaning. To bring out the best of your photos when seeing the world, there are a few factors to bear in mind that can help you bring out the travel photographer in you!

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Choose Your Camera

First and foremost, what type of camera best suits you, personally? Camera phones are so advanced these days it can be worth it just relying on your phone (especially if you love to share your moments on social media), but that drains battery and you may need your phone for other things (emergencies, using a map, searching the best places for food…) I own a DSLR camera, which in a simplified nutshell are those that come with lots of mechanisms and functions to bring out the best photo for each moment. The cheaper ones are good for amateurs like me, and the more expensive (and we’re talking a few thousand pounds) are used by professionals. These cameras are great for possessing full control over your shots, and the quality is hard to beat. The downside is not just the cost, but the size can be too annoying to carry around when you’re travelling. Some people prefer a simple point and shoot camera for travelling, as these are easy to use and can fit in your handbag or pocket. There are even ‘bridge’ cameras which combine DSLR qualities with point and shoot simplicity! With so many options out there, it is always worthwhile exploring what best suits you and your travelling needs.

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Choose Your Equipment

Owning a DSLR also comes with a huge range of accessories to use and have fun with. I sometimes use filters, and in particular the polarizing and UV filters are  handy to have when shooting in bright, sunny locations to reduce glare appearing on the photos. I have toyed with the idea of buying a tripod, which will help shooting the perfect landscape shot or a group shot if your travelling with friends! However they will not be easy to carry around, so sometimes the extra equipment it isn’t worth it. For any camera, other things are important to bear in mind. Will you need an extra memory card or two? If you’re only going away for a long weekend, it might be good to charge your camera before leaving and leave your charger at home for more space, and less risk of losing it. Perhaps even a spare battery could come in handy if you really like shooting all day, every day! And don’t forget a decent camera case is a lifesaver.

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Practice

Before you jet off with your camera, it might be worthwhile taking it out for a spin and have a few practice sessions – especially if it’s a new camera or you’ve just learnt a few new tips and tricks to maximise your photography potential. Practice in different light and weather settings to really get to know your camera, and it will essentially become your best friend. Then when the opportunity comes to snap, you can be confident the result will be brilliant!

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Take Your Time

When out and about sightseeing it can be a problem trying to take that perfect shot when everybody around you also is. Hot spot tourist locations are popular for a reason, and it can be frustrating trying to navigate around everyone to get a shot that isn’t marred by strangers in the corner of the frame. Although often you are pressured to take a photo quickly and let someone else take over your shooting location, try as hard as you possibly can to take things slowly, and only snap when you’re ready. This way you are exploring your options before taking the perfect photo, rather than hurriedly snapping away without properly looking in the hope that at least one photo will turn out okay. A bonus of taking your time also means you can take in your surroundings more, and you truly get to enjoy your travels rather than just seeing everything through a lens!

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Look for “Offbeat” Shots

Sometimes you want the photos you take to be personal, and mean something special to you, rather than looking like a postcard photo or something everyone has a photo of. One handy tip I once read is to look for unusual shooting viewpoints, perhaps zoom in on something in particular that catches your eye or choose a different angle. Instead of relying on posed photos maybe take lots of candid shots of your travelling buddies – they might even appreciate the profile picture possibilities! You want your photos to speak to you, so if something grabs your eye – capture it!

And most importantly- enjoy each moment! Travel and photography are passions, and the best photos are those that come with the best memories!

First Impressions of Lupus

It’s been just over 2 months since I received my lupus diagnosis and started on all the treatment and medication that entails. I’ve discussed things with friends and family, I’ve already seen a multitude of doctors, and god knows how many blood tests I’ve had (I think I’m finally getting used to them – have only fainted once!) It’s been massively informative regarding the disease, and although I feel like it really has taken over my life (for the time being), and maybe I’m a little too obsessed with looking up websites and blogs dedicated to lupus – it feels good to not only have a diagnosis, but to also know what to do about it.

I can’t forget that this disease is for life, and that it will affect many aspects of my life. It’s only been 2 months, so I have so much more waiting for me. This is kinda terrifying, but at least I’m prepared. I’m worried about realising when a flare up is occurring, how it will affect my future studies/work/travel, and my mother has even suggested looking into egg freezing because fertility can be affected. I don’t want to even think about kids for at least ten years, and when I do I have to be prepared to deal with the lupus affecting the pregnancy. When you’re the type of person who sometimes can’t decide what shade of lipstick to wear that day, thinking about the future on these terms makes you want to hide under your duvet forever. When all else fails, take a nap – those are my words to live by. Either that or have a cup of tea to mull things over.

ANYWAY these last 3 months have been overwhelming, but not unbearably so. They really have been informative, and it seems knowledge and awareness is the best form of defense against lupus (y’know, after the actual medication). Here is a little list of things I have learnt since the diagnosis, that may/may not be useful for anyone else facing a recent medical diagnosis.

Side effects are unpredictable but manageable

Oh god the side effects from the medication – and I’ve only had a few. The worst was as soon as I left hospital I got shingles, which is common with immunosupressants. The pain was unbearable, it got to the point I could barely leave my bed and that’s why my dad decided I had to return from Spain. That has since nearly healed (currently sporting the sexiest of giant scars on my torso), but now I’m dealing with weight gain, a massively unflattering moon face, burred vision, and a current cold along with random bouts of weakness and nausea. These are all a lot more manageable and don’t have too much of an impact on daily life (except it does get depressing having to see my unsightly face in photos and the mirror). However it’s important to remember that these aren’t forever, and a fat face is better than a failed kidney!

People will have their own opinion

Opinions aren’t always trustworthy or factual, but people will express them regardless. Sometimes it can be very useful, other times you want to shove a leaflet into their hand or direct them to an informative site. Although apparently even these should be taken with a pinch of salt, because lupus is different for everyone. Best to trust the opinion of doctors, especially the ones most knowledgeable, talk to those with similar experiences, and trust your own instincts. Help others become more informed, especially close friends and family. Let people express their thoughts though, chances are the’re trying to make sense of it just like you are.

Some people won’t understand – that’s okay

Generally I’ve felt so lucky with the support I’ve received but I won’t lie that there have been some people who, for lack of a better phrase, don’t seem to give a shit. And this can be upsetting, but it does no good to dwell on this. I’ve had some odd responses, and I’ve even be told that I shouldn’t be sat around feeling sorry for myself (trust me I’m not). You can’t make everyone understand and you can’t make everyone sympathise. Those who matter will be there for you, just focus on that. Everybody always has a lot going on in life, so be your own best form of support, and appreciate the support of others.

Jokes about catching lupus are annoying

It’s not contagious or infectious, but if these jokes are made I worry people will think so because there is too little general knowledge about the disease. It feels weird referring to it as a disease, because the word makes me think of gross body stuff that you’d rather avoid. Yet here I am with a disease but the only current gross, contagious thing about me is my runny nose. Promise!

A positive attitude is the best amour

Yes it can be overwhelming, people often describe feelings of anger with the diagnosis. Depression is common, and no wonder. I’m not saying “oh just try and be happy”, because that is stupid advice, but do your best to keep a positive attitude. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s no longer a terminal disease. It is life altering, but it can make you stronger mentally because if you can take on the wolf, you can take on anything! Allow people to keep you company, get yourself out of the house if you can, and even make jokes with the doctors and nurses. Allow yourself to be moody and mopey about things, but don’t let this be a common state of mind. Keep on enjoying life!

Support is amazing

As previously stated, I’ve been amazed with the support and love sent my way since my diagnosis. This really helps with the positive attitude and keeping you upbeat and strong, because at the end of the day people are awesome. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people if you’re feeling lonely, or to have a bit of a moan even if they don’t ask directly how things are. People will want to talk to you about anything, even if it’s about nothing in particular.

Pill boxes are very useful

It makes me feel like I’ve aged 60 years, but they really are bloody useful. At first I couldn’t make head or tail of all my medication, and I did get completely mixed up on occasion, but now with the help of my pill box I feel better organised. It’s much easier to organise all the medication once a week rather than every day (although it doesn’t stop being a chore). Plus it helps you memorise which pill is which, which is useful when you accidentally mess up your pill box (yep, done that already).

Fish is awesome

There is no specific diet to follow with lupus, just the general healthy lifestyle is recommended, that everyone should take on board. Sticking to the good, nutritious stuff does really have an impact on your health: both physically and mentally. I have increased my fish intake now, especially when I was in hospital, and I could really feel the benefits. It might just be a placebo effect, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Garlic is bad

I’ve been advised not to drink tea of coffee thanks to my lupus induced amaemia (which I ignore but shhh), which was heartbreaking. And then I find out garlic can trigger lupus flares because it’s an immune booster, and with lupus your immune system is waaaaaay too active to begin with. I love garlic, so this did not make me happy. Nor have I completely heeded avoiding garlic, but shhh again. It’s delicious, I cannot deny myself such deliciousness.

Ian Harding is more lovely because he raises awareness

Ever seen Pretty Little Liars? It’s an utterly ridiculous, far fetched TV drama a friend has gotten me hooked on. One of the starring actors, Ian Harding who plays the GORGEOUS Ezra Fitz (who loves literature and is therefore my dream guy), has used his fame from the show to help raise awareness and money for lupus charities because his mum has the disease. Therefore not only is he gorgeous, and I can hope the real person loves literature as much as his character, but he is also bringing goodness into the world by giving lupus the attention it needs. Yay!

Useful Lupus Websites:

http://www.lupus.org/

https://www.lupusuk.org.uk

http://www.lupus.org.uk/

http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/lupus.aspx

http://www.livinglifewithlupus.com/

The Hibbs Lupus Trust – Raising awareness is a way of life.

The Real World: Not for Uni Students Apparently

Since the Brexit referendum there have been many debates and topics fueling fall outs in British households and across social media. It’s gotten touchy and sensitive, and people have been judged harshly on whether they’re ‘remain’ or ‘leave’.

One of the topics I have noticed popping up more frequently since this Brexit debacle is the attitude shown towards British university students, and their political opinions. I can’t speak on behalf of all British university students, but from talking to my friends and seeing the posts on Facebook and Twitter, the majority of those I know seem to have supported remain. So unsurprisingly, a lot of us have found ourselves debating with leave voters. Sometimes healthy debates, with people sharing their well researched knowledge and keeping things civilised. Other times the debates have been…not so civilised. Insults, condescension, a heavy use of caps lock. But a prominent attitude I found myself and others facing was that university students (or those just graduated) who voted remain were silly and naive and know nothing about the real world.

Once when in a debate with someone I know very well he used the line on me “When you’ve lived in the real world – you’ll see!”.

I’ve never realised that I have been living in Narnia all my life.

I had to drop that debate before things turned nasty. Also because I was so insulted I was speechless. I do find it utterly insane that people don’t see going to university as living in “the real world”. In Britain, the majority of university students move out of their parents’ houses whilst studying – they live with friends and organise paying rent and utility bills, plus all the fun responsibilities of dealing with landlords and shitty accommodation. Many juggle a part time job and even do volunteer work along with the heavy demand of studies. We often take the opportunity to travel and see the world, rather than just a two week stay in a resort. Our studies make us more analytical, logical, and free thinking. I have seen university mature many of my friends and myself. And what’s more – university students are often the most politically engaged. It’s kind of a cliche of students always being on marches, handing out leaflets and stuff (I won’t deny I did all that!), but being politically engaged is hardly a bad thing when something as important as the EU referendum was all over the news.

And me personally? I studied politics before university, and since then I have always kept involved with politics both actively and simply by paying attention to the news. I’m about to start a masters degree in International Relations (which is a fancy way of saying politics), and I have lived independently both in London (no easy feat), and abroad in Europe. I’m involved with NGOs and I’m one of those people constantly writing to my MP and others about issues. I have travelled across Europe and the Americas, and in my spare time I read and write, and I study Spanish, photography and human rights for fun. Yet I still haven’t lived in the real world.

Yet we are all still seen as naive and not in the real world. Made to feel our opinions don’t count because we are still too young, so what do we know. Despite the fact that it is our generation’s future that has received the biggest blow from this referendum, and it is us who will feel the impact the most and for the longest. The university educated tend to have a more international outlook of the world, so of course we are concerned about the EU referendum and what the result will mean.

It’s frustrating having to put up with way too much condensation and patronising remarks, and I won’t lie they often came from people who are self contradictory and maybe not always the most knowledgeable in debates. The irony hurts.

I’ll always encourage those around me to keep politically engaged, even if you’re made to feel like your opinion is worthless by those who disagree with you. Never be afraid to ask others for their opinions or knowledge – I’m often asked by others about things but I never shy away from quizzing my friends who know more than I do. A lack of knowledge about a topic is no reason to be embarrassed – it’s an excuse to learn. Ignorance is one of the worst enemies – it’s what fuels hate crimes across the world and makes people so angry, insulting and even threatening on social media.

We are all living in the same goddamn world, and it’s as real and as scary and as unpredictable as anything. And the beauty of being able to live in a country that protects freedom of speech means that everyone is entitled to their opinion – whether they’re a working class, middle aged person, a silver spoon in mouth politician, or a young student who maybe a little too into Marxism.