How to Find a Job in London as a US Expat

As a graduate student, knowing I wanted to start making money after I graduated, I began my job search about eight months before I could feasibly start. This might be a little early for some industries and late for others. I knew I wanted to work in museums or events, with marketing as my fall back, which meant most jobs I wouldn’t need to apply for more than four months out from my start date. However, there are some jobs, especially grad schemes, that require you to apply almost a year in advance. So this advice may not be for everyone, but I am hoping it can help some.

First, I narrowed down the career paths I would be happy with – museums and events, ideally events in museums. My two degrees also helped narrow down this field, but there are many people who get jobs in areas that have nothing to do with their college degrees, just depends. Once I had an idea of what type of jobs I wanted and companies I was interested in, I got on Indeed and LinkedIn for some cursory searches of jobs available and what I could be qualified for. I started this quite early, seeing what was coming up, how competitive jobs were, and thinking about the job titles I would be most interested in. Surprisingly, development positions in museums were what I ended up applying to most, which I wasn’t expecting when I first started my job search. Don’t be nervous to branch out and explore positions you hadn’t thought of before. Also, don’t narrow yourself too much too soon, since most industries are extremely competitive these days.

During my actual cycle of applications, I was pumping out at least five a day, and this was on top of classes and my dissertation. It was intense and my advisor said I spent too much time focusing on applications rather than my coursework. Well, I wanted to be employed by the time I graduated so 🙂 I sent a lot of applications through the easy apply features on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was rejected from every single one of those. BUT, they took less than a minute to complete so I figured I might as well throw as many fishhooks into the sea as I could. Most of my time was spent on online application portals, refilling all of my resume details into online systems (I basically have my resume memorized word for word now) and writing cover letters.

Ah yes, cover letters – everyone’s favorite part of applying for jobs. Cover letters can make or break you, especially if you’ve already met most of the qualifications listed on the job description. I spent a lot of time on cover letters for some jobs, and not so much on others. It all depends on the company and the position. However, I wrote a new cover letter for each job – always personalize! Of course, I copy and pasted a lot of the information about myself and my skills, but I specifically tailored my cover letters to the job description. I literally listed out the bullet point qualifications from the job description and then described my skills and experience under each one – that way they know I definitely meet the requirements. I also added in information about why I wanted the job with the specific company in a beginning or ending paragraph. This means research – reading the website, mission statements, past reports, and bios of people in the department you’re applying to. In all, a really good application could take me about two hours. In one day, I was able to do two, maybe three on the weekend, plus any new easy applies.

Additionally, I registered with a lot of graduate agencies. These are people who find jobs for you, which is dope. They took my resume and asked a few questions about what type of job I wanted, salary range, and location. If a job came across their desk that I was a good fit for, they would call me and see if I was interested. This was another easy way to be throwing as many fishhooks out as possible. And interesting enough, this is how I found my job.

Interviewing was a whole other beast that I will write a separate post on, but I will summarize here. Be proud of yourself for just getting an interview, even if you don’t get the job. There’s some statistic out there that most people interview twelve times before they get their first offer. So stay strong. And always ask for feedback! I interviewed at four different museums for similar positions. Each time I was rejected I asked for feedback. Most of the time, I just wasn’t as qualified, but there was one interviewer who emailed me a massive email about my interview and specific things I could do better, giving me links to the STAR method. It was really great advice and the next interview I had I used the feedback to do better. In the end, I got my first offer after my fourth interview. Doing serious prep for the interviews really helped me shine in the interviews. This means more research – going deeper on the goals and aims of the company overall (most have reports about this), knowing who is in the department, how your role fits into the company and its overall aims. As well, know your resume and know how to explain all the incredible things you have done. Then connect them to the skills needed for the position. How does your role as treasurer for your May Ball relate to the advertising position? Transferrable skills! It’s a lot to remember and get a handle on. It definitely took me a few interviews before I felt super confident in explaining how my experience would transfer to the role.

It is not an easy process and there were quite a few times I cried after getting the rejection email. The job market right now for graduating students is TOUGH. There aren’t enough jobs for the number of grads, and definitely not enough that pay well enough to sustain a living in cities like London. But there are jobs out there, so keep your head up!

Dana’s DOs:

  1. Keep a positive attitude and be proud of yourself for getting through!
  2. Always personalize the cover letter.
  3. Do serious prep for the interview, it pays off.

In the spirit of transparency and because money is never talked about enough with regards to jobs, my current role as Production Assistant pays 28k. I negotiated through the agency for this salary, so I can’t give advice about salary negotiation, but can advise that you do research about the average salary someone in that position would be making so you can negotiate with the stats to back you up. Glassdoor is one great website for this.

2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival Top Picks

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of things to do at the Fringe, I understand! After spending a packed weekend at the Fringe Aug 2-5, I have put together my top picks and must see shows to help you out!

Jena Friedman: Miscarriage of Justice

Witty, unforgiving, and gut splitting hysterical, Jena delivers an incredibly poignant show about topical political issues. Starting with a soft Brexit (unlike the real thing) and then hitting hard at the hot mess that is the U.S., she covers guns, abortion, dating, and more as a woman in a man’s world. This show is not for the easily offended (I’m looking at you right wingers), but it is for anyone who loves a political satire and wants to laugh for an hour because if you don’t laugh, you cry.

Tickets August 13-25, 21:20 at Assembly George Sqaure Studios – Five

The Brand-New, Full-Throated Adventures of Reginald D Hunter

A black American man living in the UK for the past 21 years explains what it’s like to be a black American man living in the UK – having to explain Trump to the Brits (at least now you can clapback with Boris), racism, guns, the Me Too movement, and more. His honest yet sarcastic attitude is refreshing and will keep you laughing until the last unexpected punchline.

Tickets August 14-18, 20-25; 21:40 at Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand

Pete Firman & The Amazing TBC

Magic AND comedy? What else could you possibly want? Witness the incredible duo act complete mind-boggling magic leaving you laughing and bewildered how a professional can turn an amateur into a magician in just an hour without anyone catching on! I have never been so amazed at being hoodwinked and I would gladly pay again to be fooled so flawlessly.

Tickets August 11-25, 20:00 at Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance Beyond

Best of the Fest

If you want to see some late night comedy, this is the show for you. It’s different every night, featuring Fringe favorites. Each comedian does a short ten minute show, a small slice of what you could experience at their main festival performance. Make sure to book early as it tends to sell out, or stop by a box office to see if there are any restricted tickets left (you may have a pole obstruct some of your view but you can still hear the comedy no problem).

Tickets August 15-18, 22-25; 23:55 at Assembly Hall – Main Hall

Alternotive A Cappella

The UK’s longest running student a cappella group from Oxford nailed their performance this year. In an intimate venue, their voices fill the room giving the audience chills from the incredible notes. They knock it out of the park with a variety of music from pop to R’n’B matched by fun and tight choreography. This show is a must see for anyone looking for a fun, relaxed musical performance.

Tickets August 11-18, 14:45 at C venues – C viva

Dana’s Dos:

  1. Visit Bibi’s Bakery for the best treats in town!
  2. Walk everywhere! There’s so much to see and do, and those hills are a great workout.
  3. Check out the food trucks! There are so many options to choose from, but George Square and Pleasance Courtyard are my favorite spots.

Best Cafes in Cambridge

If you are looking for some cute, trendy, high-quality, or cozy cafes, Cambridge is the perfect place to be. The city center may seem small, but it is packed with cafes, restaurants, and shops. There are your typical chain cafes like Costa and Cafe Nero, but my favorite places to frequent are the local cafes. Below are my three most frequented cafes in Cambridge that are must-try’s!

Fitzbillies: I may be a bit biased because I live directly above this coffee shop/restaurant, but considering it is very busy all hours of the day, I can’t be the only one who loves. Located on Trumpington Street, this is the perfect stop for drinks right outside the city center. This past fall, Fitzbillies expanded their restaurant to include a cafe right next door for quick orders or a short stay. The seating is limited but tables turn over quickly as its usually a short stop for tourists or locals looking for a caffeine fix and a small snack before heading on their way. The coffee and tea is served in cute blue mugs, a signature color on their to-go cups. I like to pair my tea with one of their signature treats, something they are famous for! I have tried almost all their treats and my favorite by far are the brownies, but the Chelsea Buns are one of their bestsellers too! This place is always packed so I wouldn’t recommend it as a study/work place, but its perfect for meeting up with friends or a quick stop before heading into the city center. If you’re looking for a full meal or afternoon tea, check out the restaurant right next door! Additionally, they have a second location on Bridge Street for anyone north of the city center.

Bould Brothers: Located just off Bridge Street, this local speciality coffee shop will blow you away. The aesthetics alone will put you in a good mood not mention it serves some of the best coffee in Cambridge. The fact that it is always teeming with people is a testament to its great quality coffee and service. There is minimal seating inside and out, but the staff are very friendly and will bring your order across the street where a stone wall makes for a great impromptu table. Or, you can take it to go and wander the streets of Cambridge. Bould Brothers was founded by two brothers who both work at the shop and love greeting customers, taking care to provide both great quality coffee and customer service. So stop by with friends, family, significant others and enjoy a speciality coffee served in the most Instagram-worthy style.

Indigo: This cute and cozy coffee shop is located right off King’s Parade, tucked back in one of the side alleys. It serves delicious teas and coffees as well as sandwiches, toasties, and sweets! They have some seating outdoors which is great when the weather is nice and more seating upstairs that provides a quiet, cozy atmosphere. I would definitely study or read upstairs since it tends not to be too crowded or loud. It’s a great place to meet up with friends, grab a quick drink, or relax in the middle of the city center without all the crazy noise and people. Beware, it is cash only!

There are many other cafes in Cambridge that I have frequented, but these three continue to be my favorites by far. If you’re looking for other options, you can also check out Hot Numbers (two locations), The Old Bicycle Shop, and Tom’s Cakes! Or discover your own place while wandering through Cambridge enjoying all the sites the old city has to offer.

Ascot Tips and Tricks

Ascot 2019 was more than I could have asked for, especially as an American. I had never really been to horse races before and definitely nothing to the scale of this event. Yet, it has always intrigued me, a bit like going to the casino for a birthday or finally being able to buy a lottery ticket when I turned 18. It wasn’t about the betting or races in my mind, it was about the experience.

I had the pleasure of attending Ascot with Conor and our two friends, a small group coming off the sleep-deprived, hectic May Week. Luckily we were all in the same mind set – this wasn’t going to be a big sesh, rather we could enjoy a nice afternoon at the races, making a few bets, having a couple drinks, and enjoying the atmosphere and company.

Before I arrived at Ascot, I had to figure out what to wear. As an American, this was probably the hardest fashion choice I have had to make all year. What does one wear to an event attended by the Queen and the Royal Family, but is more of a fancy garden party? (Not that I had ever used the term “garden party” before moving to England anyway)

1. Google it.

Ascot sent a brochure with the Royal Enclosure badges that described the guidelines for dress. It was helpful for knowing what length to wear and that I needed a hat not a “fascinator”. Google was much more helpful in understanding the fashion and style to go for. In the end, I wore a midi dress with a short heel and a white hat (I borrowed it from Conor’s mom).

2. Don’t buy a hat.

They are ridiculously expensive and you probably won’t wear it again anyway. There are places to rent – a quick google search can bring up shops near you. I asked Conor’s mom because she’s been to quite a few events like this in her time and so she had a handful of hats to choose from. If you can borrow a hat, definitely do that – especially since I noticed women’s dresses and shoes before I noticed their hats.

3. Place at least one bet.

We bet on four of the six races and only Chris won money from one of the races. But it wasn’t really about winning money – it was more about the experience and thrill of the race. The program has the top picks for each of the races but I picked based on the horse’s name because it was more fun that way. Then when we were watching the race, we were more engaged in who was in the top five and it was more exciting. I believe betting was part of the experience of the day as a whole and put aside a set amount of money to spend on betting. That way I don’t get sucked into the thrill and I know that I would be okay if I walked away not having won any money.

4. Enjoy the food and drinks stalls.

We walked around the inside hall and the outside area that had a myriad of marquees with food and drinks. There were also quite a few private members clubs, so if you are in one of those or a reciprocal member, definitely check them out. We sat down at one of the restaurants that was serving afternoon tea sponsored by Fortum & Mason (one of the most popular places for afternoon tea in London). It was delicious! And a very relaxing break from the heat and the races (though there were big screens so we could still see the races from our seats). The afternoon tea was exactly what we needed – the finger sandwiches were Conor’s favorite and the sweets were mine!

5. Take the train.

Conor and I drove from Cambridge, but we parked at the train station just one over from Ascot so we wouldn’t have to deal with the horrendous parking and traffic after the event. Our other friends took the train from central London. Granted the train was incredibly crowded after the event because everyone rushed to it all at once, so if you are taking the train a long ways it might be better to hang around after the event is done at some of the food and music places set up outside of Ascot. Or just resign yourself to the hordes of people all jockeying to get on the train (still better than sitting in awful traffic in my opinion). Additionally, we may not have had a boozy day, but a lot of people did – so if you plan on drinking, then the train is the best option as cabs would be atrociously expensive.

I had an amazing day at Ascot and I definitely want to go back next year! I got to see the Queen, albeit she was quite far away, but I still saw her in person! And I got to enjoy afternoon tea with some of my best friends while engaging in an exciting sport. It was a fun, relaxing, very British day and I hope you can enjoy an Ascot like mine someday.

Attending a Cambridge University May Ball

I kicked off May Week by attending the Trinity May Ball on Monday June 17th. It was a spectacular night, exemplifying how to do a fireworks show right. Before I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning – dining.

Conor and I decided to go for dining tickets because we thought our chances would be better than if we tried for the general pool (it’s almost impossible to get tickets to Trinity if you are not a Trinity College member). Our strategy paid off and we were able to snag two sets of dining tickets! We invited along our Oxford friends Ben and Seline to join us. The night started with a champagne reception and photographs before moving into the hall for dinner. The dining option is always tricky because it means you could be too full to take advantage of the food stalls offered at the Ball and the food could be substandard to what one would expect for paying so much extra. However, Trinity DELIVERED on their dining option. I was blown away by the six course meal, as was everyone around me. The dessert particularly was displayed wonderfully and was incredibly delicious. I know I am overusing adjectives here, but I cannot describe the tasty dishes enough.

After dining, we had a second champagne reception. The line for oysters was still ridiculously long so we skipped that part, much to Conor’s dismay. We made our way to the riverbank to watch the fireworks show at 10:30pm. It was a shocking sight to see the river filled with punts, people spilling over into each other, pissed and having a great time. The punt companies hire out their punts for a pretty price to community members who want to see the fireworks show up close. A few particular rowdy men thought they would be cheeky and make a break up the bank for the party, but were quickly tackled to the ground by security. The crowd loved it!

The fireworks show was possibly the best part of the night. It was timed to music, ranging from the Greatest Show (apt) to Coldplay. There were fire cannons that kept time to the beat and an incomprehensible number of fireworks. Of course, the John’s committee were watching from across the riverbank to see what they would have to beat the following night at their ball.

Trinity offered a range of food and drink stalls, along with a ton of seating options – something many people took advantage of. One of the cooler seating options was igloos – clear plastic frames that unzipped with pillows and blankets inside for those who wanted to rest for a bit. They were packed the whole night. I enjoyed the Willow Bar the most because of it’s somewhat secret garden-esque feel – walking through the willow branches before happening upon a cocktail bar lit up with twinkle lights.

The headliner – Becky Hill – was a smash as the main stage tent filled when her set began with students screaming the lyrics and girls being hoisted on to shoulders. She was a fun, hype live act. While I only knew one song, I still had a great time dancing along to the rest of her music.

One thing that did disappoint were the fair ground rides. There was one which was a spin on a ferris wheel – people were strapped into cages that went upside down while also going around like a ferris wheel. Conor and I waited in line for about twenty minutes before the people coming off the ride started saying it was not a good time and not worth the wait. We quickly exited the slow moving line and headed to the dessert tent.

My favorite food stall was the Yubba Yubba donuts (throwback to the Keble Ball review!). As always, there were warm and delicious – the perfect snack at 3am.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Trinity May Ball, as I expected to be. I think it would have been more fun with a larger group of friends, but with the tickets difficult to come by, this is not always possible. Other than that, Trinity had everything on offer to make the night spectacular. I will definitely be on the lookout for tickets in the future.

Little Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal

With one month to go until final exams in Cambridge, I decided to take a short weekend trip to Lisbon, Portugal. One of my best friends from Ohio State University studied abroad in Senegal this past semester and we decided to meet up for a fun weekend away before she flew home to Boston for the summer!

Lisbon has gorgeous weather for the middle of May. Warm but I still brought a light jacket with me as it could get windy in certain parts of the city.

We booked an Airbnb in the heart of the city, just up the street from Marques de Pombal Sqaure. It was in a quiet residential building just blocks away from the bustling promenade.

Unfortunately, I missed my flight on Friday morning out of Stansted, which you can read about in a separate post! I was able to get on a later flight, arriving Friday night. That put a little wrench in our plans for the first day, but Amanda managed to see the Textile Museum and walked around the streets of Alfama.

When I arrived, we went for dinner at Time Out Market around 10pm. It was late but the place was absolutely packed. It’s a warehouse transformed into a marketplace with a bunch of food and drink stalls lining the outside of a massive rectangle filled with tables upon tables of people enjoying dinner and drinks. We had burgers and a pitcher of Sangria! I definitely recommend Time Out Market. There are so many options for food, ranging from seafood, to burgers, to a hog roast!

Delicious burger from Time Out Market!

On Saturday, it was an national holiday so all the museums and heritage sites had free entrance, so the city was very crowded! Amanda and I walked around the city, a total of 10.2 miles for the day. First we walked down to the market in Rossio Square. It was a small market with a few stalls from which we tasted some cheese and fruits.

Then we continued to walk down to the coast, stopping in the Praca de Comercio, a large square near the water with a massive archway and restaurants and shops lining the perimeter. We took a few pictures here and continued walking along the coast and up the hills to the Castle of Sao Jorge. The line to get in to the castle was massive so we skipped that and kept exploring the streets of Lisbon.

We took a short break to eat lunch at a cute cafe overlooking the city. I had sushi and Amanda had a seafood risotto, both were so tasty! We had a glass of wine and toasted to being in Lisbon and to having a fun, relaxing weekend.

We continued on our way, exploring the streets and hills of Lisbon. I am obsessed with the tiled buildings and all of the colors! Lisbon is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth walking through just to see all the different designs.

We ubered to Belem Tower, which was a bit of a wait but totally worth it to see the historical site and the views from it overlooking the water! Getting to the top of the tower was a pain because of the way the stairs work. The way up is the same way down so there was a three minute period when people could either go up or down, alternating. When we got to the top of the tower there was a line snaking around the whole area of people waiting to go down. We waited thirty minutes, but at least we got to enjoy the views.

After Belem Tower, we walked back to the center of town. We walked past the Archaeology Museum and the famous monastery! In front of both of these, there was a massive cultural parade happening. All the signs were in Portuguese, so I am not quite sure what was going on. Some of the participants were dressed up as witches and devils, but others were dressed in more contemporary clothing. There was loud music, singing, and dancing. Down the street, we stopped at the famous Pasteis de Belem for drinks and pastries. The pastries were delicious and definitely worth the wait! The restaurant is massive and every seat was taken with lines out the front doors, but it is one of the must go places in Lisbon!

We walked back to the center of town and back to our Airbnb where we changed for dinner and freshened up. We went to PARK for drinks at sunset overlooking the city. This bar was recommended to us by a friend who had recently visited Lisbon. We walked to the bar, which was a little difficult to find at first. The bar is on the top floor of a parking garage! Pretty cool and different. It was packed because of course everyone wants to see the sun set from a rooftop bar. And we were not disappointed.

Reminded me a bit of San Francisco!

After drinks we went back to Time Out Market for dinner because it was a short walk down the road. On our way we passed a bunch of bars that looked like fun so we bookmarked those streets for the next night! At Time Out, we ate at different stalls, but the sangria was so good that we had some more! We got back to the Airbnb a little earlier than Friday night because we had an early morning planned for Sunday!

Sunday morning we headed down to the train station, bought tickets, and took the train to Sintra. The round trip tickets cost 5 euros! Great deal! The train ride was about half an hour and passed quickly. Once we got to Sintra the bus tickets to Pena Palace were 6.50 and left from right outside the train station. It took about thirty minutes to get up to the palace. Tickets into the palace were another 7.50 for the student concession. We hiked up the hill to the palace that sat at the very top of the hill (good shout because after that walk I can’t imagine anyone wanting to invade this castle). The palace was gorgeous! So many bright colors and fun tiles. We walked around the whole thing, climbing some stairs and walking along the outer walls. We ate lunch at a cafe in downtown Sintra next to the train station as we waited for our train.

After Sintra, we trained back to Lisbon and took a short nap in the Airbnb. Then we went out and walked through more of the town. We found some small markets in different areas with stalls that sold fresh food, jewelry, and hand bags. I bought Conor cooking salt from one of the stalls that smelled so delicious! For dinner we went to another restaurant, Lost In, that overlooked the city at sunset. We ate tapas style- a cheese board, oysters, chicken ramen soup, and salad with a large pitcher of sangria. I definitely recommend this place! If you want to sit inside you will need a reservation, but the back patio was great because the weather was nice and the seating was really comfortable!

After dinner, we went back to the same area from the previous night that we had passed. It was full of bars and popping with young people. We went to a couple different bars, one was a tequila bar which was fun. The staff were playing the live show of Marc Anthony on the television and speakers. The bartender was singing along and it was a fun vibe! Then we walked up a hill to a bar with live music where we tried Ginja for the first time. It’s a Portuguese liquor and we had seen it around for the past three days, so we finally bit the bullet and tried it. It comes in a shot glass but it is meant to be sipped. It kind of tasted like licorice, but a little sweeter even. Not something I would order again, but definitely glad I tried it!

On Monday, we had a quick breakfast at Stanislaw before I left to catch my mid-morning flight. Stanislaw was a cute, green healthy looking cafe that we walked past on our way to the cafe we originally had picked for breakfast. It looked to good to pass up! I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a healthy twist to breakfast. I also had a delicious side of yogurt and granola not pictured here. To be fair, I did leave most of my salad uneaten because for some reason salad in the morning is not my thing, no matter how delicious and fresh.

My weekend in Lisbon was short but I feel like I saw so much of the city! It is definitely doable in two-three days. Any longer and I would have done another day trip or spent more time in some of Lisbon’s museums. My favorite parts of the weekend were definitely the food and walking through the hills of Lisbon. I took more pictures than I should have of colored buildings and tiled buildings that I won’t bore you with here. I was just blown away by Lisbon’s beauty I couldn’t help myself. This was one of my favorite European cities and I definitely recommend to anyone who wants to see a small part of Portugal on a long weekend away!

Attending an Oxford University Ball

I attended my first official Oxbridge ball at Keble College, Oxford last weekend. This massive college transformed itself to Gaia Machina – a rebirth of the earth through a machine that rebuilds the ecosystems after humans destroyed it. A very new-age, green theme to fit the growth of the sustainability movement. It was very edgy and different. Overall, I had a blast with Conor, but it some areas it was underwhelming. As a ball planner myself, it was hard to turn off the critical part of my brain and just enjoy the event. Below I will give an overview of everything Keble had to offer, what I partook in, and some final thoughts.

Typical ball pictures in front of the Rad Cam

All of this information could be found on their app. The app was available for download a few days in advance but none of the information was released until around 5pm on Saturday evening. Their app was informational and easy to use. There were different tabs, such as Ents, Music, Food and Drinks, that could be sorted by location or time. There was an overall map, though it wasn’t very functional or interactive, but worked. I was able to favorite certain things, which then showed up in the My Ball tab which I liked. There were also push notifications which were helpful throughout the night. There was a menu that had additional tabs for How to Use the App, About the Ball, Committee, Sponsors, Charities, and Settings.

Food:

  • Yubba Yubba Doughnuts
    • These doughnuts were to die for! They were freshly made in front of me, with a choice of chocolate sauce or cinnamon. I chose the chocolate sauce and Conor chose the cinnamon – there was not a wrong choice, both were an incredible, delectable treat.
  • Bittenclub Gyoza
    • These gyoza were absolutley worth the hassle of a line. People streamlined for these when they first arrived, pushing and rubbing up against one another. It was basically a gyoza moshpit. But it was so so worth it! These were delicious bite sized portions, which I went back for later during the main headliner when there was no line! (pro-tip here from a beginner)
  • Alfonso Gelato
  • Dough and Deer Wood-Fired Pizza
    • This line was one-hundred people long the entire night. Waiting thirty minutes to an hour in line for one slice of pizza was not a priority for me, so I skipped this stall, but it smelled delicious. It did have an awkward placement, right next to the toilets.
  • The Missing Bean
    • This cute little stand was placed at the front of the college where the champagne reception was. It was run by the kindest humans! I ordered two Earl Grey’s, which were delicious and the wait was about five minutes!
  • Piadina Project
  • Taste Tibet
  • Mac to the Future
  • Los Churros Amigos
  • Kelly’s Occasions Fondue
    • I was so excited for fondue! But by 10pm it was ravished and turned off. Unfortunate for people who wanted to miss the crazy rush in the beginning of the ball to avoid any chocolate spills on dresses and suits.
  • Breakfast

Drinks:

  • Sipsmith Gin Bar
    • This was my favorite bar! It had really nice gin (according to Conor because I am still learning) and Fever Tree tonic! The drinks were delicious and pretty! Waited less than five minutes every time.
  • Cocktails in Tunnel of Light
  • Cocktails in Mechanical Meadow
  • Tap Social Movement
  • Gaia Bar
    • This bar had the typical mixer drinks- rum and coke, vodka and lemonade. It had a bunch of seating with music. A nice bar to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Nectar Valley
    • This was the main stage bar with really nice cocktails. I had a Sex on the Beach, which was incredible! They also offered Uptown Spritz, Black Russian, Passionfruit Mojito, Virgin Moscow, and Virgin Sex on the Beach. As well, there were shooters- Baby Guiness, Skittles Bomb, and Jager and Apple. The staff kept the drinks flowing throughout the night so there was never a wait!
  • Wine Bar
    • The wine bar was next to the Shisha which had a bunch a space heaters around. It was a chilly night, so Conor and I spent a lot of time at the wine bar, soaking up the heat waves, and watching the light show projected onto one of the buildings.
  • Alc-au-Lait Milkshakes
    • These were my favorite drinks of the whole night! I had a Bailey’s chocolate milkshake and it was so good! There were four different kinds of alcoholic milkshakes – the bottles were out next to each section so you knew what you were grabbing. I thought the presentation of the milkshakes was great and they came in small cups, which was the perfect portion for a dessert drink.

Music Entertainment:

  • Kate Lomas
  • Isobel Hambleton
  • Green Bean Machine
  • LVRA
  • Sigma
    • Sigma was the headliner for the ball and did not disappoint! I wasn’t sure if I would recognize any of the songs, and I didn’t, but the beats were pretty standard for that EDM/pop vibe so it was super fun to dance along too! Conor and I got pretty far into the center of the moshpit, which was fun for a little bit, but then people actually started moshing and I am not a fan of that (my friend tore her ACL in a moshpit once).
  • Stir Fry Dons
  • Deep Cover
  • Early Hours
  • Goodness
  • Silent Noize
  • ABBA Gold Tribute Band
    • Everyone loves an ABBA tribute band! People came rushing back to the main stage to sing and dance along with ABBA! It was definitely a highlight of the night!

Entertainment (non-music):

  • Tunnel of Light
    • This was a hallway connecting two bars that was covered in light bulbs that changed colors! It was a cool feature wall where a lot of people stopped to take pictures.
  • Caricature Artist
    • I was really excited for this until I actually got to it. There was always a long line because the artist was spending about twenty minutes on each drawing. Her mistake was using colors to paint the drawing. It was a drag because obviously it was really popular but the wait was up to an hour or more, which was ridiculous for something that could’ve been 3-5 minutes per drawing.
  • Planetarium – Nature Dome
    • This was also underwhelming. The wait was about 15-20 minutes to enter a blow up dome with a planetarium show inside. The show lasted about 5 minutes and wasn’t that memorable. Apparently in the past, the dome was twice the size so wait times were shorter, but this year they went with a smaller dome.
  • Light Show
    • Double Take Projections put on an amazing light show on one of the main faces of the college. It was a story about the theme of the ball- Gaia Machina, lasting about eight minutes. Then there were cool projections that played off the architecture of the building, staggered at various intervals for the rest of the night.
  • Shisha
    • While I didn’t partake in the Shisha, this was the only area of the ball with outdoor heaters, so I spent time here, eating the doughnuts and gyoza and drinking wine and tea. This was also the area from which I viewed the light show.
  • Stilt Walkers
    • The stilt walkers were dressed as giant tree people – it was like having a bunch of Groots walking around. They were another fun photo opportunity.
  • Jingo Glitter
Drinking my alcoholic milkshake in the Tunnel of Light

From above, its clear that my priorities at the event were more non-music entertainments focused, food/drinks, and then music focused. I was underwhelmed by the offering of non-music entertainments. There really wasn’t much to do besides music and queuing. I think Keble spent a lot of their budget on music acts, without accounting for what the guests would want to be doing besides listening to music. Additionally, it was quite cold so most guests wanted to be inside or doing things that didn’t involve standing in the cold. By 2am, the only offerings were the Silent Disco and the food and drinks that were left. The ball ended at 4:00am. So for 2 hours, they only had one entertainment option for a limited number of people. Granted by 2am, a significant portion of the guests had left. Conor and I left around 2:30am because of the lack of things to do. By that time, we were had been drinking for awhile and were also full, so I would’ve liked a chill non-music offering.

For my black tie outfit, I bought the black jumpsuit at New Look for about 25 pounds and my black booties are from Francesca’s (I’ve had them for a few years). I did see some girls wearing sneakers, which by 2am I was quite jealous of. Most of the men wore typical black tie, while being a little playful with ties and pocket squares.

Overall, I really enjoyed my night. Conor ended up running into a lot of people he knew from his undergrad in Oxford, so I met a lot of people and had a good social time. The food and drink offerings were great! More non-music ents would’ve made the ball incredible. But definitely would give it a solid 7/10.

Easter Weekend in Bath

This weekend I visited one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Wide streets, cobbled sidewalks, gorgeous architecture, and green rolling hills. It was the perfect location for a short Easter getaway. Bath won me over in 72 hours and I can’t wait to go back.

Since I was unable to go home for Easter this year, I went to Bath with Conor’s whole extended family and stayed in a lovely Airbnb. It was a terraced home with five floors of bedrooms, kitchens, and lounges, along with a quaint back garden. The weather could not have been more perfect, so we spent most of our time in that garden.

The trip to Bath from Cambridge was about four hours due to some heavy traffic Friday afternoon. Conor and I drove, but some of his family took the train, which makes Bath easily accessible from London. When we arrived, we first went to the Airbnb to drop our stuff and meet the family. The room came with these giant fluffy bathrobes, towels, hair dryer, etc. Anything we wanted, this place had it.

Meeting the whole extended family all at once was overwhelming and nerve-wracking, but luckily I fit right in. A few of the cousins, Conor, and I went into town for an evening tour of the Roman Baths. Fun fact: most of the Roman Baths were reconstructed during the Victorian Era, so its more British than it is Roman. All the same, the Baths are beautiful and full of rich history. There’s two floors of exhibits twisting and winding down from the floor above the baths to the basement where the hot spring is. At the bottom, we exited into the bath area where the warm water gathered in a greenish pool. There were staff members dressed in Roman time period clothing taking pictures with the tourists and a band played while we enjoyed the atmosphere. Additionally, they were selling prosecco and sparkling rose, which we each had a glass of. At the end of the tour, there was a spot in the spring to throw a coin in and a make a wish (mine came true!).

Friday night we all stayed up late drinking and eating and playing Cards Against Humanity. I tapped out around 2am, exhausted from the car trip and the excitement of meeting the family.

Saturday was another gorgeous summer day! I woke up and had a nice cup of tea in the lounge with the sun streaming in. Half of the group went on a morning tour of Bath, but the rest of us stayed behind to enjoy a lazy morning. Around noon, Conor and I headed out for a walk to the nearby Alice Park. We had a drink at the cafe and sat in the sun, soaking up the ever elusive British sun rays. We walked around the park, worked up an appetite, and headed back in time for Andrea’s incredible lunch. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the dish was called, but it was kind of like a lasagna but not. In any case, it was spectacular! After lunch we all sat in the garden and drank Pimm’s– another new British thing. It tasted almost exactly like a Long Island Iced Tea, so of course I enjoyed many glasses.

In the evening, Anne brought out the paints and canvases and some of us partook in an art competition. I painted a bright rendition of the Royal Crescent, one of the most notable sites in Bath. Dinner was another incredible meal, this time cooked by Bex and Jamie- a delicious Asian spread with dumplings, rice, stir-fry, and lettuce wraps. I couldn’t stop eating it was so good! This family sure knows how to cook!

Sunday fun day! Again, woke up late after having a nice lie in and started the day off with a cup of tea in the garden. The sun was shining for the third day in a row- unheard of! We drank Pimm’s and cocktails until lunch was ready around 2pm. And then I stuffed myself full again! There was lamb, chicken, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and Yorkshire pudding! And at the end, we each got to choose a chocolate egg filled with different types of candies! I chose the Rolos egg, it was delicious! Everyone was in an absolute food coma after that.

After about an hour or so, a couple of us went on a walk around Bath to work off all that food. We went up to the Royal Crescent, then down through the town, and back alongside the river. Bath is so pretty, I love the stone work and how grand everything looks. The river was serene and the houses bordering it were incredible. There were even a couple hot air balloons in the sky! Bath would be a wonderful place to live, not too far outside of London but nestled in a picturesque valley, quiet but still lively.

That evening we all snuggled up on the couches and watched the new Jumanji movie. I hadn’t seen it yet and was pleasantly surprised by it. Jack Black and The Rock definitely carried the movie, but it was a fun, family-appropriate movie. Conor ordered us all Domino’s around 10pm as we were all hungry again. It was the perfect way to end Easter Sunday.

On Monday, we all got up and cleaned the Airbnb. We had leftovers lunch and finished off the rest of the food. Conor and I left around noon for Cambridge and made it back in about two and a half hours, much better timing than the drive to Bath! All in all, the weekend in Bath was perfect, fun and relaxing and a new experience! It was a great break from school work and I look forward to when I can next go back!

Night Routine to Wake Up Feeling Refreshed

Do you ever wake up and immediately start thinking about when you will be able to go to sleep again because you’re just that tired? Or your alarm clock has become your arch nemesis? Even after years of developing a nightly routine, I still feel this way sometimes.

The best way to wake up refreshed in the morning is to focus on what you are doing at night. My biggest piece of advice: set a bedtime.

I know, I know. We’re adults, bedtimes are for children. WRONG. Setting a bedtime will get your body into the habit of going to bed early to wake up early. By having a set bedtime, you are setting your body clock. Keeping consistent is important to waking up feeling refreshed, especially during the work week. On the weekends, I try to keep to my routine, but with late nights out or lazy mornings in, sometimes that doesn’t work.

Next, know how much you need to sleep to wake up refreshed. For me, I need at least eight hours of sleep, but I prefer a solid nine. Others may not need as much, but for adults an average of seven is healthy. This number will vary on who you are, but by now you should know how much sleep you really need, what’s too little and what’s too much.

Before I go to bed, I have about a half-hour routine to focus on me. I always wash my face, apply toner, and moisturize. Sometimes, I will throw in a face mask, nose strip, or relaxing bath into that mix. I brush my teeth and use mouth wash. Then I do a night time short yoga session. I find these routines through YouTube. I like to mix it up, but Yoga with Adrienne is one of my favorite channels. Doing a short 10 minute yoga session helps me feel calm and ready for bed. It also helps me wash away the stress of the day and reset for the next day.

I set an alarm on my phone for the following morning and then I flip my phone over and leave it for the night. I know it’s recommended that I should have like two hours of no phone time before bed but that’s honestly unrealistic for me. Instead I set my alarm, turn it over, and then read for a little bit. So at least, I’ll have ten minutes of an electronic detox before bed. Usually though, I try to read for thirty minutes. It depends on the night and when I’m getting to bed, so it’s not every night but I am trying.

And that’s it! Basically I try to wind down for bedtime about an hour before I want my head to hit the pillow. I understand this might not be feasible for everyone, but even incorporating one of these steps can help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day!

A lot of waking up feeling refreshed also depends on your morning routine as well, so look out for another blog post on my morning routine for starting your day off on the right foot!

Tips to Destress for the Stressed

It’s that time of the year again, when exams are starting soon, I’m busy job hunting and writing essays and trying to socialize, and for some reason, I am having a terrible time sleeping, waking up in the middle of the night, having vivid dreams, and unable to get a good night’s sleep. And by “that time of the year”, I mean the time when I realize the full extent of how stressed out I am.

Personally, I carry stress in my sleep. During the day, I handle it quite well, so well that sometimes I don’t even realized I am stressed…until I can’t sleep properly. People carry stress in different ways, sometimes I get headaches, other times my eyes feel tired. During my day to day activities, my body has gotten used to feeling stress and dealing with it in ways that I don’t notice. Which works for awhile. But if I don’t handle my stress properly, that’s when I start having terrible sleep and I realize it’s time to get a handle on my stress.

Relaxing at a cafe with a new book and a delicious snack!

So here are my tips for ways to handle stress in a healthy way:

  1. Evaluate. Why are you stressed? What’s going on in your life that seems overwhelming? I like to list out or think about all the things that I have going on. Usually there’s that one straw that broke the camel’s back, but it’s important to recognize everything that is contributing to my stress to truly get a handle on it.
  2. Reschedule. As a university student, I live a pretty busy lifestyle, jumping from library to class to meetings, etc. If I don’t slow down every once in awhile, it can really hurt me. When I do start feeling overly stressed, I reschedule some things. I reprioritize what I have going on so I can take time for myself, take a load off.
  3. Me Time. Me time comes in all different shapes and sizes for me and for everyone else. Somedays, it means doing a face mask and thinking about nothing for those twenty minutes, just breathing. Other days it means going to my favorite cafe to drink tea and eat my favorite treat. Recently, I have started getting into yoga and using that as a relaxation technique. I also picked up a few new books recently, as reading allows me to escape this reality. Or I relax with some buttered popcorn and Netflix. However you do Me Time, make sure its really about relaxing and unwinding, recognizing that its necessary for you to live a healthy and productive lifestyle.
  4. Reevaluate. The final step, after relaxing and getting your head clear, is to reevaluate your priorities, lifestyle, etc. Now that you know what is stressing you out, how will you change? It could mean doings less in general, dropping some things here and there to allow breathing room into your schedule. It could mean better prioritizing your time and productivity. There is always a change that can be made, and should be made to get you back to living a healthy lifestyle.
My favorite breakfast- tea, raspberries, Eggo waffles, and yogurt with granola!

Stress is a natural part of life, you will never have a stress-free life. But, it should be minimal and manageable. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your stress either – usually I call my parents and they help me with the reevaluating process. Stress can make life seem daunting, exhausting, sad, and all other sorts of things. But knowing that is the key to managing it. I am no professional, but I hope some of my tips can be helpful for some of you in managing your stress and getting back to being and doing your best!