Placement Year Hacks I: A Guide to Commuting

Whilst I love every part of my work placement, the commute to and from the busy city is something I definitely do not look forward to; commuters tightly packed into carriages like sardines, delays affecting your route and the screaming four year old who refuses every one of the bribes offered by his parent in exchange for silence. Though we have no control over these factors, there are a few things that I have learnt carrying around can make commuting slightly more bearable, detailed from left to right, top to bottom.

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  1. A tote bag: A lot of the time I will pick up things for dinner on the way home and carrying a tote around eliminates having to carry (and pay for) plastic bags. And for those of us who don’t have desks we can leave smart shoes under, you can use this to carry those too (I’d highly recommend commuting in comfortable footwear!)
  2. A good read: Commutes can be long so I suggest carrying something which can help pass the time. I like to read as it means I don’t miss any announcements as I would with headphones in, and it also gives me a chance to disconnect in the day.
  3. Keys: Keep these in a separate pocket of your bag to avoid rummaging around later!
  4. Wallet: I’d be interested to hear why someone doesn’t carry this around
  5. Mints: No one wants to smell what you had for lunch
  6. Side Pocket 1: The emergency stuff: I keep these things in the zipped pocket of my bag so they don’t get lost among the 200 other items in my bag:
    1. Hair Ties: We all need a hair tie some day, just remember to replace them once used!
    2. John Frieda Frizz Ease: I’m blessed with naturally very frizzy hair that only John can handle, this travel size is a life saver!
    3. Hand Sanitizer: I personally wouldn’t want everyone on the central line touching my desk
    4. Hand Cream: Hand sanitizer can dry out your hands so it’s best to follow through with hand cream
    5. Nail file: When you break one (wow this post is making me realise I really care about my hands)
    6. Tide to go: I’m a messy eater and this instant stain remover prevents everyone from knowing that
  7. Emergency tea stash: I’m British. And particular about the teas I drink.
  8. Flask: I carry tea in the mornings and water after that, it’s never a good idea to travel without water, especially when the weather is a little warmer
  9. Headphones: Don’t be that person who plays videos out loud
  10. Charge bar: For the days I’m not organised enough to make sure my phone is fully charged before leaving the house
  11. Side Pocket 2: Work ID & Oyster: Again, keep these in a separate pocket so you’re not faffing around trying to find them!

NB: I don’t carry an umbrella because I find them difficult so opt for a coat with a hood instead, I also don’t carry dry shampoo as I have this at my desk, with a travelo so I don’t have to carry a perfume bottle

April Thoughts:

Jan: LHR ⇄ MAD

Feb: LHR ⇄ YVR

March: New Job

April: Settling back into being home

2016 is flying by (pun clearly intended). As well as learning about the world of local government, I’ve been learning to enjoy the added benefits of working in Public Policy for a national organisation; being in Parliament so often, travelling around the country, networking, and of course, being closer to family and friends.

'No joy on earth brings greater pleasure than that of a Grandchild to love and to treasure ~ '
‘No joy on earth brings greater pleasure than that of a Grandchild to love and to treasure ~ ‘

Adios España:

Six months ago I had a quarterly life crisis and moved to this beautiful country where I fell in love with a new language, culture and customs. Thank you, Spain, for teaching me to accept joy and let go of fear; for this I will always be thankful.



Feliz Navidad:

As much as I enjoyed the festive season in Madrid; I’m glad I’m finally home for the holidays! Bring on Ploughmans sandwiches, Nut Roasts, Chocolate covered digestives, Mexican Fiery Sweet Chipotle Sensations and basically every other edible thing in the UK that I can’t get in Spain!

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Salamanca, Ávila, Sevilla, Segovia, Cádiz & Granada!

The past few weeks have been CRAZY. Trying to balance uni work with preparing for weekend travels throughout the busy week has left me burnt out. I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired but being able to visit these beautiful cities and villages and make memories with some of the best people I’ve ever met makes every minute of this exhaustion worth it… here’s a few highlights:


Plaza Mayor at night & Convento de San Esteban (Los Dominicos) hallway and terrace (not Hogwarts)

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Underground wall museum & Saint Vincent Basilica

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Sevilla: The most beautiful place I have ever seen; my favourite place in the world!

Catedral de Sevilla, Alcazar de Sevilla, Plaza de Espana

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Catedral de Segovia & Aqueduct de Segovia

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Plaza de Espana, ferry from El Puerto de Santa Maríá, sunset on the beach

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Alhambra, Arab Region & Catedral de Granada

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#Antes que morir, quiero…

Whilst in Gran Vía for brunch, a friend and I came across a pop-up event entitled ‘Antes que morir, quiero..’ a phrase which translates to mean ‘Before I die, I want to..’ which ended up being a wall full of individuals’ thoughts on exactly this, in several different languages.

After some more research, it came to my attention that this movement was an international project started by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans which quickly spread all over the world.


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Why I recommend a study semester in Europe:

‘Studying abroad is just another year at University, so I’m wasting my time, right?’ Wrong. And here’s 5 reasons why:


1.Independence: ‘Nothing screams independence like moving to a European country.’


One of the biggest skills you’ll gain from studying abroad. Moving to a non English speaking country isn’t for the faint-hearted; not everyone is brave enough to make such a big change, and employers later in life will realise this, it’s something that can really set you apart. Studying in Europe makes you independent in many ways;

  • It gives you time by yourself to really start figuring out who you are away from the comfort of your childhood friends, flatmates and University clique.
  • You rely less on your parents, due to both the physical distance and the cultural differences which means they may not understand the nature of some of your issues.


2.Time period: ‘not too long, or too short.’


Most people automatically rule out going abroad because they don’t think they’d cope well being away from home for so long. I was one of these people until I started thinking about shorter time periods: how I’d feel about a summer abroad, and then a semester abroad. A semester is the perfect amount of time to go abroad for because you’ll be in a mentality where you’ll want to travel and experience as much as you can because you understand your time is limited. Also, unlike with a whole year, for the 4-5 months you’re abroad, things will still feel relatively new and exciting, leaving little time to feel homesick!


3.Expanding that skill-set: Organisation, Time Management and of course, Languages.


Studying in Europe is completely different to studying in the UK;

  • In most European countries, timetable construction is completely down to you; you have to enroll in your own modules ensuring there is no overlapping, that you have the right number of credits and that both your home and placement University approve your selections. This process alone requires you to be extremely organised, helping improve your skill-set from the very beginning.
  • Assessment is normally constant in the form of regular midterms and presentations, giving you the chance to improve upon your time management skills as well as communication and team work.
  • Learning a language is 100 times easier when you’re constantly hearing it around you. It’s not boring like it was at GCSE where you’re sat in a classroom doing lots of grammar. In Madrid I have found that people are patient with me and are happy to see me try, even if it’s not perfect.


4.The people: The Highlight

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It’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re studying rather than working abroad; you have opportunities in your classes, your housemates, and societies like the ‘Erasmus Student Network’ where you meet people from all over the world. Not only am I learning a lot about Spanish customs and culture on my placement, but about countries from all over the world, I’ve made friends from Canada, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, France and Germany…

‘I just don’t understand why women need the vote’ – Saudi Arabian student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘Who is the President of the UK?’ – American student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘People from Switzerland are Swedish’ – My unfortunate moment with the Swiss student in my Comparative Government Class.

Needless to say, Comparative Government gets interesting.


5.Travelling: ‘the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’


Your biggest expense with travelling around Europe is getting out of the UK; from there, it’s all about cheap trains and flights and Air BnB to see all of the wonderful things Europe has to offer! Your Erasmus Grant can help cover the cost of getting around, or it can be used for your rent so the money you’ve saved before placement can be put to good use. Furthermore, European countries are within good distance from the UK, so should serious homesickness or an important event require your presence, home is a short plane ride away.


Valencia 2015:

This post has been sitting in my drafts for so long because I didn’t know what to write, so instead I thought I’d give you all a glimpse of what I saw and did in the beautiful city. This is hopefully the first travel diary of many.