Interests · Opportunities · Uni Antics

Living Abroad & Your National Identity

I’ve been in Brussels for exactly four weeks now and my eyes have been opened to so much. I’ve learned loads about the Belgian culture, customs and so much more. And having a very international group of friends here has allowed me to find out so much more about the world. But the thing that has surprised me the most since arriving in Brussels, is my own sense of national pride. I’ve always known I’m patriotic and proud to be British, but I hadn’t quite realised to what extent that was the case.

Going to Brussels for study abroad is genuinely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m getting to immerse myself in a whole new culture and I’m learning a new language – by the way, Dutch really isn’t as hard to learn as I’ve been making it out to be! And I’ve made friends who I get on so well with – we all have a good laugh and have done absolutely loads in the time we’ve known each other. So Brussels has been pretty exciting so far. And also, it’s an incredibly valuable experience for achieving my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Brussels over the shoulder
Brussels City Centre
Ghent bridge

But one thing I’ve found is that I become really excited when I see something typically British. Even things I usually wouldn’t give a second thought to at home: Jammie Dodgers, Robinson’s orange squash and Heinz baked beans to name a few. I began to wonder why being abroad for a long period of time makes you so happy to see things you otherwise wouldn’t give much notice? But I came to the conclusion that it was my sense of national pride and a connection to “home”.

Also, when we visited Ghent the other week, I seemed thrilled to see a guy playing the bagpipes, even though I wanted to be solely exposed to the Belgian culture. I’m not even Scottish, but they definitely caught my attention. But when there’s something from the place in which you live, you can’t help but turn and look.

From the day I knew I’d be coming to Brussels, I was so excited to become as Belgian as I possibly could. (That still didn’t stop me taking a bag of 200+ Tetley teabags and hanging the St George’s Cross on my bedroom wall though). And now I’ve been here for around a month, Brussels has definitely reinforced my ambition to find out about and share the stories of people from all over the world. I’ve met loads of awesome people here, all with different personalities and backgrounds, which I’m delighted about. I absolutely love it. So that’s definitely encouraging. But I’ve also realised that wherever I end up in the world, I’ll always have a strong connection to my English roots, and I’ll continue to be the proud and patriotic Brit I always was.


The Body Shop Event – Aberdeen 

This past Monday, along with some of the other Aberdeen(shire) bloggers, I attended an event hosted by The Body Shop. It was a really interesting evening, which allowed us to get great advice about skincare, make-up and loads more. We could also make great use of the offers, such as the 3 for 2 and we each got a free body butter of our choice, with a personalised sticker.  

Body Butter with Personalised Sticker

 I learned so much more about my own skin type and ways in which I could improve it. The lovely staff pointed me in the direction of the products that would work best to suit my skincare needs. I’ve already started to use the various products I bought on the night and couldn’t resist another visit to the store two days later! So far, I’m really pleased with my purchases. And I’m especially loving their Matte Clay Skin Clarifying Foundation!

My New Products from The Body Shop

But one of my personal highlights of the event was getting to meet some of the Aberdeen bloggers. Having read their posts and engaged with them online, it was absolutely lovely to speak to them face to face. We all share the common interest of blogging so we had something to talk about right from the very start. No awkward silences! And I found it really easy to get on with everyone. So now, I’m totally excited for the next blogger meet up!  


Finding your happy place

I’ve always thought it’s nice to have a happy place. Somewhere you feel chilled that isn’t your house. You sometimes need a change of scene, but don’t want to go anywhere you’d feel stressed or on edge. You want to go somewhere you can do your own thing and feel happy doing so.

With the stresses of everyday life and all the things we’ve got to deal with, I think it’s so important to find these places. To find somewhere that cheers you up or helps you feel calmer. And even when you’re feeling great, it can be just another thing to make your day more enjoyable.  

Many of you who have me on your social media will know that I absolutely love Bonobo in Aberdeen. When it first opened, I was keen to see what it was like, despite not being vegan myself. But ever since my first visit, I’ve loved every minute spent there.  

The coffee, tea and food are great at Bonobo, but it’s the atmosphere that makes the place. Everyone seems so laid back and that often makes all the difference in the world. I’ve never felt stressed there – it’s so calm. And I’ve also never felt like I’ve outstayed my welcome either. Every time I come in, I feel like I can take my time – I could spend hours at a time there, reading and writing.  

I’m really glad that I now have a go to place. It has definitely become what I’d call my happy place. And I think it’s such a great place to have.  


The days you’re your own best friend 

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my friends. They’re some of the most amazing people and I love being around them. But there are times you need to just amuse yourself. Either your friends are away or they’re just not free. And that’s when you become your own best friend for the time being.

Admittedly, this does sound a little strange, but hear me out – it’s not really as odd as it sounds.

Over the summer, I’ve found myself doing literally anything to get out of the house, whether it’s with friends or not. But when I’m not with anyone else, I’ve spent a lot of time at coffee shops, reading and writing and buzzing from all the caffeine.

And I’ve actually really loved every minute of it. There’s something so therapeutic about it. You’re surrounded by so many other people, so you’re never really alone. Sometimes you’ll even find yourself in a conversation with someone, even if it’s a passing comment. And I think that’s pretty lovely.

But anyway, over the past few weeks, I have learned to “enjoy my own company”. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes when you’re completely lost in your book or when you’ve become totally invested in the new blog post you’re writing. And the atmosphere of a nice coffee shop, for me anyway, makes it a whole lot better.

So I’ve realised that spending my days doing this has become my new favourite thing. Even if there isn’t anyone I know with me, I don’t necessarily feel alone. And once you’ve got to that point, your own company doesn’t seem quite so bad.


My 7 Favourite Aberdeen Coffee Shops

My summer so far has mostly consisted of spending time in coffee shops. When I’m not at the one in which I work, I’m trying new ones or going to ones I already know and love. Because there’s nothing quite like reading a good book and having coffee, right? So I made a short list of my favourite coffee shops I’ve visited this summer.

7. Tempo

Tempo is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. You pay for your time there and can help yourself to anything you like. It costs 10 pence per minute and all proceeds go to a cancer charity. On your way in, you leave your name at the desk and pay on your way out.

There is so much to choose from including: tea, coffee, cold drinks, scones and even soups. And it’s just like your own home – when finished, you put your dishes in the dishwasher. It is, in my opinion, a great concept.

6. Mojo

On George Street, Mojo is another lovely independent coffee shop. Both drinks and food are very well priced. For example, the macaroni is a decent size (not too big or small) and is only £3. It tastes pretty good too! And the really calming atmosphere there makes it so easy to sit and get totally lost in a book.

5. Cup

Cup is right at the heart of the city centre, on Little Belmont Street. It’s fairly small but it does seem to be popular. And it has such great personality. It’s nicely decorated, one wall having wallpaper with a map of the world. There is also a great variety of food, cakes, teas and coffees – as you’d expect from a coffee shop!

4. Long Dog Café

This is an amazing place for dog lovers. Dogs are welcome inside, as are people without a dog. The Long Dog Café has its fair share of food and drink choices. They even have freak-shakes, which look absolutely AMAZING! And I can confirm that the Jammy Dodger freak-shake tastes incredible. I really think the Long Dog Café is such a great idea – I’ve personally never heard of or been to anywhere like it.

3. Richmond Street Deli

While it’s a bit further out of the city centre, it is worth the 15 minute walk. (Well, 15 minutes if you’re leaving from the union street area). It’s fairly small but homely with background music playing. They have everything you’d expect from a coffee shop, including breakfasts and lunches. My favourite thing about the Richmond Street Deli is their book swap. There are shelves full of books that can trade one of your own for. So I’ll definitely be making use of that in the near future!

2. Books and Beans

Books and Beans is already well-known and loved by many in the Aberdeen area. I’ve definitely been in a fair few times myself. On Belmont Street, it’s in a very central location. They have loads of soups, sandwiches, drinks and more. And, as the name suggests, it is also a second hand book shop. There are loads of titles you can choose from which, for someone like me anyway, is always a bonus!

1. Bonobo

And last but not least, Bonobo. It’s a new vegan café on Skene Street. I’m not vegan myself but I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve been in. Bonobo is so quirky and also has a really lovely atmosphere . There is also outside seating in a beautiful garden. I absolutely love their banana bread, which I had the first time I went there. So I’ll definitely be going back to Bonobo a whole lot more.

So although Aberdeen isn’t necessarily the most interesting place in the world, it does have its fair share of fantastic coffee shops. And they’ve done a great job in keeping me occupied so far this summer!


Will e-readers ever replace the traditional printed book?

Technological changes over the past few years have transformed the way in which we consume fiction. The rise of the Kindle and other such devices means that many of us have decided to ditch the print medium as a means of reading. E-books are so easily and quickly accessible online, even if you’re on the go. But will they ever knock physical print books off the shelves?

Personally, I have never used an e-reader for books I’ve read through choice. But I know several people who do. And there are various reasons why they may have chosen to do so. E-readers are far more convenient for a lot of people as they’re easier to hold and are smaller than hardback and paperback. They’re also lighter, which makes them so much better to carry around.

You don’t necessarily need a light on if you’re reading one, which is great if, for example, you’re sharing a room with someone who wants the light off. And if you finish a book, it’s so simple to just start reading another one.

But so many of us, myself included, still prefer reading print novels. For me anyway, there’s something quite enjoyable about holding a physical copy of a book and actually turning the pages by hand. We’re exposed to so much advanced technology these days that it’s actually quite nice to enjoy something a bit more “old-fashioned”.

There are always fun and interesting ways to get cheap print books, such as doing book swaps. And there’s also no chance of a printed novel running out of charge, which is great if you don’t have access to a power socket. And, on a more personal note, I do love that I can look at all the books on my shelves, with all their own different sizes, colours and sense of individuality. It’s such a great thing. It might just be me, but I feel far more invested in a story-line if I’m reading it in print.

It’s pretty difficult to guess what trends will be like in the next few years in terms of e-readers and print books. We all have our preferences of how we consume media. I really do hope that print books continue to be popular among readers. But a big part of me thinks that print books are pretty safe for the time being.


Why I’ll always love independent coffee shops

There’s nothing quite like small, independent coffee shops. They all have their own quirks and sense of individuality. And that’s what, in my opinion, makes them so great.

My favourite thing about them is how they are all so unique in their own way. There is nowhere else quite like any particular independent coffee shop. Chains will always serve their purpose but they’re all just the same as each other. They don’t have the same kind of ‘personality’ somewhere that’s independent.

I think it’s great to see how much staff actually care at independent cafes. And by going to one, you’re helping local people instead of big shot CEOs who’ve come to care solely about how much profit they can make. (And why on earth would a company pay their taxes, right?!) But everyone really does seem so much more personable at independent places.

One thing I’ve found with independent coffee shops is that I actually look forward to going back to them. Not just for the coffee, but also for the atmosphere. As someone who loves reading and blogging (well, any kind of writing really), they’re great places to go. I honestly have no idea just how long I’ve spent at coffee shops doing just that, but I absolutely love it.

So having been to my fair share of both chain and independent coffee shops, I know exactly which I prefer. Spending my afternoons in quirky coffee shops has definitely become one of my favourite things ever.