First week at Durham University

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As to be expected, the first week at university in a foreign country is going to be interesting, to say the least. While I’m already into my second week, There are a few things I’ve learned so far.

  1. Scheduling is weird
    1. Lectures
      Unlike universities in the States, we take six classes at a time, each called a module. Each module has a lecture once a week for an hour. For me, personally, or at least for the students of Durham, there is a break in the middle of the week. No lecture is scheduled on Wednesday because it’s sports day. Also, the last module finishes by 6 p.m.
    2. Tutorials
      Each module has a tutorial. Each department organises their tutorials differently. For example, I’m in two different departments because I’m taking a combined honors of English and philosophy.
      The Philosophy department allows you a selection of tutorial groups with different times and locations, so you can essentially pick your own schedule. But, that being said, you have to be responsible for the location, and knowing how long it’s going to take you to get from building to building. What’s more, it’s first come, first serve. It’s best to know approximately what tutorial groups you want to sign up for before the day to sign up for them. Each tutorial for each of my philosophy modules meets every other week. This is nice because it’s somewhat regular.
      The English department, on the other hand, schedules it for you. It’s easier, but you’re at the mercy of the scheduler. What’s more, each module meets about once a month. Sometimes the dates fall so that there are two in a month, though I think that’s only happened once with two of my modules. There is definitely irregularity here.
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  2. The campus is broken
    1. Aesthetics 
      This campus just ain’t pretty. I might very well be spoiled, given that I come from a town with a technical college, a community college, and a university–the community college and university designed with the surrounding woods and natural habitat in mind. It’s damn beautiful.
      Despite the beauty of Durham City itself and the surrounding county, the campus is just not nice. The library building is nice to look at, but that’s literally the only compliment I can give it.
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    2. Location
      The buildings for the whole university are all over the city. This is nice because it gets you out to kind of see what’s around, but it’s also difficult when you’re planning your schedule, or trying to find parking. The college I’m supposed to be in is a mile up the hill from the main university campus, the majority of the classes I’m in are down the hill a mile from the main university campus, and the English department building and the philosophy department building, which is where my tutorials are, are about half a mile from the campus.
      I know, there’s always the risk of gaining weight during studies, and this is a great way of preventing that. I am pretty pleased with that. I”m also pleased that as of yet, the weather has been pretty mild, and at times, downright nice. But there will be days when the pavement is covered in ice, the rain is pummeling horizontally, and I’m walkin a mile to my lecture because I can afford parking by the university but not near the town center.
    3. Functionality
      I’ve recently discovered the student union. It’s right next to the lecture buildings I need to go to, and has really cheap Starbucks lattes and food. But I have a few problems with it.

      1. It’s ugly.
        No joke, really ugly. You walk in and it feels like you’re going to visit your relative in prison kind of ugly.
        In all fairness, once you get in the main kind of lunch room area, it’s not too bad. Lots of light, different styles of tables, televisions everywhere playing music videos, and a nice view of the river. But outside the commons, the ceilings are low, grey and very poorly lit. They remind me a little of the abandoned Holywell hosptal my partner and I explored a few months ago.

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        Lluesty Hospital, Holywell, North Wales

      2. It’s broken.
        Seriously. I’ve come across so many lights that are flickering, and in the bathrooms there was a toilet that just wouldn’t flush, and I have yet to come across a soap dispenser or hand dryer that works in any of the bathrooms associated with Durham University.
  3. The Tutorials and Lectures
    They say that the Lectures aren’t mandatory, however, the tutorials are. The latter is where they see how well you’re understanding the material, and what questions you have. This is where you get your participation points. This is where you get into the theory of everything, which is what I personally enjoy. Your tutor is generally pretty down to earth, understands what it’s like being a freshman because it wasn’t long ago that they were there themselves.
    The Lectures are interesting. By this I mean that it depends on the lecturer as to what kind of hour you’re going to have. This might seem obviously, but there seems to be a different lecturer each week. I love my philosophy lectures, and all of my lectures during the first week. I was hungry for the year to come. However, this week, I’ve had a few different ones from the first week, two of which just read their lecture straight off the paper, which I found very difficult to focus on. The good news is that I’ll probably have someone different next week with a different approach.
  4. Reading
    Given that I’m taking two reading-intensive courses, I have been very prepared to buckle down and power through everything. BUt so far it hasn’t been that bad. When I took my literature classes at the community college before coming here, I was looking at reading 10-30 poems in two days, a quarter of a novel as well, and four-five chapters of whatever else text in a week. The worst I’ve experienced so far is having to read Everyman and The Second Shepherd’s Play in a week, which are both fairly short, though very difficult to read because my brain doesn’t translate 15th century literature very well.
    This might change, of course, but for now, it’s certainly manageable.
  5. Workshops
    Durham brags a very high employability rate straight out of university–and I believe it. My email is bombarded with offers for workshops every day. They’re all free, and very helpful. Everything from speed reading, to developing your business idea, to how to use programs, and how to cope with perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I’ve signed up for as many of these as I can in an effort to get as much as I can for my [mom’s] money.

This sounds like a fairly bleak entry and review of my first week. But honestly, I do love it. I cannot say how happy I am to be a student, and be in this atmosphere. Being so much older than everyone is taking some getting used to. But thankfully, they serve wine on campus, so that helps.

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Durham, Durham

How to Successfully Navigate Your Way Through Induction Week at University (In 10 Tips)

img_3771It’s beautiful, here in Durham. The leaves are changing with my favorite season, the air hasn’t cooled yet to layer-the-f-up temperatures, and the increasing student population is still energetic with their new life at university.

Induction week is the first week for “freshers”, the first-year students arriving, finding their colleges and dorms, exploring the campus, and going to socials, workshops and seminars put on by the university to help ease students into their new home and schedules. And let me tell you–it’s confusing and manic as hell.

First and foremost, before we go on, I’m coming at this from a slightly more unique perspective in that I’m counted as a “mature” (30-year-old) student, and I’m American, so I’m somewhat foreign. While some of this is probably just obvious for the more technologically inclined who are hip to the jive of app-lingo and the whatnot, for others, it can be overwhelming.

So here’s what I learned with my Induction week at Durham University:

  1. Know Your Housing and Travel Routes
    For me, I was in the process of moving, and I didn’t have the luxury of affording on-campus housing. And because of my age, I opted out of student housing as well. I’m sure there are some wonderful 18-year-olds who were born during the time I was going through puberty, but I don’t really want to hold their hand as they learn the responsibilities of taking the trash out, cleaning their dishes, throwing rotten food out, and so on.
    So much did I not want to be in this situation (no offense, freshers, I promise when you get to my age you’ll get it), that I actually found myself housed in the next county down in North Yorkshire, in a place i couldn’t be happier with. However, it means about a 45 minute commute to and from university every day. Because of this, I was picky about what events I went to during Induction.
    What’s more, I had to know my route in advance, know how much time it was going to take, and then also prepare for parking. That was the hardest part. I am still figuring that part out. But as far as I can tell, Park and Ride might be my cheapest option, especially with the option of a student discount on a bus pass (hopefully).
  2. Get on a Computer
    There is so much going on during Induction week. As I mentioned before, I had to pick and choose which events were worth me going to. However, because I had just moved, I hadn’t set up my internet yet. As a result, like most people with smart phones, it became my main source of keeping up with what was going on.
    Except my phone alone wasn’t good enough. I found there were several apps that I needed in order to access the information I needed, and they certainly have some problems. Whereas what I was looking for and trying to do would only take minutes on a computer, it was taking me near an hour per task. What’s more, I found out there was a student email that the university was using that I hadn’t even set up yet, and so I was missing a fair deal.
    Phones are handy and wonderful things, but they’re not the be all and end all. You need to get online one a real computer–not a tablet or iPad, but an actual computer, from time to time.
  3. Get a Planner Before You Arrive
    Again, there is an insane amount going on during Induction week. And I know, I know, you already are getting a planner to deal with all your classes and blah, blah, blah. I held out, and was waiting for my perfect planner to show itself, and thus was slacking during Induction week. But trust me, you want a planner.
    Because I was trying to go for the minimum, I actually missed quite a few things that I wish I had gone to, such as a studies skills seminar, a library resource tour, and so on. I didn’t know I wanted to go to them until I’d missed them and arrived on campus at a complete loss as to where to go for what.
  4. Go to Your College
    I plan on having very little to do with my college. Not out of lack of pride or anything, but because I just don’t have time to do anything there. I’m not living there, I’m not young enough to be there, and I’m working and living on a farm 30 miles south of here. However, as I learned the hard way, it is important to still show your face there from time to time.
    They are there to support you, and to help you navigate your way around university, student life, and tools you might need. Also, if you haven’t told the you’re not actually living there, they will assume you are, and then lecture you for ten minutes when you go to get your verification of registration so that you can get your student ID (no seriously, it doesn’t matter your age, they will sternly talk down to you when they are upset, like you are nine years old and flushed a frog down the toilet and now they have to pay for a plumber).
    Please the college administration, and just show up, talk to them, and find out what you need to get in order. In fact, do this as soon as possible.
  5. Wear Good Shoes
    I have no idea how other universities are set up, but this one is spread throughout half the city of Durham. For me, personally, I happen to have a college that is furthest away from the university campus (a mile, straight up a very evil hill, in fact), and 90% of my modules/tutorials are a mile the opposite direction from the university. So if you have a day where you have to hit all three spots, you’re in for a fair bit of exercise. But hey–you’ll easily get your 10,000 steps in for the day!
  6. Make Friends Fast
    I’m pretty socially awkward, and even more so being the older, foreign student that everyone assumes is staff. As a result, those crazy kids just don’t want to talk to me. However, I can say that they talk to each other pretty quickly. I have already watched students befriend each other in the halls, and continue to converse and interact (I believe this is how friends are made, but I’m still learning in all this).
    Two minds are better than one, and one of your fellow students may know where and when something is while you’re still trying to figure out if the upstairs of the cafe is for lecturers only. Web out the knowledge–help each other out.
  7. Get Your Student ID Right Away
    There will be some buildings and areas of the university that you can only access with your student ID. Don’t be like me, where you have to sign up for your modules at a specific time, arrive, realize you can’t get in the building, have to walk two miles up hill to your college to get your verification of registration, get lectured for ten minutes, then half to walk a mile back to the university to get the student ID, and then return the initial building another mile down hill to register your modules. Be smart, don’t be like me.
  8. Don’t Bring Lunch
    This isn’t an every-day-of-the-week bit of advice, mind you. But have a look. During some of the days of Induction, there will be the Student Fair, or something else to this nature. Go to it. I know, it’s riddled with people, but trust me. You will get all sorts of random free things. You’ll also find that you can find your societies and clubs to join along the way. I personally joined–wait for it–an on-campus gin club. For this, I got a free shot of gin. As an American, this is somewhat unheard of, so I was quite thrilled.
  9. Don’t Blow Your Student Loans on Booze
    I know! You’re 18! in the UK! which means you can drink. And it’s especially exciting because you’re away from your parents’ watchful eye for the first time, which means they can’t wag their reproving fingers at your liberties. But I promise, the pubs will be there and open all year. No joke. They do not not close after the first week. That means you can save up your drunken nights for three-day weekends, or those Fridays when you’ve just had an insane week and just need to let go! I promise, your liver will thank you. Be good to that slab of organ.
  10. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
    Yeah, there is a lot to do, and a lot going on. You don’t have to go to every single thing. It’s so important that you remember that this is just to help get you familiar with the departments, the campus, and with each other. While you should take advantage of the events going on, don’t forget to take a step back, breathe, and relax. Even if you don’t make it to any of the events, you’ll still be alright. You’ll have to do a little bit of a (more) confused scramble during the first week of lectures, but you will be ok. After all, you got yourself to uni in the first place!

Durham, Durham

Are there any tips I forgot? What was your first pri-uni week of your freshman year like? Let me know in the comments!

 

Successfully North

I am so pleased and excited. We finally made our way to the Work Away farm. We aren’t completely moved in (one more trip on Friday for a couple small things, and some painting and then that’s it!). Actually, it was a rather ridiculous adventure.

We started on Tuesday. A few days before we had decided that we would rent a van, be completely ready by the time we picked it up on Tuesday. We would get the van from the only rental place (an hour away), drive back, load up, make the three and a half hour drive North, Return the van the next day, clean the old house and be done. 

No. 

As it turned out, we weren’t read by Tuesday morning. And the van was designed for giants to drive in. I don’t mean tall people. I mean literal giants who want to do their weekly shop.

As a result, it was terrifient to drive (I hear. I didn’t drive it). Because it was so terrifying to drive, we went a little slower than the speed limit, and also hit every hit of contstejction in the entirety of Britain. We also didn’t get to leave until 7:15 at night (very different from the initial 1 in the afternoon we had aimed for). The navigation assured us the drive was only three and a half hours. 

Five hours later, at two in the morning, we arrived. We were knackered. As it was, to be ready in time to procure the van, we had gotten up at 4 in the morning. So by the time we were unloading our things oo the caravan in the dark, we had been up nearly 24 hours. Never mind that we had to drive back! 

And it was a bit of a slow moving race to get back. 

We left at three or so, and had to return the van at eight.  Driver was fading, and I was fading too. We needed to both stay awake (since my duty was to make sure we didn’t go over the white line on my side of the van) and make better time there than we did to the farm. 

We it there right at 7:30, but with a problem. We still had a freezer with a load of melted food in it that we couldn’t get into the caravan at the farm. After much backward and forward, and go my partners protests, the freezer went back into his car, and we gave it a mini tour of the area while we tried to find somewhere that would take it. 

It eventually found a nice home at the Harlech recycling center some hours later. 

Then there was the matter of cleaning and painting the house. This was small feat, and one that wasn’t accomplished with any vigor or full success (hence having to return tomorrow). By the time we did go, we were 39 hours without sleep, facing another supposed three and a half hour drive, and ladened with the two dogs. 

It was one before we finally got in, and another hour and a half before finally we got to go to bed. 

Moving is stressful. 

View from our living room

American Vs. British Grammar and Style

Because I’m gearing up to go to university in the UK, and I’ve been brought up to know Americanese, I decided I should look into any potential problems I might come across when writing my essays at uni. I was mostly thinking along the lines of punctuation rules, though as it turns out, there’s quite a few differences!

Singular and Plural Group Nouns

Group nouns are nouns (person, place, or thing) that have to do with a group of people or beings. So, a pack of wolves, the government, the staff, a team, etc. Apparently, while Americans will always have a singular verb following, depending on the context, British English with have either singular or plural.

The examples given by One Stop English are as follows:

British:
My team is winning.
The other team are all sitting down.

American:
Which team is winning?

British:
Which team is/are losing?

To go a little further, The Writer makes mention that Americans have a tendency to view brand names as teams, and thus will treat them as a single entity, while in British English, it is treated as a plural.

British:
Amazon have changed their logo

American:
Google is making a new phone

Take and Have

In American English, some verbs use “take” in front of them. However, in similar verbs, British English would use “have” instead of “take”. .

Have a shower –> Take a shower
Have a holiday –> Take a vacation
Have a nap –> Take a nap

Past Tenses

We’ll work with the generic term of past tense, for now, and just ignore the various past tenses that branch out from taking about events which have gone. However, there are some terms that are used one way in one country, and differently in the other. I’ll only point out the blaring ones, but you can read the whole of the table here.

American | British

Gotten      | got
Pleaded/pled |pleaded
Proven      | proved
Stank/stunk | stank
Woke/waked | woke

Spellings

When looking at the spelling differences between American English and British English, it’s easy to see the connection to France. Many of the British English spellings are similar to the French spellings of similar words. I can’t say why American English decided they were cool enough to alter language and the history that comes with it, but I suppose that makes a statement about the country itself.

–our

There are some of the obvious ones, that if you speak a latin-based alnaguage on the side of English, happen to live very close to Canada, or just love to read British books, you’ll already know. These ones are the general insertion of the letter u into certain, or the reversing of “er” in other words:

color–>colour
neighbor–>neighbour
valor–>valour
theater–>theatre
center–>centre
fiber–>fibre

There are exceptions to this. Words like acre, massacre, mediocre, and ogre all carry the same spelling in all versions of English.

–og

Words which end in -og in American English are not exempt from spelling alterations. In British English, this will glue back on some vowels, –ue, to be precise. Words like:

analog–>analogue
epilog–>epilogue
catalog–>catalogue

However, as both SpellZone and my American spellcheck assure me, the –ue ending is acceptable in US spellings as well.

–se

Other words trade out an s for a z (by the way, in the UK, and basically every other English-speaking country other than the US, a z is called “zed”). In words ending in -ize in American English, the British kick out the zed and turn it to an s:

realize–>realise
demonize–>demonise
sensationalized–>sensationalised

–ce

However, in American English, we hold on to the s, in some words, while in British English, it might be a c. These are generally words ending in –se such as:

defense–>defence
license–>licence
offense–>offence

But it gets a little more complicated than that. While in American English, we’re happy to have many words have the same spelling for their verb as their noun, in English spelling they will change the spelling.

American English, words like practice, license, and advice are all spelled the same regardless of whether they’re an action word or a thing. However, in British English:

Noun | Verb

Practice | Practise
Licence | License
Advice | Advise

–ae/–oe

Then there’s the obscure ones, such as words written with a ae/oe in British English. Those words, when translated into American spellings, shift to just an e. So, words like:

anemia–>anaemia
osophagus–>osoephagus
pediatric–>paediatric

-l/-ll

This gets interesting. Let’s start with the basic, present tense. There are American English words which end in -oll and -ill, which when written in British English, drop one of the l’s:

fulfill–>fulfil
enroll–>enrol

However, if something generally ends in -ll (like skill), but there is a modifier on it which turns it to an adjective, American English will just tack the modifier on without change. British English, will get rid of the l’s in the root word before doing this:

skillful–>skilful

If there is a modifier which alters the verb, but still keeps it a verb, then there is no change in spelling. Example words are:

signaling
propelled
revealing

There is an exception to this rule, and unfortunately, I can’t give any details as to why this is an exception. But in British English, turning label to past tense warrants an extra l in there at the end, whereas in American English, it doesn’t.

Labeled–>labelled
cancel–>cancelled
traveled–>travelled

There is a more extensive list of these anomalies here, or you can see more sources in the links at the bottom of the page.

Odd ones out

There are more odd ones out, and a few will be listed here (American spelling first, as has been the trend in this post), though a more extensive list can be found this Quora Forum.

Hiccup–>hiccough
Mold–>mould
Donut–>doughnut
Tires–>tyres (the wheel)
Program–>programme
check–>cheque
grey–>gray

Punctuation

Quotation Marks

General

Most people have read something published in the UK, and might have spotted the difference when it comes to quotation marks. In the US, the double marks are used (as you’ll have seen earlier in this post, but incase you haven’t, these are “double quotations”). In British literature, you’ll see the ‘single quotations’. This is also the only reason why I made sure every one of my Harry Potter books were purchased in the UK.

With other punctuation

This one gets a little tricky to explain, so I’ll take a quote right from the Oxford University Style Guide:

“If the quote would have required punctuation in its original form, place the punctuation inside the quotation marks. (if it is unclear, try writing the whole sentence out without quotation marks and ‘he said’ etc, and replace the resulting punctuation.)

Bob likes cheese –>    ‘Bob’, I said, ‘likes cheese.’ OR
‘Bob likes cheese,’ I said.

Bob, do you like cheese? –>  ‘Bob,’ I asked, ‘do you like cheese?’

Out, damn’d spot!–>  ‘Out,’ said Lady Macbeth, ‘damn’d spot!’

‘You’re engaged to Florence?’ I yipped, looking at him with wild surmise.

“Place any punctuation which does not belong to the quote outside the quotation marks (except closing punctuation if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence).

After all, tomorrow is another day. –>
‘After all,’ said Scarlett, ‘tomorrow is another day.’ OR
‘After all, tomorrow’, said Scarlett, ‘is another day.’

‘The kitchen’, he said, ‘is the heart of the home.’”

Terminology

Sentence Ending

This actually has nothing to do with the use of it, but rather the terminology. In American English, the end of the sentence is generally (though not always) concluded with a period. In British English, it’s concluded with a full stop. It’s the same dot at the end, just different ways of comment on it.

Lettering

Likewise, while there is different terminology for the end of a sentence, there is different terminology at the beginning of it (as well as other applications). The first word of a sentence is always capitalized/capitalised. In the UK, it’s common to say capitalised lettering and small letters, whereas in the States, they’ll be referred to as upper and lower cases.

[()]

There are two meanings for the word “bracket”. In the US, a bracket is the square looking things that we might use in math problems, and sometimes in journalism and quoting: [ ]. In the UK, however, they are the rounder ones, the ones that are called, in the US, parentheses, as well as the square ones. They differentiate in terms, calling them round brackets ( ) and square brackets [ ].

 

Helpful Note

  • According to One Stop English, in international classrooms—so classes on both sides of the pond—both forms of English are accepted.
  • There are plenty of online sources if confusion does occur
  • If you start with British English in a piece/paper, carry through in British English style. Likewise with American English. The moral of the story, is don’t mix and match.

More Links

 

 

Have you noticed some key gramatical differences between Englishes? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Why Welsh Autumns Are the Best

I have a love/hate relationship with North Wales. I have spent my whole life visiting here, and while I’ve always loved seeing my granny and going to the beach when I was a child, moving here straight out of high school was a whole different experience. Being that it’s pretty touristy, I would go from manic summers where I was working 60-100 hour weeks (divided (mostly) between jobs), to having so little work that I needed benefit assistance to get me through the winter. It’s kind of intense.

I did that for the first four years of my adult life, and when I did finally move back to the States, I said I’d never do it again.

Well, here I am. I’ve just survived the insanity of the summer (with an injury this time–60 hours work is not my game any more, it would seem), and entering into the autumn. And I realize now why it is that I stayed for so long. The autumns here are the best.

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  1. It’s Quiet
    This is something that you wouldn’t really think of to notice unless you went through the summers here. People come from all over the country, and sometimes the world, to visit North Wales during the summer. It’s a beautiful place and there’s plenty to do–from the coastal paths to sailing to surfing, to just spending too much money.
    The village I live in, at the time that I first lived here, had a permanent population of 800 people. I read one year that during Wakestock (a now extinct festival), the population rose to 20,000. That is insane! Then you have all the sailing races that the rich folk like to be there for, and all the other events that are now catering to the business of the season.
    So when it’s done, and school kicks in and everyone goes home, the villages are like ghost towns. It’s amazing.
    You can find parking. People aren’t getting in your way because–let’s face it–people in herds get dumb. People are there to relax opposed to spend money, so they’re more likely to be friendly and take the time to be polite. It’s just nice, relaxing, and quiet.
    img_3620
  2. The Weather
    img_3623I have so many locals disagree with me on this one, but I swear it’s true–the weather is better when there’s no tourists. I’m not saying the tourists drive the weather to rain, because I’ve totally been here during the summer months, as a tourist, and had beautiful weather. No, what I’m saying is that the best weather months are May and September through October. All the rest of the months are just rain, kind of bleh, for the most part. There are the odd nice days, or partially cloudy days, but not nice nice. Or if they are, they’re too hot (for my liking at least).
    But the reason why the autumn nice weather is better than the May nice weather is because it’s relaxing weather. Coupled with the calm after the storm, the sun and the mild warmth is pleasant. It seems to seep into the bones more. You want to be in it, but you want to relax in it. In May, you’re so energized of breaking through the lethargy of the winter that there’s too much to do, to much want to do any of it. But after the summer, the warmth soaks into you with a slight breeze that carries my next point…
  3. The Leaves
    img_3558I know, I know, it’s everyone’s favorite part of autumn. But it truly is worth noting. After the trees have been lapping up the delicious summer rain, they’re drying up and ready to change and shed their leaves, and they just smell divine.
    I come from a place that looks like it’s been carved out of the trees. I’m not a stranger to masses of trees and their leaves changing. And I love it. There is a heavy dose of ecstasy when I watch the swirls of leaves across the road.
    But there’s something different when the leaves are coming from the Welsh Snowdonia mountains. I spend a lot of time in the slate-mine village of Blaenau-Ffestiniog, and so I drive and walk through the woods quite a bit. And I cannot tell you how much joy those leaves bring me.
    The tips of the leaves are singing to orange and yellow, and they are just so eager to act as a veil to my destination. Combine that with the rolling quilt of the farmlands that look like they’re lumpy with kittens–it is something breathtaking.
  4. Mushroom Hunting
    As a budding mushroom hunter, I cannot get over how many varieties of fungus there is around here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m spoiled rotten for the fungus amung us in the Pacific NorthWest, but here is just as lush with specimens. When I was growing up, in August, Granny and I would always pick field mushrooms just outside her house. I could see the fairy rings they grew in from the windows, and loved to just marvel at them. Now, as an adult, I’m on the hunt for culinary purposes, and just general curiosity. I have a fascination with them, and there are a plethora all over the Snowdonia National Park.

Until you experience it, you won’t know the difference between a Welsh autumn and that of one in Scotland, The Pacific Northwest, or Germany. And in all honesty, I’ve only experienced one of the three I just mentioned. But if you have the chance to spend a month and a half in Wales, make it the last half of August through to October. It’s worth it, I promise.

Happy Equinox, dear reader.

What is your favorite seasonal experience? Is there any location that you find to be unique with its seasons? I want to know! Let me know in the comments!

What I’ve Learned From My First Freelance Gig

I’ve been scouring the online world for some freelance writing gigs, looking for something, anything, to put a little cash in my wallet. I joined every freelance writing website I could find. Finally, I got a bite. It was just a simple proofreading gig, but it was a job nonetheless.

There are a few things I can say that I learned, or need to learn, from this experience, as simple as it may be.

Be Prepared

I was not prepared.

To be fair, I don’t think my employer was either. We found each other via Freelancer. I bid way higher than some people, and maybe $5 higher than the average and said I could get it done within two days. He messaged me, asked me if I could get it done in two hours, max.

I had nothing on and was still in my pj’s, so I said (like any eager beaver with a quality work ethic), “Of course!”

However, from the point of his first message (we’ll say it was at 10 am) to getting to the agreement, it took about an hour. then it took another fifteen minutes or so for him to send the “you’re hired” request, and for me to accept it.

In theory, the two hours should have started from that point (about 11:15 or so). Except, I think he meant from the 10 am point. About ten minutes to noon, he messaged me asking how it was going. I didn’t want to disappoint my first client, so I said it’d be done in ten minutes. It was doable, but I would have preferred one last go-over.

After sending it to him, I realized I didn’t know how the payment system worked. Did he just send money my way? Was I supposed to invoice him? I searched around, found an invoice button and began creating my invoice.

Except then I realized that I had to think about tax. Did I want to charge him VAT on top of the fee I already quoted him without mentioning VAT, or would I just pay it out of what I earned from the job? Could I actually say I was charging VAT if I didn’t have a VAT number? Oh crap, and do I need to be registered as a business before invoicing him??

Once I sent off the edited copy, I sat, watching the screen, obsessively checking my phone, my email, and the website, looking for a response. For hours. What if he didn’t like what I’d changed? What if I missed a whole mess of stuff and he didn’t think me worth paying? What if I didn’t get it to him quick enough? What if he was looking in to ways of getting around paying me and my work was for nothing???

I was not prepared.

Be Sure You…

  1. Research Tax Law
    This can be different depending on the country you’re in, so make sure you’re well versed. Do you need to declare yourself an LLC company? A solo trader? Are you going to be making enough money to employ other people? Ok, the last one is something to think about later, but be sure you know what your options are and where you fit into them.
  2. Research Your Freelance Site
    Every site has a FAQ section, which should answer your basic questions on how to get a job, how to interact with someone offering the job, how to invoice them, and so on. But go further than that. Look at forums on other websites that might address more detailed questions, such as “How long should I wait before I send an invoice?” Be in the know before you start getting job offers (and don’t worry, you’ll have a couple of days at least before your first bite to do your research) so you’re scrambling to figure out what the professional move might be.
  3. Research Your Potential Employers
    When you do find a job you want to apply for, look into them a little bit. Most freelance sites allow you to look at their profile, look at what jobs they’ve offered in the past, how much money they’ve dished out in the past, as well as reviews from other freelancers. If there are a lot of negative reviews, then you might want to skip that job, or look into contacting the employer and asking them about their experience hiring freelancers. Give them the chance to explain their situation.
    Some companies looking for freelancers have their own website, and list what company they’re hiring from. So it’s a good idea to delve into them that way as well. That way, when you do apply to them, you can show them that personal touch.
  4. Know Your Rights and Expectations
    Any good freelancing website should have information on the rights of the employer and the rights of the freelancer. When signing up for these sites, we all have to agree to the terms and services. Make sure you’re with a site that has your back if you need it.

Be Professional

When I went into this, I had no idea how I was going to be contacted by a potential employer. Would I get an email notification via the website stating that an employer had hired me? Or requested and interview? Would I get a direct email from my potential employer?

What I did end up getting was a little chat bubble that just said, “Hello.” So I said “Good morning.” There was nothing for a while, so I then went on to say how I was very interested in the job and would like to know more about it. He sent me a document and said it needed editing. I didn’t know if it was a tester to see if I wa qualified to edit the real deal, or if I was hired. So I asked. He said, “This is the job itself?”

I then threw a smiley face.

No seriously, how on earth do I talk to professionals in a chatbox?  In school I learned about writing letters, emails, and memos, but nothing about instant messenger. Thankfully, as I said before, he didn’t seem to be quite knowing what he was doing either.

I actually didn’t learn anything with this point. If you have tips on this, send them my way!

Be Patient

The person hiring you for their project probably has more on their plate than what your job is. While your focus is on the task being paid for, they probably have another few projects on the go, their own deadlines to see to, as well as emails, phone calls, whatever. That’s not to say that you don’t, but at the end of the day, you were hired for this one job as far as they’re concerned.

Once your project is done, or if you have a question along the way, be patient with them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to get to your request or your project.

That being said, it’s been two and a half hours since I sent my piece in, and I haven’t heard anything back yet. My fingernails no longer exist and I might only have bloody stumps in their place.

What was your first freelance experience? Was it a success? Was it a mess? Feel free to share your experience, or a link to a blog post detailing your experience!

Yet Another Blog

I know, I know, I’m going a little bit crazy here. But I’m discovering more and more that I have my mother’s want for being organized. Who knew I would take on some of her traits, right?

Instead of having one blog that covers my traveling, my studies and whatever else, I’m seperating it all. As you might know, I do, actually have a travel blog called Hopscotch and Woolgathering. It’s pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself.

However, as of today, I also have another blog about my partner/copilot/pilot (code-named Guy in this blog), about sustainable, low-cost living and living off the land. I’ll write about being on the farm in here, but I’ll also write about it in the other one, mostly from an environmetnal persoective. This new blog will also talk about foraging (which I wrote a little about in a past entry here) in the UK, gardening, some hunting, fishing, and hopefully will have some bits and pieces on what to do with the crap we forage/catch.

Without further adue, my new blog:

Hodgepodge and Food Gathering