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Bout ye, Belfast!

Botanic Studios, our brand-new student accommodation in Belfast for 2017/18, is coming along very nicely – check out the latest photos of the show flat here. In the meantime, we’ve been putting together a checklist of what we’ve been recommended to do and see around the city…

Titanic Belfastthe first stop!
This impressive extravaganza of media and memorabilia occupies the space in which the Titanic was built, over one hundred years ago. We can’t wait to explore the replicas of the passenger accommodation and ride through the recreation of the city’s shipyard (apparently, it even smells authentic!). Will the “was there enough room for two on the raft” debate be solved? Probably not, but you never know.

Crumlin Road Gaoljust to lighten things up…
We’re a bit of a sucker for the supernatural, so we’ll surely be trying to get spooked by visiting one of Belfast’s grizzlier historic sites. The cramped cells of C-Wing and the chilling execution chamber make for a chastening experience; ‘The Crum’ is high on our to-do list.

St. George’s Marketvariety is the spice of life.
Built in 1896, this is Ireland’s oldest operating market, but the live music and amazing food stalls on a Saturday make it sound like more of a party than you might first expect! We’re looking forward to flowers, fish, food, homely things and second hand thriftiness whilst enjoying the furore of this Belfast bonanza.

Cathedral Quarter bar scene? Now we’re talking…
The place to see and be seen, Cathedral Quarter is home to some of the greatest establishments in the city; from traditional Irish pubs with live music to the quirkiest candle lit bars around. Special mention must be given to the Black Box venue, which always has something going on, from music to theatre to comedy to art. Basically, a guarantee of a good time!

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridgeis there a reward for crossing it or…?
Everybody knows that Ireland isn’t all about city living, so it’s time to head North and visit the Antrim Coast. Scenic coastlines and gorgeous driving routes make the journey alone worthwhile, let alone conquering the Carrick-a-Rede. It’ll be a definite movie moment when we Indiana Jones it across to the other side. There’s another way back, right?

Are you studying in Belfast this year? Take a look at our brand new, city-centre student accommodation here.


How to stay calm when you know you’re going to be stressed

Finding yourself weighed down by deadlines and cracking under the pressures of coursework? If so, you’re probably a student. Are you good at making decisions whilst under extreme amounts of stress? If not, you’re probably a human.

Exam season is crashing down on students soon, with deadlines following closely behind. You might even be suffering from some pre-stress already (feeling stressed about the stress that you know you’ll be stressed about), so what can be done to prepare? Luckily there’s a TED Talk for everything, and Daniel Levitin makes some useful points here:

By practicing prospective hindsight, the “pre-mortem”, you can prepare for the worst and protect yourself against potential disaster. Here’s what we recommend planning for in student life…

Technology tantrums
Even in 2017, if your technology is going to give up, it’s going to give up with a bang and cause as much of a scene as possible. Melodramatic Macs and limelight-loving laptops can crash on the last day of a deadline or on the eve of an exam, so make sure everything is backed up on a memory stick or stored in The Cloud. Saving regularly could save the day.

Deadline day
There aren’t many worse things than being worried about meeting a deadline – you know, when you can almost feel it hanging over you. It sounds simple, but the trick here is to start early and space things out to avoid a last-minute rush. Struggling to start is classic student procrastination (more on that here [link to previous blog]), but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Awkward answers
Nothing sinks your heart quicker than leaving an exam and hearing how different your classmates’ answers were to your own. A way to combat this, as well as being useful for essay writing, is discussion. Study groups, quick chats or revision sessions are great ways of keeping topics on track and confidence high. You’ll walk in feeling focused and full of the correct knowledge.

Preparation is key!


Easter Break: Netflix Bingeables

Christmas is but a distant memory, Valentine’s was some time ago now and Pancake Day has been and gone – Easter break; come on down! You’re probably going to have a mountain of work to get through; there’s likely to be a lot of people to get around and spend time with and summer plans should really be starting to get underway. At the same time though, you’ve earned this break from uni, so a lot of it will be dedicated to Netflix* – here are our top picks for the most bingeable shows for your Easter break.

*finding a lot of time being dedicated to Netflix? You might just be a procrastinator – check out our blog on that here.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
This was the show back in the day, and now it’s back in our lives! The timelessness of the jokes, the fabulous 90s fashion and the brilliance of the Banks family give this a perfect score. After all, there aren’t many other songs that you can sing along to a thousand times and never get bored of – Now this is a story all about how, my life got flipped turned upside down…
Binge Score – 5/5

Peaky Blinders
Beautifully moody, fantastically stylish and violently intriguing – possibly how you’d describe yourself, but we’re talking Peaky Blinders. Set in Birmingham during the aftermath of World War One, the show focuses on the ambitious Shelby family, headed up by Tommy (whom you will love). Gritty drama and complex characters make this a high scorer for us.
Binge score – 4/5

Planet Earth
Sometimes in life, all you really need are the dulcet tones of David Attenborough coupled with stunning shots of the most beautiful scenery in the world. There’s nothing quite like a reminder of the size and wonder of the world to take your mind off of a deadline, so Planet Earth makes the list.
Binge Score – 5/5

American Horror Story
It’s not scary scary, but it might make you think twice about the next time you hear a funny bump in the night. This show will suck you in, spook you and set you free again…before repeating the process in the next episode. Different themes and characters in each season keeps things interesting and fresh.
Binge Score – 4/5


Pancake day has créped up on us…

A Buddhist monk visits a crêperie on Shrove Tuesday. He orders a traditional crêpe with lemon juice and a light dusting of sugar. The vendor abides and the Buddhist Monk hands over a ten pound note, only to be met with a pleasant yet blank smile from the man serving him. “Wh-where’s my change?” asks the Buddhist Monk, unsure exactly of what was happening. “Ah” says the vendor, “you see, change must come from within.”

This pancake day is the time for change – check out our top five alternative (read: hipster) pancake recipes below…

Banana Pancakes
You read it right, pancakes made out of bananas. This recipe will go down a storm with your fruit loving friends and is bound to surprise you! Get a bit of golden syrup on them and you might just never look back.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
If there is anything bad to be said about pancakes (blasphemous, we know), it’s that they’re just not…cakey enough. Remedy that with this recipe that will surely change the way you look at carrots.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Frying up some potato is one of life’s underrated pleasures. Enjoy this recipe once and you’ll probably be caught having it for breakfast on a Friday, a snack on a Saturday, brunch on a Sunday and just whenever you find yourself with a spare few minutes and a sweet potato handy! Oh sweet, sweet potato.

American Style Pancakes
The main event needs no introduction – big, fluffy, indulgent…it really doesn’t get any better than a stack of traditional American style pancakes. Get creative with your toppings and do pancake day, the right way.

Ricotta Pancakes
Is there anything that cheese can’t do? These ricotta pancakes give an amazing twist to break away from tradition and are so easy to do. Bring these to your pancake party and you’re guaranteed to steal the show.


Our favourite websites this week

We’re all guilty of going to bed early and enjoying a good night’s internet. Whether you’re clicking around whilst watching TV or have given in to temptation and become a semi-professional procrastinator, there are always new things to discover online. Here are the websites that have been taking up most of our time this week…

A Place Between Us
Every now and then you need to catch up with your best friend (even if they did betray you by going to study in a different city) if only to remind them why you’re number one and all of their new uni crew can’t quite compare. A Place Between Us will tell you the midway point between here and there, and can even recommend a few things to do! Handy for taking the stress out of the military-level planning that goes into trying to organise a get together.

Festival Mapper
Christmas is long gone, Valentine’s has just passed and soon enough, pancake day will be over too which means that Summer planning is in full effect. Check out Festival Mapper to see all of the festivals near you (or wherever you’re going to find yourself) and the latest available information. From the big hitters to the best hipsters, you’ll either find a new niche nearby or will be reminded to book that weekend that you’ve been wanting to go to since 2012.

Pixel Thoughts
Student stress is a real thing, whether assignments are eating away at you or you’ve just caught a bit of pre-stress*. There will be a time where you hit a wall, staring at your computer screen with a motivation drought and a serious inspiration shortage. Instead of giving in to procrastination (read about that in our blog here) take a look at Pixel Thoughts for a sixty second destress – you’ll be the calmest person on campus!

*pre-stress: being stressed about the stress that you know you’ll be stressing about in the future.

Taste Kid
Stuck for a movie to watch or a book to read? Playlist sounding a little bit too repetitive? Tell Taste Kid what you like and let them recommend similar sounds or styles for you to discover. You’ll soon be reading new books that you love and playing different games that you struggle to put down. Perfect for those times when you’re not quite sure what you fancy.

Byers’ House
Honourable Mention – probably not a website to while away the hours on, but this bit of fun combines two things that we’re pretty sure everyone enjoys; being nosy and Stranger Things! Explore the Byers’ house in this 3D replica, fairy lights and all. The hole in the wall tells us that this is a post-Demogorgon model…hopefully.


The Monkey In The Room

Tips for procrastination

Ever found yourself starting an assignment late, spending a little bit too much time clicking around the week’s best time killers or meticulously arranging every last stationary item on your desk into a perfect, properly organised workspace…all in the name of not working? Chances are that you’re partial to some procrastination. It’s easy enough for the motivated amongst us to maintain that all it takes is “getting a grip and doing it” or that “starting is the hardest part”, but the true procrastinators will know that it goes deeper than that; it isn’t laziness, lethargy or a lack of desire, nor is it arrogance when the avoidance leads to an all-night marathon the day before a hand-in.

Like many bad habits, the key to breaking it is understanding why we do it. Luckily, there’s a TED Talk for everything and Tim Urban puts procrastination into perspective quite brilliantly here:

If you’re going to watch the video later (we know what you’re like) there are pictures hereFrom one putter-offer to another, here are three tips for keeping a good grasp of that instant gratification monkey.

Forgive yourself
Giving yourself a hard time for procrastinating will naturally lead you to seek solace in things that give you comfort, which effectively gives the instant gratification monkey the keys to the playground and giddies him up. Absolve yourself of your productivity sin to bring a positive and progressive attitude because, hey, everyone deserves a second chance (or a third chance, or a fourth chance, or a…you get the idea).

Two-minute rule
Why do you check the fridge even though you know it’s empty? How do you find yourself refreshing a newsfeed on your phone a few seconds after seeing the latest? These are classic procrastination habits. So, if you can have a bad habit, why can’t you have a good one? The two-minute rule says that if something takes two minutes or less to complete, talk yourself into doing it straight away. Two minutes will feel shorter each time and, before you know it, you’ve nailed down one of the most useful habits of your life.

Set deadlines
The panic monster can be controlled! Working to a deadline will not only give you enough healthy panic to put some wind in your sails, but will also give you a finish line; something to aim for; a light at the end of the tunnel. If you can aim to have something completed, no matter how big or small, by a given time and can then subsequently meet the deadline, you’re onto a winner. Plus, you must make sure that you reward yourself. Don’t be afraid to really, really reward yourself – if anyone questions it, say something about the psychology of procrastination and positive reinforcement…they won’t question you again.


Our favourite websites this week

We’re all guilty of going to bed early and enjoying a good night’s internet. Whether you’re clicking around whilst watching TV or have given in to temptation and become a semi-professional procrastinator (check out our blog on how to deal with that here), there are always new things to discover online. Here are the websites that have been taking up most of our time this week…

Quick, Draw! With Google
Great for a mini break – have some fun whilst still being focused on a task. Quick, Draw! asks you to doodle an object within twenty seconds and see if Google can guess what it is. So, whether you fancy yourself as an artist or just want to prove that you could walk your way through your flatmate’s illustration degree, Quick, Draw! is the time killer for you. If you hit a score of zero (which can happen; talking from experience) just call yourself ‘abstract’.

Sofar Sounds
This global movement brings gigs to intimate spaces around the world and aims to bring the magic back to live music; audiences are asked to be respectful (for example, no mobile phones) and take time to enjoy the artist in front of them. Check out the website and see if there are any upcoming gigs near you – just sign up and hope you’re one of the lucky few to be told where the venue is! Check out our blog on Where to travel in 2017 and find the Sofar events in those cities too.

Music Map
We’ve all got that playlist that starts sounding just a tad too repetitive after a while. You always tell yourself that you’ll update it soon but, hey, you’re a semi-pro procrastinator now. Music Map will solve the problem – type in a band or artist that you like and see recommendations for similar sounds. We’re pretty sure there’s a ‘six degrees of separation’ theory floating around here somewhere.

Save The Student
This is an essential whilst you’re at uni. Jam packed full of advice, tips and life experience, Save The Student should be your go to for saving money and generally getting things in check. There’s even a section that has the most recent and best deals available – winner.

Super Cook
How’s that New Year’s resolution to stop spending 90% of your money on food going? Yeah, same here, until we discovered Super Cook. Far from being the latest obscurity to be plucked from comic books and turned into a movie (though there is some potential there…), this website will give you a whole range of meal ideas from whatever ingredients you can dig out of your cupboard. Give it a go once and we’re sure that you’ll be using it again!


Travelling on a student budget

Even the savviest of students can sometimes struggle with saving up for a holiday, but there’s no reason why a smaller budget should stop you from seeing the sights. Here are some tips for travelling on a shoestring…

Shop Around
It pays to take time when booking. Use sights like kayak.com and skyscanner.net to find the cheapest flights, or hop on to flixbus.co.uk for budget bus and coach travel throughout Europe. There are so many hacks and tricks to get cheaper travel – never settle on the first price!

Hotels Hostels
If you haven’t stayed in a hostel before, you might have a few reservations; sharing with strangers or adventuring alone can both be daunting prospects, so check out hostelworld.com for honest, upfront reviews about the cheapest beds around. Only people that have stayed in the hostels can leave feedback, so you can trust what they’re saying and get a good idea of what it’ll be like.

Choose Cheap
You don’t always have to spend months saving to afford a holiday – there are so many places throughout Europe where you can enjoy cheap eats and discount drinks! Take a look at our blog on the cheapest travel destinations in 2017 for some ideas and inspiration.

Travel Light
You’ve decided on a destination, you’ve found the cheapest flights and now you’re ready to start booking. Avoid extra costs by taking only hand luggage – airline fees for suitcases can sometimes be the difference between affording a treat of a dinner or seeing a few more sights.

Resist Temptation
Of course you want to have a good time once you’re on holiday, but always be conscious of how much you’re spending. You can often get a coffee for free from your hostel, rather than stopping by a café and spending precious Euros that could be better spent on a tacky souvenir for your parents!

WorkAway
Check out workaway.info for a different way to travel. Help out for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation, with visits lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months. This is a great way to join a community, gain great experience and immerse yourself in a different culture.man-person-people-train


Where to travel in 2017…

Where can a student budget take you this year?

Seeing the world is expensive – you might not be sipping Champagne in Dubai whilst studying for your undergrad course or trekking through Himalayan mountains with a dissertation deadline that weighs more than your backpack, but there are certain cities where the hostels are budget-friendly and there are drinks deals aplenty. The savviest of students will be setting off to these places in 2017; make sure you’re one of them. Here’s our top five…

Sofia
A bargain in Bulgaria. Everything is cheap here – flights; food; accommodation; drinks. With a gorgeous city centre and a population that welcomes tourists with open arms, Sofia is a cut price destination that ticks all the boxes. You might not cross anything off of your bucket list, but you’re sure to find a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife and a relaxed atmosphere.

sofia-1613900_1920

Krakow
Penny pinching in Poland. Krakow consistently takes its place as one of Europe’s top destinations – a beautiful city with a fascinating local culture, fabulous food, amazing nightlife and a beer for £1.50. There are some rumours that demand for Krakow might start to force prices up, so be sure to get out there in 2017.

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Bucharest
‘Price is Right’ Romania. There’s probably more charm to be found elsewhere in the country, but what you won’t find is a more student-friendly cost of living. With low prices all year round and falling hostel rates, this is a reading week dream destination. A perfect year to tick Romania off of the list.

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Belgrade
Savings in Serbia. A few of the Balkan cities had years of trouble two decades ago (try not to feel old…yikes) but are finally on the up and up. A lively city with a thriving student population, this is definitely going to be good for a night out or two whilst also giving you a chance to check out somewhere completely different. Oh, and everything is cheap, of course.

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Budapest
High rollers in Hungary (on a low roller’s budget). Budapest has long been known as a bargain basement destination – steer clear of the tourist trap packed riverfront and you’re on to a winner. Hostels are great value and prices are generally kept low; you’ll even be able to afford to chill in a thermal spa to soak away the stresses of student living! Budapest might not be a cheap break for much longer, so make sure you get out there this year.

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18 acronyms you didn’t know stood for something.

Acronyms, some of them are so common we don’t even know what they stand for any more, here are the stories and meanings behind 18 words, names and titles that you might not have realised actually stand for something.

AGA

Not the aga as in “Aga Khan,” this Aga is a type of cast-iron cooking range invented in Sweden in the early 1920s, which became popular in large country houses and middle class homes in the mid 20th century. The name Aga stands for Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator, or “The Gas Accumulator Company” in Swedish.

BASE JUMPING

A form of crazy parachuting in which jumpers leap from fixed objects, base jumping started back in the 1980s. It takes its name from the four types of fixtures that you can jump from: building, antenna, span, or Earth.

CAPTCHA

The next time you’re asked to enter a practically illegible string of characters or numbers into a website to prove that you’re human, it’s worth remembering that Captcha stands for “completely automated public Turing Test to tell computers and humans apart.” (Although unsurprisingly the name was also deliberately coined to sound like “capture.”)

CARE PACKAGE

The first care packages—or rather, CARE packages—were put together in the aftermath of the Second World War with the aim of providing food relief to war-torn Europe. They were the work of what was then a newly formed humanitarian agency known as The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, founded in 1945.

E-FIT

Although it’s often misused as simply a synonym for “photofit,” technically the name E-fit refers only to the computer program used to produce composite pictures of police suspects based on people’s descriptions. It stands for “electronic facial identification technique.”

GIF

American computer scientist Steve Wilhite created the “graphics interchange format,” or gif, in 1987 and the inventor thinks you should be pronouncing it “jiff,” not “giff.”

GIGAFLOP

As a measure of the processing speed of computers, the “flop” of words like gigaflop and megaflop stands for “floating-point operations per second.”  Originally it was spelled gigaflops (which some people still prefer), but the -s was dropped to avoid thinking it was plural.

PAKISTAN

The name Pakistan is said to be derived from the Urdu and Persian word pak, meaning “pure.” But when the name was first coined in 1933, the independence activist Choudhry Rahmat Ali also suggested that it worked as an acronym of the five northern kingdoms of British India: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and, giving it its final few letters, Baluchistan.

POG

If you grew up in the ’90s, you probably played Pogs (and remember them being epic). But according to the OED, the name was an acronym for passion fruit, orange, guava, and was named after a drink in Maui that provided the lids for the first games.

RADAR and SONAR

Radar technology was developed in the lead-up to the Second World War. Its name was coined in the 1940s as an acronym of “radio detection and ranging,” and has since been used as a template for the names of other similar technologies, including sonar (“sound navigation and ranging”) and lidar (literally “light radar”).

SCUBA

When you’re scuba diving, you’re using “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

SIM CARD

And the SIM card in your phone is really your “subscriber identification module” card.

SMART CAR

A division of the Daimler organisation, the Smart Automobile company was founded in Germany in 1994. Originally known as the “Swatchmobile” (because the car was developed by the same company that makes Swatch watches), the name “Smart car” was chosen in the mid-1990s as an acronym of “Swatch Mercedes Art.”

SNAFU

A snafu is a mistake, or a general state of confusion or disarray. It was coined in the early 1940s, apparently by American troops during the Second World War, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “an expression conveying the common soldier’s laconic acceptance of the disorder of war and the ineptitude of his superiors”—namely, “situation normal, all f****d up.”

TASER, LASER, and MASER

Taser stands for “Thomas A. Swift’s electric rifle,” but the notorious electroshock device was actually invented by an engineer named Jack Cover in the late 1960s. Cover decided to name his invention in honour of his childhood hero, Tom Swift, the fictitious star of a series of children’s sci-fi adventure novels. But chances are he also modelled it on laser (“light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”), which in turn took its name from the even earlier maser technology (“microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”).

Did you know we have accommodation across the UK? From Exeter to Edinburgh and loads of places in between including a new shiny building in Newcastle! You should live with us.

Original text from Mental Floss