Dealing with Rejection (though not the relationship kind)

Rejection quoteFailure happens to all of us at some point. Whether it’s a GCSE you knew you always hated, your first, second or even third stab at a driving test, or aiming for and just missing out on a spot in the first team. This time last year I wrote a post about choosing and applying to universities, and I’m aware it’s once again the season of personal statements, UCAS and acceptance emails – but also a time when you might be experiencing your first taste of rejection too.

Getting a rejection from a university that you’ve probably visisted, researched, and then given the highest honour of one of your five UCAS slots hurts, there’s no doubt about it. If the university is a prestigious one, it can feel like a personal blow to you – a failure that despite your grades and hours spent drafting and re-drafting your personal statement, you still somehow ‘weren’t good enough’. If the rejection is from your first choice, all the worst. You might have built up a mental picture of yourself at that university, where you’d be living, what societies or sports you’d get involved in, and having to move on from all of that is tough going. And then there’s arguably the most difficult part; telling everyone else. Rejections aren’t something you’ll cheerily inform family and friends of as soon as you get them; they’re instead brought up in an awkward and often delayed conversation that isn’t much fun for either side involved.

Rejection for me came in the form of a blunt ‘unsuccessful’ email from the University of Durham some time in the winter of year 13. It was quickly followed up with an offer for an alternative course, if I really wanted, but it wasn’t History. I can’t say I was all that cut up about it, I had already been accepted to Exeter, my first choice, but it niggled at me nonetheless for a few days. What if I had wanted to go to Durham? My grades were what they were asking for, so it must have been my personal statement. In which case, what had I done wrong? What was wrong with me?

It was at this point, I realised something. I was proud of my personal statement – I’d spent a long time putting it together, even more time re-drafting it with the advice of my teachers and Head of Year in mind, and then even more time again re-drafting that version until I felt it was an accurate representation of myself. I’d avoided the white lies as far as possible, I hadn’t exaggerated about the books I’d read or the things I’d done; I’d just tried to speak honestly about why I loved my subject and why I was good at it. Personal statements are always going to be cringey to an extent – after years of learning that above all else ‘modesty’ was the most important characteristic to maintain as a teenage girl, to shove all that aside and sell yourself goes against the grain. But, despite the cheesy intro and awkward synonyms for ‘passionate’ because we were told it was the Number One Word to Avoid, when I submitted my personal statement on UCAS I felt it did me justice.

It was knowing this, that in the long run enabled me to turn the rejection from Durham into something positive. Gradually I realised that there was nothing wrong with me per say; instead the admission team at Durham had just been doing their job. They had looked at my application, thought ‘this girl isn’t the type who would do well here’ and sent off my rejection. Later my Head of Year told me that I should have mentioned more academic works that I’d read, but to be brutally honest, reading up on historiographical trends in my free time is not my idea of fun, and never has been. I didn’t put those sorts of books on my personal statement because I hadn’t read them, and if Durham rejected me on those grounds of not being ‘academic’ enough – then they did exactly the right thing. If I had crammed my academic reading in the summer, and reduced the paragraph on my extra-curricular pursuits to tailor it to Durham’s expectations, I might have got in – but it would no longer have been ‘me’ they were accepting. I’d have then turned up in September most likely unprepared in comparison to the rest of my coursemates, and, in all honesty, not suited to the university.

I think I’ve gone on quite a long winded way of saying it, but essentially I’m trying to explain that if you give your all, prepare as best you can and put yourself forward in a way that you feel does you justice; rejection can never really hurt you. It’s the same for other aspects of life as well; if you fail that first driving test, it’s because you just weren’t ready, if you don’t make the first team, it’s because you need a little more training, if your essay comes back with a 2:2 instead of 2:1, that’s just letting you know that there’s something you need to look at to change for next time. One of my favourite lecturers here at Exeter recently told me the best mark you get in your first year is your worst, because that’s the most helpful in terms of your improvement. University applications can feel a little daunting as often people worry that they’ve only got one shot, but that’s really not the case. If I’d set my heart on Durham, I could have reworked my statement, read the books I knew they would be interested in and re-applied. I could even now have a shot at applying for a Masters if I wanted to.

Rejection can really hurt your self-esteem and confidence, but (and excuse the cheesiness) if you’ve tried your best that’s really all you can do. You can’t be any more than the best you can be. It’s bound to feel a bit rubbish for a while, but try not to see rejection as a door closing – instead try to imagine it more as a whopping great big ‘Diversion’ sign blocking your way. It’s not permanent, and you might come back to that very same door later on, but for the time being life is directing you down a different corridor.

The Student Cooking Blog: Part 1

Food 2Cooking easy, simple meals is a must-have skill at university, and one that’s taken me a while to get the knack of. Being in self-catered Lafrowda last year, and now having the entertaining challenge of sharing a pretty small kitchen with 6 people, I’ve had quite a bit of practice of the student staples. There are all kinds of handy tips you pick up over time, like the wonder that is the Schwartz packs of chilli con carne spices, and how it’s much cheaper to buy a curry paste and cocount milk than a jar of curry sauce, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my culinary wisdom (if you can call it that) on here.

To start, here are three of my favourite all time recipes. These are all veggie, but you can add meat to pretty much all of them as and when you want.Food 1

Ultimate Tomato Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 x onion
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • Suitable amount of veg – mushrooms, courgette, peppers (fried bacon or cooked sasuage works too)
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato additions: puree, ketchup
  • Salt and peppar to season (or other mixed herbs if there are any in the cupboard)

Method

  1. You’ll probably want to put the pasta on before you start cooking the sauce unless you want to be waiting around.
  2. Dice the onion and slice up the garlic as thinly as you can (no one has time for garlic crushers and they’re a pain to clean!)
  3. Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil, and add your chopped veg to fry too. Chopped mushrooms, courgette, a pepper that’s going  a little soft in the bottom of your fridge- whatever you fancy.
  4. Add your can of tomatoes and turn the heat down to a simmer.
  5. Add your tomato flavour additions – a teaspoon of puree or a tablespoon of ketchup to sweeten.
  6. Salt and peppar to season! (No one really knows how to season but throw some in so it looks like you know what you’re doing.)
  7. In general, the longer you leave it (within reason) the better because then the flavours can ~infuse~

This will probably make about 3 or 4 meals worth, so unless you’re entertaining friends bag the leftovers into poritions and put them in the freezer for an easy defrost dinner another day! Cheaper and definitely more tasty than buying a jar of sauce 🙂

 

Roasted Veg and Cous Cous

My current absolute favourite lunch – a warm salad is so lovely as it gets closer to winter and this definitely fills me up for the afternoon.

Ingredients

  • A basic bag of cous cous
  • Vegetables to roast: this can be anything, I tend to have at least a garlic clove, a pepper and a big tomato, but some sliced courgette, red onion or aubergine is fab too.
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Feta cheese (or the supermarket ‘Greek Salad Style Cheese’ alternative) or you can use halloumi if you’re feeling exotic

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Slice up the vegetables and put them in a roasting tray. Drizzle them with a little bit of oil, and sprinkle with sugar if you like (it really brings out the sweetness in the tomato and peppers) and then put the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook your cous cous. It’s super easy, just measure out enough to cover the bowl a few cenitmetres deep, and then pour over enough boiling water so that it completely covers the cous cous with a centimetre to space. Stir well and leave for a few minutes (with some foil over the top of the bowl to speed it up). Fluff up with a fork so all the grains are separate; if you make too much save some for another day!
  4. If you’re having halloumi, slice up thinly and fry with a little oil in a small frying pan. It cooks very satsifyingly, squeaking as it fries and browning well. Should take no longer than 10 minutes or so.
  5. Take out the veg and pour over your cous cous. Add your halloumi or crumble some feta cheese over the top.
  6. Finally, drizzle with some balsamic vinegar. This makes it for me!

If you want to save for another day, keep the cous cous and veg separately to stop it going soggy, but it makes a great cold lunch too.

 

Eggy Bread (aka Easy Pancakes)

Ideal way to get rid of bread that’s going a little stale and my absolute fave late night snack or late morning breakfast. So warm, so more-ish, and so much more satsifying and easier than pancakes.

Ingredients

  • A couple of slices of bread
  • An egg
  • A splash of milk
  • A knob of butter or some oil
  • Toppings: jam and golden syrup are best. It’s up to you really; my brother is a Nutella-holic so he’d have that, and my housemate has ketchup with hers but that’s blasphemy in my eyes! If you really want to go all out, you could fry up some bacon to have with it too.

Method

  1. Whisk your eggs and milk together as if you’re making scrambled eggs in a low sided bowl.
  2. In a frying pan, melt the butter or warm the oil.
  3. Soak your bread in the eggy mix, turning over the bread so you soak both sides.
  4. Slop the soaked bread into the pan, turning over when it’s browned nicely.
  5. Repeat until you’ve used up your eggy mix and the bread!

In terms of cooking resources, we all start  university with such good intentions (and so many cookbooks kindly gifted from well-meaning relatives) but in reality, most of them never make it off the shelf more than once or twice. My favourite cookbook however is ‘From Pasta to Pancakes: The Ultimate Student Cookbook’ by Tiffany Goodall. It has all the basics and photos for every recipe offering a step by step guide. Plus, the recipes are so good my mum ended up buying one for herself when I took the family copy to university!

There’s also Uni Grub, an online student cooking resource set up by an ex-Exeter student that offers tasty, cheap and simple recipes with photo guides too! It’s only just been set up but it’s really easy to navigate, and their Nutella brownies are amazing.

 

 

In Which I Write Another List

(I really need to branch out from the whole list thing in my next post)

We’re into week 4 of first term, and things are getting back into a routine of sorts. I’m beginning to learn my housemates’ timetables (since mine doesn’t exactly require much memorisation), we’ve made the trek to Morrisons’ for weekly food shops a few times, had our first house party, set up a cleaning rota that would be impressive if it survives the month, and already had our various existential-degree-related crises. The whole 4 hours a week thing is taking some getting used to, but I think I’m getting the hang of structuring my own time. I’m busier than I thought I would be with society committee responsibilities, playing basketball and now writing an online fortnightly Features column for Exeposé; but I’m not complaining. Busy is best for me, and I’m more than happy to accept the late nights and early starts as long as it doesn’t mean I’m languishing in bed till midday everyday feeling purposeless.

All that being said, I’m (typically) writing this the day before my first deadline of the year, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet for once! Second year is already shaping up to be very different from first, so I thought I’d have a look at some of the main differences I’ve noticed so far.

  • You’re used to the hills

Autumn campusAfter any extended stay away from Exeter that first high-powered hike up Forum Hill burns. You’ve heard it all before and you’ll hear it again (many, many times), but Exeter’s hills really are an iconic feature of the University. And probably the reason people are so sporty. They have to be a reasonable level of fitness to get anywhere on time. As seasoned second years though, we’re learning the tricks of the trade. Morrisons’ is a 20 minute walk but at least it’s a flat one, you’ll need to leave the house 5 minutes earlier to get up to a lecture in Newman Blue etc, etc.

  • You feel less homesick

This is definitely a welcome development. Although it was bitter pill to swallow at the time, the only long-term cure for homesickness is time and distance. It was tough in first term, but got easier as the year went on, and it’s still getting easier now. Sometimes it’s a surprise to realise I haven’t called home in four or five days, and it’s a strange feeling that as much as I love my family, I had been quite busy enough to not think about them for the best part of a week. I know it’s an inevitable part of growing up to feel less attracted to the idea of going home, but it is certainly a very satisfying and tangible thing too. There’s that quote about ‘friends being the family you choose for yourself’, and despite the grotty accommodation and nightmares over bills, a little family is exactly what you establish in a student house, and it’s so much more comforting than the bland corridors of first year.

  • You know your way around (sort of)

I still have to ask the poor receptionist at Queens every. Single. Time. Where I’m meant to be going. She’s kind of resigned to it at this point. Knowing my way around town though is another matter. Living in a different part of Exeter has made me reevaluate my mental map of the city, but it’s also meant I’ve been able to connect up all those dots I hadn’t realised were connected by this side-street, or that footpath. Even though I did a fair bit of exploring last year, I’m determined to broaden my horizons again this year, and find new foodie places and pubs to take guests to.

  • You feel more confident

ForumGoing to Freshers’ events with a few friends and a ‘can-do-it-doesn’t-matter-if-we-make-fools-of-ourselves’ attitude was so refreshing, and so much more fun than the terrifying experience of last year. Having friends already is a novelty that will never wear off when it comes to Freshers I feel. It’s nice to be involved in societies instead of just turning up to events, it’s nice to know people outside your course and in different years through society committees, it’s nice to no longer feel pressured to do everything because it’s just too impossible. You just do what you can fit in and with people you like, and it’s a great feeling.

  •  “Way more work (well, for me, anyway)”

This slightly passive aggressive quote is from my very motivated medical scientist housemate, who I interrupted mid-lecture write up to ask for her opinion on changes so far in second year. Bless. It’s a statement that would probably be concurred by the English, Biology and Economics students living with us too. And most of the second years on campus. I’m biding my time on the whole work front this term I know, after Christmas will be a brutal return to reality!

  • TFW: Second Year Superiority Style

We all have to be a Fresher at some point, but if I’m honest it’s great to no longer be the newbies. Yeah, you can’t pull the ‘but nothing counts!’ card in second year, but at least we can fondly laugh at the Freshers who panic about getting a ticket to the ‘best night of their lives’ at Unit 1 or who turn up to Freshers’ fair expecting to find a cash machine on campus without a two mile queue.  We laugh because we were right there with them 12 months ago, but the important thing is that we’re oh so mature and sorted now. Obviously.