The question of tolerance

Living in a student house, and sharing said house with four other people who you couldn't pick yourself as housemates can be tricky sometimes. I've been in this situation for 2 1/2 years now and I've had enough.

We live in a terraced house, and my room is the one at the back. This means that the bathroom is right next door, with the pipes running behind my bed. During the day, I don't mind. I can tune out the noises, the click of the light switch, the flushing, the squeaky taps and the banging of the light switch against the tiles if someone's in a hurry.

During the night, that's a different story. I know that when you've gotta go, you've gotta go, but lately someone in the house is quite literally taking the piss. Showers at 2am in the morning during the week. Constant running to the bathroom, banging the light switch, banging the door shut... It's driving me crazy. I hardly sleep as it is, maybe because I stress about university too much at the moment, but this whole bathroom situation has to stop.

There's five of us in this house, 2 journalists and 3 photographers, and the photographers seem to be a clique. Hardly ever do we get the time of day. I was in the kitchen today, walking in on two of them talking. They immediately stopped, and then carried on as if I didn't exist, completely ignoring me. One of them then asked who was leaving the house at 9.30am on Tuesday. "Well, it wasn't you, it wasn't me and it wasn't the other photographer... who else could it have been?" Thanks a bunch.

Sharing a house was meant to be fun... that's what everyone said. And we journalists do have fun toegther, but never in the 2 1/2 years I've lived here did we all host a proper party or go for a night out together. We never watch TV together, we all have our meals separately (there is no dining table, so even if we wanted to we couldn't) and everyone just lives in their room.

I can't wait to move out of this place!! I had my own place before I moved into student accommodation - at least there I knew if I didn't do the dishes, no one did. I didn't have to hide my toilet paper, because it might get knicked if I leave it in the bathroom. If I wasn't in the shower, nobody else was - no queues and nobody waking me up in the middle of the night because they couldn't time their shower so that it wouldn't affect anyone else.

Mind you, once I move out, I will share a house again - but this time with my other half, so I doubt I'll get the silent treatment anymore. We'll talk to each other about what is going on, do the shopping together and actually go out every now and then. It's still a couple of months away, but I can't wait!

Enough is enough... there is just so much anyone can put up with.

Creating a travel magazine

Now that I'm in my third year of my B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism degree, I have to create a Final Project.


And, as a travel journalist, what better to do than a travel magazine?

It's early stages, but my magazine will be called "Shoestring" an cater for 18 - 30-year-old backpackers, people on their Gap Years or Sabbaticals and those wanting to go.

It will be twelve pages, A4 size and in full colour. I'm still in the designing stage, working out my cover layout and stylesheets for the inside pages, but this is what my cover looks like so far:


What do you think? Please help in the design by leaving feedback :)

Distance Learning

To be a journalist in the UK, you will need to pass your NCTJ (national Council for the Training of Journalists) exams at some point. These include News Writing, Public Affairs, Law, Shorthand and a Portfolio.

Studying journalism on an accredited course will get you these qualifications, or at least give you the lessons needed. When I enrolled for my B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism course, nobody at the university told me that even though the Single Honours B.A. Journalism degree is accredited, mine isn't.

I feel a bit cheated, to be honest. If I'd known from the start - instead of finding out halfway through the degree - I could have changed courses. Now I am doomed to somehow get my NCTJ preliminaries on top of this degree.

I have therefore decided, to sit the News Writing exam at the end of the academic year (the one module within my degree that is accredited) and hand in my portfolio. Since I will have to work, and don't have money, time or enthusiams to do more university studies or a full-time top-up course, I will do it via distance learning from the NCTJ itself.

Funnily enough, studying journalism at university costs £3000+ per year., plus all teh books and other materials needed. With this distance learning course, you learn everything you need to know, have between 6 months and two years time to complete it, get your books and exam fees covered in the price and it only costs a little less than £400. And the NCTJ has already told me that although I would have to repeat the module as part of the course, I wouldn't have to repeat my exams.

Just wish I'd known about this earlier.

Carnival in Cologne


It's "Roosemondaach" in Cologne, the most important day in the Carnival season, which lasts from 11th November until Ash Wednesday (17th February this year).

Over the last few days, Germany's Rhineland region went crazy, with carnival meetings, music and parades everywhere. There were concerts, and speeches, loads of jokes and on Thursday "Altweiber", women took over most towns with the mayor symbolically handing over the town keys, and all tie-wearing men got their ties cut by the girls. The main event will be today's "Rosenmontagszug" in Cologne, the hometown of German carnival. The streets will be closed off, and millions of people will line the streets, waiting for the colourful floats to pass by and hopefully catch a few sweets that are thrown into the crowd. The "Dreigestirn" will be there, accompanied by "Funkemariechen" dancers, marching bands and hundreds of people in colourful and imaginative costumes. Carnival is a time to have fun, to be whoever you want to be.

If you're trying to catch any of the sweets and candy "Kamelle", as it's called in Cologne, try this trick we all used when we were kids: Open an umbrella and hold it upside down!

"Kölle Alaaf", or, if you're from Solingen like me "Solig lot jonn" everyone, because: "D'r Zoch kütt!"



Great tips for your work space!

I found this on the CNN today: a little presentation of how to organise your work space at home so you can actually concentrate and work efficiently.

Even though I do like my desk tidy and my stuff organised, I usually end up with an organised chaos (i.e. latest stuff on top) within a few days of tidying up. At the moment, my study is also my living room, my dining room and my bedroom, so once I am out of the one-room-is-everything situation, I will give this advice a try!

I now she's very American and patronising, but she does have some good tips! And apparently, all you need are two spare hours to get it sorted!

Literature Reviews

When writing a dissertation, one thing that has to be included is a Literature Review.


I am currently writing mine, and it took me a while to figure out how exactly I should be going about it. I've read all the books, and I copied all the quotes and page numbers I need, but to then put everything down on paper and not go "He said this, and he said that" is quite tricky.


I got a brilliant piece of advice: Go book by book. Look at your quotes and notes, then close the book and write what you think it means, and what you noticed about it.


Once that is done, you can go back and look for themes, and mix and match your several pieces of reviews to turn it into one well-organised one.

My own, until now, goes something like this:

Photography plays a major role in what we perceive as gaze-worthy. The photos show us an “ideal” view, which we then try to find ourselves (Urry 1996: 86). These photographs help us form ideas about what a place will look like, what it is like there and what there could be to experience. Pictures are also used as proof, that a place really is as it was described. As Sontag (1979: 109) is quoted in Urry (1996: 139):

“Photography seems to be a means of transcribing reality. The images produced appear to be not statements of the world but pieces of it, or even miniature slices of reality. A photograph thus seems to furnish evidence that something did indeed happen – that someone really was there and that the mountain actually was that large. It is thought that the camera does not lie.”



I guess, depending on the amount of books you've read, it will take the better part of an afternoon or even day to write the review. But then again, it is a vital piece of the dissertation, so it shouldn't be rushed and it should be precise. You don't have to use all the quotes - you can use some in the later chapters of your dissertation, to make a point, for example.

The joys of being a student in Cumbria

Sorry for going on about my university, the University of Cumbria.

But this interview with my friend and course mate Stephen Graham made the front page of local newspaper News & Star today:

Cumbria university students claim they have been let down by lack of cash
By Thom Kennedy
Last updated at 13:34, Monday, 08 February 2010

Furious students from the University of Cumbria say they have been let down by a lack of investment in new facilities.

Plans to regenerate the city’s Viaduct Estate with a large £70m flagship university campus – including a theatre and arts centre for the city – have been put on hold because of financial problems.

That leaves students coming to Carlisle facing swingeing cuts to the university’s ambitious plans, including the dropping of some courses including law.

Final year journalism student Stephen Graham, 29, of Chatsworth Square in the city centre, said: “I started at the university in the first intake when it first formed, and over the three years the quality has degraded and I am glad to be leaving it now.

“Things like Brampton Road library closing have made it harder to study for my dissertation. It’s all very disappointing for students in Cumbria as they are going to have to travel away to go to university. It’s bad for the area.

“I feel really sorry for the next generation of students coming here. If I was going to stay on after I finish and do a Masters, I wouldn’t do it at the University of Cumbria. If it carries on the way it is, it’s going to implode.”
Steven Ramshay, of Kingstown Road, Carlisle is in his first year at the university, studying journalism. He said: “We were promised the library in Brampton Road, and we’ve been disappointed. I have been let down.
“It has turned out nearly the complete opposite of what I expected when I came to university. My sixth form college is better. The facilities available are very mediocre for a university.”

Recent MA graduate Kevin Murphy added: “They are reducing the facilities tremendously. Students will have signed up 12 months ago being promised a library and all these facilities, and now they are just reducing them.
“The library was a key part of the university as that’s where most of the research goes on.”

The Students’ Union launched a campaign last autumn to save the library when university bosses relocated it to Fusehill Street following a boost in student recruitment at the Brampton Road site.

Other students have expressed their anger at the university’s proposal to cut the law course next year, prompting a group of students to start a Facebook campaign to save the course. A plea to students reads: “The powers-that-be are proposing to axe the law degree at University of Cumbria after only two intakes of students.

“Why can’t we have a local university with prestigious degree courses like law in Carlisle? Why must we focus purely on agriculture, nursing or teaching? Why not have a wide range of courses to ensure local firms employ local people?”

Lecturers at the university’s Ambleside campus, which is set to be mothballed as a £2m cost-cutting measure, have refused to rule out strike action over the plans.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron, who is fighting to keep the Ambleside campus open amid the budget cuts, described a decision to allow outdoor studies students to continue using Ambleside as ‘a partial victory’.
However, he added: “I’m devastated for teacher training students who are still being asked to move, and for dozens of hard-working and long-suffering members of staff who may now face redundancy. Many who have given their life to the campus and to its generations of students face redundancy and an uncertain future.”


I just wanted to show you that it's not just me, who's complaining about the way this university handles things. But UoC is not the only university facing cuts. For more, read the article that was featured in The Guardian today!

German tuition fees: it could be worse!


Students in Germany often complain about their tuition fees of 500 Euro per semester, plus 200 Euro "social fees" for the Student Union etc.

I had no choice but to study in the United Kingdom, because my course is the only B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism degree in Europe. Currently, tuition fees in England amount to £3.225 per academic year, and this amount is increasing every year. The government is talking about raising the fees to £5.000 or even £7.000. Maybe fees this high are not a problem for spoilt Eton boys, but we "normal" students are already struggling to pay for tuition and live a little on the side. After all, these fees do not include rent, food or anything else.

At German universities, you get your money's worth for the fees you're paying. You get an annotated syllabus, all the lecture notes, printing credit and the "social fee" covers meals at the canteen and a monthly young person's bus- and railcard, to mention but a few advantages.

In England you get - well, lectures. That's it! Everything else has to be paid on top of the fees. My university is the University of Cumbria, proudly proclaiming itself the newest university in England (inaugurated in August 2007), but for me, it is easily the worst uni I have ever heard of! That has nothing to do with lecturers or teaching standards, but if a university closes two, in their time purpose-built libraries - first the Law and Management libary at Milbourne Street, and in 2009 the Art library at Brampton Road, you do begin to think that maybe they have no clue what they are doing. After all, this library situation forced thousands of third year students to dish out for books they need for their dissertations, on top of paying £3.225 for essentially half a year of studies. Tuition does not include meals at the canteen, let alone a railcard.

Getting financial help in England is also tricky if you're an EU student. You can't get the bursaries all your peers areentitled to, because you haven't been living in the UK for three years before you started your course. If you're lucky, a charity will take pity, but they usually only help in extreme circumstances. The student loan is an option, but there is no way to reduce your fees. In Germany, you can work for the faculty, or help as a researcher, and in return, you only pay the social fee. There is even an organisation that sends you stationery - paper, post-its, pens etc. - at the beginning of every semester for free, as long as you are a student and can prove it.

Making new contacts

Trade shows and fairs, like the Destinations Travel Show in London I went to yesterday, are daunting things. A big hall, filled with too many interesting stalls, and (more importantly) interesting people, and however long you plan to stay, you always have too little time.

My other half and I went on the daytrip from Southport to London yesterday to network, socialise and get our names known. That, and I was handing out CVs and applications as well.

It was a long day, but worth it in the end. With only a little over three hours at Earls Court, we both managed to get on a few mailing lists, hear interesting stories and meet new people. To be fair, I handed out more business cards than applications, but I got 82 new travel and press related contacts in return. I got an article commission out of all my talking, so going to London was definitely worth the 3 hours we had to spend on the train each way.

Due to the little time we had, I was rushing around, trying to speak to as many people as possible, and, since I am studying to be a travel journalist, I made sure to get contacts from all the world regions represented. One girl overheard me talking to one of the exhibitors, and asked me how she could become a travel writer - shame really, that my coursemate Lauren and I will be the only travel journalists in Europe to have studied it at university. We're the first and last, and as far as I know, the course isn't offered anywhere else.

Walking around, my other half, focused on the UK, Europe and North African market, and could take it all in a leisurely stroll, while I was getting quite warm from the running around. What confused me was the layout of the stalls. It was meant to be rows and rows of stalls, and regions being placed together, but there was no indication where one region ended and the next started, except for a small number on top of the stalls. Signposts, or colour lines would have made it easier for visitors to find their way around. I miss some stalls and went past others five times, because I lost my way. All the stalls had the same general colours as well, so if you spun around you were lost.

Unfortunately I had to give the expert panel on travel writing a miss, although it was the one show I really wanted to see. Here was my chance to meet some of the people I hope to work for or alongside one day, but the train didn't wait. I guess next time, I'll bring a thermos of coffee (our first train left Ainsdale at 6.50am), something to read on the train, and a backpack to carry all the freebies, brochures and handouts in.

I am actually thinking on popping along to Birmingham in March for a day as well - Destinations will be held there on a smaller scale at the NEC - just in case. There will be different exhibitors and expert talks as well. Plus, it wouldn't be this far to travel. Going from Carlisle to Southport, from Southport to Liverpool, from Liverpool to London and all the way back up to Carlisle in a weekend does take its time. But considering who I got talking to, it was time well spent.

Pfannkuchen für Karneval-Fans!


An explanation and the recipe in English can be found here.
Karneval steht vor der Tür – doch in Großbritannien feiert man die fünfte Jahreszeit nicht. Dort gibt es keine Rosenmontagszüge, und nur die Strenggläubigsten gehen Aschermittwoch in die Kirche. Warum auch? Verkleidet wird sich ohnehin für jede zweite „Fancy-Dress“-Party.

Doch der Tag, auf den sich alle in England freuen, ist Veilchendienstag. Während man bei uns an diesem Tag damit beschäftigt ist, gefangene Kamelle zu vernaschen oder einen Kater zu kurieren, feiert das Königreich den „Pfannkuchentag“. An jeder Ecke riecht es nach Pfannkuchen, viele bringen sie sogar als Lunch mit zur Uni oder Arbeit. Und es entstehen die wildesten Kreationen.Hin und wieder werden Wettbewerbe veranstaltet: Wer kann die meisten „Pancakes“ essen? Wer dekoriert am besten oder ekeligsten? Und natürlich stellt sich immer die Frage: Wer macht den besten Pfannkuchen?

Pancake Day ist eine lustige und leckere Tradition, die man ruhig auch in Deutschland einführen könnte. Wer’s also Veilchendienstag (16. Februar) einmal mit Pfannkuchen zum Frühstück, Mittagessen oder Abendbrot versuchen möchte, für den ist hier das Rezept:

Man braucht 100ml Wasser, drei EL Mehl, zwei Eier und ½ TL Salz pro Pfannkuchen. Alles im Shaker so lange schütteln, bis keine Klümpchen mehr vorhanden sind. Dann eine Pfanne auf höchster Stufe erhitzen. Wenn der Teig anfängt zu trocknen, einen Deckel auf die Pfanne legen und die Pfanne wenden. Ofen auf halbe Stärke zurückdrehen, und Deckel auf der Pfanne lassen. Nach etwa sieben Minuten sollte der Pfannkuchen fertig sein.

Alaaf – und guten Appetit!
Auf Karl. im Solinger Tageblatt erschienen.

Applications, applications

I have just written 50 applications to various travel-related companies. From tour operators such as Acacia Africa, Gap Year advice staff like Gapforce to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and travel publications such as Jungle Drums, I've covered everything and will apply for positions as Reporter, as well as Press Officer.

My B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism degree is coming to an end, and it's time I looked for a job. I want to write, and I want to work in the tourism industry, so I figured I should hand out my applications and CVs at the Destinations Travel Show in London this weekend. This way, I can introduce myself in person, get contact names and numbers and leave the CV for their consideration. I know the applications are speculative, but I am hoping to do work experience with the magazines, and hopefully they'll remember me when a position opens up. Although I am not looking for work experience as a Press Officer at the moment, I did state in my application that I will be available from the end of June onwards.

Next to all of this, I have also printed out some self-designed business cards, as well as some extra CVs. Since the Destinations website does not include addresses or contact details for all exhibitors, I thought it would be wise to take some along, to hand out on the spot.

My other half is accompanying me to London, and it will be a long and rushed day. We will get there just past 10am and have to leave again at 5pm, which gives us just 5 hours. It might seem like a long time, but talking to 50 companies about job offers will take some time.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed!

Destinations Travel Show

If you are interested in travelling, then you should be heading down to London for the Times Destinations Travel Show!

Between 4th and 7th February 2010, hundreds of travel companies, tour providers and travel magazines will be at Earls Court, waiting to tell interested travellers all about what they do. From overland tours, cities and regions of the world, to specific activities such as diving and wine tasting, there will be something for you at Destinations and it might even inspire your next trip, whether you plan a trek or a cruise.

If you can't make it to London, there is another, though slightly smaller, Destinations Travel Show at NEC Birmingham between 5th and 7th March 2010. There will be prominent guest speakers at both shows on all days, so next to picking up a brochure, you will also be able to pick up some great travel advice.

Tickets are GBP 10 each, but companies such as responsible travel are giving away free tickets, but you have to be quick! There is a small booking fee to pay, though, but you'll still be able to bag a bargain!

This post can also be found on my other blog, Postcards from Conny

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