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Graduating from university: a mix of euphoria and confusion

It’s almost been three months since I handed in my last piece of university coursework. It was a group project for our Investigative Journalism module. While it was a topic that my group members and I were hugely interested and passionate about, it took a lot of hard work and stress to complete the final project. So when we finally submitted it, it was a great feeling!

But there was a greater significance to this particular coursework – it was to be the last one we would submit for our undergraduate degrees. For me at least, there were a lot of mixed feelings. It was strange knowing I would no longer have to complete any work for my degree, but I also felt a sense of euphoria; I’d actually done all I needed to do!

And then there’s graduation. It’s a beautiful day spent with family and friends to celebrate the achievement of getting your degree. You get lots of photos and congratulate the other graduates – it really is truly lovely.

Then it all starts to kick in. You start to realise that it really is over and that you’re not going back to do another year of your course. It means that you need to figure out what’s next in your life, whether that’s a postgraduate course, going travelling or a full time job.

I know just as much as anyone that it can be a hugely stressful, uncertain and confusing time. After years of being at university, it’s time to go into the big, bad world. Some people have their plans set in stone before graduation, and that’s great, but others don’t and that’s also fine.

It’s so easy to compare yourself to what others are doing, and that’s one thing that makes things so much more difficult. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of months since finishing university, it’s that each person is on their own journey. One graduate might have had it all figured out before submitting their final coursework, another might secure a job a couple of months after graduation, and another might not find anything for a year.

None of those scenarios are bad or good – they’re just one of many that a graduate may find themselves in after university. While it may be tough, no path is invalid; after all, we’ve all done exceptionally well to achieve our degrees in the first place.

In a lot of ways, I’ve learned more lessons outside of the classroom post-graduation about what challenges life throws at us. It’s not always going to be easy, but at some point, you will get where you need to be.

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The Body Shop Blogger Event: Skincare with an Environmental Conscience

Last night, I attended an exclusive blogger event at The Body Shop’s Aberdeen store. It was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with some of my fellow bloggers, while also trying some new skincare products.

One of my favourites was the Body Yogurt range; the Moringa body yogurt particularly stood out to me.

You apply it to slightly damp skin; the end result leaves your skin feeling moisturised and soft. As one of The Body Shop consultants was applying it to my hands, my skin began to feel hydrated pretty automatically – it was lovely! And as an added bonus, they smell pretty great too!

Keeping in line with my new-found love of moringa, the body mist was a must for me. I needed a new perfume anyway – and, by the way, this one smells amazing – so I treated myself! And at only £8, it was definitely a worthwhile investment.

The Body Shop‘s Colour Crush Matte Lipstick range was also a highlight of the event.

I tried the Cape Calla shade (seen second from the right in the above photo) and I instantly loved it! The colour really suited my skin tone, and was quite subtle. It was nice to find a smart-looking lipstick that isn’t too overpowering.

And of course, the evening also reminded me of some of my favourites, such as the Seaweed Oil-Balancing Toner.

Designed primarily for combination/oily skin, it works really well for me. I use it at different times of the day, and even as part of my make-up removal routine at night. It’s a product I love and would definitely recommend.

But while the event focused on the products for the most part, it did bring our attention to some of the environmental work The Body Shop is currently doing.

Sam, store Manager of The Body Shop, Aberdeen, spoke to me about what the company is doing to improve its environmental conscience. She said: “Anything we can do to be a more sustainable brand, we’re absolutely doing.

“With the planet drowning in plastic… what we wanted to tackle was the plastic that’s already there.”

One example of the steps The Body Shop has taken to reduce its carbon footprint is the increased use of recycled plastic. For example, the Ginger range of shampoo and conditioner (as seen in the following photo) comes in recycled bottles.

Furthermore, under the Return Reuse Recycle scheme, customers can bring beauty items into a Body Shop store to be recycled, with the exception of perfume bottles. This scheme is designed to remove uncertainty among individuals about what can be recycled, and how to recycle particular items.

More information on The Body Shop‘s environmental work can be found here.

Overall, The Body Shop held yet another highly enjoyable blogger event. It was lovely to try some of the new products and, of course, to catch up with some of the other bloggers. An all-round brilliant evening!

‘Nothing to Envy’: Or is there?

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We all know about North Korea. For example, how secretive it is; how closed off its citizens are; how foreigners are restricted to Pyongyang, where they only see what the government wants them to see. But what’s the reality behind the whole charade the North Korean government presents to the outside world? What is life really like for ordinary North Koreans who are not members of the elite in Pyongyang?

For many of us to get some level of insight, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy arguably goes some way in providing it. The book makes reference to individual case studies to highlight North Korean life. It includes details about North Koreans’ responses to the death of Kim Il-Sung, the famine of the 1990s and the overall oppression. The book shows us how individuals dealt with their starvation, deaths of family members and the constant threat of the labour camps if they absentmindedly – or intentionally – spoke or acted against the North Korean elite.

Nothing to Envy is a book that I believe to be hugely significant. It highlights the human side of North Korea from a North Korean perspective. We frequently see or hear about foreigners having ‘minders’ in Pyongyang or the treats of Kim Jong-Un, but we hear far less about the ordinary citizens themselves. And in order to gain a better understanding of the secretive state, who better to consider than the people who have experienced it first-hand?

The book is also a reminder that we have comparatively much more freedom than those in North Korea. We can openly express our opinions, criticise those in authority and protest without fear of being put in a labour camp or killed. North Koreans have repeatedly been given this idea that they are the lucky ones, that they are better off than the rest of the world. But are they? Do they really have absolutely nothing to envy?

Organ donation opt-out system: unethical or necessary?

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In the past week, MSPs have approved a system in which people in Scotland have to opt out of organ donation. This means that people in Scotland will automatically be an organ donor until they state they no longer wish to be. It is hoped this will result in a higher number of available organs for transplant.

But a significant issue exists around the ethics of this system. Those who oppose the system would argue that once we are dead, our organs essentially belong to the state. The state would decide what happens to them, where they go and who receives them. Furthermore, for people who do not have the capacity to decide to opt out, there would be a significant amount of uncertainty for their families about what the person would have done. In dealing with the death of a relative, this would mean those families would face additional stress and trauma at an already difficult time.

However, at least in my opinion, the benefits of introducing this system outweigh the arguments against it. There are so many people waiting for organ transplants but there are not enough donors. The introduction of this system could lead to more lives being saved as more organs become available. In addition, organs are usually either buried or cremated when a person dies; those organs could have been used to save a person’s life instead of being burned or put into the ground.

As someone who is already an organ donor, I am aware of the vital importance of a transplant for so many people. Once I have passed away, I will no longer have any need for my organs; if I can save even one person’s life, it will absolutely be worth it.

I truly believe that organ donation is so important, as it literally saves people’s lives. The opt out system, in my opinion, has huge potential to help so many of the people waiting for a transplant. It will, at least, give them some hope for the future.

What do you think?

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Dementia: the devastating effects of an unforgiving illness

Imagine you wake up one morning and you have no idea where you are. You’re in this strange, unfamiliar place you don’t think you’ve ever seen before. Imagine someone you don’t recognise coming over to tell you it’s time for breakfast. This person seems nice, but you’ve never seen them before, you’re sure of it. But they tell you you’re in this home to keep you safe. This place isn’t my home, you think to yourself. If fact, you’re adamant. But you find yourself at breakfast anyway. Imagine you’re back in your room – at least, they said it’s your room – and your daughter walks in. Finally, you think! A familiar face!

Imagine you have something important you need to say. It’s right there and you start to say it, then nothing. It’s gone. You can’t remember. You try really hard to think what it is you had you say but it won’t come back. And you get so frustrated because it was just there at the forefront of your mind. But you still can’t remember. You don’t realise it, but this happens a lot.

Imagine you ask about when your daughter will get here. You could have sworn she said she was coming to see you today; it’s been so long since you’ve seen her. But then they tell you she’s already visited. They say: “she was here this morning, remember?” But actually, you can’t remember.

These things only scratch the surface of what it is like for many people with dementia. Individually, these things are scary, or frustrating, or confusing but together, alongside everything else that comes with it, living with dementia is horrific. There are varying degrees of the illness, but regardless of what stage a person is at with it, dementia is an incredibly horrid illness to deal with.

Having seen for myself the effects of dementia on someone very close to me, I can tell you it is brutal. It is devastating to see someone you care about in a constant state of confusion, with very little idea of where they are or what is going on. Seeing someone you know lose so much of who they are as a person to such an awful condition is heartbreaking to see; it really steals a significant part of their identity. But what is worse is actually living with it – it must be terrifying when you don’t know what is happening to you, and around you.

Dementia is one of the most horrific things that can happen to a person. It really is an illness no-one should ever have to experience.

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Black Mirror: Why it’s so effective in highlighting societal issues

Black Mirror is a Netflix series, currently on season four. Each episode is independent of all the others, with different characters and different plots. They are all very intense, as you’ll know if you’ve seen them, but they’re also extremely intelligent. So what exactly makes the episodes so well done?

The first episode of season 1, The National Anthem, portrays the British prime minister, and a disturbing decision he becomes faced with. The fictional Princess Susannah is abducted and, to secure her release, the prime minister must have intercourse with a live pig; this would be broadcast live across the UK. At the end of the episode, the princess is released unharmed onto London’s empty streets. We find out that she was released before the prime minister had intercourse with the pig. This episode arguably highlights people’s obsessions with sensationalism and looking at screens, that they fail to notice things happening in the real world. If people had not been fixated on the broadcast, someone would have noticed the princess, and thus could have prevented the prime minister’s ordeal.

Another episode from season two, White Bear, is also extremely powerful. It shows a woman who wakes up in a house with no recollection of who or where she is. In a state of distress and confusion, she goes out onto the streets, where people film and photograph her on their phones. However, they do not interact with her. Another man and woman appear to team up with her as they face ‘hurdles’ from those around them. But we find out that the woman had filmed her boyfriend killing a young girl, and that the filming of the woman was an act of revenge that people were working together on. At the end of each day, the woman’s memory was wiped, for her to experience the same the next day. This episode was highlighting the idea that society demands revenge, and an eye for an eye. There appears to be the attitude that what goes around should come back around.

So why is Black Mirror so effective in highlighting societal issues?

Each episode arguably evokes a strong sense of emotion, from shock, to anger to sadness. It shows that people aren’t always what they seem at first (White Bear and Shut Up and Dance are good examples of this). The series almost plays with your emotions – it makes you feel one thing for someone before showing you realise they’re not exactly what they were initially made out to be.

So I’d definitely recommend this extremely eye opening and thought provoking series.

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My multi-national background, and why I’m proud of it

The UK is the place I’ve always known as home. I am so lucky to be from a country that has so many beautiful areas, a healthcare system that goes above and beyond to help us, and the most basic freedoms for its citizens. Of course, no country is perfect – least of all the UK – but I still love it.

But in terms of my national identity, there are a fair few countries I am connected to. From my parents, I’m linked to Germany, Austria, and Morocco. Not to mention I have relatives in Switzerland, the Netherlands and who knows where else! I’m fascinated by different countries and their customs, so having relatives all over the world is exciting.

These countries are just the ones I know about. I would love to look much further back to see where even more of my relatives were from; it’d be amazing to find out!

Now, this might sound a bit ironic after all I’ve just said, but I don’t actually ‘feel’ like I’m German, or Austrian, or Moroccan. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud that they make up my national background. From German efficiency to Moroccan markets to Austrian music, my relatives come from a diverse range of cultures. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s really exciting, and gives me another window to the world.

So although the UK makes up most of my national identity, I still appreciate the impact that some other countries has had on who I am. I might not feel like I’m one of their citizens, but I am grateful to be connected to some beautiful places. And anyway, who can really say they’re only one nationality?

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Why proxy voting for MPs is long overdue

We’ve all heard about the Labour MP, Tulip Siddiq, who delayed her caesarean section in order to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Since then, the government has announced plans to allow proxy voting for MPs on parental leave. If it goes ahead, there will be a pilot year after which it would be reviewed.

But this should have been introduced way before now. Tulip Siddiq should not have had to wait an additional two days to give birth to her son so she could vote on such a vital issue.

MPs should not have to feel they must choose between being a parent to their young child – or giving birth as planned – and carrying out their role as an MP. If proxy voting for MPs is introduced, it would go a long way in facilitating both. Wherever someone works, their workplace should take into consideration the needs of all parents, especially ones with a new-born child.

Also, there appears to be a lack of trust in the ‘pairing’ system. This means that if an MP cannot attend a vote, an MP on the opposing side would refrain from voting to balance out the result. However, as an agreement through pairing is informal, there can be no guarantee that an opposition MP will not cast their vote. Proxy voting could arguably reduce the risk of uncertainty among MPs when it comes to voting.

And considering it is an option for the electorate during elections, why should it be any different for MPs? After all, MPs are elected by their constituents, so by not allowing them to vote by proxy where necessary, they are less able to represent their constituents, as well as themselves as MPs.

The introduction of proxy voting for MPs is something that I believe would be a positive step forward. It would arguably allow MPs to serve their constituents without having to rely on the word of an opposition MP. In my view, it is absolutely something that should be implemented in parliament.

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“Going gay for a month”: a clear dismissal of LGBT+ people

Last week, Youtuber Logan Paul talked on his podcast about “going gay for a month” as one of his New Year’s Resolutions; he called it “male only March”. Inevitably, this caused a huge amount of backlash, and rightly so.

Various people tweeted their anger about what the Youtuber had said. Producer Daniel Preda talked about the “countless” LGBT+ people having been killed because of who they are before calling Paul’s comments “disgusting”.

But in response to another Tweet, Logan Paul described his comment as a “very poor choice of words”.

However, (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) I really do fail to see how this was merely a “poor choice of words”. Even if it had been worded differently, his main message would have still been the same.

By saying what he did, Logan Paul clearly doesn’t – or chooses not to – understand what being gay really is. It shouldn’t have to be pointed out to him that it isn’t something that you can turn on and off whenever you feel like it – it’s a part of who a person is.

It was not a “poor choice of words”, it was a clear dismissal of what it means to be gay.

But this is all part of a much wider societal issue. It is obviously fantastic that LGBT+ rights are increasingly being recognised, and that many LGBT+ people can actually do many of the things they were previously prevented from doing. But we also can’t forget that, in certain parts of the world, LGBT+ people are still being persecuted just for being who they are. And that’s why attitudes need to continue to change.

It’s honestly disgusting that someone with a raised platform, like Logan Paul, would use it to be so dismissive of the LGBT+ community, as if being gay is a casual decision people make. If Paul, or any other Youtuber or influencer, don’t talk about societal issues in their work, that’s fine. Just don’t make light of something that is a big deal to millions of people around the world.

At the end of the day, we can only do what we can to ensure that people continue to be educated about these things. There is clearly still some way to go, even in more liberal societies.

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Flanders’ ban on halal and kosher animal slaughter: a restriction of religious dietary requirements or a necessary decision?

At the start of the year, Belgium’s Flemish region implemented a new law, that bans halal and kosher animal slaughter practices. In Flanders, animals now have to be electronically stunned before they are killed. There are plans for this law to also be introduced in Wallonia – Belgium’s French-speaking region – leaving Brussels the only area in the country to allow halal and kosher slaughter methods.

But both halal and kosher rules say that animals must be in “perfect health” before being killed by one cut to the neck. This causes animals to be unconscious in a few seconds, which many suggest is less inhumane than other methods of animal slaughter.

Since the law has come into force in Flanders, lawsuits have been filed by those who oppose it, who cite religious freedoms; many have argued that it’s antisemitic and Islamophobic.

On the contrary, many animal rights activists support the law, suggesting that animals being killed by a cut to the throat is still inhumane.

So in terms of forming an opinion on this issue, it’s hard to know what to think: it raises animal welfare concerns while also considering people’s religious freedoms. It is one of those areas that, understandably, people feel strongly about for one reason or another.

In my view, the definition of “inhumane” is a significant factor. It is arguably fairly subjective in this situation, with the law’s supporters and opposition both having drawn on the word in their arguments for or against it.

Personally, I have found it difficult to form my own opinion about it, as I understand (and agree!) with viewpoints from both sides of the coin. It is hugely important to respect people’s religious freedoms, but ensuring animal welfare as far as possible is also vital. It’s arguably a case of addressing both, however difficult this may or may not be.