Another graduate on the block & a word of thanks.

It’s pretty much as the title says… I am a newbie Geography graduate with an unknown number pending above my head – a number that will stick to my name for as long as I live. I hated the last few months of university, and I can’t deny that. I despise examinations. I have anxiety issues and the pressure and stress is just so unnecessary. I feel that it is a memory exam, personally. And my memory is not great. I learn by doing and I can’t ‘do’ revision; I can’t feel or see it. Despite the many hundreds of mind maps I do, I just cannot retain the vast synoptic information, case studies and facts. I blank on who said what and who wrote what, especially when there are six examinations, on topics ranging from glaciers to dust in Africa. And, while I say that I hope that the examinations don’t annihilate my hopes of getting a 2:1, at the end of the day I don’t actually care what number is attached to my name… This was my post-exam facebook status, and I don’t think I could re-capture the words and feelings again if I tried..

Today, I finished my degree. It’s been three years of literal blood, sweat and tears. But it’s also been three years of laughter, love and fun. I’ve overcome so many things personally in my life just to get to uni, let alone get myself through the degree. And, these last few weeks, I have realised that university was never about the qualification: it was never about the degree classification… It was about healing myself, learning about life, testing my own abilities, making life long friends (and losing life long friends). It was about finding myself and venturing beyond what I knew to be the box that I called life, by pushing boundaries and learning. I definitely couldn’t have gotten through these three years without my parents, Kate and Sean, or Grandad and Dingle. I couldn’t have gotten through these past few years without my teenage best friends Emily, Jaz and Kat. A special mention to my dog, Bella, who has provided me with many snuggles, wet kisses, early mornings and opportunities to pick poo up. And, through all the tears, tantrums, high bloods, low bloods, angst, fury, love loss, essay deadlines, laboratory problems and other general dramatic doings, my university best friends and friends have all been there when I have needed them and you know who you are. I’ve been inspired at university by many and today marks, not the end of an era, but an era of new beginnings. A new platform on which I will be able to continue my learning. It doesn’t matter what grade I get, because I am still here and I am still breathing and living and learning. Thank you, everyone: i’ve enjoyed the ride.
To permanently mark and symbolise what I have achieved just to gain a common qualification, I had this tattooed:

  It means a number of things to me. Stemming from Buddhist mantra that I learned when I was 15 and searching for a religion to follow, it calmed me as I meditated. Some may call that silly, but for me it was a life line for stressful times. For example, on my very last day of secondary school, our year group was having a party and cake to celebrate. I had 3 missed phone calls from Mum. When I called back secretly, I collapsed, weeping. My brother had a head-on car crash at 50mph with another car who was also travelling at 50mph. He had been resuscitated three times and we were told he would be unlikely to make it after needing over 100 stitches to a deep wound in his head and breaking a bone in his neck. I had last spoken to him three months previously, with my last words being ‘I hate you.’ Such a malicious word that is only given to people you actually love. If you really hated someone, you wouldn’t care enough to be mean. Mine and my brothers relationship was turbulent, and after years of not speaking, even after the crash, we made up in January. For the first time in 6 years, he came to my 21st birthday party last week


It’s things like this that have made me realise, life is too precious to care about a number. I’ve tried hard and I have enjoyed myself. Life will continue whether I get a 1st or a 3rd, and you’ll only be upset if you attach feelings or expectations to materialised objects.

So, I am digressing. But the point is, all graduates should be happy with what they gain from their degree. They gained more than a number; they gained 3 or more years of memories and hopefully are enthused with passion for the subject that they study because the staff in their university inspired them. I need to say thank you to all the people that have been there for me, through all the rubbish times and all the awful times, so here comes a huge list of names, and I apologise if I have missed you out, but my brain has deflated since I pumped all my knowledge out in the exams. And these are in no order, so don’t be upset if you’re last…

My family – mainly my devoted parents: Mum and Dad and my brother, Dan; my Grandad and his wife, Dingle. They have provided me a home, food, support, belief, encouragement, laughter, love and the financial support to be able to live.

My best friends – Emily, Jaz, Ali, Ayisha, Sophia, Cathy, Ioannis, Josh, Cal, Kat, Charlotte, Emma. All of these people have been there to wipe my tears, to give me hugs when I have felt that I would fall over. They’ve made me smile, laugh and believe in myself. They’ve held me together when I was close to falling apart and they have surprised me with their eternal love, generosity and support.

Simon Blockley – he gave me the opportunity to do lab work as a young fresher, which only enthused my passion for Quaternary science. He has encouraged me, provided support on both an academic level and on a personal level, as a person to listen to my academic related hissy fits. He has given me the opportunity to do field work in Yorkshire, and provided me with a clearly amazing reference in order for me to do work experience at the Centre for Ice and Climate. He’s an all round good guy and only provides encouragement and support in academia.

Simon Armitage – he has been my personal tutor for three years. He supported me when I was naive and didn’t really know what a Geography BSc was all about. He’s always got an ear and I am sure that he will continue to provide encouragement as I venture onto the MSc.

Ian Candy – we both share a passion for abrupt climate shifts… He has supported my interest and acted as a good role model. I aspire to be like Ian in many ways as he will always take time out of his busy schedule for a chat and is so patient. He was my dissertation supervisor and has always had time to explain things to me, over and over again, when I was too simple to take in even the simplest of facts. I thank him for teaching me about isotopes. 

Adrian Palmer – for my dissertation, I got roped into doing thin sections. At the time, I was thinking ‘ahhhh, another proxy, this is going to be awful, I won’t fit it into 10,000 words.’ But, thin sections are so pretty and I love the way micro-sediments can tell you about environmental shifts. He is another lecturer who always has time to take a moment out to explain things.

David Gilbert – he’s the departmental head. His first year lectures were pretty fun. Doreen Massey  and all the ‘space’/’place’ stuff! He’s been so supportive throughout my degree, always asking how things are going and how I am doing and has been particularly supportive with Geogsoc –  a society that has become very close to my heart since becoming a social secretary on the committee. He’s passionate about what he does and that can only be good.

Alice Christie – has been so, so supportive of all the students in the  department. She is secretly known as the mum of the department, and is extremely supportive of Geogsoc, helping to integrate lecturers with the students even more than they already are and helping to support the events that we put on. 

John Lowe – although he hasn’t taught the smaller second and third year lectures, he taught us in first year for the ‘oceans and atmosphere’ course. I was fascinated and he, I suppose, really sparked my enthusiasm for climate change in the first instance. I didn’t really think that a Geography degree would enable me to do the things that I wanted to do, but he showed me that actually, it’s the perfect degree for my interests.

Other staff members in the department who have been particularly helpful include:

Thomas Stevens, Varyl Thorndycraft, Katy Flowers, Ian Matthews, Elaine Taunton, Jenny Kynaston and Danielle Schreve

Twitter has led me to interact with a number of people. This has acted as a support mechanisms, when I have been fed up with my degree, and encouraging me to push myself further. These people have helped provide me with PDF files and have generally supported me:

Adam Griggs, Richard Betts, Mark Brandon, Tom Hill, Richard Gravelle, Rena Maguire,  Eric Skoglund, James Pope and Matt Pope.

I would not have been able to go to Copenhagen to do my work experience placement if it was not for these people:

Sune Rasmussen, Lone Hansen, Paul Vallelonga, Anders Svensson, Catalin, Magnus, Helle, The Swansea Tephra Group: Peter Abbott, Siwan Davies and Eliza

A word of thanks for my school geography teachers:

Andy Housten – he was the worst teacher ever. So, so bad. He had no interest in teaching and didn’t care. But I did care, so I demanded our entire class got the education we were entitled too and Beth took 8 weeks before our GCSE’s and taught us the entire syllabus.

Beth Bowles – A brilliant teacher who was always smiling and so into fair trade and ethical consumption it was unreal. She taught us the entire syllabus in 8 weeks.

Crofty – AKA Richard Croft – he liked volcanoes and wanted to take us to Stromboli island, but no one could afford to do this. He was my AS and A-level geography teacher and my personal tutor. His claim to fame was that his son played rugby for England and he was just an all round good guy.

Matt – I can’t remember his last name! That is awful. He taught as all about alien species and geopolitics. I hated human geography, even back then. He also used to tell us all about the parakeets that had invaded his neighbourhood and kept him awake.

And finally, the thing that has gotten me through my degree more than anyone, is my dog: Abella. She’s been there to provide me with snuggles, a soggy kiss, the opportunity to play with her and make me laugh. She is a fluffy bundle of joy and I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for her. She’s my best friend and I love her more than life.


So thank you for three years. This last month, I was so close to not doing the MSc, because HE is so expensive and there is no governmental support. At the end of my MSc year, I will be roughly another £18,000 in debt. But, I know it will be worth it, because this is what I want to do. This is my passion, and life is too short to not chase the things that make us happy. Happiness is eternal, money is ephemeral. 


I can’t believe that my undergraduate life is almost over!

I have two months left of my undergraduate life. It’s gone so quick… actually, that is an understatement. It’s disappeared in the blink of an eye. So much has happened in that time – both personally and academically. I don’t feel that this is the place to disclose my personal mishaps, challenges, encounters and successes, but it is the place to address academic changes.

Let’s start with choosing universities. I was at college, deciding which subject to take further. I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to university. My initial instinct was to study Psychology because I wasn’t smart enough to take up climatology (you know the film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’? Well, I want to be that guy that says ‘the climate is changing…’). But, I realised that you need to choose a subject that you love, that you are passionate about, and that you enjoy. It can’t just be what you’re good at. Because, university is a different ball game to school. It’s self motivated study.. So, geography was my favourite A-level course (when we weren’t talking about regeneration and urban developments and all the other human geography stuff). And therefore, I decided to apply for that. So, I was left staring at the wall of university prospectuses. I had a serious long term boyfriend at the time and decided that I wanted to be a maximum of 2 hours away from home so I could head back to see him and my family, and my doctor (being a type 1 diabetic is a pain!). So, I knew the key ones I wanted to apply to: Portsmouth, Brighton, Bournemouth, Winchester and… So, I was looking for the last one. It was basically a filler. I assumed I would end up at Brighton or something, and I was in a rush. So, my name begins with R. So, I pulled out the R selection. Then I saw Royal Holloway. It looked beautiful and had Royal in it. So, I jotted it down and applied, not even really thinking about it.

The time came to check out the universities. First was Brighton. Now, I actually really liked the staff at this university, and I decided that if I chose this university, I wouldn’t do geography, but would take Environmental Hazards. However, the halls of residence put me off and 2 hours seemed quite far for me. So, I visited Portsmouth. It was far too busy for me, and it seemed very geared towards partying (something which I wasn’t keen on at the time). I visited Winchester, but decided the course wasn’t for me (primary ed with geography specialism). And, I never went to Bournemouth because I had a friend there that I could visit. I started crying at Portsmouth, because I was hoping it would be ‘the one.’ I have big confidence issues and the ABB entry requirements from Holloway made me not want to put it as a 1st or reserve. The lower requirements at Portsmouth meant that (in my head at least) this was the university I was going to, and I had hated it. So, me and mum made a visit to Royal Holloway. We drove in and I said ‘this is it, this is the one.’ I didn’t even look at the geography dept to know that this university was the one for me. I suppose I was looking for a campus university all along and just didn’t know it.

After getting an offer at Royal Holloway, I went to a departmental open day. We had a lecture by Dr Ian Candy and I had a meeting with Dr Varyl Thorndycraft. This overran by about 30 minutes and then I had a personal tour of the dept as everyone else had gone home! I got talking with Pierre Schreve. He really sold it to me: talking about the megafauna that roamed the British Isles during the last glacial maximum (LGM). So, I put RHUL as my firm choice on UCAS. I put Winchester as my second because I had decided if I didn’t get into Royal Holloway, I didn’t want to go to university at all and would just go for the career move. When I got my A-level results (English Language A*, Psychology A, Geography B) I was so happy that I got my firm choice. It was unbelievable. But, because Geography was my lowest grade, I had doubts and wondered whether I should be doing a linguistics or speech therapy course at university instead. This was a natural worry, but I remembered what I said earlier: do what you enjoy, not what you’re good at. So, off I went to university!



In first year, my essays were…well, at the time they were masterpieces. First class, diagram ridden masterpieces… with 4 – 6 references. I look back on them and just think: ‘oh wow.’ But I loved first year. Living in Founders, partying, working, meeting people, studying, Spain fieldtrip…The Spain fieldtrip was a particular highlight. I obviously had great friends from Founders, but I hadn’t really gotten friendly with people on my course (bar the drinks reception in freshers where I probably made use of one too many free glasses of wine!). But, for me, first year was about making the transition from learning a multitude of subjects (in my case English Language, Psychology and Geography A-levels) and homing in on one specific topic: geography… although, to what extent geography can be called specific is debatable due to it’s synoptic and interlinking subjects. In first year though, John Lowe’s lecture on the atmosphere and oceans sold it to me. It confirmed my belief: this is what I wanted to do. I was mesmerised and loved the reading as well as the lectures. I have never regretted choosing RHUL as my university.

Spain fieldtrip

Spain fieldtrip

Spain fieldtrip

Spain fieldtrip

In my second year I got glandular fever. University was a real struggle. My diabetic control was awful and I was sleeping 16 hours a day and working at the shop 12 hours a week. It took it’s toll and the grades I received were, while good, not as good as I wanted or was obtaining in first year. I really enjoyed second year, but made a mistake of choosing a human geography course because I did better in the human geography exams in first year. I suppose second year went without any major hitches though and the Ireland fieldtrip was awesome. I had an amazing time and it was so good to get stuck into physical geography for an entire week (and drink Guinness on St Patrick’s Day!). The peat bog day was definitely my favourite, whereby we cored a peat bog/fell into pools of water covered by sphagnum moss.

Liffey Head Bog

Liffey Head Bog

Ireland group

Ireland group


Third and final year. It’s been challenging to say the least. It started straight after exams in second year, really. I was so excited to start the lab work for my dissertation. I did all my lab work over summer (calcimetry, TOC, mag sus, Troels Smith, d18O and d13C isotopes and thin section micromorphology) on my sediment core from Llangorse, Southern Wales. I loved every second of the dissertation – even when it was hard and I had a rough day working on it. I went to Copenhagen for a week to work at the Niels Bohr Institute (Centre for Ice and Climate) and study ice cores. I had the most amazing time and carried out one of my childhood dreams: to touch an ice core! But, I came back, and while most people had had a week of catching up on sleep, I had 5 written deadlines in 5 weeks and 2 presentations and hadn’t had a break. That was particularly challenging and I can’t deny that I really struggled. There were a lot of tears and breakdowns and that has by far been the hardest part of university, to the point where I could have dropped out easily. But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? So, now I am just left revising for exams/ writing long blog entrties. This is going to be hard. 6x 2 hour long exams. So, here comes my exams rant:

I hate exams. Firstly, I don’t feel that they are representative of what a person actually knows about a subject. I like to read everything and I get sidetracked by papers that are interesting (and perhaps I won’t be tested in an exam on this). I am just generally rubbish at them and I get ridiculously stressed out by them because my fate lies in 2 hours of frantically scribbling the verbal vomit that I have at the time. I understand that other people’s strengths lie in exams as opposed to coursework… but exams are less applicable in the real world than coursework, in my opinion. I want to become a researcher/lecturer. This will involve writing papers and therefore coursework is the most similar form of testing. Exams will (hopefully) no longer be a part of my life after May, but I can’t help feeling angry that 50% of my third year lies in 12 hours worth of questions. If someone had a spoken conversation to me about the topics, I would nail it, i’m sure, but writing it down? I just get stressed and tied down to stuff that doesn’t matter because the stress stops me from thinking clearly. Also, for a diabetic to sit an exam is a nightmare. An absolute nightmare. I have to have my bloods at a certain level before going in because using my brain, and experiencing stress will make my bloods crash, and it takes me around 1 hour to fully recover from a hypoglyceamic attack. So, my bloods are high in an exam, which causes poor thinking skills, blurred vision, tiredness, thirst and the need to pee. Okay, so that doesn’t sound that bad, but I am instantly at a disadvantage when I start the exam needing to pee, gagging for a pint of water and unable to stop yawning. So. Yeah, it’s a shame that I won’t be finishing my degree on the highest of highs because I will be completely stressing about these exams, but on the plus side… I finish three days before my 21st birthday, and that is definitely something to be excited about.

So, all in all, pre-finals undergraduate life has been awesome to me. I have had a fantastic time, the lecturers have been brilliant, and it’s only really my health that has held me back. I’ve been inspired, supported, encouraged and believed in at Royal Holloway and I look forward to starting the Quaternary Science MSc there in September. And all of this is because I picked a university that started with the same letter as my name… life is a funny thing.