Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Year Abroad - The end of the first half

schloss mannheim university
I'm currently sitting at home in Norfolk in front of the fire with a pork pie and watching Jeremy Kyle and the puppy run laps around the room. Life at home is sweet. I've only been home less than 24 hours though and I'm already missing the Land of Deutsch. I say it at least once a day (apologies for that), but oh my word, time has absolutely flown. The first 'half' of my year abroad is over and I'm now back at home for 2.5 weeks before heading back out for another 6 months at my internship in Frankfurt am Main.

Looking back on my last 4 months in Mannheim, I've had some amazing times. I thought today I'd share my favourite moments in Germany thus far..

Thursday, 26 November 2015

How to travel on a budget


I love travelling. I've tried to visit somewhere new almost every weekend of my year abroad so far, and I'm always thinking of or planning the next getaway. Unfortunately though I don't have unlimited funds, in fact I have very, very limited funds, as I still haven't received my ERASMUS grant yet *cries*. Because of the fact I'm a student and pretty much perpetually poor yet I'm always experiencing wanderlust, I've picked up a few tips for travelling without breaking the bank.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Year Abroad Update - 3 months in

Hannah Lane
Fairly short post today, as I'm off on a road trip to the Black Forest later today with some good friends for the weekend! I haven't been able to finish off as many posts as I like (though I have plenty written!) as I've been having many technical issues with my blog. To cut a long story short, I'm trying to change an element of my website design and computer downright says no, so I've been messing about with that. I'm too much of a perfectionist, I'm starting to think it's rather a negative trait!

Aaaaaanyway. To update you all on my year abroad. It doesn't really feel like it, but I have actually been up to quite a lot. I guess this means I'm pretty adjusted to life in Germany and everything's not suddenly new and exciting and its starting to become familiar and my Alltag. To the extent that when I went to England a couple of weekends ago it felt weird being driven on the left hand side of the road and not saying Entschuldigung and Danke.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Why you should have a part time job at uni

Part time job at university

I started working during sixth form, and it was nearly the end of me. I was working both days of the weekend, usually 8 hours each day and sometimes during the week too. Doing this along with a full timetable (5 AS levels in year 12 plus an EPQ) and taking care of 2 horses, having a social life, a relationship and studying was difficult but I survived. Looking back I probably worked too hard and the stress affected me a lot, but I learnt a lot about myself, how I cope with things, what hard work is actually like, and how to manage my time.

Getting a job in the second year of university was a completely different experience. I already knew I couldn’t work 20 or 30 hours plus a week alongside my studying (though I still did occasionally oops) and so the job I got was a 7.5 hour contract on a Saturday morning. It's not secret that I'm not a morning person but equally early mornings aren't a stranger to me either, so I wasn't afraid to start my shift at 6:30am and be done at 2:30pm leaving me the afternoon to study, relax or whatever I wanted to do.

This worked so well for me and I was totally lucky with how great my job was. (Note: if you're not loving your job, look for another one! Life's too short to spend time in a crappy job you don't enjoy). Working alongside studying can be a learning curve, and you really have to be careful not to let it affect your course work, but there are many benefits from a part time job:

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

10 best things about going home in the holidays

Hannah Lane

Last weekend I flew back to England for a wonderful, well needed weekend at home. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone home for a weekend had my dog not had 8 gorgeous little pups that I was dying to see before they went to their new homes, but a bit of England was just what I needed.

I ate a lot of food, spent a lot of time with my dogs and puppies and family, had a black forest hot chocolate from Costa (which needs to be a thing here in Germany), and soaked up the Norfolk countryside. Going for walks across fields with wellies and mud and my dogs is something I miss so much when I'm at uni or here. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Recipe: Banana blondies

Hannmhemilylane - Banana blondies
One of my favourite things to do on a cold, drizzly afternoon is bake. Blondies are great to bake because chances are you already have the ingredients in, so a trip to the shops isn't necessary and they're super adaptable. Tom and I whipped up these gorgeous banana blondies last weekend. This recipe I found on cookiesandcups is a little different to the one I usually use, but they turned out soooo good. They're also pretty easy too.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

5 invaluable tools for language learners

Tools for language learners
I've been learning German for about 8 years, and before that I was learning Spanish. I'm by no means an expert polyglot but I have found a few tools that are helping me along the way, and I use all of these regularly. Learning languages is no easy task, but hopefully these websites/tools/apps will help you on your quest ;)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A weekend in Strasbourg

On the night of our return from Bonn, I was busy looking up places for our next weekend away. Strasbourg was high up on my 'places I want to go' list after seeing how gorgeous it is courtesy of photos my Grandparents had taken there recently and of course, Pinterest. So, I had a search for travel and accommodation options. When I found bus tickets through Deutsche Bahn for €9 each way I was sold. We also booked a cheap hotel to keep costs down (ERASMUS grant - where art thou). 
A weekend in Strasbourg
So less than 2 weeks later we were waking up bright and early - note I have not seen that hour of the day in a while, to catch a bus from Mannheim Busbahnhof to Strasbourg. The bus ride was great - free wifi, comfortable, and cheap refreshments (€1 for a coffee yes please), and we arrived in Strasbourg for 9:30am. 

We soon headed off to explore the charming city. Tom had a walking tour downloaded which we loosely followed. We started at Place Kléber, then went onto rue des Francs Bourgeois and right down the pedestrianised Grand Rue, with quirky shops and 17th-century buildings. Then we reached Place Benjamin Zix and wandered around Petite France for quite a while. It was probably my favourite little corner of the city, even if parts of it were swamped by tourists. It was really really pretty and I loved the architecture, the cute half-timbered houses with overflowing flower boxes, gently winding canals and bridges. We tried some freshly baked macarons and bought a packet because they were too good to leave without. 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

How to cope with multiple deadlines

We've all had this feel. When teachers/lecturers all set their deadlines for the same day? WHY TEACHERS WHY. Last week, I had 2 final essays and a final exam, and a trip to France and a presentation to prepare, all in the space of about 4 days #stress. Some of us are better at coping than others. I used to have a tendency to panic and get stressed when all the essays are due at once but I've learnt in my many many years at school and the past 2 and a bit years at uni how best to cope with this sitch, and I thought I'd share with you my valuable insights…

How to cope with multiple deadlines

List. Write a list.  And then, prioritse those things on that list. 

Okay so you've probably figured out that when you have many things you need to get done, the best place to start is by writing a list. This helps me in so many ways, it helps to clear my head, helps me realise that stuff is manageable and it gives me motivation when I'm ticking things off. I find it helps to write more achievable tasks such as 'research xyz', 'pick an essay title', 'plan essay', 'write introduction' rather than 'write essay'. No-one, well maybe some people, sits down and writes an essay in one go, approach it in bite size chunks and it'll help you not to panic. I also find it really useful to number the list so you know exactly what you need to be doing. Start with the most important and work your way down that list.

Get up an hour earlier. 60 minutes. You can do it.

Well you can try. I'm not a morning person in terms of getting out of bed, but I am at my most productive at the start of the day. When I've got a lot on my plate, I try to wake up an hour earlier than normal and power through my to do list. I usually start with an easy task followed by the most important/difficult task of the day that I absolutely MUST do, this is when my motivation and productivity is at its highest.

Don't panic and do nothing.

I know all too well how easy it is to put your onesie on and curl up under the covers and try to forget about all of your responsibilities and pretend that if you hide they'll go away. We both know that they will definitely not go away. In fact it's a damn good way of getting yourself more stressed. When I feel like getting into bed even though I have so much to do, I tend to give myself 30 minutes to relax, do something I want to do, and then when those 30 minutes are up I get my head down and focus.

Know how you work best.

You will really need to focus hard when it comes to multiple deadlines. If you work better with music on in the background, play music. If you work better in the library, get yourself to the library. Get to know how you work best and do that!

Talk to people.

I don't mean spend all your time talking to your flatmates instead of doing your work. I mean letting your friends and family know that you're going to be busy. Confiding with people close to you about being stressed, and getting everything off your chest can also help you feel better. And chances are some of your uni/school friends will be going through similar things. If your work load is physically impossible and you know that you aren't going to be able to meet all your deadlines, then it's worth talking to your personal tutor or lecturers about your situation as you might be able to get an extension.

The main thing to remember is that it'll all be worth the stress and hard work in the end, whatever you're doing! If you have any other useful tips, leave them in a comment!

Hannah Lane

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Joules Welly Design Competition

Hey guys! Quick post today to inform you all of this awesome new competition that Joules has launched. In the run up to winter, everyone needs their own pair of wellies to protect their feet from the wet and (hopefully!) snow. I've owned so many pairs of wellies in my life having looked after horses and living in the countryside but my favourite pair have to be Joules.

Anyway, this competition allows you to design a pair of welly boots! The best bit about it is that the winning design will be sold at with proceeds from the sales going to Joules' charity partners via Charitably Joules. The winner also gets a luxury break worth £5000 and there are also 10 winner up prizes of £250 Joules gift cards.

Anyone that knows me knows that I love designing things and I've already submitted my entry!

Fancy a go? Click here to submit your design :)

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Friday, 16 October 2015

72 hours away - Bonn, Cologne, & Königswinter

A couple of weeks ago, Tom and I nearly missed caught an ICE train out of Frankfurt heading for North Rhine-Westphalia, as a bit of a celebratory weekend. It was organised a bit last minute so we had nothing planned when we arrived but it was a great weekend nonetheless :D. For anyone thinking of a trip to the south of North Rhine-Westphalia, then I have a couple of recommendations for you! 

We decided to stay in a hotel in Bonn as when we were comparing prices it was cheaper to get the initial train there and stay there. It was a good decision as it's a beautiful place but there's not heaps to see. We arrived Friday night, grabbed some food and headed to the hotel to do some quick research on what to do before bed. I'd met a German guy at Uni who was from Bonn and he informed me that Cologne was the place to be. We knew we wanted to visit there anyway so Saturday morning we got up bright and early (read: 10am) armoured with coffee and cameras and got on a short train to spend the day in Cologne

hannah emily lane - Kölner Dom Cologne Cathedral Beautiful building

Friday, 9 October 2015

What you should be watching right now!

Hannah Emily Lane - Macbook Glasses Nailvarnish Bed
GBBO is over *weeps*, but there is so much else to look forward to right now. Here are some of my recommendations and favourite programmes to fill the hole that bake off has left...

Doctor Foster 

There's a reason everyone's talking about it. Seriously. So. Good. If you haven't seen it already - you need to!

It's the kind of programme that has you on the edge of your seat and you genuinely have no idea what's coming round the corner next. It's been on BBC1 recently, the first episode is still available on iPlayer, so get watching!

Source: BBC America

Orphan Black

Orphan Black is a BBC drama/sci fi series that is based on a bunch of woman who are identical or clones. I've now watched the first two seasons twice (you can watch them on Netflix) and I'm so excited that the third season is here,  I'm planning on watching the first episode of it after finishing this post. It's a brilliant series - I love the characters, the suspense, the humour, and the amazing performances of Tatiana Maslany. I would highly recommend this to almost anyone. It's a little slow to start, but once you get into it, you won't be able to get enough.

Sense 8 

A Netflix series definitely worth a watch. I unashamedly watched this whole series in 2 days and then rewatched it in German. It's similar to Orphan Black in that it's a bit of a drama/sci fi series. The first couple of episodes are a bit confusing or hard to follow, but stick it out as it's something you can really get into, and chain watch the entire series without realising it's gone midnight and you have to be up in the morning. There is a good balance in this of everything a series should have, action, suspense, well placed humour and the characters are well developed meaning you can emotionally engage with the show. If you're looking for a new Netflix series, this may be your one!

What else? Well, Apprentice is back on soon, a new season of American Horror Story has just started,  and there's been a new Sherlock advert *internally squeals*. SO MUCH GOOD TV. For lighter entertainment, there's also Gogglebox and Don't Tell The Bride on at the minute. 

And there you have it, a quick rundown of some worthwhile series to watch and something for everyone. Now, go put your PJs on, grab some snacks, light a couple of candles and have a cosy night in with Netflix/iPlayer

Hannah Lane

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Year Abroad - 6 weeks in

So I thought I'd write another update now since I've started my classes at university and have had a couple of fun weekends, and share what I've been up to so far!

Year Abroad blog

So my new favourite thing, other than Fleischkäse (which isn't actually 'meat cheese' as it translates), is the Wurstmarkt (which also isn't a sausage market - C'mon Germans, play nice to the non-natives.) Anyway, Wurstmarkt is the biggest wine festival in the world and not far from Mannheim in Bad Dürkheim. So naturally, I went twice. I mean, what's not to love about a fair and a giant ferris wheel, pint glasses of wine, and tents and music akin to Oktoberfest. It's great fun and felt a very 'German' thing, something like this just wouldn't work in the UK, and I love Germany for that. 
Year Abroad blog
What else have I been up to other than drinking copious amounts of Weinschorle? Well, I've been to a Stammtisch which is great event for meeting people. I've been to Ludwigshafen for a game of bowling. I've also been to the Schlossfest at the university, basically a night of entertainment and stalls and cultural things at the castle that is my uni, with a party afterwards - unfortunately I had a really bad head cold and couldn't face a club so didn't quite make it until the end of the night. 

One of my favourite things I've done so far is visiting a German fraternity with my flatmate. It was a brilliant experience, and in a way what I imagined a year abroad being about. A German fraternity is not dissimilar to an American one where all the guys live in the same house, however a German one is much more traditional. The night I went they were raising the flag to celebrate the start of the new term. We held a candle, stood in a circle and sung a song. And afterwards there was ample amounts of alcohol and Fleischkäse, which, for the record, is delicious. Being British, the German guys had a million questions about what it's like living in Britain and us Britons, some of which amused me. My favourite comment was "why are the British so care free, they don't care about crossing the road when the light is red".  I also taught them some classic drinking games, 'never have i ever' being the most popular. 

Year Abroad blog

I also went to an internationals party with a new friend and her friend and met a whole load of people. Mannheim is ridiculously international, in our group there was someone from Australia, America, Chile, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Norway, Germany of course, and a fellow Englander. That was a rather spontaneous night out, but those are the best ones right?! It's amazing meeting so many people from all over the world.

So yeah, Germany is fun. But what I'm actually here for right, *cough* university *cough*, that's been good too. I really, really like my Practical Marketing course, and my other classes are good too. I've actually already completed 2 courses. They were intensive seminars, so 2 x 4 hour classes each, which means I've had a busy couple of weeks (my first day of classes was 7.5 hours long!) but now I have less classes so I can hopefully get some travelling in! This weekend I'm heading to Bonn and Cologne, so expect to see some pictures from there soon...

Bis bald!

Hannah Lane

P.S If you fancy seeing some more snaps, check out my instagram! @hannahemilylane

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My 5 favourite AW15 must-have trends

Hannah Lane
I think I'm spending more time on fashion blogs and browsing shops online and pinning away because I know I can't buy all these gorgeous new autumn clothes as I won't be able to bring them back home. Yep, living out of 1 suitcase is challenging. Have I said that already?

Anyway, these are my favourite trends for the coming season, and the ones I wish I could spend all of my erasmus grant on...

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Year Abroad - 3 weeks in

Ok firstly, HOW has it already been over 3 weeks since I arrived? It genuinely feels like I got here only last weekend. This year is going to go SO quickly. 
Year Abroad blog
I still haven't actually started at university yet, my lecture period began yesterday but I don't yet have any classes scheduled until next week. I have had a few introductory lectures though and my first impressions of the university are really positive. The president of the university himself, Ernst-Ludwig von Thadden, seems brilliant, and it was lovely to hear him give a small shoutout to the 6 Syrian refugees who are studying at the university this year. 

Besides attending welcome sessions and tours, I've been up to a few other things. Okay, I feel like I've spent most of my time watching Netflix (in German!) and mooching around my flat, but I have seen a little bit more of my corner of Germany and met up with quite a few people.

I travelled back to Frankfurt to surprise Tom and go shopping because well, Primark. I thought I could cope with 1 suitcase and a minimalist wardrobe - it's a challenge. I'm still undecided as to what I think about Frankfurt as a city. It seems a bit less friendly, and people seem to be more like typical Londerners than typical Germans. But I've not spent much more than a couple of days there and have only seen a few small areas so hopefully when I see more of it, it will grow on me (as I'll be living there after Christmas!)
Year Abroad blog

Mannheim on the other hand I am still quite fond of. I took a (less than 10 minute) walk to the 'Neckarstrand', a small beach area with a bar on the Neckar river. It was a really hot day (over 30 degrees) when we went so it was great, almost like being on holiday! Hello cocktails and sun beds and warmth. Just also a river instead of the sea and a few blocks of flat the other side of the river, but hey, it's still nice having that almost on your doorstep. There's also a really beautiful area behind the Wassertürm with fountains and wisteria trellis... so pretty. 

I also went on a day trip with friends to Heidelberg. Temperatures reached 35 degrees and above that day so we spent most of it in and out of pubs and shaded beer gardens just to cool down, but I will definitely be taking another trip back (as I can get there for free with my Semesterticket - thanks Mannheim Uni!) to explore some further and take many more pictures. It's such a picturesque and charming German town, lots of old buildings and beautiful views of the castle and hills surrounding the city. 

Last weekend I went to my first Universität Mannheim party - the welcome party. A friend joined us in Mannheim who's living in Heidelberg and Tom from Frankfurt, and we met with my 'buddy' (the uni offers a mentoring scheme between Germans and internationals) and his friends for pre drinks and then we headed to the castle to party. It was a really fun night and I met so many great people from all over the world. 

So yeah, so far so good. I've only felt a little bit homesick but I think I've settled in pretty well. My flatmate also arrived a couple of weeks ago, and she's super nice and helpful. Having a German on your side who knows the ins and outs of Mannheim and the university and job applications forms and contracts is a godsend. For you future year abroaders, live with natives, seriously. It's also really good for your language, I already think my German is improving. I'm now just really looking forward to starting my courses so I can meet more people and have more to do during the week, and also you know, learn :P. 

Bis bald! 

Hannah Lane

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

40 thoughts everyone has before their Year Abroad

I'm pretty sure we all have more than 40 - heading off on a year abroad is such a whirlwind of emotions! For all you readers who have a year abroad to come, these are thoughts that will more than likely go through your mind, and for us current third year abroad students, I'm sure you will all relate!

Year Abroad blog

1. Living in another country for a year? SUCH FUN
2. Omg all these new pretty places
3. I want to go everyyyyywhereeee
4. I'm going to learn so much of this language
5. I'm going to experience so much
6. And make so many friends
7. Such fun
8. Why do I have to fill in so many forms
9. Another form?
10. What's this form even for?
11. Everyone's going back to uni, they will have graduated when I get back
12. Such FOMO
13. I'm going to miss my uni
14. I'm going to miss my home
15. And my dog
16. Maybe my little sister, maybe
17. And omg *insert typical english food*, how will I cope without it
18. Why am I doing this
19. Who said learning a language would be fun
20. Should I take my onesie?
22. Mummy don't make me go
23. Right. I'll drop out of my degree. At least working as a customer assistant isn't scary
24. How on earth is everything going to fit in this suitcase
25. Did I renew my passport?
26. Have I filled in the 198392th form uni wanted?
28. Student loan early though, sweet
29. Maybe this will be ok
30. Right?
31. I can so do this
32. This WILL be fun
33. Currywurst? Yes pls
35. Ok changed my mind, take me home
36. SO MANY emotions
37. Did I pack socks?
38. I wonder what my flat is like
39. This is a little exciting

Hannah Lane

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

5 apps for productivity

Hannah Lane
It's that time of year again. Summer is almost over (waaah!) and we're all preparing to go back to school/university/work. And as per, everyone is planning on being just that bit more organised this year. It always starts off well, right? And then you slip back into old habits. Well, I've found some apps that will help you with improving your productivity, and making the most of your time! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Year Abroad - 4 days in

Year Abroad blog
Guten Tag!

So here's a little update on my first few days in Deutschland and some pictures of my new city and flat!

Okay so I've majorly lucked out on my flat, it is seriously nice. I feel so lucky! When I arrived it was spotlessly clean, I had washed bed sheets, and everything I could ever need in the kitchen. There are postcards up everywhere including in my room which gives it a homely feel - anyone who knows me will know I don't like having bare walls! It's also really colourful (green walls in the kitchen with purple curtains and some pink thrown in!) which is cheery and cute. I also have a really nice, blogger-esque desk - can't beat a spacious, white desk with a big window above. Here's some pictures so you can have a look:

Year Abroad blog
Year Abroad blog

I've also had some time to explore the city, and I really like it! It's not the biggest city, but as someone who's used to towns or rolling countryside, I'm sort of pleased about that. It also means everything is in walking distance. I've managed to scout out the H&Ms (yes there's more than one) and Zara - the important things. I had to buy some socks from H&M as I managed to only pack 2 pairs even though I could have sworn I emptied my sock drawer into my suitcase. I also bought a cute scarf - it was only €3, forgive me! 

Year Abroad blog

I've also discovered that Aldi is amazingly cheap. Like €0,29 for a bag of pasta cheap. Crazy. So I have H&M, a damn good currywurst place, Aldi, and döner kebabs all basically on my doorstop. I think I'll be okay here in Mannheim! 

Oh and also, how stunning is my university? It's the top right picture on the collage above, and it was actually once a palace. Yep. I can't wait to start! 

On a final note, I've found that Germans are really friendly. Yesterday I had a random guy come up to me to ask about my green hair (it's actually blue I swear). We talked for 5 minutes about my hair, which was slightly strange. Apparently his friend thought it was 'ugly' so he thought he'd come and ask if it was an accident or green blue on purpose. I then went and browsed hair dye in DM to find that's also super cheap, so every cloud. But if anyone has any tips on getting blue/green hair dye out, hit me up, as it admittedly isn't fading that nicely. 

So my first few days have been rather successful, if a bit quiet. My friends from uni are arriving later in the week though and I have some planned meetups with Germans so I should have a few more anecdotes soon! 

Bis dann!

Hannah Lane

Saturday, 15 August 2015

So I'm living in Germany now...

That happened.

Yesterday, I got up hideously early to catch a one-way flight to Deutschland. And here I am, a day later, sitting in my new flat, about to fill you all in. 

Year abroad blog

As you may or may not know, I study a joint honours degree - German and Business. As I'm now in my third year (how did that happen! feels like only yesterday I was waiting for UCAS Track to update...), I am on my YEAR ABROAD. Now I've known ever since I decided I wanted to study German (circa 3 years ago) that this day was coming, but it still doesn't feel real. It didn't feel real packing, it didn't feel real at the airport, it didn't feel real moving into my flat. It feels like, yeah i'm staying in Germany, but I'm going home in 2 weeks-a month right? Nope. 

ANYWAY. In the run up to leaving, I loved reading other people's year abroad blogs and posts, so I'm hoping you guys might enjoy these too as well as me being able to keep a record on the year, and I'll try make them at least a little bit useful too. 

So. Thursday morning consisted of much packing. I took 1 checked suitcase in the hold as well as a small suitcase as hand luggage and my gorgeous Kate Spade bag as my second hand luggage bag (perks of BA). I also left a suitcase of things at home that I will either get sent out or my mum will bring if/when she come visits, but by not taking it with me, it allows my family to add any stuff I've forgotten or realise I need before sending it. 

After a celebratory brunch with my family, as my brother got into Loughborough uni, I headed down to Surrey to Tom's house. He conveniently lives 10 mins from Heathrow airport which meant a slightly less early start for our 7:10 flight the next day. Friday morning. After many goodbyes and hugs and the odd tear, we headed for security (which was a nightmare) and then the departure lounge. I'd just like to add here, that doing this with a friend/boyfriend = so much easier. I am so grateful that Tom is doing a year abroad as well and is living in Frankfurt which isn't too far. So grateful. 

When we landed in Frankfurt, our first challenge was to find Tom's flat. Which meant getting a bus, a train, and a taxi. We were so relieved when we found it, and it was just like expected. 

TIP. We both found our accommodation through WG-Gesucht, which is what most people use. The majority of adverts suggest you should visit in person so you can meet them and see the flat, however that  obviously wasn't very feasible. So if, when looking, you see something suitable, it's worth suggesting a Skype interview - we found most are OK with doing this. Also send out lots of emails as many don't even reply D: 

We had a walk around his area and grabbed some lunch, before heading back to his to pick up my luggage and to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Then the train to Mannheim. My flatmate picked us up from Mannheim station and we got the tram to my flat. She also recommended a place for the best Dönerkebab in Mannheim which conveniently happens to be opposite of the entrance to my flat - so you can guess what my first dinner consisted of.  

Note. When I say flatmate, she technically isn't. My actual flatmate is on holiday in America, and so the girl who picked us up is actually the one who's room I'm moving into. Hence, I am all by myself in my flat until my flatmate returns, but Tom's staying with me for the first couple of nights to help me settle in :) (note: still sooo grateful)

So that's kinda the start to my year abroad. Today (Saturday) consisted of unpacking, food shopping, and exploring. My first impressions of Mannheim are positive, it seems a lively city with everything you could need in walking distance and the university looks incredible!

As much as I'm still nervous and missing England a tiny bit, I can't wait to see what this year has to offer!

Hannah Lane

P.S I will post a flat tour in the next couple of days, for those who might be interested, and maybe a post on what I packed/tips. :)

P.P.S If anyone is about to start their year abroad, or previously did one in Germany, get in touch! :D

Thursday, 6 August 2015

How to go to a festival for free (and have an amazing time!)

Last year I wrote a post of 20 things I want to do before 20. One of those things was go to a festival, however being a student and therefore poor, it wasn't looking very likely. So I looked at other ways of going, which is how I found out about Hotbox Events. With a £230 returnable deposit, a free ticket and other perks, and something to go on your CV, I was all for it. I even persuaded Tom to join me. So a couple of weeks ago with the car loaded up, we set off for Southwold.
Volunteering with Hotbox Latitude
It was such a good few days! We had such a good time, got to enjoy the majority of the festival, see all the acts we wanted and met some cool people. We were really lucky with the weather too, in fact we actually needed some rain as it got so dry and dusty!

Our first shift was a Thursday late (17:00-01:00). We were on a gate managing the queues and ensuring everyone got through swiftly. As it was the gate where coaches came, there was either nobody in sight or loads of people all at once, so if it was quiet we helped struggling campers carry their stuff in. The shift went quite slowly but there isn't much going on the Thursday night so it's not like we were missing anything!
Volunteering with Hotbox at Latitude
The second shift was a Saturday night, which is 01:00 -09:00, and we were working in yellow campsite (the infamous party-all-night camp) so we saw a couple of interesting things. Our main roles were to help (intoxicated/lost/stoned/upset) festival goers, watch for fires and thieves and report anything that needed reporting. It was a long night, but again we didn't miss any acts as the Friday headliner (Alt-J!) finished at 11pm.

We slept until about 3pm Saturday and still felt tired after being up ALL night but there were acts we I wanted to see :P. Catfish and the Bottlemen were sensational. We also saw Laura Marling, the Vaccines, José Gonzalez and a few others!

The third and final shift was Sunday early (09:00-17:00) working in the Performers Campsite. Unfortunately, I didn't see anyone famous haha, but it was the best shift as we worked with some great people and it didn't go too slowly, as we were trying to star-spot all day!

On the Sunday evening we got to see Years & Years who were incredible! A really good set and Olly had so much energy. La Roux was OK, SBTRKT were good live, and Noel Gallagher was cool  - though I find it really hard to like him as a person and he spent most of the time insulting the audience!
Ed Sheeran secret guest Latitude 2015 Volunteering at Latitude with Hotbox
A highlight of the weekend was seeing Ed Sheeran - he was a secret guest Friday night and my sister spotted his tweet and let us know where and when he was going to play. We were so lucky to see him as it was a small stage and most people got turned away by security. Unfortunately we had to leave a little early to get to our shift on time, but it made Tom's weekend to see him!
Volunteering with Hotbox at Latitude
Overall I would highly recommend volunteering at a festival, it's a good experience and you get more out a festival than if you were just attending normally. You also get to camp in the staff area which means nicer toilets, showers, plugs to charge your phone, tea/coffee making facilities and cheaper food. With the deposit, Hotbox also allows you to work Reading/Leeds as well, and if we weren't going to be in Germany then, I think we would be going to Reading too!

If you are considering doing this, I would recommend applying as soon as you can (it opens around Feb usually) as you get priority on your shift preferences the earlier you apply so you're more likely to get the shifts you want (and you don't miss your fav band).

We had a really good weekend and I'm so glad we did it! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

P.S, if you're still wanting to go to a festival this year, Hotbox have applications open still for Leeds festival, so get in quick!
Volunteering with Hotbox at Latitude
Hannah Lane

Friday, 31 July 2015

4 days in Amsterdam

Year Abroad blog

At the beginning of July, Tom and I set off for a short post exam break to my new favourite city: Amsterdam. We had a wonderful time and the city is truly charming, every corner you turned the next street was just as beautiful. I thought I'd share with you all some recommendations if you ever decide to visit (and you should!) as we did/saw/ate some wonderful things during our time there.

Year Abroad blog

Getting around and where we stayed

We flew out with Easyjet from Stansted airport which is only a 40 min flight and stayed at the Ramada Apollo Hotel. We were immediately impressed with everything, within an hour of landing, we were in our hotel room. Going through the airport was swift and easy, as soon as we walked out of the airport our free transfer was directly in front of us, checking in was smooth and the hotel staff were super friendly. The hotel room was also really nice with a great view (oh and free wifi! Yay!)

We purchased a 4 day travel card which allows you unlimited travel on the busses and trams (and some trains I think?) from our hotel, but they can also be bought on the trams. For only €21, this was well worth it as we were constantly using the trams (more cities need these!). Getting around Amsterdam is super easy, just keep an eye out not just cars but bikes and trams as well when crossing the road, chances are they won't stop for you!

Year Abroad blog

What to see and do

I always think a good way to start a trip is with a walking tour - it gives you a good bearing of the city and the tour guide is usually very knowledgeable and can give you recommendations on a whole range of things. We did our walking tour with Sandemans Tours and went on the Free Tour. Though it says it's free, at the end the tour guide asks you to pay what you think it was worth (if you want!). We really enjoyed it! 

Year Abroad blog

Riding a bike in Amsterdam is a must. We were torn between renting a bike and exploring ourselves or going on another tour. In the end we decided on the latter, and we definitely made the right decision as it was the best thing we did on the trip! We went on Mike's Countryside Bike Tour (website here) and I can't recommend it enough. Not only do you get to experience cycling in the city and learning a bit about the Amstel river among other things, but you also visit the Riekermolen, an authentic Dutch windmill and also a cheese and clog farm, where you get to see how both are made and try some proper Dutch cheese (spoiler: it's amazing). On the return you cycle through the countryside, past the old Olympic stadium, through the Vondelpark and Museumplein and some more of the city. The guides are also super nice. Well worth doing.

Year abroad blog

If you're into horses, you'll love the De Hollandsche Manege. It's located near Vondelpark and is such a great hideaway from city life (like seriously, it's actually hidden away, you'd never guess there was a ménage and a couple dozen horses stabled behind its entrance). The entry price includes a free drink from the little café, where you can sit on the terrace overlooking the ménage. There was a kids pony day on during our visit, so we watched a number of young girls riding ponies around which was super cute. You can also walk around and see traditional tack and visit the beautiful horses in the stables. We weren't able to, but if we visit again I'd love to see one of their side saddle riding displays. More info here.

Year abroad blog

A lot of people recommend seeing the city of Amsterdam from a boat. Which I would also recommend. But perhaps not on a Pedal Boat. While we had a laugh, we didn't exactly get to see much as it is quite tiring (especially after a bike tour and lots of walking). I think other users of the canals aren't exactly impressed by the pedal boats either. Neither was my boyfriend when I forgot to pedal because I was busy taking photos. I was pedalling I swear! Hahaha. If you've got the money, and don't want to come close to the end of your relationship ;), I would recommend renting a proper boat out, or maybe going on a canal cruise. Although a pedal boat is a funny experience and means you can stop whenever you want to take a picture or two! We went with Canal Bikes.

If you're looking for an hour to kill and up for a giggle, you might enjoy visiting the Sex Museum. It's €4 (I think) so not too much and kinda interesting/comical. It's located not far from the Centraal Station.  

Year abroad blog

Another good thing to kill some time is strolling the markets. The Albert Cuyp Market is really nice and I loved the fresh fruit smoothies/juices you could get for a €1. The Waterlooplein Bloemenmarkt (floating flower market) are busier but worth a look if you get time. You might find some hidden vintage treasure at the Waterlooplein, and it's cheaper for souvenirs than the shops.

A must for any Amsterdam visitor is the Anne Frank house. It's something you really should do as its such an experience - inspiring and horrific simultaneously, especially if you've already read the book. My tip would be, if you're going in peak seasons and can get tickets online beforehand, DO IT. This means you can skip the queue. And trust me, the queue was so long, whatever time of day it was. We couldn't get tickets online because they were all sold out, so thought we'd be okay if we went early morning/late at night (it's open until 10pm). The shortest queue is around 1hour30mins. People start queuing at 7am for opening at 9am. They started turning people away at 8pm as the queues were too long they might not get everyone in before closing. The best time is around 6pm, but you'll still face over an hours queue. However, in my opinion it is still worth waiting for and I'm glad we still went.

Year abroad blog

Where to eat

We ate at quite a few places and for lots of recommendations I would suggest visiting Awesome Amsterdam. However, I would highly recommend 2 places in particular.

Year abroad blog

Café Winkel.
Reportedly the best Appeltaart in Amsterdam. I can confirm that the apple pie is sensational. The lunch menu is also nice too!

Year abroad blog

Little Collins
The best brunch spot. Perhaps in the whole world. Maybe. It's tucked away down a street off the Albert Cuyp Market, if you want to sit outside a reservation might be worthwhile as it seemed popular (I can see why!). Have a look at the menu and tell me your mouth isn't already watering. It tastes as good as it sounds. The coffee is also really really good and the cucumber water on the table is a nice touch. Cute setting too.

Other tips

  • If you fancy drinks with a view, Floor 17 at our hotel is one of the highest points in the city and do some really good cocktails. We had a tikka bowl and the bartender made a cocktail for us just going on our preferences, it was really good!
  • Watch out for trams
  • Don't be scared. Visit the Red Light District at night, it's an interesting experience.

Overall, we had such a good time in Amsterdam. It's such a lovely city, stunning and friendly and an interesting history. It's a place where literally anyone will fit in and is perfect for a long weekend or a few days break.

Have you visited Amsterdam? What are your recommendations?

Hannah Lane