The Power of Friendship: The Money Festival 2021

By Cristina Ionita -If there is anything that this year has taught me, it’s that you are never ready for what’s about to come, so you might as well start going for what you want now…

By Cristina Ionita

If there is anything that this year has taught me, it’s that you are never ready for what’s about to come, so you might as well start going for what you want now. 

I have a little story to tell you. It all started with two young ladies deciding they wanted to change the world. Katherine Hasegawa-Perez and I met in our first year at ARU. Saying ‘Hi.’ in the hallway or having lunch with common friends was the closest we got. Little did we know that in the following year we would become like sisters. We found each other at a society event and started talking about sustainability and money. The event finished and we were still talking, enthusiastic to have found someone who shared our drive, goals and dreams to make this world a better place than we found it. You know that feeling when you feel like you have found your ‘person’ as Cristina Yang says? Well, Katherine is my person. 

A week later we met in the Science building and Katherine shared her mission with me – to raise awareness of what is happening in her home country (Venezuela). Venezuela has been fighting hyperinflation for almost a decade and many people live on the edge of poverty. To show how extreme and difficult the situation is in her country, Katherine designed a money-dress. Yes, you’ve read that right. It’s an actual dress made out of money. Here is the proof, if you don’t believe me:

Katherine modelling her money dress creation

I was simply mesmerised by her story. Her passion, her kindness, her ambition. Just by being with her, I felt powerful and ready to take on the world. I made a promise to her, that I would do everything in my power to help her so that together we can change the world. 

We set up the Latin-American Society together and we decided to set a Guinness World Record at university. Our goal was to fold ten-thousand origami birds out of Venezuelan bolivares (the national currency of Venezuela). 

In the beginning, it was just the two of us and a dream – Money Origami 4 Education. But slowly we found people; students and teachers at ARU believing in our dream and supporting us to turn it into reality. Elina Ramona (3rd-year International Business Management), Cornelia Scarlat (1st-year Animation and Illustration, Abi Dolan (SU Coordinator), Nicola Faulkner (from the Student Experience), and Daniel Bergen (Deputy Dean) are just some of many names worth mentioning. These people supported and challenged us. After each meeting, we would tick two or three problems off of our list but have to worry about 6at least six more which came up. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting, but I loved every second of it. 

We got in touch with the Guinness World Record team and started planning the huge event. We could already see it: hundreds of students from ARU folding thousands of origami birds on campus, food trucks in the courtyard, cameras running around trying to capture as many shots as possible, music coming through large speakers… and then COVID-19 hit the UK in March. 

And we lost everything. 

I had to travel back to Romania and Katherine needed to start working on her dissertation. Months went by and we didn’t know what to do. 

Fast forward to July, Katherine and I gave it another try. We had a brainstorming session and created The Money Festival 2020 – a 6 week online festival about financial literacy, activism, wealth and sustainability. We decided to start the event in September, and go all the way to December. 

But we were alone in this, again. 

So we started reaching out to the people who believed in us, to tell them we’re not giving up. Zoom calls, email exchanges, redesigning materials. Everything happened really fast, but then we realised that we couldn’t do it by ourselves. We lost the initial team and started looking again for students who shared our desire and drive to make a difference. Lucky for us, we found them among my colleagues. Tatyana, Vittoria, Eve and Anousheh – these amazing people have dedicated the past four months to this project and thanks to them The Money Festival 2020 is finally happening. But in 2021. 

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the limited amount of time we had to prepare the event – we are all studying full-time and some of us also work, we redesigned the event to 4 online seminars, and scheduled the event for January – February 2021. 

The Money Festival 2020 is not just an event, it’s our dream, our hope to help students gain financial knowledge that will enable them to make better decisions for themselves and for our planet. 

Among the event guest speakers there will be teachers who, during our studies, became our friends, including Professor Imko Meyenburg and Professor Beatriz Acevedo. We will also bring professionals with experience in different fields and ARU Alumnis who dedicated their time to study global issues.

The event will take place on a weekly basis to accommodate student studies and to offer space for people to reflect on the matters discussed. The event will be delivered using Microsoft Teams and will last approximately 45 minutes. If you can spend one hour watching a show on Netflix, why not dedicate one for learning things that expand your perspective on money, sustainability and activism?

If this sounds like something that you might be interested in, please follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our sign-up link! 

Image: StuPendisdik on Imgur

Saying Goodbye to 2020

By Cristina Ionita – I’m currently sitting in my room, debating whether to take down the Christmas decorations or if I should start a new episode of Queen Sono on Netflix. On Spotify…

By Cristina Ionita

I’m currently sitting in my room, debating whether to take down the Christmas decorations or if I should start a new episode of Queen Sono on Netflix. On Spotify comes ’Vivir Mi Vida’ by Marc Anthony, and I remember the last time that I listened to this song – January 2020. 

I was back in Romania, meeting the two new members of my family – my cousin’s wife and nephew. I had high hopes for the year. I was seeing my family growing and my parents surprised me with a family trip to Austria. Walking down the streets of Vienna I couldn’t help but marvel at the never ending streets, the beauty of the old buildings and the strong German accent. I felt grateful for being able to see such beauty, for being with my parents again and for enjoying a cup of coffee at Cafe Europe – one of the busiest and delightful cafes in Vienna. 

If only I knew what 2020 would prepare for us… I’d probably take a whisky. 

Two months later I was checking my inbox and I found a very strange email starting like this: ’Someone has anonymously recommended you for the Rep Election 2020! […]’

I remember being very confused as I had no idea who wrote that nomination (it was very nicely written and made me feel very good about myself, I’m not going to lie) and why they would see me as suitable for such a position. After pondering the idea and coming up with the worst scenarios – having to deliver a speech in front of students, creating a video with me speaking to students, not being able to commit to this on top of my studies and my work – I decided to do it. I wrote my manifesto, attended all of the meetings, ran around the campus to put up posters (it was dreadful to see my face on almost every wall) and tried my best to show people who I am. 

During the election week (the third week of March) I was meant to travel to Amsterdam with my class for a study field trip. After day dreaming about the trip for 3 months, and almost starting packing – the university cancelled the trip due to the pandemic. On the same week I was meant to celebrate my 21st birthday. One day before my birthday, the university sent out an email advising students to go home. I was heartbroken. I booked a one-way ticket to Romania and I had less than 24 hours to pack my belongings and leave the studio I was living in with my best friend. 

On the flight to Romania my laptop broke down. After landing I had to quarantine at my friend’s house for 2 weeks. We spent our days writing assignments, trying to understand what was happening around us and being checked by the police at the most horrendous hours (7 in the morning – which was 5 am in the UK). 

I stayed in Romania from the 20th of March until the last day of July. It was lovely to see my family, to see my nephew growing, to laugh with my grandma about her sneaking around in her youth, to speak my own language and to connect with old friends. But I felt that I had to come back. I had to return to Cambridge and restart my life. 

I spent weeks trying to find a new place to live and I was worried about my studies. My final year was going to be nothing like how I imagined it. I finally managed to find a house, and thankfully my housemates are the best people on Earth. 

I started working again, but everything felt so forced, so unsteady. Since returning to campus I’ve met lovely people that helped me to see the bigger picture, that made me laugh at 2AM in the Open Access Area as I was writing my assignments half asleep. As Christmas was approaching I knew that there was no chance to visit my family, but I decided to spend it with my new family – my housemates. 

And here I am now, thinking about how 2020 showed me how strong and resilient I am. 

2020 was about us. It was about the way we connect to each other from afar. It was about caring about other people in the same way which you should care about yourself. It was about appreciating every single moment you’re breathing. It was about believing and having hope. 

Saying that the last year was tough would be an understatement. However, it was also the year that I learned to bake cheesecake, that I played the piano the first time, that I had dinner surrounded by people that brighten even my darkest moods. 

I am grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned and for the special moments I shared with people. I’m grateful for living in 2020, not just surviving.

Image: Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

ARU Vegan Society -Society Showcase

By Kya Johnson – A safe place for all (not just vegans!) who want to learn and engage about Veganism and its related subjects ie. Sustainability, Global Impacts and Animal…

By Kya Johnson – ARU Vegan Society

A safe place for all (not just vegans!) who want to learn and engage about Veganism and its related subjects ie. Sustainability, Global Impacts and Animal Welfare.

We set up this society with the aim of cultivating a space for all who want to learn more about Veganism. It can be scary to try something new but we strive to be there for anyone who needs support. Whether that support is to learn about nutrition, environmental impacts or for more individual and tailored assistance, feel free to get in touch with us and our resources. 

Starting a society during COVID-19 has been difficult, and unfortunately certain events we would have loved to put on face-to-face are currently impossible. However, we are making up for it with plenty of online events. Already within our first couple of months, we have hosted game nights, discussions and Netflix parties. For the future we are hoping to run cooking classes, book clubs, competitions and more! Suggestions are more than welcome as we try to tailor our events to our members.

We are proud to say that when you purchase a membership to the ARU Vegan Society, 50% of your membership fee is donated to a charity which is decided on by members. This was something that Sarah (our treasurer) and I were very determined to put into place. 

As some of you may know, January is an exciting time for Vegans as Veganuary takes place. In honour of Veganuary we will be opening all of our January events to everyone (whether you have a membership with us or not) so for those who are unsure about whether to purchase a membership, you can drop into these events and see if they are something that you would like to continue with. 

So whether you are looking for a place to share recipes, meet people with similar interests or to simply have fun, we look forward to meeting you!

Image: Jo Sonn on Unsplash

The Making of Familiar Strangers (EP – 2020)

By James Blyth and Ciéra Cree – Hi, I’m James – just another little singer / songwriter from Norfolk with the stupidly big dream of someday “making it” in music. I live in Great Massingham…

By James Blyth and Ciéra Cree

Hi, I’m James – just another little singer/songwriter from Norfolk with the stupidly big dream of someday “making it” in music. I live in Great Massingham and have done so since literally day 1. I’m 100% sure that if I hadn’t have lived here I would never have gotten myself involved in music. 

It was in this village at school where I fell in love with it. In fact, I remember at primary school we had a guy come in with guitars, drums and keyboards. All of us sprinted to the drums because we thought that they were the ‘coolest’ thing to play. I even went as far as to get a Grade 4 in drums! But then I discovered the guitar and that’s when I knew music was for me. 

I used to look at the likes of McFly, All Time Low and Green Day, thinking “I’d love a chance to do that”. Not because of the whole 50,000-to-one-show-to-see-me, but for the chance to play my music. To play my music and see people not just hearing the lyrics, but relate to them too, to sing them back to me. That’s what I wanted when I first started and I feel so lucky to now be at a point in my life where I’ve seen that begin to happen.

Now that my background is covered, I think I should give you a little insight into the real reason that I’m writing this today, and that is to talk about my new EP ‘Familiar Strangers’.

It’s safe to say that this EP has not only been by far my favourite to make but it also means the most to me. Each song connects to me differently and I believe that the EP itself tells quite a magnificent story. So, let me start at the beginning and to do that I need to talk about my previous creation, ‘The Next Step’.

So, it’s April 2020 and my EP is nearly ready to release, ‘The Next Step’. I had 4 songs ready and I remember sitting on my bed with my guitar and coming up with the riff for a song that later became ‘Losing You’. The same thing happened again with another riff for what became a part of ‘this is a song from me to you’ before writing ‘17’ which made it onto that EP. 

The Writing Of Familiar Strangers 


2 months on and I was in the mood to start writing again for the next EP, as yet untitled. So I jumped on a call with my good mates, Alex Venthem and James Jude. The previous night I had come up with the riff/hook for the song and they both liked where it was going. Myself and Alex quickly worked out a structure for it and a few of the lyrics. James J really helped with filling in the blanks and created the entire bridge section which I am forever grateful for! Once this had all been done, I immediately got to making a demo for the song that had been titled ‘Anywhere Can Be Home’, although after the final recording I renamed it ‘Home’. This song will always be in my top 5 songs that I have ever written. Upon piecing together the final recording I asked my good friends from college, Frazer Stanford and Oscar Mason to help out with the drums (Frazer) and keys (Oscar), and without those two helping this song wouldn’t sound half as good! 

The song is a love story about a couple who look back on the times that they had together and how it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have. You are able to make a ‘Home’ out of anything, so long as you surround yourself with the right people. I think that we successfully captured this in the song. 

Familiar Strangers

I knew that I wanted to have a song with this title. I liked the way it sounded and the meaning of it. Alex and I had talked about writing a song, although on the day that we had planned to write with Ciéra Cree he was busy. But nevertheless, we carried on.

Ciéra and I wrote what I think is a very good song. I went on to demo it and to then start the final recording. Alex and I recorded the song in my bedroom where I recorded the majority of the EP and then for Ciéra we spiced it up a little by going to Charlie’s place. 

Mr Charlie Bernardin is a fellow member of my band ‘Frett 28’. If you asked Charlie to describe himself in three words he wouldn’t actually manage to; you’d get something like “Well, how would I do that?”, and from there he has already exceeded the limit. He’s a perfectionist and that is why he is BRILLIANT at music production (and why my song ‘On Our Side’ that we started to create last November still isn’t finished). 

I decided it would be a good idea for Ciéra’s vocals to be recorded with Charlie as I knew that he wouldn’t get it wrong and well, he definitely didn’t!. Her vocals fit the song perfectly and without them, again, the song wouldn’t work! 

Frazer Stanford also joined in on the song and added a brilliant drum part to the track.

The song is about a couple falling in love with each other and the entire ‘first move’ concept. Two people who like the look of each other, who see each other every day, but they still don’t know each other’s name. A Familiar Stranger.

Hopefully Ciéra will tell you about working with me!

“I remember being contacted one day by Alex and James about the opportunity to feature on ‘Familiar Strangers’. Immediately I recognised that doing this would be something outside of my comfort zone as I hadn’t sang behind a mic in over 4 years. However, I knew that I wanted to do it. The funny thing was that I really wanted to produce a song that could be on streaming platforms such as Spotify this year but I wasn’t sure about how to approach it all by myself. It’s almost like this opportunity was perfectly timed so there was no way that I was going to turn it down.

At first I felt extremely nervous during recording but, over time, I could feel myself getting more comfortable. James and his friends made the process fun as well as professional which is something that I really appreciated. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to become a part of this EP and hope to potentially feature on some more tracks in the future!”Ciéra Cree (ARU – Media Studies BA (Hons) Year 2)

Losing You

I’ve had the concept for this song since ‘The Next Step’s’ writing process. I wanted to write a song that led on from ‘Home’ as a relationship hits rocky waters. The idea of thinking back to what things used to be and how you used to love each other was always something I felt the need to write about after previous relationships of mine. 

I never thought I’d say this but Facebook saved the day! I joined a page called ‘Norwich Musicians Network’ and asked for a singer to help me out on the track. I found a guy called Andy Knight from the band Uprising. He is an incredible singer and a pleasure to work with. After I had sent him the song he was very happy to help out and be a part of the record.

This song also helped me to move up a step in my music production as I began to understand Logic Pro and how to use it for all of its features. 

The drums again were by Frazer, and this time the bass was done by a friend of mine – Maddie from the band Pink Lemonade.

this is a song from me to you

This is the song that I hold closest to my heart and find myself proud to say I wrote. It has a few hidden meanings behind it but deep down it’s a song that carries the message that there is someone out there for you. After seeing my parents separate a few years back and how it tore my family apart, seeing my mum happy again in her new relationship really puts my mind at ease. It was the same case when I was single; I hit record lows for myself until finding my girlfriend who picked me up and taught me that things do get better.

‘Sometimes a goodbye is as good as a hi’ is the first line of the song and it aims to capture the sense of letting go to find someone or something new. I didn’t write this song to be part of an EP or to be released until I decided to see what would happen if my friends got involved in the song. Frazer did the drums, Gary Leonard (the country and line dance musician, and a fellow work mate of mine) did the bass and Oscar did the keys and strings. The song went on to reach a whole new level, a level at which I thought no song of mine would ever go. After that I felt that I had to release this song to people in the hope that others will relate and connect to it. I love this song so much and see it as the best thing I have ever written.

Don’t Play The Fool

This is the final song on the EP. I wrote it to a friend, a friend who felt lost and alone. I’m not very good at talking so I wrote this for them instead as a way to get my feelings across. The song itself consists of a quite simple tune but it’s accompanied by very deep, meaningful lyrics. It’s the only song on the EP that is 100% created by myself. 

I’m releasing this song so that anybody who may be in the same situation that my friend was in may find comfort. 

And that’s the EP! It will be released on every music platform as of November 27th and I really hope those who listen to it enjoy what they hear. This EP means the world to me and anybody who supports me I am so so grateful for. 

Well that’s me! 

Thank you

Main image: Caught In Joy on Unsplash
Body images belong to Jame Blyth
Article edited by Ciéra Cree

Black Friday or Blatant Fraud?

By Ciéra Cree – So, it seems it’s made its way around again – Black Friday. Shops slice their prices to smithereens in order to offer us irresistible deals, and strong doses…

By Ciéra Cree

Black Friday’ 2020 will be taking place on Friday 27th November. Due to lockdown it will be predominantly online.

So, it seems it’s made its way around again – Black Friday. Shops slice their prices to smithereens in order to offer us irresistible deals, and strong doses of satisfaction, just in time for the holiday season. Festive tunes and sparkling lights glimmer in the background while we look through the shelves among our favourite stores, searching for the perfect items for both ourselves and the people in our lives. We leave with bags full of things and purses much emptier than they were upon our morning departure, but it’s alright because what we bought was for a bargain price, right? We may have left with way more items than we intended to buy but it’s justifiable when you’re saving so much money, isn’t it? Think again.

Black Friday is heavily anticipated by people across the globe who are eager to get their hands on the best that they can find for the best possible prices. We see something is a good deal and missing out is, frankly, not an option. It’s instinctual, but what’s scarier is the fact that people are so blinded by the promise of savings that they often don’t stop to think about what, or why, they are consuming in the first place. We’re in an almost zombified state, mindlessly picking up products, since that’s what the day is all about – consumption. The fact that we have a dedicated day of appeal towards mass consumption, when there are people whom we walk past on the streets after our shameless shopping sprees sleeping rough and needing shelter is, in the bluntest of terms, rather disgusting.

Shops aren’t here to operate in your best interest and supply you with something amazing. Why would they be? Why would they throw their profits and priorities down the drain to give us what we want? It’s all an illusion, a facade, and we fall for it time and time again.

Do you ever take a moment to acknowledge that when you enter shops on Black Friday, the products you see are often different from what’s usually there? Or that there are magically way more items present? This isn’t the shops providing you with new things at terrifically tiny sums out of nowhere, but instead, it’s a display of all of the items from the back of the storage that normally don’t sell. As it’s Black Friday, and people are in a scatter grabbing gifts, they know that this is the time to shift these away from their catalogue. And what about the products that suddenly aren’t there anymore when they used to be? This doesn’t always mean that they were popular and sold out before you got there. If the store owners wish not to have them incorporated among any of this, they simply take them off the floor and replace them with what they want to get rid of until the period ends. And the prices, these bargains we so wholeheartedly adore, fall into this manipulation too.

Let me introduce you to the art of price-fixing. This is where retailers increase the price of items in their inventory before, for instance, Black Friday so then once the price is cut, it provides the public with the illusion of a good deal. Something could normally have a shelf value of £5, be placed up to £10 in the days before the event, and become halved back down to £5 when the day emerges. We see this product at half price and believe that we obtain more than what we paid for, whereas in fact, we’re succumbing to something false – a tactical industry move.

So, what should we do to combat this? How can we possibly avoid falling victim to these schemes? I’m not here to tell you to miserably stay indoors and never shop again, but I do feel that we can afford to be a bit more mindful. Before you go shopping perhaps make a list of who you intend to buy for and what you are thinking of buying, or if you’re shopping for yourself, have a look around the stores prior to the event and take note of what sparks interest and the price it is displayed as. Regardless of the fact that this day is apparently all about grabbing a bargain, there’s no reason to not stick to a budget. Leave your debit card at home and only go out with the amount of cash you can comfortably spend. And if you don’t need anything, don’t feel the pressure to participate because others are. Shopping nowadays has become a social event and pastime, especially for young people, but just because you are out with friends doesn’t mean you have to buy something.

I hope that this article has highlighted for you some of the trickery that can be found underneath Black Friday’s surface, and that it may encourage you to think before reaching into your pocket.

Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Pint Shop Cambridge: Interview & Food Review

By Ciéra Cree and Lorenzo Barba – We were recently given the opportunity by Pint Shop (Cambridge) to try their food and learn more about what they have to offer to students. To follow you will find…

By Ciéra Cree and Lorenzo Barba

We were recently given the opportunity by Pint Shop (Cambridge) to try their cuisine and learn more about what they have to offer to students. To follow you will find an interview that we conducted as well as a selection of reviews discussing some food and drinks that they kindly delivered to us.

Due to the current national lockdown caused by COVID-19, Pint Shop have had to close their restaurant doors. However, you can still order food via click and collect!

Lorenzo collecting our delivery from FoodStuff!
How long has the Pint Shop been open for? How did it all start?

Pint Shop opened on the 4th of November 2013, so we’re just coming up to its 7th Birthday. It all started when me and Benny met whilst in London. We wanted to open the sort of pub we’d drink in. We spent nearly two years looking for the perfect building, but knew the first time we walked into this building it was perfect.’

If you had to describe your establishment in 5 words, what would they be?

Simple, Seasonal, British, Fun, Boozy.’

Why do you feel that this is the best place for students? What do you offer them and how are you unique?

‘I think that we have the perfect blend of modern beer and cozy old pub. There are not many places which offer that around this area. We run a number of deals for students including Kebab Monday which is any Kebab and any beer for just £10. On a Tuesday it’s all about burgers, with a burger and a beer for £10. The best way to stay informed about our deals is to follow our special student Instagram account.’

What are your personal favourite items on the menu? Why?

‘Personally I love the kebabs; they have been one of our top selling dishes for years. However, probably the thing that most people know us for is our scotch eggs. We sell hundreds of them every week and they are always the recipe that people ask me for.’

Food Reviews
‘The Greatest Hits’ (£25): Ciéra’s Review
A snapshot of ‘The Greatest Hits’ including chips, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and a variety of sides.

As soon as I saw that ‘The Greatest Hits’ box included both chips as well as sausage rolls, I instantly knew that it was something that I wanted to try. I had actually been looking around stores in Cambridge for quite a while, trying to find a good sausage roll, but they are surprisingly hard to come by. The sausage rolls in this meal had lovely, flakey pastry. However, the chips were still the highlight for me.

Anyone that knows me is aware that I love a good portion of chips. The ones from Pint Shop reminded me of chip shop style servings that I used to get when visiting the sea when I was younger. The portions are a generous size as well (even as I’m typing this review up now I’m munching on some because I can’t help myself!).

This meal additionally came with two large scotch eggs, a variety of sides and a packet of pork scratchings. For two people buying this option from the menu would provide an incredible feast!

Fried Chicken and Chips (£10): Lorenzo’s Review
(Top right) A snapshot of the Pint Shop’s Fried Chicken and Chips

Upon opening the box, I immediately noted that the fried chicken and chips were beautifully presented. I could tell straight away that this was a place that takes genuine pride in what they do before even taking a bite. The chicken was succulent and crispy, falling clean off the bone, perfectly accompanied by a wide selection of condiments and dippings to further compliment the dish. 

The chips were deliciously crunchy and absorbed the flavour of the condiments perfectly. Despite being more than 50 miles away from the sea, these chips very much reminded me of the kind you would expect to receive when going to the seaside. All available at your front door or within the confines of a cozy pub in the heart of Cambridge!

Drink Reviews

Since neither myself or Lorenzo drink alcohol, we passed them on as a gift to his family. They shared the following thoughts with us:

A bottle of beer and Gin + Tonic delivered along with our meals

‘The gin and tonic was the best that I have ever had! It was so lemony and fresh, containing a perfect balance of the two flavours. I felt relaxed after having it; a very pleasurable experience!’

Kelly Barba

‘The first thing that I noticed as I opened the beer was the great smell. It tasted very nice and it’s a drink which I would recommend!’

Emanuele Barba
Overall Experience

Ciéra: From talking to the staff at the Pint Shop to the experience of receiving and trying the food itself, everything was pleasant. Doing this was my first time reviewing food for an establishment and I can say with certainty that it was something that was made memorable in the best of ways. If you’re reading this Elizabeth, thank you so much!

Lorenzo: I highly enjoyed my experience dining with the Pint Shop, and cannot recommend this lovely establishment enough. The staff were exceptionally friendly and welcoming. I truly felt like a valued customer, and despite only finishing my meal a short while ago I already cannot wait to dine there again! 

Images: Taken by Ciéra Cree

Discover Dig Deep’s Kilimanjaro Challenge: Summer 2021

By Ciéra Cree and Harriet Brass – In October of 2020 I was contacted by an organisation known as Dig Deep – a ‘clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya, established in 2007’…

By Ciéra Cree and Harriet Brass

In October of 2020 I was contacted by an organisation known as Dig Deep – a ‘clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya, established in 2007’. 

The email that they sent me sounded inspiring and insightful, offering students the potentially life-changing opportunity to embark on many new adventures. Myself and Harriet Brass (Fundraising Support Officer at Dig Deep), through a selection of interview style questions, discussed these opportunities in more depth as well as how students could get involved.

Who are Dig Deep? 

We are a clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya established in 2007. Our Mission is to unlock opportunity for Kenya’s poorest residents, county by county, by ensuring everyone has clean water, safe toilets, and good hygiene – forever. By reducing the time lost to water collection and preventable disease we remove barriers to learning and earning, allowing people to lift themselves out of poverty. We don’t do projects and walk away – we’re working with government and business to set up services and build self-sustaining systems.

What is the opportunity?

You can get involved and support the work that we do by taking on Kilimanjaro. We organize Kilimanjaro fundraising challenges to not only give you an amazing once in a lifetime experience but your fundraising provides the funds and resources to help unlock opportunity for the communities we serve in Kenya. We have been running these trips since 2011 and have taken over 1200 fundraisers to East Africa. 

Kilimanjaro is the challenge of a lifetime that will take you on an unforgettable journey to Tanzania and the Roof of Africa. If you join the team then next summer you will be heading out to Tanzania to climb the world’s highest freestanding mountain with a peak standing at just under 6000m above sea level. Our Kilimanjaro challenge encompasses a 6 day trek along the Machame route, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful on the mountain as you can see the summit on every day of your climb. Together, with your team, you will pass through 4 ecological zones ranging from rainforest to the incredible glacial zone at the top.    

Reaching the summit doesn’t have to be the end either. Each year our suppliers put together a couple of incredible value extension packages. These are excellent quality and normally include an epic 2 day Safari in Tarangire National Park, followed by 5 days relaxing with your team in the idyllic island paradise of Zanzibar.

Why is the opportunity beneficial to students?

‘This challenge is an excellent opportunity to develop transferable skills, push yourself out of your comfort zone and gain experience with an international development charity. You will be building and refining your abilities from time-management to networking, fundraising to marketing. The list is endless. Going beyond your comfort zone isn’t meant to be easy but you will reap the rewards in confidence, the relationships that you build and the places you will be able to see as a result of it. 

You will have a fundraising target of £2600 which is split 50:50 between a donation to Dig Deep and your in-country trip costs, but don’t worry! We will support you from the moment that you sign up. We offer what we feel is the most comprehensive fundraising support including a dedicated Fundraising Support Officer, virtual resources, monthly fundraising ideas, tailored fundraising plans, regular blog series and an extended network of past and present Dig Deep climbers just to name a few. 

If you want to go one step further there is also the opportunity to become one of our Team Leaders. Our Team Leaders help us to recruit and support our team of fundraisers throughout the year and have that extra level of responsibility. It’s a fabulous chance to develop your leadership skills, increase your charitable impact and encourage others to join you on this experience of a lifetime. There are also some great benefits to being a Team Leader just check out our website for more information.

Hopefully this all sounds appealing. If you would like to find out more then visit our challenge website at or simply pop the team an email at

Registrations are only open until the end of November to climb in 2021 and we will open applications for Team Leaders for 2022 around March 2021.

Images: Provided by Harriet Brass

Why No Detriment Should Still Apply

By Ciéra Cree – During the last academic year, we went into lockdown due to the impact of COVID-19. Inevitably, this had an adverse effect on our studies. Because our studies…

By Ciéra Cree

During the last academic year, we went into lockdown due to the impact of COVID-19. Inevitably, this had an adverse effect on our studies. Because our studies were impacted and we were to evacuate, the ‘no detriment policy’ was put into place. This was to ensure that the marks we achieved for the university year would not be impacted by the circumstances. The policy went into action after most of our lectures and seminars had ended, with the few that remained moving to take place online.

Undoubtedly, university staff all over the country have been doing their best to create a “new normal” for us. It’s in the nation’s best interests for studies to resume as smoothly as possible, and it’s truly amazing what has been done by the commitment of staff to their students. This cannot be overlooked, but this “new normal” still isn’t normal for us. It’s not what we signed up for, and the pandemic is not over.

Last year, as mentioned, the no detriment policy came into impact right before students were due to finish classes and produce their final assignments. It was put in place to assure students that their efforts throughout the academic year would not go to waste. As a first year student at the time, with none of my marks counting towards the final degree, the impact of COVID could only do so much. This year, however, many of us from that year group will now be entering our second year, and our marks will actually count.

Students need the no detriment policy now more than ever before. As opposed to a few lingering weeks, we’ll have a full year of content to learn this time. Although teaching may be resuming, the pandemic does not pause for our education. The pandemic does not care about our mental health. The pandemic has not ended. It is the responsibility of those capable to re-enact this policy.

Wearing masks in a classroom distanced from your peers is not the same as normal teaching. Learning online is not what everyone signed up for. If all of us students felt that we were best suited for online teaching, we would have opted to study a degree from home through somewhere such as Open University.

It’s important to note that COVID-19 will have impacted people’s friends and families. An acquaintance of mine passed away after contracting the virus and I can’t begin to imagine how their friends will be feeling trying to continue to do their work among the still evident threat of the virus looming. Yes, we have safety measures. Yes, we are going to do our best to be sensible. But no amount of being sensible is going to take away from the fact that students are going to be impacted by the way that society is suffering around them. 

Last year, Student Services at ARU were extremely busy, which made booking a slot with their Wellbeing Team difficult. With face-to-face appointments currently (and understandably) being unavailable with them until further notice, students will not have someone professional that they can talk to, in person, about the mental and emotional health problems which they may be facing due to the pandemic. The Wellbeing Team is still going to be accessible via telephone and Zoom call, which is great. But, in a situation where people may feel isolated and alone, a telephone call or virtual meeting really isn’t the same.

It’s the best that can be done in our current time, which is something that myself as well as countless others are sure to be more than grateful for. But, I feel that as students going through not only the regular stresses of people our age such as studies, managing a full or part-time job, and personal struggles, that having one less thing to worry about would benefit us, as well as our performance, greatly.

The no detriment policy isn’t a way to get students out of doing their work. If it were to apply again, we would still have to complete our assignments and pass our modules for it to take effect. If students are going to use it as an excuse to scrape a pass and reap the benefits of a safety net, that will be a reflection of them and their work ethic. However, for the majority of us, we just want to do our best and we see the work that we produce as a showcase of who we are and what we can do.

We are not in a position where we can be the best that we can be. There is nothing wrong with that. But, the pressure of trying to continue as “normal” among everything doesn’t feel right. We are hardworking, innovative and talented people who deserve to do and achieve great things, and we made a choice to invest our time, effort and money into our education to be where we are today.

I believe that the no detriment policy should still apply this year. If you agree, I humbly request that you share this article via your social media accounts and tag the following people so that we can gain some traction:

VP AHSS: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

VP B&L: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

VP HEMS: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

VP S&E: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

SU President: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

ARU: Instagram / Facebook /

ARU Student Union: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

Images: Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash.

A special thanks to Dan at Clefton Cohort for looking over this article prior to publication.

The ‘My Language’ Project – Young Norfolk Arts (2020)

By Ciéra Cree – Tuesday the 16th of June was when I first heard about the ‘My Language’ project and it really got me thinking. I was instantly intrigued and so many ideas raced…

By Ciéra Cree

Tuesday the 16th of June was when I first heard about the ‘My Language’ project and it really got me thinking. I was instantly intrigued and so many ideas raced into my mind; so many so that I thought that the best way for me to (ironically) use my language to convey them to you would be through the means of just writing things down.

The project is being launched by the Young Norfolk Arts Trust, as a follow-up from last year’s ‘Creative Multilingualism’ Project. In regards to what the project entails:

‘We’re inviting young artists aged 5-25 to respond to the question; what does my language mean to you? This could be your own language, or that of your family, friends and community. You can respond as part of your school group, individually or with members of your household.’


Participants are able to submit their responses to this in whichever medium that they wish. From photography or a short film to poetry or artwork, this opportunity really allows people to get creative!

Although the Young Norfolk Arts Festival exhibition has now passed, it remains as the intention of YNA to work further on this project and to have work displayed from it on the ‘My Language’ website. For more details about the project I recommend that you watch the introductory video provided by Young Norfolk Arts and to check out their page regarding the project.

You can upload a photograph of your artwork, a film, recordings, poetry or stories to or email them to

My Response – What does language mean to me?

I have always been a creative, quote-unquote “articulate” person, so in that more singular sense language appears everywhere. It appears in the books that I read, in my ears after hearing the speech of the people and wildlife around me, and in the poems and songs that I write. It radiates from me in the ways that it radiates from all of us – both overtly as well as silently.

My language is more than just what I say or what you see. It comes in many forms, from the ways in which I choose to visually present myself and the things that I choose to say, to the ways that my mind begins its processes of internalising and perceiving the world. 

A language, in my view, is constructed of many layers, meaning that although people may share a language of speech, our own personal languages still stand as being unique. Body language, boundaries and how we choose to self express. What we dislike, what we like, what media we consume with its influences and how we act. These are all aspects that, collectively, serve to assemble pieces of who we are.

My language is my identity. Well, at least a part of it. It’s my way of communicating myself as well as my thoughts and ideas to the world. Or even just the way that I have to communicate thoughts and ideas to myself, internally.

My language is as much referring to what I don’t say as to what it is that’s being said, and it also refers to the filtering that I go through to decide what will be said or left to remain as unsaid. What can be read between the lines of who I am? Does the world know who I am? Are the languages we communicate within the internal world largely different to that of the external world? To the latter question here I would say yes, although answering that is relatively subjective.

What are your thoughts on these matters? What does “your language” mean to you?

Image: Engin Yapici on Unsplash

How ARU’s Business Incubation Centre would Support Students

By Omkar Singh – The following article contains a discussion by Omkar Singh, current VP of the Business and Law Faculty, about the idea to launch a ‘Business Incubation Centre’…

By Omkar Singh

The place where ideas turn into reality

The following article contains a discussion by Omkar Singh, current VP of the Business and Law Faculty, about the idea to launch a ‘Business Incubation Centre’ available for student access. After joining ARU for a mere few months he decided to run in the Student Elections in March 2020, obtaining a winning spot as an officer and an enormous amount of votes.

This initiative is part of one of his new campaigns.

What exactly is an Incubation Centre in relation to business & study?

Today’s university students want more than academic degrees. They aim to launch businesses, develop new products and start social movements. ‘Incubation Centre’ is an idea sharing platform and networking space inside of a university apart from classrooms, libraries and the Students’ Union. This centre would focus on connecting students from all departments and courses under one roof. It should be equipped with all requirements to support student-led start-ups or existing businesses. Connecting local businesses and providing working desks, the centre’s do not only nurture students to start their dream ventures but they also create equal opportunities for internships and placements after graduation.

Image: Habita co-working space, Istanbul. Photo from HERE.

What is the Importance of an Incubation centre at University?

Providing a full-fledged accessible incubation centre to budding or aspiring entrepreneurs allows a space to grow the seeds of entrepreneurship, develop a broader sense of community and to enhance student employability prospects. During university years, students encounter a bombardment of new thoughts, opinions and ideas; I believe that, if these ideas are cultivated among an appropriate motivational environment, they can lead to great things both in terms of commercial success as well as personal success and fulfilment.

It would be amazing for us, as a university, to expand on the innovation which is already present. Having business societies, The Big Pitch and many other entrepreneurial activities on campus already depicts the zeal of innovation among the ARU students, but I feel we can always thrive for more. 

Image from ARU’s website

The ARU Incubation centre would have the following departments/sections:

Workstation/co-working space: This is a working space provided to selected start-up ventures. It includes the infrastructure which is required for the entity to grow and work. 

Stationary section and basic kitchen: This area attached to the workstation includes the stationary requirements like printers, papers, etc. and the kitchen area might include a coffee machine, microwave and kettle.

Technology support: Depending on the nature of a business, start-ups may require tech support which includes web development, app development, cloud services or any IT related requirements. Hence, this space will be the hub of all tech related requirements at one place.

Legal Dept.: This roof will be for the legal proceedings of the business. This includes services like registering a company (based on companies act) and handling queries, or workshops and presentations about tackling legalities of the entity. This roof will also be responsible for developing ethics in business.

Investment panel: Once the Incubation centre is set to launch, we will bring other external bodies to support the new ventures such as angle investors and venture capitalists (they are private equity investors, investing in start-ups).

Expert panel: This place is the hub of involvement and interaction between students and experts (might be university faculty or external body to a certain level), but preferably inside university experts. 

Events and Activities: This area will cover the workshops, seminars, webinars, presentations or talks. Any activities related to the centre which involves gathering. 

Local Business hub. : This can also be named as The Business Hub. The objective of this space is to connect our partner companies or associate companies; the point of connection to all of the stakeholders.

Admin: This area is the official admin point where the university will handle functioning related to the incubation centre. No one other than authorised staff are given access to use this space.

Library: A mini library filled with business related articles, newspapers, books and magazines as well as digital access to recorded talks, documentaries and, potentially, access to paid softwares.

Conference room: This is a space for small meetings.

Networking area: This is the centric space for networking and socialising. 

Alumni Support: Connecting ARU alumni with our existing students!

How will the incubation centre benefit students?

To follow are some bullet points which detail a few of the numerous benefits which would be brought about by the introduction of the ARU Business Incubation Centre.

Start up support:

It can be seen from above that the whole incubation centre is planned in a way to support students in starting their own ventures. Workstations, networking spaces and interdepartmental support can assist the growth of an idea into becoming a successful business entity. Tie-ups with large firms and local businesses will also play a prominent role in supporting the start-ups. 

Collaboration with other course students:

If like-minded students are given a platform irrespective of their course of study to exchange knowledge under one roof, this will give birth to innovative ideas. This is something which lacks in our university and the incubation centre would serve as a solution.


Networking is vital in business! Helping our students to make the right connections and to assist in building the foundations of their future should be a priority for all of us here with a voice. It shall also help students to gain access to placements and internships.

Local companies connect:

We aim to connect with the local companies in and around Cambridge and also in Chelmsford. These can be any firm operating at commercial level irrespective of the sector of operation. It will give students a platform to interact with them and to closely work in their projects. Indeed, it shall also be an opportunity for students to closely watch the working structure in real time.

Seminars / webinars:

Conducting seminars and webinars with company experts on various topics from science and arts to business will provide a huge source of knowledge to students, helping them to understand real life challenges that may arise from a variety of directions.

Alumni connect:

Inviting alumni and connecting them to our existing students through the incubation centre will boost students’ engagement and enhance their support system. 

‘I have already contacted the ARU student alumni group and have also got in touch with those who are literally owning ventures. I have requested them to provide a space on the alumni blog to connect with current students. I’m working on it’

– Omkar Singh to Ciéra Cree in a discussion

Access to online certification courses:

Having support available to students who wish to complete online certificates will allow them to boost their CV’s and to expand their knowledge on chosen areas of study within the field.

Some research into incubation centres in other UK universities

1. SETsquared

SETsquared is a unique enterprise partnership and a dynamic collaboration between the five leading research-led UK universities: Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. Ranked as the Global No. 1 Business Incubator, they provide a wide range of highly acclaimed support programmes to help turn ideas into thriving businesses.

Key point: SETsquared 

Since launching in 2002, they have supported over 4,000 entrepreneurs, helping them to raise a £1.8bn investment.

Independent research carried out by Warwick Economics has estimated that the economic impact of SETsquared supported companies to £8.6bn, with the creation of 20,000 jobs. By 2030 this is set to grow to £26.9bn. 

Image: sourced via SetSquared’s website

2. Oxford Start-up Incubators

This incubator has been in operation since 2011 and has:

• Taken in over 80 start-up ventures ranging from the medical domain to social media data analysis

• Has supported and worked with them on product development and initial commercial traction

• Has supported incubator ventures in attracting over $70 million from a range of public and private sources.

Business giants supporting start-ups through associations with Incubators 

3. Google for start-ups

Google for Entrepreneurs operates six Campus spaces and partners with dozens of hubs to bring people together, to connect them with others and to help launch great start-ups

Tools Google provide for budding ventures: please follow this link.   

Image: Google Incubation Centre, London

Thank you so much for reading. You can join this campaign and be a part of ARU’s first Business Incubation Center by sending me your joining interest on any of my social media accounts. You can also share a video message with the hashtag #ARUInnovation or message/tag my social media accounts (links are below) to share your opinion.  

Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / LinkedIn

There is also a quick four-question survey available here! I would really appreciate hearing your feedback in regards to this campaign.

Images: Body image credits can be found in their individual citations. Featured image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash.

Participate in Your Weekly AHSS Newsletter!

By Ciéra Cree – After recent discussions with our lovely new Vice President of AHSS, Fatima Lakhani, I discovered that the redesigned weekly newsletter includes two sections…

By Ciéra Cree

After recent discussions with our lovely new Vice President of AHSS, Fatima Lakhani, I discovered that the redesigned weekly newsletter (released on Mondays) includes two sections for students and ex-students to discuss their experiences as well as to potentially share their work.

Since this opportunity is new, it isn’t particularly well known, so it would be amazing to see word of its existence shared around the faculty, and to have some submissions for the sections come in via the relevant email contacts (see end of article). 

To follow below are details about the two sections, as well as examples and information regarding how you could get involved.


The first section that students can contribute to is the ‘Spotlight’ segment. The intention for this is for it to be a weekly feature starring someone within the AHSS Faculty alongside either a blog post detailing a bit about the person, their ARU experience and why they chose to be on the course which they are on or, alternatively, it can be used to showcase some of their creative work.

If writing a blog post sounds appealing to you, the newsletter is seeking text of around half a page in length which shall be accompanied by a head shot and details of what course you are taking (as well as your year of study).

However, if you would prefer to contribute an open studio/stage concept to showcase your work, the length that the newsletter organisers are looking for is a video with the duration of 5-8 minutes. The video would be hyperlinked in the segment, accompanying your head shot and a short written bio.


The second section available for AHSS students to submit to is the ‘Inspire’ segment. Unlike the ‘Spotlight’ segment, this feature won’t necessarily make an appearance every week.

This is a space for ex-students of the faculty to blog their experience about life after graduating, opportunities that have come their way beyond studies and to talk about how they got to be where they are now. Current students are also welcome to provide content for this segment too which could mention topics such as obstacles that they have overcome and if they have gained awards or commissioned work while studying.

For this section, the newsletter is seeking 3-4 short paragraphs of text to be published with your course information and a head shot.

I would personally encourage anyone to contribute to these sections. As part of AHSS myself (Media (BA Hons), Year 2), I know that we work hard and that hard work and talent more than deserves to be recognised! These are two great opportunities to do just that; they are quick, simple, easy to share and would make a great addition to your CV.

If you would like to be featured in one of these sections please email Nicola Maxwell ( or Fatima Lakhani ( with the email subject ‘Submission for the AHSS Newsletter – Spotlight (or) Inspire’.

Images: Examples provided by Fatima Lakhani. Featured image by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.

Society Showcase: ARU Chess Society

By Jack Seabrook – Are you interested in playing chess? Engaging in the art of war? Then this is the place for you! Hi, my name is Jack Seabrook…

By Jack Seabrook(ARU Chess Society)

Are you interested in playing chess? Engaging in the art of war? Then this is the place for you! 

Hi, my name is Jack Seabrook, President of the ARU Chess Society on the Cambridge campus. I decided to take ownership of the Chess Society upon starting university during my first week of settling in.

Within that time, I attended a games night set up by the Students Union, naturally gravitating towards the corner adorned by chessboards. It was there, in a perfect situation, that I happened to meet my first friend at university.

After playing a few games we hit upon a discussion, wondering whether ARU had an individual space for those like us who held an exuberant passion for the game or, if that were not the case, whether to go about creating one of our own. 

That is the story of how we came to be where we are now; playing the game that we love, indulging in our passion and aiming to share our interest with all of you!

I have loved chess all of my life; the symbolic nature of battle, the testing of one’s intellectual limits in relation to planning, foresight and imagination, and more so than both of these factors combined, the outpour and expression of emotions from the brink of fear to the peak of joy. The sheer exhilaration of the game – that’s what I value the most. 

Many people tend to think of chess as a slow paced game, not meant for the time of youth, but I challenge you to come and join us for a match where we can prove you wrong! Join us and be introduced to the racing of one’s heart and the pace that one’s thoughts run through whilst learning something new. 

‘The Chess Society has really helped me to improve my skills over the board, to brush up on main lines and openings which, previously, I was unfamiliar with. As well as being a welcoming society for newcomers and beginners (like myself), it’s an amazing place to see how beautiful the game is and to make new friends who will share a common interest.’

– Lorenzo Barba (Committee Member)

I personally believe that an individual is missing out on a large portion of life without chess, not purely speaking in terms of the game itself. The developing and nurturing of skills and the rapid thinking that it entails as well as its ability to evoke a player to decipher deeper meanings – there is so much more to this game beyond its surface.

Still think chess isn’t for you? Nonsense!

“Chess is everything; art, science, sport.”

– Anatoly Karpov, Chess World Championship 1975-85 (Source)
  • Harmonise your forces
  • Methodise your strategy
  • Charge for the front

So whether you already love the game, or want a pastime to get you off of your phone, I assure you that our society is well worth giving a shot.

Image: Charlie Solorzano on Unsplash

My Inspiration: Rowan Windham

By Yahan Xie – Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system…

By Yahan Xie

Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system, pancreas, and numerous others that I’m forgetting about right now. He went through so much in such a short amount of time.

He spent a third of his life in the hospital and also underwent almost 100 surgeries. Even with everything that he went through, he still loved every day of his life. “I love my life!” were the last words he said before he was intubated for the last time. Not a day went by that he didn’t say “I love my life!”, and he truly meant it. He was my rock on many of my darkest days. I still remember how whenever I hit a new low, I thought, “If Rowan will be ok, then I’ll be ok.” I always wore my “Rally for Rowan” shirts on hard days as a reminder to keep going even when life’s hard. I still do that sometimes. I wore it once underneath another shirt when I ran a tough mudder at camp one summer since I didn’t want to get it dirty, but I still wanted to bring Rowan along to keep me going since I didn’t want to do it. It turned out to be an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I did it. 

There are so many things that I love about Rowan. I remember being immediately drawn to his story after reading about the amazing bond he had with Jalene, one of his young friends that he met while in the hospital. Throughout the 20 months that I’ve known his story, I’ve learned that we also have several things in common. We both shared a deep passion for our faith and we both loved art, cooking, and theatre. I was thrilled to find out that we had been in some of the same shows before, along with the fact that he’s been in some shows that I’ve always dreamed of being cast in, such as Shrek Jr. I also found out later that he always wanted to learn the violin, an instrument I’ve played for 6 years. Ever since I came to know Rowan’s story, I always dreamed about making it down to Texas someday to meet him in person to talk about all of the stuff that we had in common, to teach him violin, and to thank him for all that God has done through him. It still hurts knowing that that chance will never come. I still have goals of making it down to Texas one day, I just have a different itinerary this time around.

Rowan’s amazing faith deeply inspired me. I remember when he was just about to leave for Seattle around this time last year. He and his mom were talking about what was going to happen in the coming months. He said, “I’m 100% sure that I want to get the transplant. Even if there was only a 50/50 chance it would work, there’s a 100% chance it won’t work…if I don’t take the chance. And with God, I feel like it’s a 100% chance I will make it through this. I’d rather take the chance of it working, and the risk of it not working…even if there’s a chance of death…because I trust my life with God.” He also said, “I’ll be ok either way” to refer to how he knew he’d be ok even if he did go to Heaven because of how amazing a place it is. Copying that dialogue over now still makes me lose my breath at how amazing his words are. He truly was wise beyond his years. 

Another thing that I loved about Rowan was his selflessness. He never only focused on himself. Someone else who also loved him recently posted to Facebook about a dream that she had. In the dream, Rowan kept having to move hospital rooms to make room for other patients. But he didn’t mind. He was more concerned about the person who needed the room than he was with himself. The dream has been hard for me to forget. There is no doubt that that’s something he would have actually done if he ever found himself in that situation. When he was younger, an organization called Kidd’s Kids had arranged a trip to Disney World for him and his family. Like any kid, Rowan really enjoyed the trip. But unlike most kids, the question he had asked his mom when the trip ended wasn’t, “When can we go again?”. Instead, he was more concerned about the question, “What can I do so more kids can go next year?”.

Plans for a lemonade stand came together relatively quickly. Rowan’s fundraiser soon became an annual thing which quickly expanded. Overall, he raised nearly $15,000 for Kidd’s Kids. He also greatly cared for his friends and their families. He was very close with two of his friend’s mommas, Jalene and Adrian moms, and I’m sure that there were many others as well. Around this time last year, he was working on a memorial garden to honor Jalene. I still remember following the progress on it through his mom’s blog. I could tell that he had put a lot of time, effort, and love into the project. It came out to be really amazing. 

I remember when school first started, I wanted to send Rowan something as he was going through his first transplant, so I asked his mom what his favorite colors were and I made him a kusudama. His mom sent me a picture after it arrived, and it also made a few appearances in pictures that have been shared to his mom’s blog which is sweet. Because I was shipping a whole pack of play-doh along with the kusudama, it turned out to be a relatively heavy package, which meant it cost more than I expected to ship. I remember walking out of the post office at my school realizing that I wasn’t so concerned about the shipping price like I usually am when stuff costs more than I expected. I then realized that it didn’t remotely matter to me at that moment. I just wanted Rowan to feel loved and like he could still be a kid despite everything that he was going through.

Unfortunately, because of what Rowan means to me, that has made having to let him go very difficult. I know what grief is like. It has crept into my life on many occasions after I’ve had to outlive so many of my biggest inspirations. Yet having to live with a Rowan-sized hole in my heart is hands-down the hardest thing that I’ve had to ever walk through. The pain has lessened with time, but it hasn’t disappeared completely. 

So to wrap up, I guess, I’m sure you can tell what an amazing boy Rowan is and always will be. And I hope that you’ll be able to understand why he means so much to me. 

You can visit Rowan’s mom’s blog here.

You can also visit Yahan’s tribute Instagram account here.

Images: Photos of Rowan have been provided by his family. Main image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

‘Normal People’ (BBC) – Series Overview

By Lily Brown – University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their…

By Lily Brown

University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their parents and it can be a time to meet new people, explore new things and learn a few things along the way.

Normal People, originally a novel by Sally Rooney, and recently adapted into a twelve-part series for BBC Three follows the relationship and lives of Marianne and Connell, a young couple from Sligo. The novel and series chronicles their on/off relationship through sixth form and then university and through happy, traumatic and challenging moments in both of their lives.

For me, this story of young love rang true not only because their relationship was complicated and fraught with misunderstandings as well as romance and passion but because it dealt with some of the more difficult and challenging aspects of university life. For Marianne, university is, initially, a revelation. She has gone from being a strong but socially isolated teenager in sixth form, to be an adored member of a friendship group and girlfriend to an enthusiastic member of the university debate team. She is being recognised for her intelligence and admired for her beauty in ways that she never was at school, and at first, she enjoys the attention and the friendships she has gained. She grows in confidence and blossoms into a person somewhat unrecognisable from her school days. However, her initial relationship ends and she soon finds herself involved with Jamie who resents her friendship with Connell and eventually the relationship ends on particularly bad terms. On her return to university after studying abroad she finds herself without her big group of friends but knowing who her true friends are.  

Connell too, experiences hardships that he never could have dreamt of at school where he was popular with the lads in his year group and admired by the most popular girls in school. He is a star player on the Gaelic football team and attends every social event. However, even at these early stages in the narrative, we are given a glimpse into his insecurities. Even though he clearly likes Marianne, he is paralysed with fear at the thought of admitting to his friends that he wants to be with her, and he allows this to guide his actions towards Marianne.

At university, these feelings of insecurity only worsen and evolve into loneliness and isolation. His depression starts to affect his relationship with his girlfriend, Helen. His friend Niall recommends seeking help and we see Connell starting to work through his feelings around his friend’s death and his own vulnerabilities. The issue of mental health problems faced by university students at every level has been highlighted in the media over the past few years and this representation of Connell recognising and seeking help is important for those experiencing similar problems while at university.

Towards the end of the series we see Connell and Marianne really begin to settle into university life and into the friendships and relationships they have developed over their time there. Through the encouragement and support he receives from Marianne; Connell decides to accept a place on a course at a university in New York. The series shows lots of positive aspects of university life including parties and opportunities to study abroad and it balances with realistic and sympathetic portrayals of the hard work and dedication that goes in to studying and living at university.

Image: The Guardian

Identity: The ‘Who Am I’ Project (BBC Voices, 2020)

By Ciéra Cree – In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of…

By Ciéra Cree

In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of yourself surrounded by items that link to who you are. This photo would then be posted onto their social media along with a one minute voice over discussing the photo.

As soon as I heard about this project I was keen to get involved. I enjoy participating in projects anyway but there was something particularly intriguing about trying to capture an identity within a single image. It was also interesting to see a project like this taking to Instagram and I really liked how the one minute length would perfectly suit the platform.

Quite a few ideas raced around my head initially before taking any photographs. I wanted to make my photo visually appealing and clever but at the same time I didn’t want to make it seem overly constructed to the point that it would detract from the main point of the task itself. This project isn’t about taking a perfect photo, it’s about taking one that captures your identity, and as humans we are all flawed.

Eventually I decided to take my photo laying down to reflect my “grounded” nature as well as the fact that I often dream. I surrounded myself with a number of items including some of my favourite novels, an anthology of love poetry that I’ve been published in, some philosophy books, a camera, a pair of binoculars, a scented candle, and some handwritten letters.

When shooting photos for this it took a little while to figure out the best way to go about it and the right way to space the items within the frame. At first I placed objects around my entire body but this proved to work less effectively than placing them closer together. In my final version the image is more zoomed in and I decided to add in a thought bubble which says the word ‘dreams’ to more fluently connect to the fact that my eyes are shut as I’m laying there dreaming.

After the photoshoot was over I went home to record the one minute audio accompaniment for the image. I scripted up what I planned to say before taking the photos as writing it prior to the shoot helped me to visualise how I wanted my identity portrayal to look. In a way a minute is a long time in regards to how many words you can script but, when undertaking this project, I quickly realised that I had to be somewhat concise as there’s so much that can be said about ‘identity’. My final dialogue came out as follows:

‘Hi, I’m Ciéra. I’m 20 years old and live in a quiet little village called Beeston. I’m a person with unapologetic passion and an unending trail of ideas. From poetry and photography to singing, songwriting and writing articles, the desire to create within me will never die. I think a lot, especially philosophically, and I feel a lot too. At times these depths are my enemy but as I’ve grown older I have started to learn how to embrace them as my own. I have an affinity for old fashioned things such as handwritten letters and vintage dresses, and an incredible sense of adoration for the sky. I do my best to be a grateful person and appreciate each moment as much as possible, although it isn’t always easy. My heart is soft, I love hugs and giggle way too much, and I dream nearly every night. Who knows, maybe you will appear in one someday.’

I did my best to think about small details within the piece. For example, the blue book next to me called ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ is not only a favourite book of mine, but it also linked well to where my audio accompaniment mentioned that I have ‘an incredible sense of adoration for the sky’

My advice to anyone who is potentially interested in a project like this is to think about what you’re going to do but to simultaneously try not to overthink it. When you ponder your identity what are the first thoughts and ideas that come to mind? What resonates with you?

For more details on the project and to view people’s submissions visit @norfolkthesocial

Images: Ciéra Cree, Aidan Drury and K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash