Category Archives: Student

Third Year: A Battle With Stress

I don’t believe that I have ever been so stressed before.


It is coming towards the business end of the year now at University. Exams to revise for, dissertations to complete, future to think about… it is all very nerve-wracking indeed. I have not had it as bad compared to others. A few friends have had three or four essays due in the space of a week towards the end of March. Nevertheless, it was still quite frustrating when one said that I shouldn’t be so stressed thanks to my lack of deadlines during this time. However, April will see me prepare a presentation for a French oral exam and also hand in two dissertations – both of which have their deadlines on the same day, the day after my French exam. Thus, I am very stressed indeed.


However, it goes without saying that these will be completed well before their deadlines; I already have first draft copies completed for both.


As much as I have enjoyed it, I will be glad to see the back of this academic year. I have been running on empty for quite a while now and it will be nice to be able to switch off for a bit. Students get a lot of bad press nowadays. Whereas the stereotype is still very much embedded in alcohol and partying, not enough attention is paid to the pressures that the final year brings. For those who are in second, or even their first year, prepare yourselves, as third year is notoriously difficult to grapple with. Just when you think that you’ve got everything covered, something else pops up that needs to be done. Quite simply, there is lots of work to do, with not enough hours in the day.


Conversely, there is light at the end of the tunnel. My last exam is on the 15th of May, upon which time I will let out an almighty sigh of relief. I have given absolutely everything this year; I can only hope that it all pays off.


What is the issue with Israeli settlements?

Originally published online by The Knowledge, Plymouth University’s student newspaper, on the 14th March 2014:

Recently, I was lucky enough to go on the International Relations fieldtrip to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The trip saw us spend ten days predominantly in the West Bank as we learnt about the latest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how these issues were affecting the local population. In my opinion, there was one issue that seems to be particularly salient in the crisis, and that is of Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements, or communities depending on how you view the political situation, have been under construction in the West Bank since it was occupied by Israel in 1967, and are now home to at least 350,000 Israelis. Furthermore, these settlements – linked to each other by roads which may only be used by Israelis, and not Palestinians – are considered to be illegal under international law, as Israel has built them on what is considered to be occupied land. Therefore, we knew of the controversy surrounding the settlements before we had even left for Israel.

As such, we were lucky enough to be given a tour of one Israeli settlement by activist, Angela Godfrey-Goldstein. Indeed, Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement that has city status, is found just 4 miles away from Jerusalem. It has a population of around 40,000 people, and is thus one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. When driving around, it is clear that Ma’ale Adumim is a nice place to live in. It is modern with a friendly environment, and life seems to be quite laid back.

However, beyond the modern suburban feel is the true story about how these settlements are being built. Indeed, many Palestinians are now being forced off of their land, in order to make way for Israeli settlements. After visiting Ma’ale Adumim, we visited a nearby Palestinian Bedouin, whose home had been demolished by the Israeli Army (pictured). Indeed, his home had been knocked down due to being in the ‘E1 Area’, an area between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem that the Israeli government has earmarked for expansion. Furthermore, there are many other Palestinians whose homes are being knocked down in a similar fashion in order to make way for Israeli settlements.


One has to ask, is it fair to be knocking down Palestinian homes? One Israeli settler that we had spoken to, in the settlement of Efrat, admitted that it was unfair that Palestinians were being displaced, but then went on to state that it was a necessary evil in order to guarantee Israeli security. Indeed, it is argued that an increased Jewish presence in the West Bank would reduce the chances of terrorist activity that being carried out there. Additionally, there is also the argument that Israel is more than entitled to build on the West Bank, as its claim to the land is biblical.

On the other hand, Palestinians – who are understandably frustrated with the current situation – will also be concerned that Israel is planning further settlement building – for example, at Ma’ale Adumim, in order to link it with Jerusalem – thus dividing the West Bank and making it even more difficult for Palestinians to find self-determination. Indeed, construction within the ‘E1 Area’ would cut the West Bank off almost completely from East Jerusalem, and would make access to Jerusalem even harder for Palestinians to come by.

Indeed, this article has not even scratched the surface and is far too brief to capture the entire situation of settlements in the West Bank. However, whatever your view of Israeli politics, it could be argued that the Palestinian crisis will not be solved without firstly addressing the settlement issue.

Education in the face of adversity.

Having been immersed in the politics of Palestine, it was interesting to visit Bethlehem University. I was interested in seeing what – if any – impact the crisis had on education in Palestine. In all honesty, I found the trip to Bethlehem University to be most inspiring.

The first thing that struck me was the campus. The campus is superb. The architecture – both inside and outside – is fantastic. The buildings are colourful, impressive and very well maintained, and their desert colours also blend well with the greenery that is dotted around here and there. We were shown inside the University chapel, which was also impressive. Indeed, whereas all of the churches that we had seen on the trip were dedicated to Jesus Christ as an adult, this one was dedicated to him as a child. I felt that it was also a small reminder of the children that were also being affected by the crisis.


As such, talk of the  chapel also links nicely to Bethlehem University’s religious setup. Indeed, it is a Catholic institution, started with support from the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers. However, what is also fascinating is that 71% of its students are Muslim. This is not to say that a ‘Clash of Civilisations’ exists within the University. In fact, it is very much the opposite. It is an example of a place where different religions can co-exist in harmony, something that seems relevant in a conflict where religions appear to have clashed. Furthermore, 75% of its students are also female.

However, having said that, the conflict has had its toll on the University. There is a small memorial on the grounds of the University, commemorating those who had died while serving the institution. Indeed, we had learnt of a student who had died on campus after being shot by the Israeli army. Furthermore, it has also been closed twelve times since its inception, once for up to three years at a time. However, the University still held classes off-campus, to ensure that students were not disadvantaged.


One student, Berlanty Azzam, was another example of how the crisis could interfere with the University’s education. During her final-year, she was detained whilst travelling around the West Bank, was blindfolded and handcuffed, and was then forcibly deported back to her home in Gaza in the middle of the night. Despite her continued efforts and other international pressures, the Israeli authorities would not let her go back to Bethlehem to study. However, in spite of all this, she was able to continue her course via correspondence, and as a result, graduated in 2010. It is a story of how perseverance always prevails.

After having learnt about Berlanty’s story, we spoke to a few of Bethlehem’s students. It was an inspiring Q & A session. One student who I spoke to is just about to enter their final year of her business degree. Having already been to South Korea, she plans to continue travelling and to see more of the world. I have nothing but admiration for the way in which she, along with her fellow students, has refused to let the occupation – however fierce it may be – interfere with their hopes and dreams.

It also hit home for some of us just how lucky we are to be able to study and travel without being watched by an occupying power. Indeed, if only the rest of my colleagues at University were just as aware.

It’s been a while.

I’d forgotten about this blog for a little while. The demands of University are still ever stressful. Many sleepless nights have been had, but luckily, no grey hairs have appeared. Yet.

“What’s new?”, I hear you ask. I’m off to Israel at the weekend on a fieldtrip with Uni. Exciting, eh? It’ll be nice to grab some first-hand experience of life there. It’ll also be nice to get away from the wind and rain. Although, having said that, it is pretty sunny outside today. As you will have guessed, I’m stuck in the library.

I’m now also over half-way through my dissertation, which is also lovely news. 6,500 words down, 5,500 to go. I’ve also branched out, I have another blog, based on all things Football (or Soccer, for my American friends): – It’s not perfect, but stick with me, I’ll get there eventually.

I will post something worthwhile on here soon. When I’m not snowed under with coursework, dissertations, or other tasks, like cleaning my flat.

Until then…

From Zero to Hero

I was having a session of deep thought earlier, and as such, I thought I would share it with the world… if there is anyone out there, that is. Indeed, while procrastinating from uni work, I came across this quote:


Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something‘. – Morihei Ueshiba


I couldn’t agree more with this quote. Everybody has a down moment every now and then. We all make mistakes; to err is human, after all. I’ve had several of these moments in my 21 years. It could happen when you’re playing in goal for your local football team, when you make an absolute howler and end up conceding a goal, much to the disarray of your team-mates (this occurred almost every week in my youth). It may even happen at school, college or university, when a piece of your work, that you thought was ace, comes back with a really bad grade. Even in the relationships in our life, sometimes we just completely bugger it up.


These are times in which we find things difficult. However, success is never so far removed, no matter how bad things get. We are not defined by our failures or wrongdoings, we are defined by how we bounce back from them. As long as you keep trying, then you will save a penalty one day. You will get that A* at school, or even that First at university. Confidence and self-belief will always bring out the best in us, and help us go from zero to hero.


Apologies for my session of deep thought. Apologies for the goalkeeper analogy as well… That one is quite personal to me.

Neknominate? No.

Neknominate? No.

You’ll have to forgive me for being an old and cynical git now. And yes, I am still a student, contrary to what the tone of this post might suggest.

However, there is a new craze doing the rounds at Uni and also on social media at the moment, and it is a craze that I am finding most infuriating. This craze is known as ‘Neknominate’, or ‘nekominate’, or God knows what else (It’s all explained on the link below).

This craze involves being ‘neknominated’ by someone to down a pint (although, certain videos show people downing considerably more) of a vile concoction of alcohol, on a video to be posted online, and then nominate someone to do the same within 24 hours. The concoction of alcohol varies, although I did overhear on campus of a pint made of Vodka, Lager, Bitter, Sambuca, Lemon Juice, and just for good measure, Vinegar.

This ‘neknomiate’ business really hacks me off. Young people and students get a lot of bad press nowadays, and posting videos online of ourselves getting slaughtered will not help. Furthermore, where does it all stop? The stuff that is being consumed in these videos will only get more and more stupid, and someone somewhere will soon drink something that will really do some harm.

Finally, what do you do when the future employer of your dream job finds that video of you online? What will have seemed like a good idea at the time, will actually strike you for what it really is: a really stupid idea.

Rant over.

Why Should I Bother Voting?

Originally published online by The Knowledge, as part of their series on the University of Plymouth’s Student Union election season:

It is that time of year again. Posters are up, leaflets are being passed around, arrangements are being made. Indeed, there is a student somewhere who is preparing to gear up to try and become the Student Union President, and he or she will succeed. However, while there is an inevitable buzz about taking part in the politics of the UPSU, there is also an inevitable feeling of apathy. Final year students may (understandably) ask: “Why should I vote? I won’t be here next year.” Others may also ask: “How will the results of the SU elections affect me anyway? There’s no point in me voting.”

No doubt that, in the next few weeks, the UPSU will start trying to reverse such apathy. However, if you need any persuading as to why you should use your vote in the Student Elections, you need only switch on your television.

If you have watched the news this week, you will have seen the events of a referendum being held in Egypt. The referendum will decide whether or not a new constitution, drafted by the interim government and also one which greatly benefits the Egyptian military, will come into force in Egypt. Indeed, the news showed billboards urging voters to vote ‘Yes’, television adverts with the same message, and also queues of excited voters, excited to give their backing to the new constitution.

But, this is only half the story. There is also a large group of people who would say ‘No’ to the new constitution. Indeed, this group of people were the supporters of Egypt’s previous President, Mohammad Morsi. They too, will have been excited as the ‘Yes’ voters are, when their candidate won the (democratic, I hasten to add) Presidential Elections in June 2012.

However, Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian Army in July 2013; an event which was followed by anguish for those who had voted for him. It was felt that the fact that their democratically-elected President was ousted by the Army had reversed the progress towards democracy that the Egyptians had made in the first place. They will also feel aggrieved that the same powers that ousted their President, are the same powers that have written the draft constitution, and it will be the same powers that are entrenched in the Egyptian government should the new constitution be passed. The general consensus is that it will be.

“How is this relevant to the UPSU elections?”, I hear you ask. My response? These events are relevant to any vote, and not just the UPSU elections. These events act as reminders to us of just how lucky we are, in this election and also many others. Indeed, if your choice for the Union’s President wins this year, or even your choice for Prime Minister next year, he or she will not be overthrown by a coup soon after. It sounds far-fetched, but it certainly is not far-fetched to those who have experienced it.

Make the most of your vote, for you have the opportunity to do so, without fear of outside interference.