The strength to be weak

Spending hours reading about genocides of indigenous people: the continued Western pillaging of their ex-colonies’ natural resources and their subsequent crippling debt, begins to take its tole on my mental health. Who said that a language degree was supposed to be cheery?

I find that I am left with two options: either to switch off all empathetic capacity to anyone outside my immediate periphery, or to care and to hurt, without letting these emotions overwhelm me. For me, compassion is an integral part of being human; the people I know who try to block out pain end up hurting and isolating themselves far more than the people who learn that it’s okay to feel.

So, what does it look like to read torture accounts of everyday people with lives parallel to my own; to engage with them emotionally and intellectually, but then to walk away and enjoy life afterwards? Continue reading

Far too many mushrooms

Mushrooms in your kitchen ceiling are never a good sign. My flatmates and I have tried joking about using them to start an illicit business, but in reality, they make a pretty horrible living environment. The expanding damp patch down the walls and excessive ceiling mould is completely grim.

When trying to juggle a degree, with all its demands and pressures, and look after myself, and maintain a social life, the sudden unexpected stress of a leaking pipe and unresponsive landlord can feel overwhelming. I am relieved that I do not have to fix the problem myself, but there still remains the underlying stress of how to successfully communicate my complaint to my landlord. I struggle with any form of conflict; let alone in a professional circumstance where I need results urgently! Continue reading

City of Sanctuary

Sometimes the most effective way of bringing social change is through a spreadsheet. I hate admin. The idea of spending forty hours a week cemented to an office chair is my idea of soul destruction. And yet, I felt incredibly privileged to spend a few hours each week typing out customer reference numbers and tapping in personal details for some of society’s most vulnerable people: asylum seekers. It is so easy to sigh at a ceaseless stream of statistics until you stop and look up at the person in front of you. They have already lost their home and history in their country of origin. Whilst trying to make a new life for themselves in the UK, suddenly they have tripped on one of the innumerable snares that entrammels every aspect of the web-like asylum process. One mistake; one wrong move and the jaws of a system designed to reject them clamps around their ankles, and their claim for asylum crumbles to dust. One wrong turn of phrase; one scarcely validated clause and they can be told that they are in fact Egyptian and not Syrian; heterosexual and not homosexual, and the country that has been baying for their blood in reality holds open welcoming arms.

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Freshers’ Week: the details nobody thinks of

Coming up to starting University, your older brother will probably scare you with stories of his wild Freshers antics, your mother will probably scare you with her excessive fussing, and everyone else will probably scare you with a wild array of contradicting advice. The only thing that you need to remember is this: just be yourself.

Aside from the emotional advice, I have compiled a practical list of all the details that would have made starting University so much easier had I known about them beforehand: Continue reading

Another side of Sheffield

Student life can easily become an affluent bubble. My daily commute during first year meant that I hardly strayed from Endcliffe and the University’s world-class facilities. If I did, it was often only to Division Street, for lunch breaks in hipster cafés with my student friends who were equally immersed in this world. It is very easy to create the illusion that Sheffield is entirely made up of large, tree-lined boulevards, where life is laid-back and comfortable for pretty much everyone.

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Migration Matters

There are some conversations that you do not want to overhear. The bile was already rising in my throat as the train commuter opposite verbally dissected a female friend for his mates’ enjoyment. As he crescendoed into pitiful excuses over why our tiny island has “no room for immigrants”, I was ready to walk out of the carriage.

During Refugee Week, volunteering at “Migration Matters Festival” was a powerful way for me to respond to this rampant xenophobia. Celebrating how immigrants and asylum seekers enrich our society, Theatre Delicatessen came alive with stories, sounds and smells: humans from all over the world clustered together freed from labels and stereotypes and prejudice. Our common humanity united us. Continue reading

Frehiwet Habesha

When revision makes life feel incredibly monotonous, what better to do than go on a culinary adventure? I was ridiculously excited to discover that on Exchange Street, “Frehiwet Habesha” restaurant sells my all-time favourite food: Injera-b-wot.

During my first few years after arriving in England, Ethiopian restaurants were hard to come by. This was partly because the bread injera is traditionally made with the gluten-free supergrain teff (ጤፍ), which is hard to find outside the Ethiopian highlands. It is easy to find in London, and has now moved its way up to Leicester. Frehiwet Habesha still uses wheat flour, but it is definitely a passable alternative. Hopefully with the rising recognition of teff‘s (ጤፍ) superfood properties, it will become more widely available.  Ethiopian food caters for everyone. As well as being gluten free, the fasting food is vegan friendly, but there are also plenty of traditional chicken, lamb and beef dishes. Continue reading

This Girl Can

The most important lesson that I have learnt during my first six months as an undergraduate, is the importance of failing regularly.

Before University, the idea of starting from nothing terrified me; especially the idea of being “incapable”. Therefore, I simply continued with what already knew: I never tried anything that could result in failure.

Sport was one area that I never dreamt of venturing into. At school, P.E. was incredibly elitist: you were either on the A team, or a waste of everyone’s time. Leaving school, I was certain that University would be exactly the same, if not worse. Continue reading

Radical generosity

I left 2016 with the desire to better understand generosity. Christmas presents can seem so much like exchanges: “They spent £x on me so I had better spend the same”; “I must buy … a present otherwise…”

Student income creates extra complications in the quest for generous living, as like many, I do not have an abundant bank balance to give away. I also have the joyous problem of having more friends to give to than money in the bank. Continue reading