Placement blogs

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.


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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

Almost all my time during the past few weeks has been delegated to the Volunteer team, where I have helped create and disseminate a Volunteer Satisfaction Survey for Sense volunteers to rate their volunteering experience, as well as note down any improvements they think Sense could make to volunteering opportunities within the organisation. This has meant a lot of monotonous envelope stuffing, but we roped in some extra help from surrounding teams which gave them a short break from working at their computers.






A few quick tips if you are ever given a mailing to send out (which I definitely wish I knew before starting some of the ones I have been tasked with this year!):

  • Make a coherent list of the places, or people, you are sending the information to. Once each of these has been fulfilled, mark it down as done.
  • If you are using envelopes with windows, measure the space from the top of the document correctly when inserted into the envelope, and do tests with multiple addresses as you may get longer and shorter ones. This is something I especially wish I had known before printing a mailing to be sent to hundreds of people. Though I had measured the space at the top of the document against the top of the envelope, it didnt dawn on me that when documents are at the bottom of A4 portrait envelopes, they drop down so much you are in fact entirely unable to see the addresses. What followed was a stapling session of packs of envelopes to bump the materials upwards. Oops!
  • If, like the volunteer mailing above, you are asking for replies make sure you include stamped or freepost envelopes as well as the other documents.
  • When you receive the replies, jot down a few notes either on the front on the envelopes or on post it notes. Include where the replies are from, and how many are in each envelope. This will be particularly important if later on you need to collate the number of written responses you had.

I was then given the task of inputting the data responses into survey monkey. We received a great response rate, especially considering we sent 15 copies of the survey to 90 Sense shops, to name just one group. Luckily for me, one of my friends from the University of Bath is completing her placement around the corner from the Sense office, and wanted a few days work experience so was on hand to help me with this laborious task!


The Pros and Cons of having a desk to call your own

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"It's a wonderful world. You can't go backwards. You're always moving forward."
Harvey Fierstein

marlborough hill (800x450)

Apologies, and many more apologies for my absence in the world of blogging. I have had, let’s say, a very busy period of my life. ‘But where have you been Valerie?’, I hear you ask. And even if you aren’t asking, I’m going to tell you anyway.

It’s nearly the end of the (academic) year and I have been busy with writing my end of year report and also, writing a research paper for the Bristol Specialist Drugs and Alcohol Service (BSDAS). These past few weeks, I have been running around (well, more like spending hours of my life on buses) to different bases and people’s houses to conduct interviews with women on their experiences of mental illness and therapy. Sounds like a rainbow of interest and easy sailing, right? Well, it is a gold mine of interest, especially for Psychology research, but to my disdain, it is far from easy. Not only do I have to conduct hour long interviews, but I have to spend a day or two transcribing the interview into Word-format… That’s a story for another day.

Other than that, our previous base at the Blackberry Centre in Bristol has officially been cleared out. Yes, we basically got ‘kicked out’ of our office. This is because of the entire NHS restructuring, BSDAS has been changed to Bristol ROADS (Recovery Orientated Alcohol and Drugs Service) and the entire organisation has been reformed and transformed. This means bases have moved, the structure of the service we provide has changed… and well, for me, I just have to find a new place to sit and do my work.

Our team has spent the last month clearing out the building to move to a variety of places scattered around Bristol. It was like we were leaving the coup. By the end of the entire process, the building was but a drab of empty filing folders, tea mugs and the ghosts of a hustling-bustling team. Well, we didn’t die – it was just a big change from when I first starting working at the office.

Luckily for me, while everyone had the tedious job of packing years’ worth of belongings and files into multiple boxes for porters to shift to new places… I left with a pen, a stapler, a notebook and one textbook, and found it to be an easy, stress-free move to the Colston Fort base.

Alas, I shall bore you no more about the boring details of structure and reform and work politics. Let’s look at a more jovial side and the pros/cons of me shifting my little self (and my shortage of belongings) to working in a new place.

The PROS (yo):

  • In the new base… I can sleep an extra hour in the morning.
    The beauty of sleep, oh how I missed thee. The best part of my new office is that it’s only 15 minutes’ walk from my humble abode. Well, uphill. But still, I’d take this walk any day than having the hour and a half long journey that I previously had to work. I can stroll, I can be more relaxed, I don’t have to take the bus anymore. Everything was working out sweetly.
  • In the new base… I actually have people to talk to.
    Numbers were slowly starting to dwindle in the old centre. Until the point where I was eating lunch alone, I was sitting in an office for 7 people ALONE and sometimes I went home without any social interaction with a human being (apart from maybe talking to myself on the odd occasion)… it was really starting to get silly. Here, I actually get to see people again, and talk to people again, and have lunch with people again. I better stop rambling before I sound too much like a Gollum.
  • In the new base… I actually get to see some sunlight.
    Located at the heights of Bristol, we get a lot of sunlight in the office and a lovely view of the rest of the city. Something which is a big plus for me. The office also has a décor of one thing that is at the topic of my most appreciated things – big windows, which go from floor to ceiling. The offices and the kitchen all have these windows, making it a lot more relaxed and pleasant for me when I’m doing my work in the warmth of the sunlight.


  • In the new base… I don’t have to use my ‘swipey’ card to get through doors.
    In the last building, I felt majorly 007 getting through each door with my touch card. I used to even experiment with different ways to open doors with showy hand gestures with the card in my hand – I’m a nerd, I know. Anyway, at the new place there are no more touch cards. Instead we have a code for EACH DOOR. Tedious. At least, I learnt 5 numerical codes when I was desperate for the bathroom and had to hurry through each door in order to arrive at my final destination. (Even the toilet had a code, so that wasn’t fun).
  • In the new base… I don’t get to take my ‘favourite’ bus to work anymore.
    I’m just kidding, this one is a MASSIVE pro. You’ve heard me complaining about this bus the entire year because it never used to show up! I’m just so glad I don’t have to see the sight of that horrible creature anymore.
  • In the new base… I don’t actually have a desk.
    Awkward, that they moved me over here knowing that I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit, or read my emails, or schedule my appointments, or do my work. Turns out, a few people are in the same position as there just aren’t enough desks for the amount of staff anyway. We poor soldiers were just going to have to come in each morning and hope somebody isn’t in. Then steal their desk for a day.
  • In the new base… I don’t actually have a desk.
    Oh, yeah. I already mentioned that.


Easter Weekend (27/04/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

One of the places I wanted to visit before September was Toronto, so when Mary (my old roommate) offered me the chance to go back with her for Easter I was pretty excited. Mary, her boyfriend Jeff and a couple of their friends picked me up bright and early on Friday morning and we set off on the 5 hour trip to Hamilton. We travelled up in Jeff's stereotypically Canadian truck which was actually very comfortable. One of the biggest differences between England and Canada is the big empty spaces that seem to never end as you travel from city to city. Canada is the second biggest country in the world (it has a mind-blowing 6 time zones!) but England has a much larger population. Furthermore, with roughly 30% of Canadians living in either Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver it is hardly surprising that there is so much empty space! However, I actually enjoyed the journey, relaxing, catching up with Mary, who I hadn't seen in a while and listening to a miss-match of radio music. We arrived late on Friday evening and after an excellent dinner of fish and chips we spent the evening watching hockey with Mary's dad (again very stereotypical)!!

The next morning was full of excitement. Mary and Jeff were getting a new puppy and we picked the little chap up from an adoption centre in Hamilton. At only 7 weeks Sammy was a furry ball of energy that went crazy at just about anything! The adoption centre gave them a full bag of toys and he seemed determined to play with every single one at the same time! After about 30 minutes of mind-blowing excitement Sammy completely crashed and spent the rest of the day sleeping whilst we headed to Toronto!! We arrived in Union Square towards the end of the Toronto Raptors game which was really exciting! The Raptors are Toronto's basketball team and the only team outside of the US that plays in the NBA. This is the first time in ages that the team has reached the play-offs so there is a real buzz around the city with nearly everyone wearing the Raptors logo. The marketing campaign that has been developed to support the Raptors campaign is excellent (the Northern uprising) and has only further increased the hype around Toronto. This was demonstrated by the thousands of fans watching the game on a big screen outside of the stadium!! After catching the end of the game we went to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where I had the opportunity to hold the legendary Stanley Cup. I also extremely excited when I found a jersey from when Great Britain won a gold (yes gold) medal in Hockey way back in 1936. The fact that we beat Canada on the way made me so much happier and I spent a good half an hour joking about this with Mary and Jeff. After a quick bite to eat we headed to the CN Tower and did some standard tourism things! The weather was beautiful and I really enjoyed wandering around the city. Toronto is much bigger than Ottawa and has a very different feel to it (similar to London). One of the highlights of the trip was being power lifted by Batman. Whilst we were walking along a side street near Yonge-Dundas Square (the Times Square of Toronto) we came across Batman. Mary and Jeff wanted a picture with him so I took a couple of quick snaps after which Batman beckoned me over. He then proceeded to scoop me up over his shoulders whilst singing 'God Save the Queen'.

Soon it was Easter Sunday and I had a big Sunday lunch to look forward to with Mary's mum and her boyfriend (the same people I spent thanksgiving with). However, before dinner we were surprised with an Easter egg hunt!! The sight of four adults charging around the living room finding chocolate must have been quite funny!! Nothing beats a good old Easter egg hunt....The turkey dinner that followed was amazing and soon I had that after-Christmas-dinner feeling... Mary's mum also made an amazing array of Easter treats (gluten free for me) and we were all given a box of chocolates to take home!! Fair to say my blood glucose levels took a fair old beating...On Monday we went on another little trip...this time into the states for a visit to Buffalo. After shopping at some outlet malls (unbelievable discounts) we did the one thing that you have to do when visiting Buffalo...get some wings!!

There is some dispute about who came up with the original mouth-watering appetizer, but most credit the Anchor Bar in where else but... Buffalo!! The historic creation date for Buffalo Wings was October 30, 1964, when the owner of the Anchor Bar Teressa Bellissimo was faced with feeding her son and his friends a late snack. Having an excess of chicken wings on hand, she fried up the wings, dipped them in a buttered spicy chile sauce, and served them with celery and blue cheese dressing as a dipping sauce to cut the heat. The wings were an instant hit and have been ever since. Mine (I was a chicken and went for a medium hot dressing) were delicious and capped off a great day and weekend. The journey home was pretty uneventful although Jeff's truck probably had a rough time given that we had all put on at least 10 pounds over the weekend!!

I finished the week off at work which is getting really busy now. Zoe and myself are doing a lot more testing in the lab and we have all of the Academy testing to look forward to in May. We are also going to be involved with a couple of research projects which is fantastic and something that I hope will help when I have to do my dissertation next year.


Let's go RED SOX (11/04/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

So last weekend it was time to hit the road again!! It had been way too long since I last travelled anywhere (mainly because of the winter) and I jumped at the chance to visit some friends who I met in New York. So time for another 11 hours on the coach - this time to Boston!! I left work at around 4pm and headed to the local bus stop. At this point I would like to let people know that it has been warmer for the last couple of weeks. Whilst this is generally a very good thing...the weather on Friday reminded me of a typical summer day in England (I was completely soaked in the 10 minute walk to the bus station). The bus was of course late and so by the time I arrived down town I felt as though I had just jumped in a swimming pool (this was far from ideal). However, nothing was going to stop me from having a great weekend so I changed into my spare clothes and hopped on the bus. The plan was simple. My bus left at 10:30 pm and arrived at 9:30 am the next morning with the only scheduled stop being at the border. I would simply sleep through the whole journey and wake up refreshed and raring to go in Boston the next morning. Alas...the bus driver decided that he needed to stop at least once every two hours and if that wasn't enough he also felt the need to put on all the lights and tell us loudly over the speaker system every time he had stopped. So my dream of a full night's sleep was shattered and I arrived in Boston with a rather miserable 3 hours of sleep to my name. On the bright side, my fellow travellers were all in the same situation and I made friends with a guy (MacKenzie) from Ottawa who was going to see a band call Pentatonix. When I got back home to Ottawa I looked them up and I had actually seen some of their stuff before (they are pretty awesome - as the link shows);

So I ended up spending the morning with MacKenzie in Cambridge, checking out Harvard and the surrounding area. The campus was beautiful (even on a grey/cloudy morning) and I am sure that it will be stunning in the summer. We then crushed a coffee before MacKenzie headed to his concert and I met up with Marcus. We made our way downtown and spent what was left of the afternoon with my two German friends chilling in Boston Common, exploring the shops (getting lots of free samples) before heading to Fenway Park. We hadn't really planned anything for the weekend so the fact that Marcus and myself managed to get tickets for a Red Sox game was amazing!! We spent a good half an hour chatting to various people who were selling tickets outside of the stadium and we finally managed to talk someone down to $30 for a standing ticket. We ended up sneaking into a seated area (right behind third base) so we got an amazing view for our money. I am not exactly a die-hard baseball fan but I have to admit the game got off to a flyer!! After 3 innings (out of 9) the score was 6-5 to Milwaukee Brewers. We had seen 3 home runs (towards the Green Monster) and I was loving the sport. However for the next 7 innings (3 outs for each team) only one person managed to make it 6-6 and it's fair to say this part of the match was world's apart from the excitement at the start. However, the atmosphere in the ground was amazing; fans were all integrated, there was a big mexican wave (an astonishing 5 and a half laps) and towards the end of the game they started playing karaoke music, which (after several pints) everybody loved!! I also got to witness the ball game song;

It was a great experience and I count myself very lucky that I have had the opportunity to watch baseball at such a historic ground. On Sunday the weather was amazing - bright blue skies and a positive temperature (about 15/20 degrees)!! Woooo!! After a chilled morning watching Arsenal lose (again) we headed out to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. The square around the market was packed with shoppers, street performers and people enjoying the sun! We soaked up the atmosphere, got a quick bite to eat before further exploring the city. Marcus then took me to 'Mike's Pastries'...where I got some of the best gluten free cake I have ever tasted!! Each slice was only $1.50 and because I love to support local businesses I felt obliged to buy 4 slices. (In my defence they were reasonably small) The plan was to save at least two pieces for the way home...however holding a box full of cake was too much for me and within 10 minutes the box was in the bin and the cake was in me! We then headed to the harbour where we spent the afternoon (with what seemed like most of Boston's student population) relaxing and enjoying the sun. All two soon it was time to head home and after dinner and (I am ashamed to say) another quick stop at Mike's I headed to the bus station for the 11 hours back to Ottawa. I was joined at the station by a quite intriguing American lady, who had never travelled by bus before (I don't think she had ever left her house) who baffled me for a full two hours with her mind-blowing lack of knowledge/common sense. Among some of her questions were; Is England near Britain? How long would it take to drive to England? and whether I had needed to fly to get to Canada...At first I wasn't sure if she was being serious but it appears she was and it certainly made the wait for the bus much more entertaining!! I managed 2 hours sleep on the way home and I arrived in Ottawa worn out but happy after a great weekend!!

On the work side things have been going well. I have been taking less shifts at Shoppers Drug Mart this month because of my increasing commitments at PEAK. During the summer we have a lot of children (off all ages) training with us as part of their hockey off-season. This means ALOT of testing (both in the lab and in the gym) on top of constant monitoring of the gym floor. Zoe and myself have had the opportunity to do a lot more testing which has been a fantastic experience and something that will put us in a great position when we return to University. I am also already into my second month of working with my own clients. I have been lucky enough to get a real mix of people, with some weight loss clients, hockey players and endurance athletes!! This has given me a real taste of what it is like to design and monitor programs, which again will be valuable knowledge when I hopefully start my career in this field. I have now been at PEAK for approximately 7 months and I can safely say that whilst lectures provide you with a base knowledge/understanding, nothing beats actual work experience in preparing you for real life.

The sun has started to make a regular experience now, which means that the snow has (finally) melted, so I am off to take the dog for a walk!! Winter (all 5 months of it) has been a bit of a journey...there has been a few bad times but on the whole I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience  and I have had the opportunity to do things that I have never done before!! I am really looking forward to summer which will be crazy in terms of travelling and also work!! I have a feeling the next few months will be epic...


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Summer is coming...yeah right!! (23/03/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

Every day when I arrive at work I am promised that summer is just around the corner...However on the basis of the snow storm last night I would tend to disagree!! It's not all bad's definitely not as cold any more (although I now count -10 as shorts and t-shirt weather)!! It's been a long time since I last wrote so I have a few things to fill people in on. At the end of February I was lucky enough to be invited snow-showing with the Academy in Gatineau Park. We started the day ice-skating outside of Ottawa Town Hall...on the 'rink of dreams'. The dream for me was not falling over and unfortunately this dream didn't come true. The kids had a great time though and we played tag and british bulldog on the ice. Well if truth be told they played whilst I fell over a lot...Then it was time to head of to Gatineau to an outdoor adventure centre. We had some lunch and then got our snow-shoes on! Snow shoeing (I think I spelt that right) is really fun and a bit strange at first!! I guess the best way to describe them is like having the head of a tennis racquet strapped to each foot. The shoes are designed so that you don't sink when you step into heavy snow, allowing you to trek through parks etc that haven't been cleared. However, as some of the Academy kids learnt if you jump sideways into deep snow the snow shoes don't stop you from disappearing!! We had an excellent guide who took us all over the park whilst explaining how all the wildlife manage to survive the crazy temperatures that we get here in the winter!! (this was achieved mainly by hiding underground or taking an extended vacation somewhere a touch warmer).

This week I was also fortunate enough to get tickets to both of Ottawa's home games. The first against New York Rangers finished 8-4 and although the Sen's lost it was a great game and I got to see a ton of goals. I am not what you would call a die hard Ottawa fan so wasn't that bothered about the defeat. The second game against Tampa Bay finished 5-4 (the Sens unsurprisingly lost again) although Hemsky who plays for the Sens scored the 'by far the best goal of the season' (a bold claim made by one of the most excited announcer's ever). The fact that the Sens have been terrible lately and have had little to cheer about might have deluded his judgement...however it was a pretty damn good goal. I haven't managed to get away from Ottawa since Christmas but I am off to Boston and Hamilton next month so looking forward to that!!

On the work front things have been going really well. I have a handful of my own clients now who I work with closely. They came in for VO2 max testing at the beginning of the month and by using the information from the test I can prescribe them exercise at specific intensities in order to make training more efficient and effective. Whilst we have been doing the testing for a while now, it is great to actually have clients who we can work with because it gives us the experience of dealing with different people (and their goals) instead of just working with results. I have also had to give several consultations now which again has given me a ton of experience in applying and explaining the results from tests which is something most university courses seem to lack. One of the reason's why I chose Bath was the excellent placement options and it feels great to be getting some real hand's on experience. I was also lucky enough to go with Ken when he gave a talk at the Canadian Tire Centre (the Sen's stadium). The talk was for approx 700 school students and watching Ken explain about testing/why you need to test was excellent. He then opened the floor to any questions about training/nutrition/supplements and it was amazing to see how well he answered any of the questions!! The other thing we have been doing lately is testing the Academy children for Peak Power and Lactate Recovery using Wingate tests. These tests are really fun to administer (not so fun to do) because it involves the kids sprinting as hard as they can on a bike for 30 seconds against a resistance of 9% of their body weight. We have been getting some great (and interesting) results so will be fun to analyse them over the next few weeks.

Hopefully the sun will make an appearance over the next few weeks so that I can get outside a bit more. Winter has been great but to be honest I can't wait for summer!!

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It's still snowing (07/02/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

Well...this has definitely been the coldest January I have ever experienced!! After coming back from New York the temperature hovered between -30 and -40. I even read an article that claimed that at times Ottawa has been colder than the North Pole. Pretty mental!! It's warming up a bit lately though and it's crazy that I now think that -10 is warm!! I love walking to work on those days because there is normally fresh snow on the ground (we have had a lot lately) and the skies are so blue!! You almost need sunglasses because the sun reflecting off the snow is SO bright!!

Work has been really good lately. This week we have been doing a lot of testing with the academy children. We take basic measurements (height/weight/arm span etc) as well as measuring their vertical jump, upper body strength, balance and flexibility every month!! Combined with data from their VO2 max tests (completed every 3 months) we get a really good overview of whether their training is working and how to adjust their schedule either on the ice or in the gym. The advert for the intern clients is also up now and we have already had some response!! Hopefully we can get these guys in the lab next week so we can start training and hopefully smashing some race times!! We have also had quite a few tennis players at PEAK lately, which is really interesting and different to the majority of our clients. I have learnt a lot from these consultations and it is interesting to see how the same model can be applied to tennis. In other news I have managed to borrow a road bike from one of the clients at PEAK and will probably start riding in the next couple of months!! Someone even mentioned 'sprint triathlon' but that is probably along way off at the moment!! Nothing really new to report on the Shoppers Drug Mart job. The work is as mind numbingly boring as it ever was but the people are nice and times goes quick (sometimes...)!!

Outside of work I have done some cool stuff. Last Friday Zoe and I went X-Country Skiing with the Academy children. We arrived at work at about 9 am and jumped on a school bus (that looked exactly like the one in the Simpsons!). The weather was perfect for the day - warm (about -10) with no wind and a bright sun! We drove for about 20 minutes before arriving at a school where we could receive instruction on skiing. The centre was small but the instructor was very interesting and talked about all the wildlife we would see and about how the grounds had been developed. Then it was time to Ski! The kids were all really good and after falling over multiple times even I managed to get the hang of it and was soon zooming around! The instructor took us all into the woods and we spent over an hour skiing through all the trails, feeding the birds (the kids loved this) and enjoying the spectacular scenery. After lunch we all went out in little groups and did some exploring. Being new to X-Country Skiing I wasn't sure what to expect but it was great fun and I soon found myself sweating buckets! It is a really tough workout but was great fun and something that I will hopefully get the chance to do again! On Sunday we also went skating on the Rideau Canal - which happens to be the largest skating rink in the world!! Turns out this is much harder than skating on the ice pads at work (which was a problem because I was pretty terrible on them). The canal is 7.8 km long and we set out with a goal of skating it's length. However...after 50m it became apparent that we were being a tad optimistic and after 100m we had given up! I blame being sore from the skiing for this! At frequent points along the skate way there are rest areas, with toasty fires, hot drinks and tasty snacks. One of the most popular is the Beaver Tail...a pastry with loads of different toppings...cinnamon and sugar, caramel or cheese and garlic. Being a celiac I can't offer any insight into the taste but they definitely smelt good!!

I also went to watch Ottawa Senators vs Montreal Canadians a few weeks back. Being so close these teams are fierce rivals and the game was pretty epic! The Sens were 3-0 inside the first period...and fought back to make it 4-3 with 5 minutes to go. However, one of our defenders forgot what team he was playing for and kicked it into his own goal before out keeper suffered a similar bout of memory loss and let one straight through his legs!! The Montreal fans found this hilarious and promptly christened our keeper (Anderson) as Andersucks.

Anyway...I am off to watch the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics! I have never really watched the winter Olympics before but I have a feeling I am going to seeing a lot of the action this year!

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New Year in New York (05/01/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

Before I get started I just want to wish everyone a very merry 2014!!

So since my last post we have had the small matter of Christmas and New Years. Christmas was pretty quiet without the family. On Christmas day I went with my landlords to visit Luc's family in Quebec. What I didn't realise was that I would get to meet ALL of Luc's family (40+ people). This made for a rather crazy atmosphere (especially as they were all French) and after a lovely dinner we played pool and just chilled out. On Boxing Day I was lucky to be invited to one of my client's house for dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed an evening of playing games, watching crazy hockey films and getting drunk.

Then on the 27th it was time to head to New York!! Our coach was at 10 pm so I had a few hours to get packed. The day went really slowly (as they always do when you have something to look forward to) so I watched a movie, had some dinner and organised some snacks for the journey (the small matter of 10 hours on the coach). Whilst I was not exactly looking forward to this journey, it actually went quite quickly, with only two stops; once at the border and a second rather annoying coach change in Syracuse. This was at about 3 pm and whilst the pictures of Syracuse on Google images look rather nice I didn't get the chance to have a look around the city. Nevertheless onto better and bigger (considerably) things. New York.


We arrived at about 8 am and we went straight into the thick of things. The city was already bustling with life and after a quick coffee in Times Square we decided to wonder to the apartment. We managed to book a small place in Lower Manhattan, near Little Italy and China Town. The walk from Times Square took just over an hour and we stopped off to take some pictures of the Empire State and a rather quaint Christmas Market. The weather was beautiful (although slightly nippy) and walking through the streets of NY brought back a lot of funny memories from my last trip. After walking down East Houston Street for about 10 minutes we came across our apartment. The number 283 was scrawled across the side of the building which was covered in rather unpleasant graffiti, 90% of the windows were boarded up and a small gathering of homeless people sat in what was supposed to be a front garden. Fair to say it didn't look exactly like the pictures.

However, (thankfully) this wasn't our apartment. After walking for another 20 minutes down the street (out of desperation) we came across another 283 East Houston Street, located above a bagel shop and looking worlds apart from the other building (not really difficult). The apartment was small but really well equipped and throughout the trip it did a grand job. After unpacking we got some food in from a local market store and waiting for Zoe's friend Marcus to arrive. That evening the three of us went to Ground Zero, which was packed with people paying their respects. The museum attached to the site was really moving and some of the stories about rescue workers really put things in perspective. We then headed out to catch the sunset over the Statue of Liberty. The view over the water was stunning and we were lucky to have timed it so perfectly. The evening was spent exploring Little Italy and China Town before heading back to the apartment for a home made (and rather tasty) risotto. By this time we were all knackered so headed to bed after what was a great first day in the Big Apple.

The next morning we woke up and it was raining. I mean really raining. So we watched the arsenal game (which we won!!) and had a cooked breakfast. Then by lunchtime we decided to brave the elements and head out. Within 10 minutes we were completely soaked. However, we made the most of it and headed to Grand Central Station, to get some pictures and chill out. We then explored some shops and got even more wet (we were practically swimming by this point) before deciding that we should head home before we drowned. It took quite a while to dry off but we watched a movie and relaxed and by 7 (ish) it finally stop raining...So we decided to head out to Brooklyn Bridge where we were treated to a fantastic view over the city. New York City at night really is spectacular, with it's jungle of towering skyscrapers and bright lights. The mist that captured some of the taller buildings only added to the stunning view and whilst the day had been a bit of a let down this view made it worthwhile. After walking the length of the bridge we headed to a Malaysian restaurant for some dinner (I had pineapple fried rice) we went back to the apartment and crashed.

We woke the next day to a much nicer morning and decided to head to Central Park for some breakfast. After a rather average omelette (overpriced of course) we spent an hour walking around the Park and were again treated to a fantastic view across the city. Having Central Park in the middle of New York really adds something to what is otherwise a crazy city and I would have loved to have spent some time relaxing in the park during the summer. However given that the temperature was below freezing this wasn't really an option. Instead we headed to the Rockefeller Centre to check out the big Christmas tree. The atmosphere in the plaza was really vibrant and unsurprisingly it was packed with people!! Next Stop - Top of the Rock!! We were really lucky with our tickets that we managed to book a viewing at around 4:30 which allowed us to catch New York in both the day and night, sandwiched between an amazing sunset. I remember the view from last time I was in New York and it certainly didn't disappoint...making the evening a definite highlight for the trip.

New Years Eve. New York. Fair to say I was pretty excited when I woke up the next morning. We enjoyed a very lazy morning in the flat, having breakfast and waiting for two of Marcus's friends from Boston to arrive. At about 2 pm we left the apartment and went for a quick bite to eat in China Town before heading to Times Square. I knew it would be busy but I didn't expect the millions of people that occupied Times Square and the surrounding streets this early. After speaking to a couple of NYPD guys we headed down to 47th Street where we were told that we could get across. However 47th Street was all barred off and we were told 50th Street. This continued until 53rd Street when we managed to beat the rush and sneak across the barriers (literally the last people). From here we were relocated into our pen. Before heading to Times Square I was told about how people were locked in pens (which you couldn't leave), however I wasn't really sure what to expect. We were indeed allocated a 'pen' a reasonably large area sectioned off by waist high barriers. The first two hours from 4 till 6 passed reasonably slowly - until disaster struck. I needed the toilet. The timing could not have been worse and I began to curse the cup of coffee that I had naively enjoyed that morning. By 6:15 I was desperate (thinking about it made it worse) and after jigging around for a bit (I pretended I was cold) I knew this was mission impossible. I made my way to the barrier hopped over and relieved myself in a local hotel. After speaking to the police, I explained how my family were all in the pen and they agreed to let me back in. Mission Complete!! After this there was very little excitement in the 6 remaining hours before the big countdown. Every hour they did do a small countdown (so I celebrated new year in England at 7 pm) but generally the time was spent chatting to Marcus, two German girls and a variety of people from New York. Everyone was really bored and so people were really talkative which made the time go quickly. As we approached the ball drop the atmosphere cranked up a few notches and the excitement throughout Times Square really began to grow. The countdown at midnight was intense and although there were not as many fireworks as I expected it was a great party atmosphere and something that I will never forget.

The next day we had to be out of the apartment by 10, so we got up early cleaned up and headed out. After having a quick brunch in Times Square we said goodbye to Marcus and Zoe and myself headed to the Natural History Museum to kill some time before our coach that evening. We also did some shopping in Times Square before giving up at around 7 (we were so tired) when we decided to just wait for the coach. After 13 hours on the coach we arrived in Ottawa to the frankly ridiculous temperature of -40. Welcome back to Canada!! The trip was a great success and it was a fantastic start to 2014. I met some great people, made new friends and witnessed the New Year countdown in Times Square. Definitely something off the bucket list...


SAM_2001 SAM_2075 SAM_2104


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!! (22/12/2013)

📥  2013-14, Health

So since my last post we have had a slight change in the weather. It has snowed ALOT. Just over 2 weeks ago (ish) we had the first dumping of snow. Now in England we are normally used to a light fluttering of the white stuff...but this was well and truly a dumping. I work up to go to work and the whole world had been transformed. So much so that the only way to get out of the house was to shovel our way off the drive. That morning we also took the dogs for a walk, which was fun because they absolutely loved the snow!! We went to a small wood just around the corner from us, which was really beautiful and allowed the pups to just go crazy. Since then, the weather has been a bit weird, ranging from the tropical highs of -5 degrees to the teeth chattering, nose hair freezing (this actually happens), genital shrivelling lows of -30. This is not so fun when you have to walk to work. On the bright side I hear we are expecting an ice storm (freezing ice rain) soon so that will be just lovely. The Canadians are very efficient at clearing away the snow though. If it snows overnight, people come round and clear all the main roads and path ways before you even wake up. This is really good, except for the fact that they dump all of this snow (from the road) onto people's driveways...not so much fun when you then have to clear all of this. Some of our neighbours also have lawnmowers for snow. These things are awesome...they just push this mower up and down and it shoots the snow out of the front onto the garden (or wherever/whoever they aim it at). However, my favourite by far is the big car parks... When these are cleared the snow is just dumped in huge piles (over 10 foot) spread out across the car park (perfect for a kick-ass snowball fight).

My ice skating is also coming along (kind of)...I can now skate forward pretty well and am trying to learn how to stop. This involves using the side of the skate and pushing your leg out (scraping the ice). When the Academy kids do this it looks awesome. When I do this... I without fail end up on my backside. However practise makes perfect and although I am going to need ALOT of practise I have time on my side. Work at PEAK is going really well, I am spending time practising and refining my lab skills and I am now pretty confident for the new year. The triathlon program Zoe and myself wrote for Alex is also going well, which is great news. The kids also had there last day of school on Thursday. So we all went tobogganing down one of the hills in the park. This was great fun and we build piles of snow for ramps so that the kids (and us) could do some jumps!! Everything is getting really Christmassy, a lot of the houses down our street have decorations up and they NEVER stop playing Christmas songs at Shoppers (this is slightly annoying after 6 hours of working with a very limited play list). I am missing home though and it will be strange not having Christmas with the family. However, New York is just around the corner which I am really excited for!!

Only a few days to go now so just wanted to wish everyone at home a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!!


SAM_1978 SAM_1981 SAM_1985





It's Getting Cold...(26/11/2013)

📥  2013-14, Health

t has been a while since my last post so I will fill you all in on what has been going on. Work at PEAK has been pretty normal, I have been working a lot with the Academy lately, running gym classes and doing monthly testing. Zoe and myself are also writing a triathlon program for one of the staff members, which has been fun and a good way to learn how to write a program that needs so many factors. We have also been learning new lab skills and starting to prepare for getting our own clients (this will be around January) something that I am very excited about. The part-time job at Shoppers has also been going well, I have worked about 5 shifts now and whilst the work itself is not the best (it mainly involves sticking 'for sale' stickers on products) - it is nice to earn some cash and I have met some new people so well worth it!! I am already starting to see some seasonal Christmas items - although the Christmas songs haven't started to be played yet!! (It won't be long...)

Outside of work I haven't really had the chance to do any travelling, but I have been keeping myself busy. A couple of weeks ago, I borrowed some skates from my landlord and a helmet from a friend and went ice-skating with the Academy. These children are between 8-10 years old and they can already skate really well...turns out I am going to need a lot of practice. I skated for about an hour and although I fell over numerous times (the kids loved this) I did feel like I had improved a little after the session. Skating again tomorrow so hopefully I will do a better job (this shouldn't be hard after my first performance)!!

I have spent the last couple of weekend's hanging out with friends. I went for Sunday dinner with one friend and ended up playing Mariokart (I represented England rather well and kicked their butts). I also went downtown, to 'Little Italy' for dinner with another mate on Saturday. We went to Pub Italia, a restaurant/bar well known for boasting over 200 different types of beer (these were listed in the 'Beer Bible')!! I had some gluten free pasta and a local apple cider which was really good!! On Sunday, I also had the opportunity to go to a Canadian cinema to watch the new Hunger Games film (which was really good). Whilst there I was introduced to Butter Popcorn - which is basically salted popcorn with actual butter squirted on top. Whilst this is terrible for the waist line it puts the 'sweet' popcorn that we have in England to shame!! I have also been watching the Ashes - although maybe it's best not to bring that up after England's awful display. The time difference means that when I get home from work I can normally watch the afternoon session before bed. Safe to say things can only go up for England at the moment...

The weather is also really starting to turn now. We had some snow on Saturday and it is normally between 0 and -10 when I walk home at night!! When I mentioned how cold it was outside my flatmates laughed at me and assured me that -10 is nothing!! Whilst I am really looking forward to winter, I think my walk to work might not be so fun later in the year!!  I have heard that the winter in the UK is also going to be really cold, although I doubt you will get as much snow as in Ottawa.

I hope everyone is good back home and I will post again soon!!


Work (26/10/2013)

📥  2013-14, Health

Since my adventures in Montreal and Hamilton, I have had a couple of quiet weeks at home, chilling out and concentrating on work. Work has been keeping me very busy and although my hours are quite long, the days seem to pass quickly. Indeed, the main reason why I chose the internship at PEAK Centre was the variety of the work.

On a normal day I could be involved with VO2 max testing and lactate analysis in the sports science lab, personal training sessions (with a wide variety of clients) and gym classes for the Academy. Over the last couple of weeks I have also had the chance to practise analysing results and designing training programs - something that has been really useful for me as this was not covered in loads of detail during lectures in Bath.

As an intern I am also expected to do administrative work, a bit of filing, answering the phone etc but nothing too much and the emphasis is always on us getting involved with the sport science at PEAK. One thing that makes the placement unique is the PEAK Academy which is situated at the site here in Ottawa. The Academy is for children from Grade 5/6 (around 10 years old) up to Grade 9 (15 years old). As interns, we teach gym classes for the children every day and I have also had the opportunity to teach a couple of nutrition classes (a great experience for me). Before the internship, I had very little experience working in a gym, so it has been a pretty intense first month - learning the ropes and getting to know different techniques and how to correct clients. Later in the placement I will also get the opportunity to work with my own clients (as part of the intern program). This will involve doing testing in the lab, analysing results, designing a client specific program and then applying my knowledge in consultations and personal training sessions.

Over the last couple of weeks I have also been looking for part-time work and this afternoon I am popping in to Shoppers Drug Mart to discuss a potential part-time job. Hopefully, I will be able to get some work over the winter and this will be a great way to keep myself busy and meet some new people.

Its getting pretty cold here now. Last week I made the mistake of going to work in shorts and a t-shirt (it was 11 am and really sunny at this point). However, when I left work at 8:30 pm it was not sunny at all. In fact it was about 2 degrees, so I needed some serious thawing when I got home!!  I have a new pair of winter boots though (from the thrift shop down the road) and I will hopefully get to put them to use soon!! Not the post exciting post - but then again it hasn't been the most exciting couple of weeks. I am really looking forward to winter now (getting some proper snow) but before then we have Halloween so I will hopefully have some good stories over the next couple of weeks.

SAM_1957 SAM_1964 SAM_1968