Posted in Places to Visit, Revision & School


Pembroke College, Oxford

Update: Since part 2 half of the coach has left, including most of my friends.

Perk: for myself and my friend, we now have two rows of three to ourselves.

Con: there has been a major accident on the motorway. So we’re definitely going to need the extra room!

So, as I pass the outskirts of Crewe – red lights in front, the pure white light from the moon to my right – I write part 3 and hope there aren’t any traffic tailbacks yet…

Back to Oxford, and my work’s stacking up. My project is on gravitational waves (read my overview here) and we must produce an individual essay and A1 scientific poster. Let the work commence!

Others would grown at the thought of extra work in the summer holidays. But this is a real chance to experience life as an undergraduate student (minus the alcohol). And I have to say, I’m enjoying it!

Oxford and Cambridge have a particular focus on independence in learning – research, projects & essays, and their famous tutorial system (more on that to come).

A fellow explained that this is the reason the interview to get in is so fierce – Oxbridge are primarily testing you’re ability to cope with their style of teaching. It’s not them being mean. Oxbridge tutors simply don’t want to give you a place, for you to be unable to cope and crash. A couple of students had their first all-nighter on the summer school ( that’s studying all night, not drinking!). The summer school certainly taught us all a variety of demands and lessons about further education.

I’m going to fast forward to Friday (the day I’m currently writing this). We are each allocated a tutorial with a PhD mentor to discuss our assignments. I was anticipating it to be intense and a little scary, but the tutorial was fun. I’ll repeat that, mainly because I can’t believe I said it – the Oxford University tutorial was fun! We discussed my essay. I explained theory to him. He explained theory to me. The atmosphere was jovial and light, and at no point were my ideas (& mistakes) chastised or humiliated. Oxford – I’m surprised! 🙂

I feel like testing the water of a student’s workload has been hugely reassuring. If you’re a prospective student:

a) Sign up to a summer school. Trust me – finding out what kind of learning style you suit is hugely beneficial, especially when your education costs £27,000! Not to mention the skills and knowledge you’ll get from challenging yourself.

b) Complete your own individual assignment and try your hand at research. If you can’t find where to focus, ask your teacher to set you an Oxford- style task. Or if you’d like a hand, leave a comment below or message me via Instagram – I’d be happy to help!

Part 4 is on it’s way!

Posted in Places to Visit

On Tour

 – Part San (Japanese this time) and the final instalment of my Geneva adventure – 

Last Day. Recap time! (in the form of emojis!)              ✈ 🌇 🍫 🚶 🏰 🌒

What’s to come?                                                          🚋🔬🔭🔬🔭🔬🔭🔬😄

So, let’s get started! After a continental breakfast on the continent (much to the disappointment of our peers, who had anticipated a Full English!) we head into the city. Five minutes later, we merge with the daily commuters and locals crowding the tram platform. Here’s another thing to add to the list of why Geneva is just so awesome:

  1. The United Nations (If you have missed why these guys are awesome, read part two of my adventures!)
  2. Geneva’s public transport. Seriously, we have nothing on the sophistication, efficiency and overall awesomeness of their transport system.

There are no traffic jams or rush hours in Geneva – everyone uses public transport. There are actually conductors on the train. We should know (our group were fined if we couldn’t produce tickets). Nobody on the train home had to stand or sit on the floor (Sorry Corbyn!) because it was a DOUBLE DECKER TRAIN! British Government – please get some! But I’m getting ahead of myself. We are currently on a tram on our way to… CERN.

I first alerted the group, “we’re here” when I saw the globe of science & innovation. Otherwise, I’d never have known we were passing CERN. It’s front looks dated and all seems a bit too calm for a groundbreaking research centre. Inside reception, all is not calm – the small hall is filled with chatter and laughter in a dozen different languages from visitors, tour groups and staff.

We are lead away by our guide to a classroom where he teaches us the overall workings of the complex. It’s all very interesting: orbits of increasing diameter, accelerators, experiment zones, magnets to focus, magnets to curve…*

Then he tells us that we get to visit two regions of CERN. That we were very lucky as we were allowed to visit the CMS. Eek! Now  we’re herded into a minibus, cross the Swiss-French border without a second glance, and travel through kilometres of snowy picturesque landscapes. The CMS – compact muon detector – is one of four international research detectors dotted around the LHC, recording particle interactions as particles are accelerated and smashed together. (The Large Hadron Collider is simply a very long tube in a very long tunnel!) After being kitted out in helmets and lanyards, we are herded into the pressurised lift leading us 100km underground.

We are informed that in the event of an emergency, the lift’s shaft and the LHC are the safest places to go. I found this amusing – go to the place where you normally are told not to go in an emergency and the tunnel of radiation!

The Compact Muon Detector

We pass rooms filled with servers, emergency kits modelled by a creepy mannequin, retina scanners and a 5m concrete wall surrounding the CMS. Stood in front of the detector, even the non-scientist would get excited. A feat of wonderful engineering, designed to revolutionise particle research. Cue excited face – 😄

I realise that I have talked a lot about the CMS. I’m sorry. It’s just that when you’re told that you’re some of a limited number to have seen the detector in the last six years, you can’t help but feel honoured.

Our trip is closing to an end. After purchasing a Standard Model t-shirt (it had to be done), we decide to head back into town. A small group of us jump off the tram a little later than the stop for our hostel so we can wander around Lake Geneva as the sun sets. Stunning. In the evening, we dine in a traditional Swiss restaurant, entertained throughout by two gentlemen playing an assortment of Swiss instruments: cow bells, the alphorn, accordions, a pot with a small bearing in it, and of course, yodelling!

I loved my adventure in Geneva, and would easily recommend it to everyone. A beautiful city break filled with culture, science, food and friends – what more could you ask for?

* Maybe a future post on the mechanics of CERN?

Posted in Places to Visit

On Tour – Part Deux

Touch down in Geneva. Landing was

The Palais (UN Headquarters)

certainly… interesting! Descending through very low
lying clouds and wondering when you’ll see the ground is very unnerving to say the least. However we have arrived and (after a free train journey to the city centre and a 10 minute amble whilst wrestling with a suitcase) we make it to Geneva Youth Hostel.

For a youth hostel, it’s pretty impressive. Thee building itself is quite cool, with an almost futuristic feel to the reception and hallways. However, you can’t help but snuggle down in your room as if you’re home.

Our first stop is a chocolatiers called Stetller. No more needs to be said, really –                                                               swiss chocs + teens = guaranteed success!

Now, the UN is in a different league entirely. After getting slightly lost and receiving directions off several unamused security guards, several different times, we reach our tour guide. The reception doesn’t give you any clues about what lies ahead: colossal wall murals, endless hallways lined with conference room after conference room, not to mention the staggering number of chairs everywhere (no one will be short of a seat on their visit to the UN!)

Salle XX – Cool, right?

My favourite room BY FAR has to be Salle XX. Created by Spain, your eyes are instantly drawn to the ceiling.

Cool, right? Even cooler when you’re told that the meetings held in Salle XX are responsible for human rights and the fundamental entitlements we are all allowed as human beings. Just think – with 193 countries (out of 195) part of the UN, the decisions made within those walls shape the world we live in dramatically. It’s no wonder the Palais and headquarters of the United Nations took my breath away.

Posted in Places to Visit

On tour!

– Part Uno –

3:15 – Sllllleeeeeeepppppp. No, don’t sleep. I’m off to Geneva and have got to get to John Lennon Airport in Liverpool. I’ve got awful hair and I’m frantically trying to check I have got everything. It’s certainly going to be an interesting trip!

5:10 – Passing through security. Why do you always feel like your life is under scrutiny when passing through passport control? Then something sends up alarms. Oh no. Panic.

But just remember, these security people are really people. They genuinely don’t want you to breakdown. They don’t want to take your eyeliner or dodgy-looking face wash, they’re just doing their job. But they didn’t confiscate anything from me. Breath…

We are on our way!

– I’ll keep you posted. The Clever Owl xx

Posted in Places to Visit

A bit of local history…

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Astley, the small village I live in, is known for its rich mining history. At the heart of Astley Green lies Lancashire’s only remaining collier. Like many mines in the 1970’s, it faced closure and demolition in a time where politics and miners clashed.

I remember watching a recent performance of a play called Scab, based on a family of miners who worked at a local pit, and it was made very clear the struggle local families faced. In the time of Thatcher and strike, miners in the local area didn’t have much choice about whether to strike or not. The area wasn’t one of the richest, so every day’s pay counted. Therefore, despite the unanimous vote from miners to strike, many couldn’t because they needed the money to feed their families.

Now, the collier is a museum. Ran by locals with a passion, it clearly represents a much loved part of history, where danger and death were daily occurrences. Within the grounds lies the steel lattice known as a headgear, a twin-tandem compound engine and an extensive collection of locomotives, machinery and equipment found.

If you are ever in the vicinity, and fancy a day out to experience history, the museum is well worth a visit. It won’t take all day so why not visit the old boathouse pub, just a 3 minute walk down the road. The food is great – the broccoli, cheese and pasta bake is a favourite of mine! The pub is only small and far from fancy, but its your typical good-food local!!!

Posted in Places to Visit

Eastnor Castle, Ledbury

Eastnor CastleWhat a stunning place to be! The castle, situated within 5000 acres of land in the Malvern Hills, shares similarities with the castles within Disney films. The fairy tale castle is open to the public, with each room lavishly furnished and brimming with history and decadence. I had originally gone there to camp within their Deer Park campsite, but since it was the Vintage Fair that weekend and the Deer Park was already occupied by a convention, I ended up staying on Goldhill Farm. By camping within their premises, I was given half price off admission to the castle and grounds. What a brilliant day out it is for all of the family!

Currently, the family still live within the castle, popping out whenever they want to venture in their lands. I was fortunate enough to see James Henry Bathurst at the Vintage Fair, tending to the clearing away of fencing at the end and moving his 100 year old steam engine out of the courtyard. Brief glimpses into others lives makes you remember that we are all human, as I would have – and did – easily pass the gentlemen without a thought at who it was.

If you are over in the Worcester area, or want a different holiday experience within the UK, I would highly recommend stopping over at Eastnor. Camping, caravanning or hiring a cottage, there is lots to do there, including the local pottery for a rainy day activity! (I never had the chance to visit, but it seems rather good from the leaflet)