With about 20 countries under my belt and still counting, there are a lot of ways to prepare yourself for what might be a bit of a culture shock when crossing borders, make a new adventure run a bit more smoothly and help you gain confidence by knowing a bit about the country you’re travelling to.

Visas: When I was researching what I need to cross the Egyptian border, I read that visas are available for purchase at customs, so I didn’t bother worrying about it. However, weirdly enough, they didn’t accept British pounds and I had no other currency on me, so I embarrassingly had to be escorted to a cash machine to get out Egyptian pounds. Moral of the story: know the cost and currency of your required visa.

Vaccinations: And look into this well ahead of time as it might take a few weeks to book an appointment and another few weeks for the vaccines to become effective.

Emergency line: Someone call IX-I-I! (Hercules, anyone?) It’s different in every country so be sure you know the local emergency services line.

For U.S. travelers, all the above information and more is available on the Department of State website and a similar set of information is available on the U.K. government website as well for British travelers. For all other home countries, I literally just Googled “[home country] travelers to [destination]” and the first few results should be your government website.

General safety: My travels have been largely in Western Europe, a quite safe part of the world, so I never had to think too much about safety. It might be an idea to do a quick search for any dodgy areas at your destination, but take it with a grain of salt. For example, if you Google “dangerous areas New York,” the sum of all the results will probably leave you with not many places to go. For places you are not sure about, don’t go out at night, take a buddy or let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back and take extra care.

Currency exchange rate: I have also several times made the mistake of not getting an idea of the exchange rates before I arrived at my destination, so I had no idea how much I was paying for my first few purchases. It might also be an idea to research the average cost of a meal, pint of beer, night in a hostel, etc. so you understand when you’re being ripped off and can budget likewise.

Your phone service: Look into setting up your phone service well ahead of time and what kind of options you have if you need to top up abroad.

Attractions: Actually do a bit of research with what there is to do. Although you don’t have to decide before you go, it’s nice to know what your options are. Going to Budapest, I was unaware of the famous thermal baths, which left me desperately searching for a place selling bathing suits in the middle of winter. Consider what you want to do and if any attractions are closed any particular days or require advanced bookings.

Weather: Look at the forecast for the whole duration of your visit and pack accordingly. Another tip: if you’re going to somewhere rainy, make sure your umbrella has a sleeve you can keep dry so once you want to put your wet umbrella back in your bag, it doesn’t get your other possessions wet.

Public transport: See what kind of links are available to you between your accommodation and your attractions of choice and the airport. Also, be sure you know where to get public transport tickets. Although on a lot of metros and buses you can buy before/ while you board, that’s not always the case. In Italy, I had to buy a bus pass from an off-licence shop. It was peculiar.

Religion and customs: If you plan on visiting any religious sites, it’s important to make sure you dress appropriately. A lot of sites require you to cover your shoulders, knees and sometimes head (although there are usually scarfs for the latter).

Dress: Similarly, it might be a good idea to search what the locals are wearing so you don’t stick out as a tourist or perhaps disrespect the culture.

Language: Finally, you don’t need to become totally fluent in another language before you travel, but it’s really helpful to know a few key words. I always make sure to know friendly greetings like “hello,” “thank you” and “goodbye” as well as practical things such as “man/woman” (you don’t want to go in the wrong toilet), “enter/exit” and “one cider, please.”

I hope this helps, happy trails!

Photo by Samael Lopez.

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When I started this series, I thought these posts would be at least somewhat consecutive.

First, I wrote about how I got into my degree in my post My Degree: Conservation Biology (Past) published nearly a year ago. I also covered my high school classes, undergraduate development and first job in my field at the Arizona Game and Fish Department last summer.

Shortly after that, I wrote about my (then) current course in the post My Degree: Conservation Biology (Future), covering the first term of my degree and early stages of my dissertation and promising “an upcoming “Future” post of this sort” soon…

Obviously, it hasn’t happened since but by God, it’s happening now.

First, I’ll give a quick update on how the rest of my degree went. In the second term, university revolved around the South Africa trip in mid-April and trying to meet deadlines before then and wrap up assignments after. This left very little time for my dissertation so once third term came, I was under a lot of pressure. Although my supervisor was great with general practical advise, fisheries wasn’t her forte and was unable to give me much direction on my content. My dissertation was supposed to be in collaboration with the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (I.F.C.A.) but my contact there was extremely slow at getting back to me (like, at least three weeks per e-mail) as she was always on field work. I was quite frustrated that my supervisor and I.F.C.A. contact both committed to this under those circumstances. But, as they say in Spain, tu mismo (basically “whatever” but worse).

I won’t lie, I was under a lot of stress, I was going absolutely mad. The stress had me in manic tears when I handed my dissertation in and holed up in my room for days after. Although finishing my degree should have been a happy occasion, I felt completely shitty about my work and felt all this time, money and energy spent coming to do my degree abroad was for naught.

Anyway, the results are officially in your girl just went and got a motherfucking 2:1 anyway! I got my dissertation mark a few weeks ago and did the math then but it was just confirmed today. I didn’t get an amazing mark on my dissertation, but thank goodness for my other modules I did well in.

Now the million dollar question: what now?

Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest.

Ever since my year abroad, I wanted to find some way to live in the U.K. A Master’s degree was the somewhat obvious next choice: it cost as much to do one here as in the U.S. and getting a higher degree from the U.K. might give me a leg up in the U.K. job market upon graduation, right?

Wrong. Only a limited list of companies can offer working visas and even then, you have to be an amazing candidate for H.R. to go through the faff of hiring a foreigner. It’s bullshit that I have lived here for two (non-consecutive) years and have a graduate degree from a U.K. university but I still can’t stay. Many countries, including the U.S., have visa schemes for recent graduates, but no such thing exists here.

That being said, I have all but given up trying to stay in the U.K. and am just trying to enjoy my time left with friends before I go back in mid-December.

Upon my return home state side, I will look to start my career in the U.S. I’ll probably first move somewhere of my choosing, then try to sort a job (I strongly prefer something in my degree, but wouldn’t mind something interim). I am prioritizing living somewhere I want for several reasons: first, it’s bad enough I can’t live in Brighton anymore. This little city means so much to me and my heart is broken leaving. I know what I love about Brighton and will try to find that in a U.S. city as best I can. Following that, I would rather be at a job I’m “meh” about in a place I really enjoy (like right now) than be at a high-paying job somewhere I don’t really like. In this day and age, it’s easy to forget there is so much more to life than your job and I want to live in a place that makes me excited get out of the house and explore. With that, I’m thinking of moving to the east coast, either New York (city), Boston or Washington, D.C. At the moment, this is the order of my preference, but I will do a little bit of poking around with jobs and cost of living to see where the best trade-off lies.

I may not know exactly what job I want to do or where I want to go, but at least that means I’m flexible. Here are some requirements of jobs I’m looking for:

  • Full-time
  • Entry-level
  • Paid and paid reasonably well, I understand I will be going in at entry-level, but didn’t get a Master’s degree to be paid $10 an hour)
  • Some outdoor component preferred
  • Some animal interaction preferred
  • Some community engagement preferred
  • No ecology consulting jobs, I would literally rather take a cheese grater to my forehead than be chained to a desk

Here are some specific job titles and descriptions I’ve found online that really interest me just so you get a better idea of what I’m qualified for and interested in:

  • Fish and Wildlife Scientific Aide @ Department of Fish and Wildlife (California):  Collects recreational fishery data and biological samples, collects fish lengths, weights and other biological data as needed, performs data entry, reviews, edits and submits data.
  • Youth Initiatives Coordinator @ American Museum of Natural History (New York): Experience in coordinating programs, a strong background in science, and experience engaging in science topics with middle or high school youth… day-to-day management of several youth programs… ensuring that the materials, paperwork and classrooms are set-up and that the teaching staff has what it needs to implement the program… handling youth applications, enrollment forms and other related paperwork.
  • Program Assistant, Conservation Operations @ Bronx Zoo (New York): Assist with the administration of the Conservation Operations team… provide administrative support to the Senior Vice President of Field Conservation by assisting with reports, travel planning, reading scientific publications, etc.
  • Science Program Research and Analysis Intern @ WWF (Washington, D.C.): Demonstrate applied research skills and contribute to scientific research analysis and translation investigating environmental and human health impacts of protein production… conduct natural and social scientific research… support science leads in conducting literature reviews, managing and visualizing data and scientific information, supporting statistical analysis of datasets, and supporting the development of peer reviewed publications.

You get the idea.

So, that’s what’s next for me career-wise. There is so much opportunity out there it’s overwhelming, but I have to stay humble and remember there is also a lot of other brilliant newly graduated conservationists out there. I hope I can find a position I’m excited for in a new, interesting place to start my journey into the real world.

Photo by Victoria Alexander.

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This month, I’m excited to introduce Cara from Cara’s Corner, a mental health and lifestyle blog. Let’s get to it!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

downloadI’m a mental health nurse by day and a blogger by night! I grew up experiencing lots of difficulties with my mental health, having an eating disorder for a number of years and eventually being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I am a passionate mental health campaigner and try my best to raise awareness and challenge stigma wherever I can! I always like to share a bit about myself outside of talking about mental illness because there is more to me than just that! I have pink hair (my favourite colour), I’m covered in tattoos and I am a hardcore cat lady. I am an animal love, vegetarian and proud feminist, and I absolutely ADORE travelling.

How did you get into blogging? 

I started using twitter a lot more and discovered loads of amazing blogs! I was using twitter mainly for mental health awareness and realised that I had a lot more to tell the word than I could say in 140 characters (or 280 now!).

Tell us about your favorite blog post.

Strangely, one of my favourite posts is one I wrote recently when things were going really wrong for me. But it was the first time I had been honest about relapse when it was actually happening, and I had so much positive feedback from it.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging? 

Mostly working! I try and go to the gym, see my friends and spend time with my boyfriend. I also love cooking, sleeping and watching a lot of Netflix!

What is one thing you wish more people understood about mental illness? 

That being high functioning doesn’t mean you aren’t ill. Most of the time, I am able to live essentially an entirely normal life, but I still have bipolar disorder. Being unwell doesn’t always mean constantly living in a state of chronic depression or heightened anxiety or any other obvious symptoms. You can’t see mental illness, which is why it’s so important to check in with people around you.

Where is somewhere you’ve travelled that you wouldn’t rush back to? 

Egypt. I found it really intimidating as a young woman and didn’t feel safe – so many older men touched me when I was walking around or offered to buy me.

Where else can we find you? 

Twitter || Instagram (personal) || Instagram (blogging) || Pinterest || Etsy

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The clock is ticking on my time left in the U.K. and I’m trying to make the most of it by visiting friends and seeing new places.

In this case, I got to kill three birds with one stone in Cardiff: exploring a new place, seeing my good friend Alex and going to a hockey game. I met Alex on my year abroad, in fact, we went to Newquay together but haven’t seen much of each other this year as he now goes to Cardiff University. Also, Diego is really into ice hockey but has never been to a game, and the closest thing to a professional game is in Cardiff… so off we were.

Tuesday, 16 October: We stopped in Bristol for lunch at ZaZa Bazaar, which was filling and tasty!

We arrived in Cardiff around 1700 at our AirBNB close to the city center (less than 10 minute walk) it the flat was absolutely lovely. Newly built, modern and simple, the perfect size for the two of us. I would love to live in a flat just like this!

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We then proceeded to town to Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world! Wouldn’t have known about this gem if it wasn’t for my friend Max, good shout Max (if you’re reading this). There, I bought a CD (’59 Sound by Gaslight Anthem) because… how could I not?

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Then, we made our way to Cardiff Bay

… and then to the hockey game! I have actually been to a CHL game before in Berlin (v. Ingolstadt) but was a bit lost as everything was in German. I like to think I got us good seats to watch the Cardiff Devils play the Vaxjo Lakers. Even though the good guys lost, the game was incredible: exciting and high scoring (5-6) with overtime. I’m glad Diego has so much fun at his first of many ice hockey games.

To end the night, we met with Alex in town at The Alchemist for fancy cocktails and a catch-up.

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Wednesday, 17 October: Diego and I started our day in Cardiff central market with Welsh cakes (basically a pancake coated in sugar) and coffee.

We then met Alex at Greazy Vegan for lunch. It was so good to see him twice this trip!

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To end our time in Cardiff, we went to Techniquest, a hands-on science museum. Naturally, it was crawling with kids which made me a bit annoyed, but there were some laughs to be had.

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I had a great time with Diego, especially at the hockey game, and hope we can do it again before I go!

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This month, I was finally able to properly keep up with reading your lovely posts!

Before we dive into my favorite posts this month, I was featured by Misadventures with Andi in her series of interviewing Arizona bloggers. Check it out here.

Here are my top five posts from all categories:

  • Ultimate travel bucket list: This is an amazing, well-rounded list. I’m happy to say we share quite a few of these dreams (e.g. hike Machu Picchu, see Northern Lights) and I’ve even done quite a few of these myself (e.g. African safari, Berlin Wall, Eiffel Tower)
  • In Defense of 9-5s: People who travel full-time think it’s something every wants to do… it’s not. I didn’t get my degree only to put myself in debt, I love what I study and do want to work hard at it. Let travel be a reward!
  • Four days on an Egyptian LiveAboard: My LiveAboard trip was one of my favorite trips of all time and this post did a lot of the same dives I did despite being based out of Sharm El Sheikh. So many amazing memories.
  • How to practice self care on low energy days: This is one of my favorite mental health-related posts I’ve seen thus far. I’ve been suffering with extreme fatigue recently and my bad days have never looked worse. I often get overwhelmed with self-care posts that include things like doing the laundry, changing sheets, etc. because on days I need self-care the most are the days I can’t even get out of bed. This post is very realistic for those truly awful days.
  • Norwegian fjords adventures: A few months ago, I went to Bergen with my grandma and two aunties and the fjords tour was without a doubt my favorite part! I’d love to go back and explore some more.

Science, sustainability and veganism

General travel and study abroad

Travel destinations

Blogging

Lifestyle

Photo by Andrew Knechel.

 

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