“There’s a Mouse in My Freezer” and Other Tales From a First-Year University Student

Culture and Lifestyle

By Tegan Francis

Having recently spent some time reminiscing with old pals from my first year university flat, I realized how weird the experience we had all shared was. It seems like no matter which university you decide to go to in UK, your experiences will bond you for life. Having tested this material on a few friends, I thought it might entertain a few other people out there.  I’m hoping this doesn’t put anyone off higher education, so please accept my health warning: “Read with care”.

A Little Bit of Context

I need to set the scene before I dive straight in with this story. I moved in at the end of September 2016, bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect of meeting new people like I’d met the year before.  Long story short, I started at one University and ended up at another, but that’s a story for another day. Needless to say, I’ve not had the smoothest of journeys when it comes to post A-Level studies. However, having had good experiences with shared living spaces before, at home and abroad, I figured, “how bad could it be?”. The answer was : “very bad !”.

There’s a Snake in My Bed!

In Cardiff, I shared a flat with two guys and three girls, six people in total. Two of whom have become very close friends on mine, probably on account of our group resilience in the first nine months at University. The boys were, without a doubt, some of the messiest people I have ever come into contact with in my short life. With rooms that resembled those of people from that hording show on Channel 4, male housemate no.1, let’s call him, Henry, announced in our second term that, he would be bringing his pet snake back with him after the holidays. “Don’t worry, its not venomous” he added.  I couldn’t have been happier at hearing this news. If you spotted the sarcasm in that last sentence, you get a bonus point.

The snake, we’ll call her Katie, seemed like an innocent addition to our already ridiculous lives, until it escaped one night. After a few hours of searching under beds and through boxes, the reptile was retrieved and we could finally sleep soundly in bed at night, or until her next break for freedom.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s a Mouse in My Freezer

A direct result of welcoming the cold-blooded roommate into our house-share meant that she, like the rest of us, needed something to eat.  And Katie’s preferred meal was mice. Dead, frozen, mice to be precise. Having just unloaded my weekly shopping from the local Tesco into the fridge, I leaned down to pop my lasagna in our communal freezer only to find a bag of dead mice ‘chilling’ out next to the frozen peas. Despite my horror and a good deal of internal screaming, I decided to reason with myself. “What harm can dead mice actually do?” The answer was “a lot”. 

There’s E. coli in the Kitchen

Yes, there was black mold on the plates. Yes, the boys had used 4 pints of my milk to make blueberry smoothies one hot summer’s day, only to take one sip and leave the contents to sit for another day, so we could all collectively observe it separating into several distinct congealed layers. Yes, there were dead rodents in my freezer by my fish fingers, but I told myself I would do something about it when it became a health hazard. Unfortunately this is the part where female housemate no.1, let’s call her Sophie, got sick. I was away for most of the period of her ordeal.  However, on my return she explained that after suffering for a few days of pain and sickness she was admitted to hospital. Having had a few tests when she was taken in, it was revealed that she had developed a kidney infection from an aggressive strain of E. coli that she had ‘somehow’ come into contact with.

We later discovered that the frozen mice actually needed defrosting before they were fed to the infamous Katie the snake. Henry had made a fateful error and decided that putting them in a mug of hot water and giving them a short burst in the microwave was THE MOST HYGENIC way to prepare Katie’s dinner! Sophie had then, most likely, used the mug or utensils, which hadn’t been properly cleaned from the defrosting debacle and things had accelerated downhill from there.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I could bore you with many more stories about my first year flat and I have no doubt that many of you reading this would also be able to share a few similar to these so I’ll wrap it up here.

I’ll never forget my first year at university for so many reasons, but it’s stories like these, that make sure it’ll be a year forever engraved in my memory.  Although it felt like a yearlong war on mold and dirty dishes, looking back on that time makes me smile. I guess it’s by dealing with these kinds of day to day dramas, you learn to appreciate life … especially when your kitchen doesn’t smell like cheesy sour milk or dead rodents!

P.S.

The author, Tegan Francis, now lives with seven other humans. Her freezer has been mouse-free for two years now and she hopes it will continue this way for the foreseeable future.

Why 2018 Rocked!

Opinion

By Tegan Francis

Sure, 2018 might not have been the best year this planet has ever seen… Trump is STILL president, brave women such as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford are STILL dismissed when coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment… We STILL haven’t agreed on a Brexit deal, and, well, Theresa May danced on national television, a troubling sight for many eyes (although at least she gave it a go!).

It this might seem like the past 12 months were filled with doom and gloom, but sometimes I think humans find too many reasons to complain. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated about what’s going wrong in the world without taking a second to really appreciate just how much of a blessing modern day life is. Our time here on earth is limited and finding things that make us smile seems like a a much better use of our time than complaining about things which we may or may not be able to change.

Ireland Abortion Ban

An impressive outcome came this May from Ireland’s vote on the 8th amendment, which effectively banned abortion in Ireland up until now. The country voted overwhelmingly to overturn the abortion ban with a result of 66% vs. 34%. In short, this now means that legal status of lives of a foetus and the woman carrying it are now equal. This is an incredible outcome for the modern day generation of Ireland, and demonstrates definite signs of progress in the country. I feel strongly that the life of Dr. Savita Halappanavar should also be mentioned when discussing this topic and the social progress in the country. Her death ignited a spark in Ireland, and powered the determination of activists within the country to change the law. Savita’s story really stuck with me this year and I would encourage anyone with an interest in this topic to acknowledge her bravery, courage and impact she has had on the Irish legal system.

Women on the Road In Saudi Arabia

It may seem like a small step but in actual fact it’s a giant leap for women and the gender disparity experienced in the UAE. As a Saudi women states in an interview with the BBC “Driving to me represents having a choice – the choice of independent movement. Now we have that option.” This reform is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s programme to modernise some aspects of Saudi society. Despite the development in this particular aspect of female life in Saudi Arabia, women have to adhere to strict dress codes, must not associate with unrelated men, and if they want to travel, work or access healthcare they must be accompanied by – or receive written permission from a male guardian. There’s still a long way to go, but for now let’s celebrate this small win of 2018!

A New Age Princess

Although this is a controversial topic for most people from the UK, the fact that Meghan Markel has now become the first woman of colour to join the British royal family is pretty freaking cool. A strong women in her own right, the grace and composure she showed on her wedding day as the world watched her marry Prince Harry was nothing short of a scene of pure inspiration. She carried herself incredibly well despite the media coverage of her family members and the drama her father caused in the lead up to the big day. It’s no wonder that she’s been the most googled person on the internet this year!

We Caught the Golden State Killer!

YES! We’ve got him! After managing to hide from police enforcement in the US for over 40 years, the man who is otherwise referred to as one of the most sadistic serial killers and rapists in American history is now behind bars. I personally don’t believe a human who committed such heinous crimes should be named in these circumstances as their life fundamentally doesn’t matter so we’ll just remain happy that justice has been served. The discovery and evidence used to finally arrest him came after the DNA left on his victims was checked against and online ancestor database. His arrest has helped dozens of people affected by his terror, breath a sigh of relief. Although this does not bring back their loved ones, they are at least able to rest now knowing that the attacker is now behind bars.

Life-changing Films

There were a considerable number of films released in 2018,  which had me leaving the theatre numb (in a good way) as well awestruck. Although these may not seem to carry the same weight as changes to the law or impressive scientific breakthroughs, I maintain that they are still important from a cultural and personal perspective.

The joy my friends and I experienced throughout the whole of the Mamma Mia sequel was something, which I’d never experienced before (so the movie may not win an Oscar any time soon, but it’s get my award for feel-good film of the year). We left the theatre with a new lease of life, determined to get our lives together, purchase a pair of colourful trousers and head off to Greece next summer in the hope we will be followed by three delicious men all vying for our attention. I’ll report back on whether this becomes a reality.

Bohemian Rhapsody was also an incredible performance, by all cast members involved. Shining a light on the person behind the rock star gave Freddie Mercury a human element which I’d never considered before. I also felt strangely proud to be British whilst watching the film.

Finally, I have to say, A Star is Born was worth the hype. I was completely convinced by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The story takes twists and turns in places where I wasn’t expecting them, and the soundtrack is utterly beautiful.

Honorable mentions for why 2018 was “not so bad”:

  • The fact that David Attenborough didn’t die.
  • Scientist in China have successfully cloned a Monkey (you decide whether this is good or bad news)
  • There’s been a breakthrough in cancer research.
  • World hunger is at an all time low
  • We’re living longer! YAY!

So it’s not all so bad! I hope you’re feeling more optimistic and energized for the year ahead now you see that 2018 has been pretty kind to us. Here’s to another 12 months of excitement, progress, and changing for the better. Have a great one.

What does Feminism Mean to Me?

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

By Tegan Francis

I’m constantly surprised by the reactions I get when I say the ‘F word’- Feminism. This topic comes up about as much as Brexit does when you’re in conversation with people from around the world, or perhaps it’s because I’d rather talk about feminism over Brexit, I’m not sure.  Having spent the past six months with people from many different corners of the earth, I feel compelled to write this piece because there is still so much confusion when it comes to the concept of Feminism. So, here it is, here’s a round up of why I believe feminism to be worthy of it’s very own blog post and why I feel so strongly that each and every person on this planet should be a Feminist. If you’re still skeptical, hear me out…

Why Is It Called Feminism?

fem·​i·​nism | \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm  \

Noun

Definition of feminism 

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

This is simply a word, which has been used to convey the idea that both men and women, nay, all human beings should be treated as equals on this earth. And before you start screeching about the fact that the use of the prefix ‘fem-‘ indicates that women are higher and more privileged when it comes to the pursuit of equality… IT’S JUST A WORD. And, if you’re a male and you have a problem with this, you have mankind, human, and history. So please, just this one time, can you let go of the fact that feminism starts with a female implied prefix, just this once? Thank you.

Photo by Will Milne on Pexels.com

Self Love

A key element of feminism which resonates with me is the concept of self love. Looking in the mirror and being kind to yourself is so important in a world of Photoshop and Victoria Secret models. It questions what our society believes to be ‘the perfect body’ and asks us to concentrate on what’s inside rather than your physical appearance. We are socialized to fit into a specific type, which changes from generation to generation. We’re told that our worth is in our appearance, that if we’re beautiful then that’s all that really matters. However, I say, life is too short to worry about what you look like all day. I think women would be able to concentrate a lot more on other useful things in life if we weren’t constantly worried about our appearance and how much people may or may not like us. Who knows, maybe we would have cured some fatal disease by now, or discovered how to teleport.

Alas, instead, we are preoccupied with whether our stomach looks fat today or if we should really eat that pretzel for lunch. Of course, that isn’t to say that society hasn’t imposed these pressures on men too. This is exactly why we ALL need feminism. The pressure men feel to be tall, strong and emotionally stoic, etc. is destructive and sadly demonstrated in the incredibly high male suicide rates across the world. Instead, I suggest we give less fu**s about what other people think of us, and spend more time celebrating what makes us unique. Let’s recognize when our society has made us feel like we need to behave and look a certain way, and challenge it. Embrace your quirks, because you are you and that’s the most beautiful thing you can be.

Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

Group love and Group Hugs

Feminism is also about inclusion. It’s about self-love, loving others, and accepting people around the world for who they are and what they stand for. Respecting their decisions and appreciating each and every human on this earth. I find it difficult to understand why people show hostility towards someone on account of their sexuality, race or gender. If their actions are not affecting your life in any way, you shouldn’t have a problem with them. On a more female level, feminism is also about lifting the women around you up, being their best cheerleaders and listening to their problems when they need you most.

It makes more sense to stick together in this harsh world before we start trying to attack one another on account of looks or personality. We already have modern society stacked against us, we don’t need extra ammunition from fellow females giving the patriarchy a helping hand! Of course this practice is sometimes difficult to enforce. Instead of getting mad and talking about a person behind their back, let’s take a moment to reflect and think about how destructive negative vibes are. If you’re not going to say something nice about a person, maybe don’t say anything at all. Wise words from Walt Disney there!

Why Is It Important?

Feminism matters. I was once told (by a man) that Feminism “doesn’t matter, it’ll never change anyway.” and this, my dear readers, is exactly why we need Feminism. There remains to be a considerable disparity between women and men in several aspects of our modern day society. One area, which shows this unequivocally is the gender pay gap. Across the world, women are consistently paid less than their male counterparts, which makes absolutely no sense.

The image above gives you a visual representation on how much further we have to go before women and men are considered equal in the workplace. This is just an example of one aspect of modern day life where the patriarchy is in play. I could go into many other examples of problem areas we still need to tackle such as child rearing, socialization and even the way we are expected to talk, but that’s for another time, and another day.

Now It’s Your Turn

A conversation I had recently inspired me to write this post as I felt so strongly that many people have a warped idea of what feminism really means and I wanted to set the record straight. Feminism doesn’t mean we are hysterical activist, burning bras at protests and refusing to shave. Instead, I need people to understand that it simply a concept of inclusion. We want everyone to have a place at the table. We want everyone to feel included, appreciated, and paid the same wage at this table. And, this, fellow citizens of planet earth, is why Feminism means so much to me. Thank you.

Munich’s Best Brunch Spots

Culture and Lifestyle, Travel

By Tegan Francis

If there’s one thing that Germans do well (apart from beer and sausages) it’s brunch. This came as quite a surprise to me when I first moved to the Bavarian capital but it was definitely a welcomed discovery. Brunch has to be my favourite meal of the day. It can be enjoyed all year round and is the perfect way to spend your day on a Sunday in the city! After in depth research, I’ve managed to curate a list of the best brunch places in Munich so you’ll be spoilt for choice on your next trip to Toy Town.

 Café Puck


1. Café Puck

This beautiful café is situated near the University and is deceptively large. We spent the whole of our first visit thinking there wasn’t enough seating before realizing at the end that there is a huge area to sit at the back of the restaurant. There is both sweet and savory options on the menu from pancakes to sausages! My personal favorite is the dish, which allows for both pancakes, sausages, fruit salad and eggs all on the same plate. It sounds questionable, but I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, or hungry for a while.


Café Zeitgeist


2. Café Zeitgeist

Café Zeitgeist can also be found nestled amongst the cool, quirky stores that line the streets around the University. Hanging plants drape across the ceiling and windows in the interior and if it’s not too cold, you can take a table outside where blankets will help keep you cosy in the winter breeze. It earns a 10/10 when it comes to presentation as both my friend and I audibly gasped as our plates arrived. The pops of color may not make the food actually taste any better but it certainly feels like it does.  

3. Mary’s Coffee Club

This cafe is a millennial’s dream. The décor, atmosphere and staff quite literally cry out to be instagrammed. With neon signs adorning the walls and each place looking like a masterpiece, it’s no wonder why so many 20-somethings wait for up to an hour to grab a seat in this café. To their credit though, this brunch spot served me the best chailatte I have had in a while, as well as providing a perfectly seasoned smashed avo on toast in a speedy service time.

4. Cotidiano

Is a taste of Spain in the middle of Bavaria. The outdoor seating area and delicious pastries lining the entrance transport you to an idyllic escape instantly. We didn’t have to wait too long to nab a table inside and were pleasantly surprised by the selection on offer. Whether you’re in the mood for a savory feast or fancy a slice of top-quality cake or fresh pastries, this is the place to be. My favorite location is near Viktualienmarkt so you can browse the local produce afterwards as a post brunch activity.

Mr. Pancake

5. Mr. Pancake

If you’re as much of a pancake fan as I am, then this is the ultimate brunch stop for you. I could eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even as a midnight snack if given the choice. Mr. Pancake certainly lives up to their name in this sense. The food is fresh, hot and absolutely delicious. My only warning is that they have extremely limited seating in both of their locations so you’ll either need to be there early to beat the lines or grab a very late brunch, which is really just lunch by the end of it. The crispy bacon they serve along side the“Mr.Bacon” dish left us all in awe and will be a repeat order the next time I am there.

For more food inspiration and general good vibes follow Tegan on Insta @teganfrancis_