Friday, July 20, 2018

Recent Reads #1

Hi folks! Welcome back! It's been a long time, hasn't it? I'm sorry for being awol for so long. But I'm done with my three years at university and I'm finally trying to fit blogging back into my schedule. I was doing a Creative Writing degree so a lot of free time was spent reading and writing short stories and poems. But now that I'm done, I can finally come back to the first thing that made me love writing, to begin with. Blogging! I might upload a blog post about my overall university experience at some point but we'll see. For now, let's get into this post!

We are starting a new little series here. A book review series! If you didn't know this already, I love books. I have since a really young age. I was that one kid on the side, reading instead of playing with others. So it's been a huge part of my life for years. But over the years in education, I found less and less time to read for pleasure. Especially whilst doing an English degree, I had other reading that I needed to prioritise. But in the last few months, I have been reading more. It's mainly because for Creative Writing assignments, I had to read widely in the genre of choice for that specific assignment. And now with it being summer, I'm planning to read a lot more.

I decided why not review my most recent reads? This will be a combination of paperback books, audiobooks and ebooks. Now with it being summer, I'm planning to read a lot more. I still don't read as often as I used to so these won't be monthly reviews, but I thought it would be nice to share new books with you guys. I probably won't do extremely detailed reviews. It's just not my thing. I'm not that great at giving those full detailed reviews you might see on Goodreads or BookTube. But I'll share my opinions and thoughts with you all so hope you enjoy reading. Let's start!

The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi 



If you have ever heard of the genre Chick Lit and enjoy it as much as I do, this is the kind of book you might just like. Although it's listed as Cultural Fiction on Goodreads, this book is what I like to call South Asian Chick Lit just because of the similar themes to standard Chick Lit. Through 'The Mango Season' we follow Priya Rao and her journey to rediscovering her home country, India. She has spent many years in the USA, first studying and now working. But after seven years, she is going back, leaving behind a fiance in the states, who is nowhere near the perfect Indian boy she is supposed to marry. When she arrives back in India, she finds so many things she once loved and missed but at the same time, she looks at her country and culture with a fresh pair of objective eyes.

This book was the first of it's kind that I'd ever read. I've been reading Chick Lit for so many years but I always stumbled upon books with white, middle class or upper-class characters. I never saw or even thought to read books with characters like myself, South Asian. Although I'm not Indian like Priya, I am Pakistani and sometimes, cultural elements clash so I found this book relatable so often which is something I never experienced when I was reading the genre as a teenager. The portrayal of the cultural norms like marriage and caste mixing, age-old traditions (that are seriously outdated!), the occasional evil women of the family (we all have them!), gossiping aunties and of course, the clash between Priya's Indian upbringing and new Western way of life all came together so well.

I really felt fully immersed in the story. There were so many times that I couldn't put the book down. I feel asleep whilst reading in bed late at night and on my bus journeys to uni, I honestly sometimes wished they were longer so I could read one more chapter. There were times that the story annoyed me, namely, Priya's outbursts. Sometimes it was a bit childish/immature but I could easily overlook those since the plot was ace and the characters were well-rounded and relatable. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was the first time I'd read Malladi's work so I can't wait to read more of her stories!

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman


So I don't know if this actually counts since I didn't read the book. Instead, I listened to the audiobook but I had bought the book beforehand and hadn't got around to reading it, so moved onto the audiobook. I'm still going to class it as a 'recent 'read' though, even though I 'listened' to it!

Eleanor lives a secluded life. She lived an ordinary life, working an ordinary job. From the original description I read of the book, I wasn't too sure. I didn't know if I'd like it. But I decided to read it since my Creative Writing lecturer recommended it to me. I strangely found myself relating to Eleanor so much. The whole idea of her being a bit to herself, not interacting with many people etc. but then we were slowly introduced to her troubling past. And this is where the book became incredibly gripping. 

At first, I was confused on how this book could be classed as regular ol' contemporary fiction and something like I don't know, Bridget Jones couldn't because Eleanor seemed oddly fascinated with this guy who was in a band. But as the book went on, I realized why this book wasn't just standard Chick Lit. The more we learned about Eleanor and her past, the more I sympathized. How Eleanor went through a lot of tough times but she came out of still somewhat okay baffled me but it was inspiring to say the least. I don't want to give any spoilers so I won't share what exactly happens but damn, her past story is riveting and moving. I cried a lot towards the ending chapters when things were being revealed which says a lot because I'm generally not very sensitive, nor do I cry easily with books, movies etc. 

This might be because I read the book alongside listening to the audiobook, but Eleanor's voice was incredibly fascinating too. If and when I read the book myself again, I'm not sure how her voice will sound to me. The one I loved the way she noticed the little things. She was incredibly observant of her surroundings in a way that reminded me of myself really. She also had such a straightforward attitude which I loved. The writer did a brilliant job at exploring themes of grief, loss and mental illness through the unique voice of Eleanor Oliphant. I really liked the writer's style and voice so I can't wait to read Honeyman's next book whenever she releases something new.

New Found Love For Audiobooks!

Before rounding up this post, I just wanted to talk about how I listened to the last book. I used an app called BookBeat. I couldn't afford to pay for Audible when I could only listen to 1 book a month. I actually found BookBeat randomly just by googling audiobook apps. 

The app was great because you paid once a month (£12.90) and could listen to an unlimited amount of books and you also had a 2-week free trial. It was in that free trial that I listened to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and after hearing it, I decided I wanted to carry on paying monthly. The selection of books was not a lot compared to Audible but it was more than enough for me to find books that were interesting to me, both fiction and non-fiction.

I also like that I can pretty much cancel it anytime I want to but at the moment, I think I'm going to keep using it. I'm currently listening to 2 books at once; one is a non-fiction book on introversion and the other is the YA fantasy series by Cecelia Ahern called Flawed and Perfect. 

I think that is all for this post! I seriously loved both of these books a lot and they really got me excited to start reading for fun again. It has been an awfully long time since I've read just for the fun of reading. I really want to reread the entire Harry Potter series since the first (and maybe even the last?) time I did that was when I was like 9 or 10 years old in primary school. But for now, that is all for the 'recent reads' on this blog. I'm so happy to be back to blogging but be patient with me whilst I conjure up new ideas and try to get back into it. 

Thank you so much for reading! Are you a bookworm? What was the last book you read and what did you think? Please don't hesitate to talk to me in the comments. I'll talk to you guys in the next post real soon xoxo

Saturday, February 04, 2017

I'm Back At University

After being off from uni for almost 2 months, I went back this week for semester two of my second year. Can I just say, I am honestly shattered? I forgot how tiring it all was. I was only in for three days, Monday, Thursday and Friday but it genuinely felt like I was in every day from 9 am to 5 pm. I hope you all don't mind that I've decided to do a little rant about my first week back at uni. 

On Monday, I started for 11 am which in reality, isn't all that bad. However, I still had to be awake early because I had to leave my house by 9.30 am since my uni is pretty far from home. The session in itself wasn't all that bad. It's a short fiction module, and it looks interesting. I'm pretty much alone without my girls on Monday though since we're only doing two modules together this semester but it's not all that bad since I like being alone. On Mondays, I'm at uni till 5 pm and my gosh, was I tired or what by the time I got home? I couldn't focus on anything, I just spent the night on Netflix!

Then I have a break for Tuesdays and Wednesdays which is alright, but it's awkward to have my two days off in the middle of the week. I would honestly rather have them at the beginning or the end of the week. I'll be honest. I was supposed to do some work but I mainly slept and watched Netflix haha.

On Wednesday evening, I was filling in my planner with all the assignment deadlines. It was a scary task because I realised I have 6 assignments to do this semester, 5 of them being in May like the picture shows and 1 in April. I have an individual presentation to do which is in April. I then have two 4000+ word assignments due, 1500 and 2500-word assignments about work placement and lastly a 750-word dissertation proposal all due in May. The last one is what scared me the most. I have to start preparing for my dissertation. Fuck! The actual word that came out of my mouth. For some odd reason, it had slipped my mind. It's scary, but I'm genuinely excited too!

This is one of my planners! It's a personal-planner, and I have some videos on it on my YouTube channel so click here and here to watch them. Stay tuned for a planner related blog post soon on a new planner I have bought. 

Before I knew it, Thursday rolled around, and it was time for another lecture. Well technically it's a workshop but same thing really. This was the first day I saw my friends after weeks since we were all busy with work and work placement during our break. It was a relaxed lesson, but that might've been because I was with my friends haha.

Today is Friday (well when you're reading this, it's Saturday, but I'm writing this on Friday night) and I had my creative writing module. Unfortunately, Fridays are my only 9 am starts. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not a morning person at all, so Fridays are going to be difficult for me for the rest of the semester. It was a nice lesson though because I love the lecturer. He's funny and funny lecturers are nice when you're really tired! I learnt we'll be doing some experimental poetry (ooh, exciting!) and we looked at some poetry and short fiction.

It's the end of the first week, and it honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Yes, I am tired, but it's not been bad. Actually, tired is an understatement. As I am writing this, I feel myself drifting off into sleep, that's how tired I am. I feel like as the weeks go on, I might feel differently but I guess that's natural really. I feel excited for this semester, and I can't wait to learn more new things and just enjoy the semester. That's a big thing. I want to enjoy this semester because today my friend Naima mentioned how this time next year, we will be stressed and focusing on our dissertations, so we want to take this semester to obviously work hard but also to enjoy uni life.

Hope you all enjoyed reading this. Are you a student? How's education treating you right now? Let me know in the comments, and I'll talk to you all soon xoxo

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Work Placement In Marketing Week 3

Hi guys, I'm doing the last blog post to discuss my work placement in digital marketing. Wow, it's the third week! That's crazy because it doesn't seem like it was 3 weeks ago when I was panicking and nervous about starting. It's weird how fast the time has gone. I've learnt so much but first, let's break down what I have done over this week. 

Day 1
As per usual over the last 3 weeks, I started my day with checking out social media on Hootsuite. Seeing if there were any tweets to like or retweet. I then went on to scheduling some photos for the next few days on Instagram. Naturally, this took up a fair bit of my time because it takes me a while to choose the right photo and then to go ahead and edit it too. So this took up a fair chunk of my morning. I then got given a task to create an email for a ring company which I did before and after my lunch break. The last few hours I spent on social media again. It was somewhat relaxed for a Monday which was great because I was tired and haven't really recovered from my cold over the weekend.

Day 2
I started my day with social media as per usual. I then did another email to one of the companies, and this took up most of my time before and just after lunch because I'm a slight perfectionist sometimes.
After lunch, I went on to scheduling some tweets for one of the companies. And from there on, I mainly stayed on social media. I did occasionally break by proof-reading blog posts, but I stuck to social media generally.

Day 3
I started with social media again. I think over the last 3 weeks it's become a habit that I just automatically do as soon as I settle down at the computer. I spent an hour or so doing that, trying to find a pretty picture for Instagram took me a while haha. I later was on one of the diamond ring companies' Twitter and unfollowing competitors or people that aren't following back which aren't relevant using one of those online apps that show you who is not following you. I did this for a while then I got bored, so I went for lunch. After lunch, I did the previous task for a little while, but then I was given a blog post to do. Yay! I was getting bored again, so it was great. It was on garden sheds, not the most riveting of subjects but it was different. And that was my last task really. I've only got 2 days to go and then I am done. Bittersweet feelings.

Day 4
Today I did my regular routine of checking social media specifically Instagram. The director was out at a meeting, so I was given a blog post to do. It was so interesting (not really), and it was about heated car seats. I had to write a post discussing the benefits. It was difficult because all I could think of was how it keeps your behind warm, haha but I got there eventually and was able to bash out a pretty decent (if I do say so myself) blog post. Later in the afternoon, I worked on updating the listings on the Jewellery Quarter which meant I had to brace the cold to take a picture of one of the new restaurants that had opened up last month. It was cold, and my fingers were numb, but I got a good photo so yay! I was supposed to write a blog post about this new restaurant but never got around to doing it, so I think I'll do it tomorrow on my last day (cries).

Day 5
The first thing I did when I got in was the blog post from yesterday. Since I never got around to doing it yesterday, I thought I should do it today. It wasn't too difficult, but it took me all morning to complete it! I also bought some chocolates in since it's my last day so let's just say that there was a lot of chocolate eating in the morning.

Look how yummy the chocolates look! The small box is from a place called The Chocolate Quarter in the Jewellery Quarter. They even sell vegan chocolate! I went there for that reason since 2 of the girls in the office are either dairy-free or vegan. 
I then worked on some social media stuff for a little while, and soon it was time for lunch. The director treated us all out for lunch which was really nice. The food was tasty and the company was great. In the afternoon, I worked on my last blog post which was about paid vs. organic advertising. It was an interesting topic, so it was fun doing the research for it. Before I knew it, it was the end of the day. I ended the day going out for dinner with the girls and went to Wagamama's for the first time ever.

All the food I ate on my last day haha! The top row was lunch, and the bottom row was dinner. I really love food, so it was the best day out of the three weeks.

All in all, I enjoyed my placement a lot. I feel blessed that I got the chance to work with some amazing people and learn so many new skills. Even the skills I already had such as the blogging, I learnt how to expand and strengthen that skill.

By doing this placement, it has confirmed that the digital marketing industry is an industry I'm excited to work in once I graduate. It feels great to finally have more of an idea of what career I want to go into after years of jumping from different career prospects. 

Thank you all for following along with my three-week journey. I shall talk to you guys soon xoxo 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Work Placement In Marketing Week 2

Hi guys, I'm now onto my second week at the placement at the digital marketing company. It's crazy! I'm already on the second week. I'm hoping to learn some more skills that will be important and continue creating blog content and managing social media platforms for the company. This week has gone by pretty fast so let's get into what I did each day.

Day 1
Today was the start of my second week at placement. I started the morning with managing the social media accounts using Hootsuite. After doing this for about 20-30mins, I got bored and moved on to my next task for the day. I was already introduced to MailChimp last week, but today I made two different campaigns to email out to a bunch of subscribers. It was a lot of fun. I created a fun poster image in Canva (I love that site. Note to self: use it more often) and wrote out the email and all. It took up a lot my time, so I did that until late afternoon. After my lunch break, I was told to sort out my LinkedIn page by the director. I've had it set up for a year or so, but I got quite lazy and never actually filled it out to its full capacity, so I did that today. I worked on adding more details about myself and made a couple of connections just before it was around 5 pm which meant time to go home. 

Day 2
I walked in, and everyone was pretty busy and involved in their own work, so I just settled down. I checked the social media platforms and managed to get up a post to Instagram. Then the director showed me how to make connections on LinkedIn and left me to that. I did that for a while until I got bored and moved back to social media management. After my lunch break, I asked if there was a blog post I could write and there was for one of the diamond ring companies. It is hard to write, but I learnt so much by doing research and managed to conjure up a pretty decent blog post.

Day 3
I was so late today. It was scary because the whole point of this placement is to sort of replicate the working world but in a safer environment, I guess? And I was scared because it was the first time I was as late (by half an hour might I add). But it was chilled as usual in this office. The girls literally just thought I wasn't going to come in today. I was, and I am still feeling really ill but no rest for the wicked. I want to do my 3 weeks straight to get it out of the way of other pending things when the second semester of uni starts back up for me in February. For the last 2 hours or so of the morning, I just managed the social media accounts. I even managed to get another picture up on the Instagram page. I'm really trying while I'm here to bring up the Instagram page to a decent standard since it was unused until I started using it. It was kind of chaotic in the office today because there have been some problems with servers or something like that and a load of clients were constantly ringing up. Luckily for me, I didn't have to answer any phone calls because that would've been terrifying. Just before lunch, I started working on another blog post for a balustrade company which is the first time I'd even heard of that term, but it's essentially to do with stairs. So I mainly worked on that before and after lunch because I didn't want to be a nuisance when there were already problems the team were trying to solve. I was supposed to do an email for that same balustrade company, but I never got around to doing it, so I just ended my day with more social media management.

Day 4
I started the day earlier than before. Well technically I started for 10 am, but I had a small task to do before I got to work at the office. In the evening today, there was going to be an opening of a new pub, so I was told to grab some photos of it since it was on the same road my bus went from. So once I got to the office, I spent my morning doing social media management using Hootsuite. Maybe before lunch or after (I can't really remember) I got around to doing an email for that balustrade company. So I used canva to create a cool image, and I wrote out an email to explain the new blog post and even sent it off. I then later spent the rest of the day doing social media expect it was for the stairs company I did the blog post for the day before. I used Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to schedule content for the current week and next week. I did this for Twitter and LinkedIn this afternoon and didn't finish it since Hootsuite kind of crashed on me. Today was somewhat chilled. My primary focus was social media, and I didn't mind it at all.

Day 5
The first thing I did was to complete the remaining scheduling for the LinkedIn posts I was doing yesterday before Hootsuite crashed. The director asked if I could go out and take more pictures around the Jewellery Quarter and note down any new shops that may have opened up or just might not be on the website. The sun was out for once so it would mean I could get some pretty decent pictures but it was still cold, so I said I'd go in the afternoon. Once I was done scheduling stuff on social media, I decided to head out around 12 pm, and I stayed out for an hour, taking pictures of different shops or cool looking things and also noting down shops that looked new, etc. It was real cold, but since the sun was out, I had the best lighting to take pictures. Here are some of my favourites:

Once I got back to the office, I was starving, so I took my lunch break. At some point during the day, I got pretty ill. I felt a cold overpowering me, and it was a shitty feeling, but hey, in the workforce, you have to continue working so I did. One of the girls did keep checking up on me which was nice. After lunch, I posted one of the pictures above to Instagram and then was interacting on there too with other accounts. I then spent the rest of the afternoon on social media once again. 

All in all, this week has been good. I ended the week by going out to eat with the girls from the office which was fantastic and so much fun. We went to a vegetarian cafe called Warehouse Cafe, and I chose to eat the 'fish' and chips which were fried halloumi cheese with chunky chips. It was delicious, and I enjoyed spending some time with them outside of the office. So yeah, I really have loved this week. I've learnt more, and I like to think I'm going to apply it to my own business that is Iqra Arshad which will help me market my content and all. 

Next week is my last week there, and I'm already dreading it being the last week because I've loved it. Stay tuned for next week's post. Hope you all enjoyed this one and I shall talk to you guys soon xoxo

Friday, January 13, 2017

Work Placement In Marketing Week 1

Hi guys, how are you all doing? I'm doing this post because I am currently on work placement for university. I really wanted a way to write down all my thoughts to remember and also because this work placement thing is an actual assignment that I have to pass. I want to remember stuff that happened so I can discuss it in my reflection portfolio. I thought, well, I already have this space so why not use it because 1) it will help me and 2) it will provide some insight for anyone who is interested in the same industry as me.

I should probably tell you what my placement is right? Well, I have to complete 100 hours of unpaid work placement which roughly works out to 2 and a half (maybe 3) weeks since I am doing 10am-5pm Monday to Friday. I don't really want to give too much away about the company I'm working with because obviously privacy protection and all that. I will tell you that it is based in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter which has loads of business offices and a bunch of restaurants and what not. A truly beautiful area of the city which I had never really been to before. I am working with a social media marketing company, and I'm mainly working under the director himself and two wonderful ladies; one manages all things social media and the other deals with content creation but then again, they are both fluid and work on different things too. Both of these areas are something I was familiar with due to blogging and doing YouTube but I wanted to understand them better according to the industry, so I decided on this place. I was lucky to get a response from the company because a lot of the ones I had contacted didn't get back to me and I was desperately running out of time to submit the form which explained where you were doing your placement. Luckily, the director was the nicest guy ever and offered to allow me to complete my 100 hours here.

Now onto the reflection. I will have 3 posts as in 3 weeks of placement so let's begin with week 1!

Day 1
I was so nervous before walking in but I was literally nervous for no reason. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. And I got along instantly with the women there because we literally connected over makeup. Best thing ever in my opinion! My job was pretty tedious after a while because all I was doing was inputting some data onto the website I was working on for them but still I enjoyed it because the company was great. It's such a chilled out office, and I felt like I belonged from the get-go. I'm actually pretty excited to see what happens tomorrow.

Day 2
I pretty much did a similar task to yesterday. I had to look at all the data instead of just one category of it so it basically took up my full 7 hours that I was there. I had a chilled day again. I got chatting with one of the girls who is interning at the company, and she's so cool. She's Italian, and she's been in the UK since she was 16, but she's definitely still got her awesome accent. She's also vegan, which was pretty cool to discover and talk about. I had fun discussing random stuff with her while the director and one of the other girls who I'm working under had to go off to a meeting. I finished my task of all the data of the companies, so the director said he'll have to find me another job to do tomorrow. To be honest, I quite liked organising all the data of the businesses on the system because I am obsessed with organisation and all, so I found it oddly therapeutic.

Day 3
Today was amazing. The director was out of the office because of meetings, so there was only 3 of us in there today. We were literally listening to some awesome music while working on our own individual tasks. I started the morning with some email stuff. I was told to use MailChimp which is known to be used for email marketing. I'd heard of it before and considered using it myself but never got around to trying it out, so I did today. I created some lists of contacts, dividing the businesses from the shoppers who subscribed the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter website. Surprisingly, it was fairly straightforward, and I'm considering using it myself now. Then I went on to something exciting. I got to write my first blog post on the BJQ website. I'll be honest, it was kind of boring because it's not my usual blogging style, but I found something interesting about museums funding cuts and linked it to a museum in the BJQ and then, I had a blog post. It took me a good 3-4 hours to write out (gah, so ashamed, I can normally write one easily in an hour) but it was cool because it was the only task I had to do so I could take my time with it. The woman in charge of social media checked it over for me, and she loved it. She's going to show it to the director tomorrow morning, and it should go live on the website hopefully, how exciting! I have no idea what I'm going to be doing tomorrow but I guess we'll have to wait and see haha.

Day 4
My tasks for today were to manage social media accounts for the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter so basically the Facebook and Twitter pages. The company I'm doing my placement with use this online software called Hootsuite which is so cool. It allows you to manage around 3 social media accounts (I think you can get more if you upgrade to a paid version) and schedule content so you are active on social media. It was my first time using this software but it was so simple and I kind of want to use it myself so I always have content going up on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. So I scheduled some a few posts on Facebook for the next few days and then also scheduled tweets and was retweeting stuff that was relevant. After a couple of hours it got a bit boring though so for the last hour or two, I was told to write a blog post for a security website which was quite difficult because well, I don't have a clue about CCTV and security systems so I never managed to finish it. I'll have to do it first thing tomorrow morning. All in all, good day today.

Day 5
It was snowing in Birmingham today! Well, only for a small while but it still remained really cold outside and today I was supposed to wander around the JQ and take pictures of shops etc. I did do it eventually but I left it till midday when the sun would be out a little more. So for the morning, I finished the blog post from the day before. It took me a while but I got there eventually haha. Then at around 12 pm, I headed out to take photos for Instagram. It was cold and windy but I got some really pretty pictures. My favourites are the ones I took of St. Paul's Church. And lastly, I was on Hootsuite again managing the social media accounts.

Overall, I've had a pretty good first week. I've really enjoyed it so far. One thing I've learnt though is that if I am going to be doing digital marketing as a career within the next few years, I better start getting used to staring at a computer screen for 7+ hours. My eyes hurt so much at the end of each day, and I've been having pretty bad headaches. Even now as I type, my head is hurting a little. I would've thought I'd be used to staring at a screen considering I stare at my laptop for so many hours in the day, but maybe when I'm at uni or home, I have a sufficient amount of breaks or maybe because I'm multi-tasking? I'm not too sure, but I'll have to get used to that for sure. 

I hope you all stick around for the next 2 blog posts on my progress with my work placement. After those 2 posts, we shall get back to some of my regular content. Talk you guys soon xoxo