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Getting Involved

So after all my initial worries about being lonely and not making the most of this year, I think I’m doing OK.

There are about 30 of us on the course, and I’m getting to know quite a few of them. We socialise on Friday nights after class and have arranged our first other social. I’m going kayaking and getting to know a few people there. I’m a course rep, which hasn’t involved anything yet, but I have a conference next week. I’m president of the photography society and trying to sort stuff out that we can do. I’m going to the gym fairly regularly. I’m signed up to badminton, film society, sky diving, volunteering and rock society, but haven’t done anything yet.

And today I was appointed Affiliates Coordinator for the RAG committee.

I wonder if I’m taking on too much?!


Ever heard of environmental estrogens?

So, Disaster Management & Sustainable Development is not a course to do if you want to feel good about the state of the world. I already knew that, but I am still learning lots. For example, one of my tutors is fairly sure that men will be infertile within 50 years, due to environmental estrogens. These are manufactured estrogens and have been shown to have effects on hormones and fertility and have even have effects on the sexualisation of fish: changing them from male to female.

Where are environmental estrogens found?
They have been produced by industrial, agricultural, and chemical companies and introduced into the environment for most of the 20th and 21st century. They can be found in food such as commercially raised beef, chicken and pork, and they have been used to increase milk production in dairy cows. Two food additives have also been suspected of altering hormones: propyl gallate and 4-hexyl resorcinol.

Pesticides used on fruit and vegetables and in the garden contain them, as well as household products like cleaners, air fresheners, paints, solvents, glues, varnishes, carpets, fibreboard, and other processed woods. Personal care, cosmetic products, nail polish and remover also contain them.

Lastly, they can be found in plastic containers for food and drink, including styrofoam and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, which were found to be leaching estrogens into the water inside.

Some conditions associated with environmental estrogen:

  • Faster aging
  • Autoimmune disorders such as lupus erythematosis. thyroiditis, and possibly Sjoegren’s disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Breast tenderness
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Fibromyalgia (thought by some to be related to estrogen dominance)
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Low sperm count
  • Man Boobs (Gynecomastia)
  • PMS
  • Premenopausal bone loss
  • Thyroid dysfunction mimicking hypothyroidism
  • Water retention

How do you reduce your exposure to environmental estrogen?

  • Avoid buying food and drink in plastic containers, wrapping food in cling film, heating food up in plastic
  • Use glass or ceramic containers to store food
  • Replace your chemical based household cleaning products with natural products; avoid solvents; use natural pest control
  • Buy hormone free or organic meat; avoid the fat on meat or poultry where the chemicals accumulate
  • Buy organic fruit and vegetables where possible
  • Eat a diet high in whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables and low in processed food
  • Avoid food and drink with artificial additives
  • Use natural, chemical free cosmetics
  • Avoid birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Use bio-identical hormones based on saliva, urine or blood tests done by a functional medicine doctor.
  • Do not use spermacide

So there we are. Lots of fun facts about the state of the world we live in.


Freshers’ Week

The weekend was quite boring but things improved throughout the week. We had a programme induction on Monday, where we were given course guides and met our lecturers/tutors. There are about 30 of us on the course. Afterwards I spent some time in the coffee shop with a few of them.

On Tuesday we had a library induction and I went round the freshers’ fair and sports fair with the people I met yesterday. I got a few freebies (most of which are now in the bin) and signed up to a few clubs. I feel like a lot of the clubs miss out on some interest because they’re so competitive: they don’t have much room for people who just want to play a sport for fun. Thankfully the kayaking, equestrian and badminton clubs I’ve signed up to do understand ‘recreational’. They looked a bit confused at the football table though. But I’ve since found the ‘give it a go’ sports programme, which is basically the recreational clubs. So I can do football after all. And ultimate frisbee. Maybe.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with the programme director. During the induction he mentioned that we could do extra modules, such as GIS (which used to be one of the options but isn’t anymore), but it won’t appear on the transcript. Basically we can either just sit in on lectures and he will write a reference saying this, or we can do the coursework too, and he’ll give the mark gained in the reference. I also asked about being a course rep, which looks like very little work but still something to add to the CV. Afterwards I went around the societies fair and signed up to a few: World Vision, rock music, photography, film, sky diving, volunteering, and One Planet. The fifth housemate arrived tonight: one more to come.

Thursday started with a walk: our lecturers were taking us on the Ouseburn walk, which led from the university, down to the river, along the quay, and up the Ouseburn. They told us a bit about the history of Newcastle, and some rather disturbing things about reclaimed contaminated land. Then we went to a really nice pub called The Cluny for lunch and a quiz. It’s just across the road from Stepney Bank Stables, where I hope to volunteer soon. I had to leave early because I had my gym induction, which I was a couple of minutes late for. So I got to see all that the new £30m sports facility has to offer: a swimming pool, climbing wall, huge fitness suite, sports halls, arena… lots! I signed up straight after, so I have to go now to make the most of it!

The weather up until Thursday has been fantastic. It’s been so warm and sunny, I’ve been walking around in vest tops and skirts, and not believing I’m in northern England! But on Thursday afternoon the heavens opened. It bucketed down for a couple of hours, so I went into town and bought a hat and an umbrella: I guess there’ll be more of this to come! On my way home I went to the library and checked out my first book: Green Development.

Today I had nothing to do in uni, so I stayed in bed until lunchtime, then I went to B&Q to buy a shelving unit, and that has basically been it!

My housemates have been going out and doing the fresher thing. The two girls have been out a couple of times but haven’t gone nuts. The newest guy went out last night but is in tonight. And the fresher guy – in the room next to me – has definitely been making the most of freshers’ week. I don’t think he’s been in before 4am, he’s loud, and he’s often drunk when he wakes up in the morning too! He apologises to me every day and asks if he woke me. He has woken me a few times, but now it’s all blurred into one. I’m hoping he’ll calm down once uni starts and he gets a few more shifts in work.

So I haven’t been out yet. Me and Mum went for supper in town last Friday, but were both too knackered to go bar hopping afterwards! And the idea of a few thousand 18 years olds in their first week away from home scares me a bit. I do want to go out and socialise, but I’m happy to wait until I go to some course and society socials. Our lecturers do a Friday night pub thing every week, and one of them is having a garden party next week. And between all the clubs and societies, I should have a few nights out!


Starting in Newcastle

I’m feeling quite bored and lonely at the moment. I’m worried it’s all going to go the same way as Leeds did. Or that I don’t connect with my housemates. It didn’t help that today I lost the piece of paper that had the key code for the door and alarm on. I spent a couple of hours worrying that I might’ve dropped it right outside the house, or that I’d been pick-pocketed. I had a brief wander on campus, finding the main buildings and students’ union. Again, I felt noticeable as I was alone.

I need to get over this. I need to make sure that I get involved. I want to. It’s only my shyness holding me back.

So I’ve met 3 housemates and the boyfriends of one. Really nice people, but they are all 18, so it’s all new and exciting to them. One of the girls I’d been in touch with isn’t coming here anymore, and there’s still two more to arrive. The one thing that is becoming apparent though is that these guys all have their lives set up: they already knew each other, work together, and they’re all quite local. So I’m in a position where I absolutely have to get to know other people, or this could turn out to be an even more lonely experience than Leeds.

I’m hoping the course is small enough that I see the same group of people again and again. I’m hoping there’s lots of group work, so I can get to know people on the course. I hoping that by the time of the welcome fairs next week, I’ll have built up the guts to sign up to the societies I’m interested in.

I have to do this. I can’t spend this year thinking about how great life is at home: I’ll go nuts. I need to make the most of this year. It’s about setting up my career path as well as looking after my mental health. I haven’t set myself up in the best way, between not sorting things with Dad and my bizarre boy hang ups.