Hey everyone! Happy end of Jan – is it seriously already the end of month one in 2020? Jeepers time is flying already. I was reading through the blog’s archives the other day, and I realised something quite startling. It has been practically a year since I started this blog. I almost couldn’t believe it. So much has happened since then, the blog has grown so much and writing these posts has become such a part of my routine that I almost can’t imagine a time when I wasn’t writing, editing or thinking about blog ideas. It’s been a roller coaster, but a ride that I’ve loved more than anything else. So, with the blog about to embark on its second year of life, I thought I’d do a little reflecting and share with all of you my adventures over the last year, as well as a little bit of my plan for this next year. But more than that, this post is about thanking all of YOU! Without all of you, this blog would be nothing and so make sure to keep reading until the end, because I have a few questions that I could really use YOUR INPUT on. I may be writing this blog as an outlet/diary for myself, but I’m also writing it to share stories and information with all of you so any help and advice you could give me this time, would be much appreciated. Now that that’s done let’s dive into my digital, metaphorical time-machine so we can see how much has happened in 365 days.
What has the last year been like
As I’ve mentioned previously, instead of going straight into university after high school, I took a more unconventional path. Most of my friends started their 2019 off buying textbooks and sorting out class schedules. I, on the other hand, was making visa applications and filling in short course application forms. Because I didn’t actually have a clue about what I wanted to do in life or what career I might want, my parents actually suggested that I take a gap year, and use that opportunity to explore and experience different things that may, in time, help me decide. So, instead of going with the rest of my high school friends to one of the prominent universities in South Africa, I embarked on a few international short courses.
The first short course I did was ten weeks at Oxford, studying English literature and creative writing in their gap year program, and it was terrific. Not only did I get to learn a lot and develop my creative writing skills, but I got to explore a lot of England that I had never seen before and take a massive bite of independence. It was a little intimidating at first, living alone and relatively far away from everyone I knew, but it once I was there, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, my fear of shrinking all of my clothes in the washing machine didn’t completely go away, but with a little help and advice from a few people, living on my own was actually quite easy.
The next short course I did was eight weeks at Stanford University’s summer program. That was an entirely different ball game to the experience I had at Oxford. While my Oxford course was small and I had lessons every day from 9am until 3pm/5pm, Stanford was a lot more like university. I took three different classes (environmental ethics, communication and a college writing seminar) that met twice a week, and the rest of the time could be filled with homework, studying, joining in some of the program leisure activities or hanging out with friends. It was a different type of independence, but another incredibly worthwhile experience. Laundry still scared me, especially because the laundry room there could easily be a filming location for a horror movie, but all of the rest was so much fun. Having the freedom to choose how I could manage my time outside of class was great, and the program had just enough fun activities going on that I could get involved but also not feel like all my leisure time was being taken up by these things. I got to meet and make an incredible friend, and while I missed home a lot, I really got a taste for what university life could be like.
Thanks to my two short courses, and my stint of employment for the last months of the year once I was back in South Africa, I am now ready and excited to get on with the next phase of my life – tertiary education. I know now, with confidence, that I can manage living so far from home. While the enormity of being in a new country and starting such a milestone in life is a little intimidating, because I managed Oxford and Stanford, and had a lot of fun doing it, I know that university is going to be great.
On top of the short courses and everything I learnt via classes and lectures, I also experienced so much that never would have happened if I stayed in South Africa. Here’s a list of just a few things I got to do:
- Punting. Which is almost impossible to do without somewhat losing your balance and nearly plummeting into a river.
- Visit the Friends Apartment and other filming locations in New York City. What can I say? I’m addicted to that show and I’m not ashamed to say it loud and proud!
- Visiting Warner Bros and doing the Harry Potter studio tour. It is genuinely a fan girl’s dream come true and a definite bucket list item for anyone who loves Harry Potter.
- Visit Cadbury world and see how my favourite chocolate brand in the world is made.
- See more Harry Potter filming locations than I ever thought possible!
- Eat cinnamon toast crunch cereal and see what all the hype is about (by the way it is so delicious, even though I can’t understand how something so sweet can be classified as breakfast rather than dessert)
- Go fountain hopping on Stanford University Campus
- Eat the best cupcakes in the world!
So at the end of the day, my gap year was far from being a waste of time. I got to learn in entirely different academic environments, test out subjects I had an interest in, experience a raft of fun activities that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed in South Africa and gain a lot of independence. There may have been challenges along the way … Who am I kidding sometimes things were incredibly difficult, but I still wouldn’t have traded my year for anything else. It truly was a gap year to remember.
What’s the plan for this year?
Now you might be thinking, “now what? You’ve done your exploring and experiencing. What comes next?” Well, in the middle of January, I finished submitting all of my university applications. The plan is to start university in September, either in the US or the UK, depending on where I get accepted. So while I am playing the worst game of ‘hurry up and wait’ ever, I’m doing a few super short skill-related courses that can help me get a part-time job. Things like barista courses, first aid courses etc. I’m also hoping to get a part-time job somewhere because sitting at home is certainly not a great way to spend vast amounts of time. Then before I know it I’ll be prepping for university, packing up boxes, buying the essentials and getting ready to head off into the great big world. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Let’s talk about the blog
This blog has been one of the few constants for me over this crazy, somewhat non-consistent year. Since it was launched all that time ago, there have been 102 posts, and a growth to almost 250 followers. I never imagined that my little blog would grow so much, and that is all thanks to you guys. I would really love to keep this blog going, and hopefully grow it a little more exponentially. That is where you guys come in.
My goals are to maybe fix up the blog itself, give it a little bit of an update and a makeover for year two. I’d also like to start mixing up the content a bit more. I did say that this blog was meant to be a mix of a diary of my life and the things I am experiencing, but also advice that I feel is relevant and that people may find useful. I’ve noticed though that I tend to stick more to the advice side of things, so for year two, more diverse content is definitely on the table. Lastly, I really want to increase general viewing. Things are great as they are but striving for improvement is also essential, and so I am going to try and put more of an effort into increasing general readership and also interaction on this blog. This is where I am going to need your help!
What kind of content would you like to see more on the blog? What would you be interested in reading?
What advice can you share with me that could help me increase the views on blog posts?
Are there any changes I can make so that the blog is more interesting, entertaining or encourages you and others to comment and interface more?
Is there any other advice or comments you would like to share so that Tall Blonde Tales is even better for 2020 and provides content and entertainment to all of you that you can’t resist?
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS! The blog would be nothing without all of you fabulous readers – you are the consumers of what I write, and so you would know what you would like to see more of so please help me. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated, and I would love to improve and grow this blog so that more people can enjoy it.
Other than that, thank you all again so much for reading. Please don’t forget to leave your comments in the comments section below (I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT!!!) and share this with your friends so that they can give their feedback too. You are all amazing, and I look forward to another year of adventures, experiences, writing and interfacing with you. May 2020 be an even better year for Tall Blonde Tales, and for you all as well.
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx