My A-Level results were disappointing, but here’s how they changed me:

I didn’t sleep the night before I got my A Level results. How could I? My whole future was due to be determined within a mere eight hours and I had absolutely no control over it. Sooner or later, my logical brain chirped in with: ‘You’ve worked hard – you’ll be fine. You always get nervous about results but they always go well. Don’t worry.’

Then, at 08:00 sharp, I crept downstairs and opened my laptop, logged into my UCAS account, and gritted my teeth as the buffering sign looped for what felt like eternity. When it finally loaded, the dreaded words appeared on my screen:


Hello darkness my old friend: Yes, I had my heart set on the University of Exeter, but I don’t know whether I’d be the person I am today if I’d met my offer.

“You do not have a place at the University of Exeter.”

My eyes widened; my heart fluttered; I felt faint and dizzy.


Just like a wasp had stung me, I ran upstairs and grabbed my dad, who then drove me to my sixth form. In the midst of my sobbing, I had to think of an action plan.

First of all, I had to ask: Do I still want to go to university? Yes. I mean, there are other options.

Okay, this means I’ll have to go to your insurance choice – Oxford Brookes. However, there was one issue. I hadn’t really liked the university when I visited – it really was a last resort choice.  So, if I didn’t want to go to Oxford Brookes, I would have to get permission from the university to be released into Clearing.

I really didn’t expect to end up in this situation.

Next on the action plan: find out what my grades are. By how much did I miss my offer for Exeter? Maybe I could negotiate with them?

I opened my envelope. BBC. Exeter had asked for ABB.

Bollocks. Again.

I didn’t understand how this had happened, but if I wanted to go to university that year, I would just have to work with what I had. My other options were to resit my A Levels all together or to not go to university at all. I could have done my A Levels all over again, but I was ready for university. I didn’t want to put myself through the unnecessary anxiety just to end up being a Fresher at 20. (Don’t rule the option out, though – this was my personal decision!)

To Clearing!

Mind you, I was still sobbing at this point. It killed me to see everyone else jumping around with gleeful faces while I was led into the head’s office. However, I had to keep a clear mind, and so, with my cheeks covered in dried mascara, I entered the arena.

(Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic).

Top Tip: Prepare yourself for the worst. Luckily, my dad made me download the Telegraph’s Clearing app which had all the numbers I needed, right at my fingertips. I have a funny feeling that this year the Clearing process will be less competitive because of fewer university applications, but even so, it’s important to be quick because places do go! Having said that, I would advise against making snap decisions unless you have a huge change of heart. Personally, I stuck with the subject I had applied to do – Biology – but in the moment, I asked myself if I wanted to change subjects and do something like Anthropology.

The first thing I did was ring up university Clearing Helplines. They’ll ask for your UCAS number, your student ID (if you’ve already applied to the university but rejected it), your name, and your grades. It has to be you that they talk to on the phone (unless you give explicit consent for someone else to speak for you), for reasons concerning data protection. I was too anxious to make a phone call so I tried to ask my head of sixth form, but I was encouraged to make the calls on my own.

Yes, it was embarrassing stating those grades over the phone. But miraculously, when I rang up Swansea University, they offered me a place straight away, and I quickly accepted it on UCAS Track, after I had had a conversation with one of the Biology professors over the phone. Then, I just had to sort accommodation out, which was a quick and easy job, and by midday, I was officially going to university! Finally, I could breathe!

The stress of that morning exhausted me – especially as I was also suffering from anxiety – therefore it’s extremely important to take care of yourself. I mean it. 


Fast forward a few weeks: I had my bags all packed, the car was loaded, and my dog had tried to jump into the boot to come with me to university! I think it was hardest leaving her behind!

After a two hour journey and waving off my tearful parents, I suddenly realised that I had arrived at a university I didn’t really know a lot about, and of course, I was anxious. Extremely anxious, in fact. As I mentioned, I had never expected to end up in Swansea for university. However, I also didn’t expect that this was only the beginning of a complete change in mindset. In brief, it was ‘Less of the snobbery, Amy, please’, but I’ll elaborate anyway:

Throughout my entire academic life, I have always been hard-working. Some called me a boffin at high school, others called me ‘too deep’, but whatever was the most accurate way to describe me, I had always worked hard and succeeded as a consequence. That was a routine I’d settled myself in quite nicely. It worked for my GCSEs – I got 5A*s and 4As (and 1B – but I hated maths). I – rather arrogantly – assumed the same attitude would work for A Levels. Unfortunately, when I got those results, I realised that something was going wrong, and I didn’t understand what it was. I worked my arse off for my A Levels.

With the help of a life coach/therapist/counsellor, I backtracked and analysed my time at sixth form. I realised I had had a panic attack in every single exam bar my French speaking, and I got full marks by talking about the impact of French classical music on society. In other words, I had seriously underestimated the level of anxiety that I was dealing with, and it was all rooted in perfectionism.

Perfectionism isn’t something to underestimate. Small doses are necessary for motivation – rereading your notes until you understand them is a pretty effective revision technique. For me, however, it was not responding to feedback, not facing up to or dealing with my mistakes because for my entire life I had barely made any. I had never learned to recover from failure because I had never failed. I realised something had to change at university to prevent this vicious cycle taking over my life again.

My life coach helped me change my mindset. It was a wakeup call to find a way to practically and effectively deal with anxiety. Anxiety teaches your brain that there is only ever one choice – to panic, which I was doing in every exam I took, so there were practical steps I had to take for the ‘performance’ if you must.

Secondly, I had to find a way to improve my learning technique, because clearly, my current method of ‘being too scared to make mistakes’ wasn’t working. I wasn’t actually learning. In lectures, I ask more questions. When I get my lab reports and exam scripts back, I learn from my feedback. But most importantly, thanks to the freedom of schedule which university gives you, I’m finally able to strike a proper work : life balance. Being able to break up your time properly to suit how your brain works is remarkable. Yes, that means I tend to start revision at 6pm and finish at 2am, but it works (somehow) for me. University makes me so happy, even when I do have a million deadlines all somehow due in the same week! But also, my current university has helped me to accept that getting into my dream university wasn’t the end of the world.

Time to spin. Yes, I lost out on Exeter. Instead, at Swansea, I gained:

  1. Effective ways to manage my chronic anxiety, thanks to proper counselling
  2. Opportunities. Thanks to everything I’ve been involved with at university, I’ve gained a lot of work experience, from working in a science museum to showcase science to the local committee, to debating about the future of the EU at the European Parliament, to undergoing conservation work on Brownsea Island.
  3. Academic success. Overall, because I’ve been given the chance to reassess my learning methods, I’ve now changed my work ethic for the better. I’m now predicted a first after achieving over 70% for two consecutive years, and I’m planning on doing postgraduate study.

To conclude: “Quality, not quantity” is more important than you think. Failure can actually make you stronger, and how you react to a bad situation determines everything.

Good luck on results day tomorrow, but remember that it will be okay if it doesn’t go as expected. Life has a funny way of taking its own path with you. It’ll work out in the long run, in ways you’d never expect.

This all may sound clichéd, but it’s true. Trust me. 


Equality in Conversation

A lot of my arguments nowadays tend to be centered around the effects of the benefits of living in a group on human behaviour. A rather complex topic, admittedly, and one in which it would be particularly naive to explain from merely ethological and ecological perspectives. But I do digress.

When conversing with other people, I find body language and behaviour will ultimately be the first factor which determines the impression left on each party, and how comfortable and respected they end up feeling. I am certain I am not the only one who appreciates and relishes in engaging in conversation, but unfortunately, there are those whose words – if any are indeed spoken – are either distastefully superficial or plainly impolite.

My, when outdated men complain about women like me being ‘too assertive for their own good’ who ‘need to learn their place’, or when juveniles colloquially reduce me to an object as they jeer shallow statements about my assets out of windows, I am taken aback. I have been brought up to know that I deserve basic human decency. I expect these men to be courteous and polite in conversation, and neither patronising nor demeaning towards women of whom they have learned to treat as if they are submissive to their every command.

To the corporate businessman who asserts his dominance by commanding and directing young women in everyday scenarios; to the shirtless beach-jock who asserts his dominance by patent objectification – your internalised misogyny will not be condoned. Were you surprised when I spoke back? Were you further astonished when I had the audacity and the ability to construct and rebut a logical argument evaluating your crass behaviour? I’m honestly surprised you were.

I may wear flowery dresses and rouge lipsticks, but they are certainly not a symbol of submissiveness. In fact, I would argue that for some women, they can serve as symbols of strength. For others, the choice to not wear these things is equally empowering. That aside, I am an educated young woman, but even if I were not, I still deserve basic human decency. I am confident in the fact that I am well-read and able to debate. What would be the point of education if I never learned to put my skills into action because I was dogmatically taught that men are dominant by default in every social situation?

Instead of accepting this today, I challenged and initiated conversation, to which I received a defensive backlash from certain men I interacted with while out in town today. On the other hand, particular male friends of mine do listen and talk with me about all kinds of intellectual subjects. In other words, they treat me as their equal, and you know what? Quel surprise, I appreciate it because it makes me feel comfortable.

This is the difference that a dismissal of internalised misogynistic culture makes, because these reasons are precisely why they are my friends in the first place. It’s merely a simple request: respect each other. Patronising me will get you nowhere. Engaging with me in respectful, decent conversation where my opinions are not undermined by alpha-male dominance – however – will. It makes all the difference.

Can I ever accept being ‘average’?

My main problem is that I have no imagination anymore. I think I’ve lost a sense of my childlike wonder and the creativity to ask questions. Yes, I still find the universe interesting, but there’s no aspiration to dream and design solutions for problems. I feel I do my work simply because I can do it, not necessarily because I can contribute anything new, meaningful, or revolutionary.

Maybe I should be satisfied with a sense of mediocrity, but unfortunately, I haven’t been brought up like that. My society teaches me that being average isn’t good enough to be respected and that you always have to be the best. I feel I don’t have the reinforced skills to actually be the best in life anymore. Maybe my A-Level grades actually did reflect my mediocre ability, thus, I ended up at a mediocre university because society no longer wants to take a chance on me.

The fact I can achieve firsts at university feel like flukes because they don’t prove I’m intelligent enough for what society ultimately desires, which is only the best. Thus, to fit into society’s expectations, I fake the enthusiasm and innovation I feel that all the great, serious scientists have. I look like I have the ability to intellectually debate, but my points are actually hollow and empty. I only have the skills to follow the instructions of great people in society so I neither lead nor drive innovation.

Seeing as I only have one life on this planet, I feel condemned by all of this and desperately want to be more to be taken seriously. Idealistically, I’d be so much better at what I do. In reality, no matter how much I’m trying to be the best, to improve my critical thinking, to improve my ability to write persuasive arguments and channel a sense of innovation – it’s not happening. It never will. I don’t know what field my brain is more suited to, but society is flawed for dividing people’s brains into categories and limiting them to niche fields. They only end up feeling mediocre at everything else they’re interested in.

I will never match my own high expectations – catalysed by anxiety and perfectionism, caused by a society which told me to be the best or be left out in the cold. Guess what? I’m being left out in the cold. I never want to be average, but at the moment, it looks like I always will be. This is probably because my essence is academia. Could a lack of essence due to the meaningless of the universe liberate me from this pressure? No, because I’m not separate from society, and I probably never will be. I can’t deny that I am integrated into society and I probably wouldn’t survive without society.

I survive in society, but am I actually thriving? I doubt it.

Lessons from the EU Parliament

Who would have thought it? This liberal finally travelled to Brussels, Belgium. However, this was no ordinary weekend escape. instead, I attended the LYMEC Summer Academy, situated at the European Parliament with Liberal Youth.

To clarify, LYMEC originally stood for ‘Liberal and Radical Youth Movement of the European Communities’, but now it’s generally shortened to ‘European Liberal Youth’. Essentially, LYMEC is a community of the youth wings of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party. The President of this community is Guy Verhofstadt – Prime Minister of Belgium.

(Got it? Good).

Seeing as this was my first time in Brussels, let alone the EU Parliament, I have definitely learned a lot of lessons over the past few days. In this blog post, I’ve decided to summarise my political, social, and cultural experiences, mostly to reflect on how I’m growing, but also to pass on lessons to Britain as we (unfortunately) leave the European Union.


When assessing the political lessons I’ve been taught, I should point out the skewed nature of this experience. The people who I mostly interacted with were young liberals and democrats. Despite the plethora of cultural differences inevitably presented by different EU nations, ‘young liberals and democrats’ is a demographic in itself, and of course does not represent the general EU population.

With that in mind, it was definitely interesting to ask different representatives what they thought of Brexit and the reputation that Britain has across the EU. I must admit, the results were mixed: some were expected, but some surprised me.

For instance, I cannot count the amount of times I was asked about Boris Johnson. From France to Germany, and Denmark to Lithuania, Boris Johnson as our Foreign Secretary is an international embarrassment. Or at least, everyone I spoke to felt sorry for us in that regard.

What they didn’t necessarily sympathise with us for, was Brexit in itself. Understandably, a lot of them are frustrated that the vote for Britain to leave the European Union has threatened its values which has allowed countries to prosper in peace for the past few decades. In fact, some went as far to argue for a ‘hard’ Brexit upon us, because they cared about the prosperity of the European Union much more than a country who was willing to stick two fingers up at it. One panellist took one look at us in the debating chamber and joked ‘Britain are sat on the right, as usual!’

It seems the viewpoint of British opinion is transmitted through the European Union is that of the government – campaigning to leave the single market in preference for strict and illiberal controls on immigration. As someone who voted for Remain, this surprised me. It seems that the world has forgotten that 48% of the UK have a different world vision.

They didn’t only comment on the government, however. The entire Remain campaign itself was discussed, and concluded to be a failure. This, of course, was not news to me. They were further dismayed to hear about the lack of Labour support for the single market, and demanded the whereabouts of a credible opposition.

Sadly, I had to agree with them. The ‘don’t blame me, I voted Remain’ rhetoric hasn’t exactly transcribed over to the continent, because they were convinced everyone involved in the Remain campaign – Cameron, May, and Corbyn alike – were neither dedicated nor strategic enough.

Furthermore, it definitely surprised me that they were shocked Theresa May had actually campaigned for Remain, as they viewed her as an ardent Brexiteer. Alarm bells rang around my mind as a UK friend of mine showed them a photo of Theresa May clutching a ‘Vote Remain’ placard.

In conclusion, politically, we’re an embarrassment to the liberals and democrats of the EU. Understandably, they are hurt that Britain would abandon the values of unity, freedom of movement, and acceptance of diversity. Despite this, I don’t wish to argue that ‘the EU hates us, and this should fuel a harder Brexit’. In many ways, we need to resolve the cracks in the continent which Brexit has created, which means, preserving the values of the EU. We need to respond to this positively, because they love Britain, its culture, and its peoples. They recognise that not everyone voted to Leave, but the British government aren’t exactly in their favour at the moment.

People and Culture

Of course, this experience was certainly not a negative one in the slightest. I found it incredibly insightful to gain so many different views from around the continent, and to get out of my ‘social liberal’ bubble which I’m used to debating. Everyone was so open and willing to get to know you – a value of other people I will always treasure, because it makes you more open as a result.

I made so many new friends during my time in Brussels. In fact, on the final night we had a farewell party (in a beautiful art gallery, complete with a live jazz band!). My friend Hannah secretly told every young liberal and democrat in attendance that ‘in ten minutes, it’s my friend Amy’s birthday, sing happy birthday when it strikes twelve!’

This ultimately meant that one minute I was gushing over my love for Chopin to a Spanish guy, the next I was being sung at and kissed on both cheeks by drunk liberals. It was honestly an unforgettable experience, despite the glass of champagne which was thrusted into my hand after about three glasses of Prosecco beforehand (bloody liberal elite).

In terms of exploring Brussels, on both days, I went out into the city with people who I’d never met, but made it an amazing experience nonetheless. I ate in ‘Tonton Chami’ with a Northern Irish and Polish guy, where I finally had Belgian chips. I also chilled in the Grand Place with them while the sun was setting. The atmosphere was so warm and relaxing, full of hearty conversation and laughter.

I also went and had Belgian waffles and sweet beer with a group of Danish liberals, where I was surprised about how much they knew about Oasis and The Inbetweeners. Essentially, they said they tended to learn more English through our cultural exports rather than their education system. But, they have still been taught English since their first year of school. I’m still surprised they start school two years later than us Brits!

Speaking of languages, I managed to practise my French! Admittedly, it was better at some points than others. For example, when I initially arrived at Bruxelles-Midi from London St Pancras, I asked a man for the quickest metro line to the European Parliament; in every coffee shop I asked for a latte in French, and while wandering around Parliament I had various conversations in French.

Not all of them were successful. Unfortunately anxiety cropped up when I was trying to ask a Frenchman if he was the guy in charge of travel refunds. (He was not, but it took ten minutes of awkward silences and Google Translate – embarrassingly – before I finally realised). But still, it proves I’m not fluent and I’ve got a lot to work on yet!

Overall, my experience in the European Parliament was one of the best of my life. I learned so much, from how debates work in the European Parliament, to putting together a LYMEC manifesto for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The range of panellists were full of experts who spoke wonderfully about their fields. We had an MEP who used to have a pharmaceutical business, a representative of Google, and a centre-right Spanish politician who had a few things to say about the ‘essential preservation of Judeo-Christian values in the EU’.

Personally, I feel a million times more confident now. Interacting with so many people was challenging, but I managed to do it. I didn’t have one panic attack, which I was really proud of. I’m proud of everything I did in Brussels, and it was a fantastic opportunity for my professional development! Does this make me want to enter politics? Not necessarily. I still was only one out of three scientists in attendance. But it has helped me gain a lot of skills and learn from a field which is completely different to my own. I love to learn, and I will seize every opportunity to.

If I can debate in the European Parliament, what can’t I do?


Thank you, Nick Clegg.

The General Election of 2017 saw a Labour gain from the Liberal Democrats in the constituency of Sheffield Hallam – one which now previously housed the former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats – Nick Clegg.

Okay, okay. Fine. Quite a lot of people tonight have taken a schadenfreude out of all of this, and to be honest, it was shocking and overwhelming. I often feel quite ostracised at university because I’m a rare species of Liberalus democratus, but it was obvious that I was the only one in an entire bar of students who was actually devastated. In my opinion, Nick Clegg is a remarkable man – a one of a kind. His exquisite intelligence on complex topics (such as EU trade), his ability to speak five different languages, his and his consistent passion will be solely be missed in Parliament.

But on a more personal note, Nick Clegg made me realise I was a liberal, and from then on, I felt like I wanted to do something about it to show I care for my country.  I remember writing an essay in A-Level French about ‘your values’. Initially, I was confused, mostly because I hadn’t bothered to think about what my values were; I’m more into plants than policy, after all. This essay forced me to research and articulate what I truly stood for, but I was struggling. And then, I stumbled across a video of Nick Clegg on the LBC, talking about the devastating attacks of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and my goodness, his compassion and intelligence on the subject was outstanding. A beautiful balance of logic and emotion.

Now, this realisation of ‘I am a liberal’ was not an instant one. In the run-up to the General Election of 2015, I was still debating my values, despite not being old enough to vote at the time. However, I found myself constantly agreeing with Nick, while acknowledging he definitely made mistakes in coalition. However, seeing as I am now nearly twenty years old, I never felt the ‘betrayal’ factor of voting Lib Dem in 2010 with the promise of tuition fees and then being stabbed in the back. By the time I was eighteen years’ old, I had already decided to attend university even with the burden of student debt. I still stand firmly by the belief tuition fees (although not at £9k/year) are more progressive than no tuition fees at all, but I’m aware it was more the act of betrayal which damaged the party beyond repair.

Unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats in this case, coalition does mean compromise, and the issue of tuition fees was just one of the many painful compromises, in which Lib Dem influence got practically no media attention. That’s the downside of British coalitions – the country is simply not used to them. In many ways, Nick just wasn’t suited to British politics per se, and his lenience towards healthy, grown-up coalitions is a very European style of thinking, which of course comes as no surprise when the subject of the matter is Nick bloody Clegg. The thing is, I greatly admire that difference of thinking – it reminds me that this unfathomably flawed voting system isn’t the way things have to be. It gives me hope, and therefore, Nick Clegg also gave me hope (and still does, by the way).

And of course, his patent dedication to internationalism, evidence-based policy, climate change, and an economically sensible and fair society simply cannot be failed to mention. The Liberal Democrats – despite being a junior partner under a coalition – implemented a hell of a lot of their manifesto, including progressive policies such as the Pupil Premium. I am so proud of  what the Liberal Democrats achieved, but I am especially proud that it was Nick Clegg who lead that charge. I hope this surge of progress is replicated in characters such as Emmanuel Macron after the recent French election.

Often I feel like other ideologies assume they have the absolute moral high ground, just because they’re more popular. It’s all too easy to leech on to a successful party but not actually work and fight for its values. Now, I feel it’s more important than ever that I am proud to defend the ideas of centrism, liberalism, progress, rationality, and science. These are values which – in my mind – are fair, sensible, and sustainable, which is ultimately beneficial for society. Nick’s rise to power was a demonstration that these seemingly status-quo values can be radical and ultimately make society better off as a result. He was incredibly underestimated. In fact, I would go as far to say that he did not deserve the level of punishments he has received.

Nick Clegg, you have dedicated years of your life to making Sheffield Hallam and the United Kingdom a fairer, more liberal society to live in. I’m going to put my neck on the line here, but I strongly believe that your dedication to liberalism is one of – if not the most patriotic values I can imagine. And just like you said in 2015 as you resigned as leader:

“I will always give my unstinting support for all those who continue to keep the flame of British liberalism alive.”

And you know what? I certainly will. Thank you, Nick Clegg. Now get some rest.

This Post Won’t Make Sense.

It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to articulate my thoughts these days. They contradict each other as much as Clegg contradicts Farage, Corbyn contradicts Blair, and as Bernie contradicts Trump.

I’m going to try and explain the reason to you: long story short, I simultaneously care and don’t care about life. This is the Schrödinger-esque paradox I never thought I would ever get myself into.

It’s only been in recent times that this feeling has been prominent. And to be honest with you, it’s crippling. On one hand, as a lot of people I know realise, I have anxiety. This mental state is a stimulant, like caffeine. It means you’re always on edge; hyperactively aware of your surroundings; expecting danger around every corner. I subconsciously grab my throat in public because I feel I’m being suffocated by the mere presence of people. Don’t even get me started on when they talk to me! I care so much about how people perceive me that it’s ruined my academic life. I’m obsessed with wisdom and addicted to success.
On the other hand, I have a crippling sense of depression. Part of me didn’t want to state that, because if I didn’t, maybe I wouldn’t have to face the truth. However, it’s time to be frank. I need to talk to you about another contradiction.

Romanticism vs. stoicism vs. nihilism.

I am an extremely emotional person. I adore finding beauty in ideas and art, but I am of a moody, tempestuous nature. Only today, I was simultaneously crying over the poignant polonaises of Chopin and the inauguration of an imbecile.

Part of me seizes these emotions and tells myself to stop. Stop being so stupid, for crying out loud. You have the potential to be intelligent and the opportunities to be something so stop wasting your time. Take back control of your logic, your reason, and your brain. Suppress your emotions – they hold you back from academic success.

But what is success? What is beauty? What is intelligence? What are morals and ideologies? They are all human concepts. Everything in the human world plays within its own field, governed by laws of nature which we cannot shift. We’re enslaved by them, and unlike the European Union, we cannot vote to leave them because the majority of us don’t like them. And so, everything means nothing, and therefore, everything has equal value of significance, or rather, no significance in the cosmos at all.

Everything I am fearful of, everything I learn, everything that I am happy, sad, and angry about all occur because I am a human. That is, a human, with no purpose on this planet or indeed, this Universe (assuming there is only one). What’s the point in caring about anything at all if, in the end, I will die and no one will remember anything about me? My immediate friends and family may, but what about in generations to come? What about in a thousand years? A million years? How about 4.5 billion years when the Earth is engulfed by the Sun? This blog post on a website won’t last forever.

By that logic, I shouldn’t care that Donald Trump became President today. I shouldn’t care that Theresa May wants to take Britain out of the Single Market. I shouldn’t care that I every time someone mentions the word ‘exam’ my stomach churns and I panic. Ultimately, none of it matters. My memories, dreams, and anxieties can never be preserved forever. What’s even the point in trying?

But I have to care, don’t I? I’m part of the species Homo sapien. I didn’t choose to live in a society which is adhered by emotion and myth.
But also, I may be part of the species Homo sapien, yet I have never felt like I’m a cynic who’s forced to care, either. I like to care.
Therefore, I automatically care and yet I consciously care. Funny, that. It’s like I’m simultaneously programmed to care because the laws of nature enslave me to, but I also am a human who wants feels empathy, to create emotional art, to change the political world, and to undertake a degree that allows me to explore and marvel at the natural world.

This all – as ever – depends on perspective. Some would say that the pure rarity of life should justify its sanctity, and in this extremely small duration in space-time, I should try and make some sense of what is going on around me, and, well, care. Live, thrive, and potentially reproduce. That’s what being a human is according to my biology textbooks, and is emphasised by the tragic event of one of my university friends passing away very recently. I was inevitably feeling emotion, and grieving at the thought of losing her. When death strikes you in the face, it’s only natural to suddenly feel scared.

Death goes against my human survival instincts, but I can never escape from the feeling of nihilistically seeing my purpose as pointless.

I know that if I don’t get a grip on myself and establish a Yin-Yang balance between logic and emotions, I’ll end up like Eurus Holmes. I’ve always been made to feel ashamed of my emotions and with my track record, my emotions have held me back from academically achieving what I had the potential too, but deep down I know emotions are important for the plain functioning of human society. Where is the balance? Where do I find inner peace? And do I even want inner peace?

My brain is full to the brim with existential questions and contradictions. I don’t know what the true purpose of being a human is supposed to be. What’s more important: to live by the depressing truth about inevitable death, or should I distract myself by living in ignorant bliss? I cannot stand the thought of living a lie. So do I live my life to the full? Well, who’s ultimately going to care if I don’t? I don’t have a belief in any deity, so I’ve no one to appease. I’ve got no afterlife to go to. I’ve got no one to judge me at the end of the road.

It’s almost like I don’t want to care, but I inevitably do, for better and for worse. Caring allows me to appreciate life, but I’m still trapped within the game of probability and the laws of nature, so I know caring’s meaningless. While the knowledge of the lack of caring doesn’t stop my human body panicking at the thought of academic humiliation, it also stops me listening to motivational speakers who are convinced that their purpose in life is to convince me life has a soul. I instantly scorn at the thought.

And ironically, I have always been the girl at school who was the teacher’s pet and followed the rules because she always cared. She’s the girl who never challenged authority, for fear of being excluded from the praise given by the teacher. She’s the girl who privately had her own music taste but pretended to fit in so the social adhesion of her friendship group would be strong, so she wouldn’t be thrown out in the cold and left behind to either find another group or die. She cares because she was brought up in human society.

Freedom from rules would ignite chaos, but I wouldn’t want that; I would never want chaos. I want calmness, peace, and serenity. I appreciate the purpose of rules because I’m a human, but what if I weren’t a human but I was an individual, isolated, and self-aware being, looking down on humanity from outer-space? I wouldn’t care about their imaginary rules because I wouldn’t be part of their social groups…

Free me, goddamnit. I will finally be at peace when I accept death is inevitable. I would never deliberately kill myself, but if I lean too far to the view of ‘not caring’, then I will probably accept death and greet it as an old friend.

Ha. I just did it again. That latter clause was a personification. You see? I literally cannot escape from being a human. I just am human – a human confined to human concepts. A human confined to a group which means there will be characters like Farage who I will usually react negatively to, and there will be characters like Clegg who I will usually react positively to. These reactions are just to do with morals, though, and how my own conscience has been shaped by a mass of differing morals that I have come across in nineteen years in the Western world. These are just morals created by humans in order to keep us together, in order to survive in this harsh world. But I obey them for the sake of keeping humanity together.

Bloody hell, I have so many questions and so many answers. Everything’s a contradiction, and my human brain cannot process and organise so many thoughts at once. I’m starting to think that maybe the reason exams have not been my forté in recent years is because I’m starting to separate myself from the enforced education system because the system is only put in place by humans. I can’t change the fact that I’m a human, but I do wonder about the possibility of not being human, and viewing us from elsewhere.

I think I’ll end this here, now. I feel better trying to articulate my thoughts. I hope I’m not alone in overthinking this, and I therefore hope that someone out there will actually read through this properly and at least try to understand what I’m thinking about.

To summarise: I care because I am human, which is both a product of inevitable probability and the beauty of nature. 

Hey, and maybe I could find balance within that conclusion.


On Being a British Liberal in a Nationalistic World

by Amy Gaskin

Today is the 10th November 2016, and it’s only just hit me that Donald Trump is now the most powerful man in the world. Of course I was angry, but overall, I found the way I reacted to Trump becoming President disturbing. Why? I barely reacted to it.

At least, not initially.

I think it was to do with Brexit. I had my hopes up for remaining in the EU, and when we voted to leave, I reacted as if I’d just been dumped. Sobbing furiously for hours. Panic attacks. Hiding from the world. The values which I had spent hours campaigning for were torn away from me by populism and UKIP-fuelled falsities. I was utterly distraught. All I could see was an act of socioeconomic suicide.

With that in mind, maybe I was indifferent to the American election because I’d already dealt with the grief once before. Maybe I wasn’t as optimistic for this election as I would have been beforehand and so I could mentally prepare myself for an apocalypse.
I was also very sceptical this time around. People told me that “Trump could never win!” and “Clinton will win a landslide!” Now, I’m not going to get pious and jeer “I told you so!” – thus emphasising my so-called liberal elitism- but very reluctantly, I saw this result coming. I am a scientist, and scientists look at trends. Hasn’t anyone else noticed the nationalistic spring across the Western world? It’s happening right now, so now is the time for moderates like me to suppress our in-denial natures and openly deal with the fact that extreme politics are becoming an epidemic. And as with any other epidemic, it could very easily become a pandemic if we don’t realise the severity of the issue and remain apathetic.

Look at the parallels: “Take Back Control” vs. “Make America Great Again”. Both equally wishy-washy as each other, and yet extremely effective. These slogans initially perplexed me because there was no logical substance; only a wave of emotion! In science, head tends to trump heart, but I’ve learned in politics that it’s the complete opposite. What I failed to realise was this wave was made up of raw anger, which represented the frustration held at the establishment. I mean, I don’t blame the anger, because who wants statistics thrown in their face when they’re struggling to make ends meet? Understandably, they want to see some real change after being unfairly ignored for an unacceptable amount of time. And so, they probably feel like they do want to take back control and make their country great again. I don’t speak for those people, but the slogans did, and so people responded in ways experts could never have predicted five years ago.


I may be biased as a Lib Dem, but meeting Nick Clegg at his book signing confirmed he knows what he’s on about when he defends liberal values

Moreover, this epidemic isn’t unique to the US and the UK, either. Nick Clegg (2016) detailed in his book about the sudden rise of popularity for nationalistic leaders in Europe: France’s Marine Le Pen, The Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, and Austria’s Norbert Hofer are probably overjoyed at Trump’s presidency! They feel their ultra-xenophobic views are now legitimised on a mass scale, which can only negatively influence society. The UK has already seen – as of July 2016- a 42% increase in xenophobic hate crimes since the 23rd June (Mortimer, 2016), and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a similar result is replicated around the Western world in the very near future.

These nationalists in Europe and elsewhere have a deluded idea of what freedom is. Freedom does not mean kicking out immigrants, building a wall, and leaving the EU; these are stupidly simple and illiberal solutions for extremely complex problems. Democracy can be long-winded and therefore, frustrating, but I urge every moderately minded person out there that we must cherish our common liberal values and work together. It’s not about implementing a niche ideology for temporary political gain anymore- because I welcome opinions which contradict my own. Rather, it’s about keeping us secure in the long-term, and no, that is not scaremongering  fiction. I firmly believe that teamwork is currently the best way of providing a stable, safe world for future generations. We must collaborate to combat climate change and save our fragile environment. We must collaborate to fight for people who are not allowed to be who they want to be.

“But how?” I hear you cry.

Stand up for liberal values. Please don’t be scared to do so. I wasn’t even a part of a political party until the General Election happened and I knew something worse was just about to emerge from the shadows. We’re now in an age of darkness, and all I ask from you is to shine the light.

Even if you can’t vote and/or don’t want to formally join a political party, you can get involved and effect change. We have to unite and put slight differences aside (while maintaining identity) and effectively act as a team. No more petty tribalism. No more silence. This team is united by sharing the voice of hope for our future generations, so it is vital that you provide the voices of moderate politics, of liberalism and hope whenever you can, because they are needed now more than ever. Too much is at stake to carry on fighting amongst ourselves.

Respect each other, but challenge climate-scepticism, economic inequality, views of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and the like. But please, do not let history repeat itself, and do not give Donald Trump the fuel he needs to keep his fire burning.



Clegg, N., 2016. Politics: Between the Extremes. 1st ed. London: Bodley Head.

Mortimer, C., 2016. Hate crimes surge by 42% in England and Wales since Brexit result. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 10 November 2016].

Featured image credits:






It’s good to feel free.

Makeup has always been a difficult topic for me. When I was younger, I was a so-called “tomboy”: a classic anecdote being the time I – aged two-years-old – tried to take off the frilly dress I was wearing for my little brother’s christening in the church. I never really bothered about being “girly”.
Everything changed when I started high school. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who would tell me to wear makeup as it was the norm to look pretty, to attract guys, and just fit into the high school environment.
I tried to fit in and used my lunch money to nab some free mascara pots from secretly-bought teen girl magazines, all without my parents knowing. Before school, I used to run into the girls’ bathroom, pop some mascara on, and after school, I used to return there to take it off before I got home. My parents wouldn’t let me wear makeup at that age, you see. They argued that I didn’t need it to look pretty, and I was too young to wear it.
I would say now, as a nineteen-year-old, at that time I think I should have been allowed to have a choice. At home, I was banned from it; at school, I would be deemed ugly without it. I was never free.


#eyelinergoals: the tragedy that was my early adolescence

Needless to say, I never really learned how to use makeup. By the time I was sitting my GCSEs, I was wearing mascara and using pencil eyeliner on my lower lash every day. Emotionally, I went through a dark phase, but I never was allowed to adapt my appearance to suit my ever-changing personality. Plus, I became confused. Why weren’t any guys attracted to me? Why wasn’t I more popular than I was? I thought makeup essentially held magic powers which allowed you to climb the social ladder; I mean, who could blame me- that’s all I was ever told.


A diagram of what happens when you get a chalazion.Credit to

Meanwhile, just when my parents were becoming more liberal about my makeup use, disaster struck. I developed a stye. Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. It wasn’t a stye. In fact, it was a chalazion- a pea-sized lump which develops inside your eyelids as a result of what’s known as a meibomian gland becoming blocked with excess oil and debris, and my fluctuating teenage hormones were the culprit.
Chalazia are no joke. They made my eyes sore, lumpy, and swollen right up until the end of sixth form. I had to go for a total of eight minor operations to drain my eyelids out, and every time I had one done, I had to return to school with an eyepatch on. (I was honestly impressed with the amount of pirate-related jokes I encountered). My doctor banned me from wearing eye make up for fear of making my eyes seriously worse. Meanwhile, I went to school everyday feeling horrible about myself, like I was a walking disease who would infect everyone I touched. People at school had arguably matured and were mostly sympathetic, however, I couldn’t help but feel cheated by them.  Thanks to makeup, which I was pressured into wearing in order to be accepted, the pressure of the lumps on my eyes could have seriously damaged my eyesight.


Prom disaster: You can see just how droopy this chalazion made my left eye

While all the surgeries were going on, my Year 11 prom was approaching at a terrifying rate. Despite my doctor saying I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup,  I applied some silver eyeshadow (with painful consequences- listen to the experts, guys! Michael Gove, I’m looking at you.)

So, having spent my teenage years in an environment where it was considered a deadly sin to even think about attending school without makeup made me incredibly self-conscious. Who was whispering about me? Was I pretty enough? Will I ever get a boyfriend? What do the guys like? High school was painful- literally and metaphorically.

Therefore, after I completed my GCSEs, I made the decision to attend a different sixth form in order to socially start afresh and build my character. By some miracle, in my first term, I got my first boyfriend. He fell in love with me without me applying any makeup for sixth form. I was confused- how was that possible? I thought not wearing makeup made me ugly, though he didn’t seem to think so. He still saw me as beautiful. Despite us no longer being together, he treated me well, and in hindsight, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

As my eyes started to heal, I began wearing more make up to sixth form because I became curious now there wasn’t a consequence to not wearing it. Some days I bothered, some days I didn’t. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to apply it anymore, seeing as I’d spent so being prohibited from wearing it. Not willing to take a risk, I stuck to what I knew and just applied one coat of mascara. Studying for my A-Levels didn’t exactly give me a lot of time to practise, anyway. Somehow I managed to do winged eyeliner for the first time at my Sixth Form Leavers’ Ball, though!
After leaving sixth form, I had the summer off to recover from the horrors that were my A-Levels, but I couldn’t expect what would happen next.


The fabulous Jane Brook from the House of Colour analysing my colours on my 18th birthday

My mum’s never been comfortable with her clothes and body shape, however, one woman changed that. Earlier in 2015, she met an entrepreneur through her networking business, and they got talking. She introduced my mum to her business, which is essentially, finding the colours that suit you. My mum is beautiful, but this woman found colours that flattered her natural features, and my mum feels so much happier and confident in herself, which is so wonderful to see. She loved it so much, in fact, that she booked me in for a session for my 18th birthday. I discovered that I was a part of the “Autumn” palette, and learned some new makeup tricks and tips involving foundation, lipstick, and eyeshadow- items which I’d never considered using before.
Being free from a social environment allowed me to develop my own technique, and now I have a routine to which I do my makeup most days. Some days I bother, some days I don’t. Now that I’m in my second year of university, things are so much better. People at university allow you to be yourself and have your own sense of style without judgement, and now, I feel more comfortable in my own skin. Moreover, now that I’m nearing the end of adolescence, my hormones are calming down a bit, so from a health perspective, my eyes are doing pretty well.

I would argue my relationship with makeup has been a stressful and painful one, but now I’ve found how to enhance my face and make it look fairly good- even on a student budget! My eyes have nearly recovered, too.

Lessons I’ve learned:
– Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re supposed to look like in order to fit in.
– Make up is not there to impress someone; it’s there for you and only you.
– Listen to doctors because, unsurprisingly, they’re experts in medicine.
– You should be free to make your own choices about how you want to express yourself.
– Jane Brook at the House of Colour in Worcester is an amazing woman who has significantly changed my life. I’ll put the details to the business below.

Thank you so much for reading!

~ Amy

Link to House of Colour for all your styling needs!


Why the French burkini ban is damaging feminism

I know this isn’t a piece about biology, and it’s certainly not a well-structured piece using proper sourcing or statistics. However, I’m going to give a brief opinion on what is inherently immoral about the French burkini ban.

To give some context, according to the Guardian, approximately fifteen local authorities in French towns have started to enforce the removal of the burkini sparked by the various terrorist attacks on French soil in the last year and a half. Despite this, sources have reported burkini sales have actually risen in response to the new ban. According to one source, the French news outlet FRANCE 24 has reported that the burkini designer Zanetti received sixty orders of burkinis last Sunday alone- all of them from non-Muslim clients.

I speak as a Western, non-Muslim woman here and the burkini ban strikes me as an obvious and disturbing sign of regressive politics. The patent problem with it is that it’s doing nothing for global feminism, because the French local authorities are limiting the freedom of women to wear whatever the hell they like without state intervention. It’s completely hypocritical. It does not empower women, it restricts their freedom to choose. No one should be forced to show skin for the sake of “empowerment”- that is not what feminism is about! Feminism is about having the freedom to have the choice to wear a bikini, a tankini, or a burkini, because not all women are comfortable showing all of their skin and they should have the freedom to cover up if they want to without getting the law involved.
People who know me in real life would probably be surprised that I’m speaking ill of the French (I love their language) but the hypocrisy of the French local authorities is staring me in the face and it would be wrong not to point it out. Think about the French motto: liberté , égalité , fraternité. They have abandoned it.

Liberté? Non. They’re not having the freedom to choose to wear the burkini.
Égalitié? Non. They’re not being treated the same as a woman who chooses to wear a bikini.
Fraternité? Non. This is drawing even more deep divisions in a tense society which already has stigma against Muslims. French Muslims who choose to wear the burkini are not being supported by the French authorities. “Les Français de souche” should extend to French-born Muslims, too. It is hypocritical and deeply Islamophobic to argue against that because it is essentially having one rule for one group of people, and one to oppress another. It is almost like enforcing the burqa.

double standards

Double standards? I may not agree with Islam but I support the freedom of the individual to choose what to wear if it makes them feel empowered. Empowerment isn’t synonymous with ‘showing more skin’ or ‘showing less skin’.

Laïcité isn’t a good enough excuse to justify banning the burkini. You want to keep religion out of the law for the purpose of freedom? Fine, je suis d’accord avec ça. But think about it: people who wear the burkini are not “forcing their religious beliefs onto you”. They’re wearing a burkini because they are on the beach and want to go swimming and they don’t want to show skin. They’re not going to lecture you about Islam and physically force you to convert. Therefore, if laïcité is supposed to promote freedom, then people should have the freedom to practise their own religion and be proud of it representing it without legal intervention, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. In addition, it is hypocritical because people are free to have the choice to wear a wetsuit which essentially covers the same parts of the human body. Moreover, they should also have the freedom to wear whatever they’re most comfortable in because comfort is empowerment.


If these French local authorities disagree with me, perhaps they could give me their alternative definition of freedom, s’il vous plaît? I’d love to know what it is.


Picture sources:




Could science explain why some people ‘cheat’ in society?

If you’ve ever been in charge of little children for a few hours, you will probably have heard the all-too familiar words being screamed: “It’s not fair!” As immature as that phrase sounds, I – an adult – feel like shouting it at the wealthy elite. Why do some of these people go out of their way to ‘cheat’ in society? Could biology provide one answer to this political problem?

I theorise about the links between biology and politics a lot, and recently I have specifically been thinking about the role that ecology has in modern human society. Before I started studying biology at university, whenever I heard the word ‘ecology’, I automatically groaned because I found the concept of counting blades of grass in a field so tedious. (Can you really blame me, though?) Now, however, ecology really fascinates me because when you delve into the world of theoretical ecology, suddenly you’ve found yourself at the foundations of all human society. I feel it was inevitable for me to join a party and teach myself a bit more about politics, and it wasn’t long until I became angry about inequality.

When the Panama papers were leaked in 2016, it demonstrated a prime example of inequality. It was revealed that the wealthy elite store money abroad so they don’t have to pay as much tax on it. It’s a very clever and sneaky loophole. It’s technically not illegal, but I think the majority of us agree with the opinion that it is immoral, and definitely unfair. This lead me to thinking about the very sense of human nature behind this behaviour. Why do people dodge tax in the first place? In other words, why do some people cheat? It seems to be a pretty universal trend ranging from the UK, to China, to Russia, so maybe there is a statistically significant hypothesis that could explain this phenomenon.

I hypothesise that ecology may hold one answer to this interesting conundrum. I like to think of politics and economics as a branch of behavioural ecology. After all, despite us thinking we are separate from the animal kingdom, we are animals, and it is a combination of our genes and the environment which shapes our behaviour. People may ‘cheat’ in society because of ecology.

In ecological terms, a cheater is a term to describe an individual in a population who deliberately enhances the cost of another’s action in order to increase the benefit to themselves. (Cue the Daily Mail war cry: “Benefit scroungers!”)  Based upon this concept, in a population, every individual seems to want to increase the chance of them surviving to an age where they can reproduce and pass on their genes to their offspring (aka, ‘fitness’), as put forward by Charles Darwin in 1859. One way of maximising this fitness is by having access to resources such as food, water, shelter, and fuel and in this day and age, it helps you massively if you have comfortable access to them. It takes no genius to know that you need money in order to have the very best of these resources. Some humans tend to stop at nothing in order to get those resources as it enhances their fitness. Does that make some of us naturally greedy?

david attenborough

Sir David Attenborough was obviously the one to narrate ‘Clever Monkeys’, and quite rightly so!

Recently I was watching a BBC documentary called ‘Clever Monkeys’ and it featured a group of white-faced capuchins from Costa Rica. Capuchins, and other eusocial animals, are particularly fascinating because they seem to have established a hierarchical system with dominants at the top and subordinates at the bottom as a result of competition. Unsurprisingly, the dominants get the best share of the food, leaving the subordinates less well off.

The subordinates may not have the privilege of the best share of food, but they want it so they too can increase their biological fitness, and so they have learned how to acquire it at the expense of the dominants’ privilege. In the documentary, I found out that the subordinate has learned to initiate a faux-warning call to make the group believe there is a predator nearby, when in actual fact, there isn’t. Groups are built upon trust, and so the group trusts this capuchin’s judgement and all the individuals immediately scarper so they can survive. When they’re all gone, the subordinate sneaks down and grabs their fair share of the food. This behaviour ultimately increases their chance of survival-  unless they get caught by the rest of the group!

Now of course, I am not implying that David Cameron et al. are monkeys! However, the parallels between non-human primate societies, hunter-gatherer societies, and amplified industrialised states are definitely too intriguing to disregard. I’ll take David Cameron as an example here, because it seems contradictory for him to act as the ‘subordinate’ here. While he wasn’t directly involved in tax avoidance, he was linked to it. Why would he let it happen? He is the personification of privilege, so under the current system, it’s therefore not surprising that he is now more than financially comfortable. With that in mind, what more could he possibly gain, so why would he have a necessity to ‘cheat’ in society?

Competition. There’s always someone who is richer than David Cameron. Based on our current theories of evolution and ecology, competition is inevitable. In a more primitive society, we would fight for every single primary resource: food, territory, and mates. In today’s society, our resource distribution is evidently more complex as our rate of technological progress can evidence. Fiscal competition for depleting resources has never been higher in industrial countries, putting an unimaginably high amount of pressure on society to do ‘well’ in life in order to provide the best for their children. It’s never been more difficult to buy your first home, for example. And thanks to the Brexit vote in June, the markets have become even more uncertain, which could make the money in people’s pockets even more relatively valuable to them as the risk of them losing it increases by the day.

And as the world becomes more fiscally competitive and resources become less readily available, pressure on us and our families will increase. Is your job secure? How certain is your next pay-cheque? People could understandably want to maintain their wealth, including the wealthy elite. In this ever-growing uncertain world, people with lots of wealth desperately try to find legal means of hiding their money from the taxman. A solution? Store your money in offshore tax havens. Become a cheater. People like David Cameron could be under the false impression that he is a subordinate. Even if William Hamilton proposes that due to kinselection you are naturally inclined to take care of your family to increase the risk of your genes being passed on, cheating the system harms the people who are genuine

‘subordinates’ in society.

Yes, fiscally capitalist ideologies will inevitably result in inequality. But if the wealthy elite do not pay their fair share of taxes, then the gap between the rich and the poor will only increase over time, leaving the ones who are both less well-off and honest behind. This can deprive them of educational opportunities that provide them a key to a brighter future, ultimately leading to a society which isn’t as fair as it could be. It’s no use claiming that the wealth will trickle down from the 1% to the poor because otherwise it wouldn’t be 1% who own 35.6% of all private wealth.

A more liberal and fair society would be one in which all people do their fair share. Cheaters may have had a genetic trait which allowed them to increase their chances of surviving by being cunning, but we don’t live in a society of capuchins. Ecology may explain why people cheat, but in my view, it is merely a naturalistic fallacy and so it shouldn’t be a rulebook to abide by. This is why I cannot understand the reasoning behind the 1%’s decisions to have one of set of rules for them, and another for the rest. It isn’t fair at all.