What university has taught me

Of course, the point of going to university is to learn, be educated and get a degree. However, there is so much you will learn at university that is not academic. Going away to uni can be rewarding for so many reasons and I am here to tell you what university taught me. 

Meeting new people: I had friends before going to university but most of them I met at the start of secondary school if not primary school. From this I clearly knew how to maintain friendships, but it had been years since I actually had to actively pursue meeting new people.  I’m glad I did; I met some of the most amazing people at university and it has really taught me to be more confident in meeting new people. It may seem daunting at first but if you put your best foot forward and really try to meet new people you will be sure to find those who you gel with. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find your best friends straight away for some people it will take longer than others, but it will be worth it in the end. Also, meeting people from all different backgrounds when I have lived in one place my whole life with the same people, is a really fun experience.

There’s no time limit on life: Before I went to university, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do at uni but once I arrived these things didn’t always go to plan. I didn’t even join a society until second year but that was okay, it can be overwhelming when you make big changes to your life. For a lot of people moving to uni will be the first time you’ve moved away from home but I’m glad I have that experience as it has given me confidence to make changes in my life and know that when I do I will go at my own pace.  Connected to this is not comparing yourself to other people, people will have different timelines to you and that is okay. Just keep going at your own pace and don’t feel like you have to rush just because other people are doing something.  you’ll be much happier without putting that unnecessary pressure on yourself to do something you either don’t want to do at all or don’t want to do just yet. 

Take time for yourself: Being at university, you have so many opportunities constantly coming at you. Whether that’s work related or socially, it can feel like you need to do everything. You don’t have to force yourself to constantly participate and sometimes it’s important to just take that time for yourself.  People aren’t going to change their opinion of you just because you missed one night out especially when you need it for your own health. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from uni that sometimes you will just want to sit in your room with some snacks and your own company.  This is something I try to do a bit more often as self-care is so important. 

You will make mistakes: This is a really important one when you’re in such new surroundings.  I was so used to my life before university that it was easy, everything was familiar and so I knew what I was doing. University will be a time when you will learn a lot. The way essays are written is completely different to those written at sixth form and so it was very much a learning curve that I had to get used to a new writing style which was difficult seeing that I made mistakes but it’s something you can learn from and you will gradually improve. Not just in an academic capacity though, you are meeting new people, and you may accidentally rub people up the wrong way. Taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to your mistakes is the first step to learning from them. 

Budgeting: I wanted to just put this one in at the end as even though I have written a whole post on this it is one of the most vital lessons I have learned while being at university. So, if this is something you struggle with, go check out my previous blog post all about creating a budget and sticking to it. 

My top tips on managing your university workload

Learning to manage your workload is a vital skill at university. You will have to complete weekly reading, write assignments and study for exams all while being sociable and settling into a new environment. It’s also good to work out what works best for you in first year when a lot of universities don’t take your grades into account towards your final grade (remember you still have to pass).  This isn’t me saying you don’t have to worry but it means you can afford to make mistakes as you are learning what works best for you. Having an established plan will also help as the workload will begin to increase as you go through the years at uni.


Prioritise: It can be easy to choose to do the task you like best first, but this isn’t always the best idea. Focusing on an assignment that isn’t due for 5 weeks when you have an exam in two days. Of course, it’s always a good idea to get ahead on assignments and not leave them to the last minute but this shouldn’t be at the expense of other things you have due in. Keeping in mind what deadlines you have come up will help you work out what needs to be done first and what should be your priority at a given time. Also, keep in mind somethings will take longer than others and so you may have to begin these things a bit earlier. 

Plan your time: I personally use a planner to keep myself on top of what work needs to be done. I ensure that I have all my deadlines written down, so I don’t get any surprises from forgetting something is due. I then plan what I’m going to work on each day in order to keep on top of everything. It is important to work out how much time will go into things but also how much time you have on a particular day. If you’re in lectures every day you don’t want to be planning to do 8 hours of work on that day as it’s just not going to be possible to fit all that in. Also, realising that you need to plan a lot more time for a 5,000-word assignment than a 2,500-word assignment is important. 

Don’t overexert yourself: Remember you’re going to have off days where you may not feel like working and so I make sure to plan a rest day each week. Though in my plan this will be a specific day, if I need to I’ll move the rest day, I may feel I really need it on a specific day.  Also, making sure you leave time for breaks and out of university activities is essential in order to not wear yourself out and to keep your mental health in check.

It’s not all about work: As much as you are going to university to get your degree, you will have so many opportunities you don’t want to miss out on. Making time for extra-curricular activities and socialising is very important to make the most of your time at uni. Make sure you find a balance that works for you, you don’t want work to become like a chore; it should be something you enjoy.

An introduction to cooking

University is the perfect time to learn to cook as it’s a skill you will use long after you graduate. Unless you are on a catered plan at uni, you will have to do some form of cooking unless you plan to have a takeaway every day. It may be daunting if you’ve never cooked before but trust me, you’ll learn, you’ll make a lot of mistakes as well but that’s all part of the process. 


Why you should learn to cook

As easy as it might be to stick something frozen in the oven or warm a ready meal up in the microwave, nothing beats a home cooked meal. A lot of the time the thought of cooking properly for yourself may seem like a lot of effort and time-consuming but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there are some amazing meals that you can work on for a good few hours but being a university student, you won’t have time to slave over dinner every afternoon. One of my top tips for this is to make a big batch of time-consuming meals and then portion them up and freeze them to be quickly heated up later in the week. I love to do this on a weekend when I find myself having more time and cooking gives me a break from university work and I get a yummy meal at the end of it. There are also some much quicker meals that you can make that are easy to do of an evening for example; Fajitas, pasta dishes and marinated chicken. The marinated chicken does need some preparation so leave it in the marinade in the fridge while you go out or get stuff done in the house and come back and cook it whenever you’re ready. 

But what if I’ve never cooked before?

Everyone has to start somewhere! Look for recipes that don’t look too out your comfort zone to begin with. A lot of websites will help you with that by rating the recipes on difficulty, if you are just starting out go for something marked easy and then work your way up as you become more skilled. One of the best things about getting more confident is that you can change up the recipes to suit your tastes and add new flavours. It is important not to be disheartened if things go wrong, that’s just part of the process, I have defiantly had a few kitchen fails myself. 

Finding your favourite recipes

This is the fun part. I love looking for new recipes to try, you might first want to think about your favourite dish. Whatever it is type it into google and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of recipes showing you how to make it. You can also look on Pinterest I have a board especially for recipes I want to trying at some point. You can always ask friends for recommendations; that way you know they have been tried and tested. You could even cook this together; I love when my housemates and I have meals together at uni as it means we all get to sit down and enjoy a home cooked meal together. I will also be recommending my favourite recipes in later blog posts so look out for that!

The most important thing about cooking is to enjoy yourself. You’re learning a new skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life. So, give it a go and learn from your mistakes.

Juggling a job at university

We all know the student stereotype of being broke and for a lot of us that is a reality. Yes, you can apply for a student loan but that may not be enough, for some it doesn’t even cover the cost of accommodation. You may be able to turn to the bank of mum and dad but for one they may not be able to fully support you and two it takes away that independence moving away to university brings. This means you may want to get a job and there are so many ways to go about doing this, but I will save that for another post. This post is to advise you on how you can juggle a job alongside your studies. 


I am able to speak from personal experience as I had a job for about three months in first year and for the majority of second year. My experiences differed between the two years due to different commitments and workloads, but it is definitely possible to juggle if you’re prepared to put in the effort. Both my jobs were in waitressing as this is what I had experience in prior to uni. 


In my first year I didn’t get a job until after Christmas, I had saved enough money over the summer that I didn’t need one as soon as I got to uni. This would be first tip, try and work over the summer before uni so that you have some cash when you arrive. Of course, enjoy this summer!  The summer between sixth form and uni holds so many fond memories for me and it’s important that you take this time to relax. Hopefully, you will feel you don’t need to get a job straight away but if you do, I would recommend waiting until after freshers if it is something you want to take part in. If you are planning to go out every night you don’t want to have to worry about having to get up in the morning or getting out of work to go home and be ready for a night out. Also, first impressions are crucial you don’t want to turn up hungover especially if it’s a new job. Once you have found a good time to start a job, you then need to decide how many hours you are willing to do. This will greatly depend on contact hours and how much work you need to do out of class, personally doing history I had very little contact hours and so I was able to be more flexible with when I could work but I gave a limit of how many hours I was prepared to work each week. This is very important as you need to give yourself time to socialise, do uni work and to make the most out of your uni experience. In the end I gave up my first-year job because I wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t need to be doing it, there was also a bit of FOMO so be careful of that. Friends were however understanding and would often work nights out around my shifts but if I was working when there was an event on it couldn’t be helped. 


In both years, I would still work shifts at the job I had before I went to uni during the holidays. This is perfect if you feel you could do with a bit more cash going into the next term without the full commitment of having a job while you’re studying. This again is something you need to balance with your social life, if you have friends from home you don’t get to see often, you’ll want to spend time with them. It was, however, nice to go back to work, somewhere familiar and tell all my work friends about life at uni and have a good catch up. 


Second year was a very different experience, I got my job almost straight away as I’d applied before going to uni and the attended interviews in the first couple of weeks. This is something I’d recommend if you are serious about getting a job when you get to uni; start looking before you move so you have something lined up for when you arrive. Again, I had little contact hours, but I did take up Tango in second year, so I worked my availability around that. It is important when giving your availability that you not only think of lectures but if you plan to take up any extra-curricular activities you don’t want to double book yourself. This year again I gave a maximum number of working hours I was able to do and when I began being put on shift for a lot more, I brought this to the attention of my manager, and it was sorted. Remember your uni work comes first and you should not allow that to be compromised for a job. I felt that because we went out a lot less and I had an established group of friends in second year there was a lot less FOMO with having a job. In fact, I was actually able to make friends through my job and see colleagues out of work which was a plus. The downside with having a job in second year is that the workload does increase and so you really should prepare yourself for that and maybe commit to less hours at work at least until you have a good routine worked out.  Due to coronavirus my place of work closed in March and so I didn’t have the experience of doing exams alongside going to work which was something I was beginning to question how manageable it would have been. This is something to think about, you don’t want to sacrifice your exams for the sake of a job but then at the same time work could be a fitting distraction. 


Overall, I’d say my main piece of advice is finding that balance, make sure you put your studies first as that is the whole reason you are putting yourself through uni. Getting a job can have many benefits; money, meeting new people, learning new skills and having a distraction from work to name a few things. It’s all about finding what’s best for you!

How do I budget and actually stick to it?

If you’d have asked me this question two years ago, I’d have to have said I don’t. That however was not healthy for my bank account or my mental health, being in my overdraft and seeing the money in my savings go down would make me worry about how I’d deal with this in the future. Luckily, I started to do a proper budget and learnt how to stick with it. The most important things to look at is what you have coming in whether that is your student loan, wages from a job or both. Once you have worked out how much you have to spend decide whether you will budget per week or per month, personally I do per week so I don’t spend my months budget straight away and anything I don’t spend in that week I can roll over to the next. Once all this is done, follow these tips to properly budget!


Rent and housing bills: paying rent and bills and paying them on time are the most important things when it comes to money. When money comes in put aside the money or pay your rent straight away. As students your loan will come in three chunks, one per term, and so if your rent and bills are being paid once a month it can be easy to see the money in your account and think you can spend it. Personally, I put it in a separate account so that I don’t feel inclined to spend it and it’s there for me when I need it. Once this is out of the way you can work out how much you have left per month. Of course, when it comes to student loans some people’s will cover a lot less than others so you may need to get a part-time job or get financial assistance from parents to make ends meet. It’s also important to note how much you can afford to spend on your accommodation, especially when it comes to uni halls as the prices can differ greatly. Deciding whether it is worth sacrificing other things for an en-suite bathroom when you could save money with a shared bathroom is something you’ll have to think about.  Also, in halls you are usually lucky enough that the bills are included and so you won’t need to worry about this separately, it will all be one payment of rent and bills. 

Food and other shopping necessities: food of course is the next big thing, when it comes to food there are many options to decide from which will impact how much you should budget for this. Personally, I don’t spend too much on my weekly shop as I go to a budget supermarket but then I also tend to get a takeaway or go out for a meal once or twice a month which I will factor into my food budget. The more high-end you go with your food and the more you buy the higher you should budget for this. The best thing to do when it comes to food is work out what you plan to eat in the week and make a shopping list that way you only buy what you need and save money and food by not buying what you will eventually throw away. I find when I shop without a list, I just grab what I fancy even if I won’t get chance to eat it before the use by date. Also, remember when you go to a supermarket you are not just buying food, factor in money for toiletries, cleaning products, stationary and the like.  This is especially important if you are catered, while you food may be included in rent, there will be other bits you need to pick up at the supermarket that you should include in your budget. 

Hobbies: A big part of university is getting involved with student life; whether that is joining a society, playing for a sports team or going on nights out. The reason I put this high up on the list is for a lot of these things I did not realise how expensive were until I got to uni. With sports teams and societies, you usually have to pay upfront at the start of the year which may feel like a big chunk going out of your pocket which is why I’d recommend a separate fresher’s budget. Your first week or two at uni will most likely be your most expensive and so budgeting a lot more for this is wise. It’s also important to remember that these organisations will have things going on throughout the year whether that’s matches, formals or socials, if this is something you want to be a part of this should be added to your budget.  You don’t want to miss out on going out with your teammates or fellow society members because you can’t afford it. The same goes for nights out, if you know that you want to go out multiple times a week you need to budget this so that you don’t suddenly find yourself in your overdraft. 

Treating yourself: as much as I’d love to tell you to treat yourself as much as you feel like it, this is not easy when on a budget. I found the best way to do this is to set yourself goals, if I can save this much money by this date I will go shopping. This could also work by saying, if in say three weeks it’s still on my mind I’ll treat myself. An example of this was when I wanted to splurge on a matching gym set so I told myself if I go to the gym at least three times a week for the next month I’ll treat myself. Not only did this make me feel like I deserved to treat myself, but it also gave me the peace of mind that I was investing in something I’d actually get use out of. 

Savings and emergency fund: As I said before I chose to budget each week and what I don’t spend rolls over to the next week. However, at the end of each month, I will move whatever money I don’t spend into savings or an emergency fund so that I have money for the future or for an emergency. 


Just remember learning to budget can take time and you won’t change your spending habits overnight. Once you start saving money, the joy that you’ll feel in having money saved will far exceed the short-term gratification of receiving a haul of clothes you probably won’t wear in a month’s time. I will add though, remember you’re going to university to enjoy yourself (and to study of course) so find what works best when it comes to spending. You don’t want to miss out on everything because you want to save all your money but then you may struggle later on if you blow all your money at once.  Balance is key!

Book Review: ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a series of letters written by Eva to her husband Franklin about their son Kevin. She writes about her visits to see Kevin in prison after he murdered fellow students, a teacher and a cafeteria worker in the gym of their school. The reader is given an insight into Eva’s mind with the story of Kevin’s upbringing and the time leading up to this event being told through her eyes.


My thoughts: I’ll warn you this is not the book for you if you are looking for a quick read. It took me a lot longer than a book of its length would normally take and it was a difficult book to get into. I decided to persevere as I had heard many good reviews and I am glad I did because it turned out to be a very interesting and thought-inducing read. Normally, when I read a book I feel disinclined to carry on reading when I find the characters to be unlikable and Eva is definitely that however the story made me want to read on. Having Eva presented this way as selfish and pessimistic works for the story, it creates questions for the reader as to the effects this had upon Kevin and makes us question whether her accounts of Kevin’s actions and the intentions behind them are bias because of her outlook. Kevin is an interesting character too, there is a sense of frustration that we are never able to see inside his head except what he has told Eva which wills the reader to continue reading in hopes that their questions will be answered. I was also impressed by the twist towards the end it was not something that I had personally guessed which I always find pleasing in a book as it gives a sudden change to the tone of the novel. The book itself is very well written, using articulate and intricate language. I would have to read another of Shriver’s books to see whether this is her writing style or whether this was the voice she chose to give to Eva. The voice does work well; Eva herself is a travel writer and very passionate about it so it would make sense for her writing style to be this way. Not only this but she is an arrogant character and so such a tone makes it seem like she is intending to show off how educated she is. The only downside to this is that it made it difficult to understand at times and so slowed down the reading of the book but then again allowing yourself more time to read this book will allow for you to really think. After speaking to my own mum about this book, I realised being a mother would definitely mean you have a different perceptive on this book as you would be able to more understand the difficulties a mother goes through with her children. Perhaps I would read it again if I ever had children of my own and see how my views towards it change. The book itself opens up much discussion as you are left with unanswered questions that force you to come to your own conclusions.


Would I recommend? Overall, I feel it is an important book to read as it gives a new perspective on life and allows the reader to contend with the ideas of nature vs nurture. I would definitely recommend this book as it different to anything I have read before and I see it sticking with me for a long time to come. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is because it was very difficult to get into at first!


Up next… Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Keep up with what I’m reading: goodreads.com/studentlifeandbeyond

How to stay motivated in lockdown

With it being three months into lockdown, it can seem like this is never ending. For some people this is the new normal and they have completely taken to the situation, others not so much. I personally have found myself lacking in motivation recently. At the start of lockdown, I was being so productive; working out six times a week, focusing on uni work and trying new recipes.  Over time however, I realised staying at home was not my thing but knew it was important and so I worked on finding things to motivate me and keep me busy at home. Read my top tips of what you can do to stay productive during the remainder of the lockdown period.


Have a routine – keeping to a routine will help you feel put together, I try to wake up at the same time every day, eat at the same time and then go to sleep at the same time. I’ve found this makes me feel a lot more productive than if I have a lie in as then I feel I’ve lost a large part of the day.  Also having that routine will give a sense of normality! 

Set goals – a to-do list works perfectly as once you’ve done tasks you can tick them off and you get that satisfaction of seeing them complete especially when you’ve finished all your tasks for the day. Be sensible and don’t bite off more than you can chew as this can have the opposite effect if you don’t complete all your goals because you don’t have the time. Having a set plan of things you want to do will allow for you to be productive rather than just procrastinating all day and then realising you actually got nothing done. 

Exercise – the most difficult thing about exercise for me is actually motivating myself to do it but once I’ve started, I find it to be really enjoyable.  The best way I find to motivate myself to work out is to think about how good I will feel afterwards. With all the gyms closed, I have been doing at home workouts. If you go on YouTube there are so many to choose from, they’re great because they tell you what to do and often help you focus on particular areas; whether that’s cardio, HIIT or weight training. 

Get fresh air – there’s nothing worse than being stuck inside all day and at a time like this it’s important to go out and safely get some fresh air. Most days I like to go for a little walk; whether that’s to the shop or just a walk around the block.  Not only does it make me feel refreshed, but I find it breaks up my day, when I get back, I feel ready to be productive again. 

Use the time you have – remember that this is a time unlike any others, many people will be at home without a job, if this is you, you now have time that you would never have had before. This means you finally have the time to do things that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I found time to do a clear out of my bedroom, really get into reading and start up a blog. These are things that now I’ve got into them I will be able to implement into my everyday life so if you’ve got a hobby you’ve wanted to start for a while now, why not take the plunge. 

Keep in touch with friends – this is such an important one, lockdown can begin to feel very lonely even if you are living with people. You are constantly surrounded by the same people which might make you feel you need a break and to see new faces. Me and my friends have done facetimes and quizzes to keep ourselves occupied during lockdown and with the new rules you can now have a lovely social distance picnic in the park (provided the rain holds off). Also, try to check in on your friends and be there for them if they are struggling to adjust to this new way of living. 

Remember this is an unusual time – all these tips are great ways to improve your productivity during lockdown but remember we are living in unprecedented times and so things aren’t normal. If that means you feel less motivated then that’s okay, you need to do what’s best for you. It can be difficult seeing everyone else appearing to be very productive but remember, especially with social media, they only show you what they want you to see, don’t feel the need to compete with other people. This is a great time to just take some me time! If you want a break from your busy, productive life, relax and do what feels right.

Travelling as a student

It may seem impossible to have university and travel in the same sentence as students are notoriously broke. However, if you do it properly, you can have an amazing holiday and not have to break the bank. When else are you going to have this much time to travel and have all your friends free at the same time? The way I see it, make the most of the freedom you have as a student. I often look to the future, having a full time job, having a family and other commitments as somewhat constricting. Not only my own busy life, then take into account all my friends will be doing the same and trying to find a week or two for a gals holiday will be next to impossible. I don’t like to have such a negative view point of my future but it does make me want to live my life while I’m still young and travel is a great way to do that. Experiencing new cultures, exploring new cities and spending time with my besties all while taking photos I will forever treasure and making memories I will never forget. As cliché as it sounds there is a whole lot of truth in it.


Now that I’ve given all the great reasons to go travelling whilst a student I’ll get to the money bit. Unfortunately, you’re probably not going have the budget for a month long get away on some private island in the middle of nowhere but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing holiday. Going a bit closer to home can be so much fun; me and my friends have had great trips in Wales and Scotland. There are so many getaways just a (cheap) plane ride away in Europe if you know what you’re looking for, but do remember if you are setting a budget, you’ll end up spending on the actual holiday so don’t splash it all on the flights and hotel! Look out for my guide of how to holiday on a budget, in the near future.


Sadly, my most recent holiday was cancelled by the coronavirus and now may not seem like the best time to be thinking about going abroad. However, planning a holiday for next year will give you something to look forward to, me and my friends are already coming up with ideas and I have something planned at Christmas that will, fingers crossed, still be going ahead.

Relaxing with a book

Personally, I find reading to be the perfect hobby. You get so much out of it; it helps you expand your vocabulary, allows you to learn and takes you to another world. Of course, there are so many different genres to chose from and though I do have favourites I try to read a wide variety. The main reason I added a book section to this blog is to help readers find books they want to read and I felt it would motivate me to keep reading. I find that I’ll go through phases where I won’t pick up a book but once I do I become once again emerged in the world of fiction. That’s not to say I don’t ever read non-fiction but I find myself less inclined read it and more drawn to historical fiction (typical history student) and crime and mystery novels; so you’ll be seeing a lot of those. Now that I’ve been spending more time at home I’ve found myself to be reading a lot more and I can spend hours turning the pages of a great book. I’ve even joined an online book club! Lockdown is the perfect time to get suck into reading, think about all those book you’ve been wanting to read thinking ‘if only I had time’ well, now’s the perfect opportunity. Submerging yourself in something that’s thought provoking or takes you to an imagined place will also allow you to keep your brain working now that university has broken up for summer and allows for a productive break from work. There’s never been a better time to snuggle up with a nice cup of tea and a novel, especially before bed when if I wasn’t reading I’d be on my phone or laptop which is not the best for a good night sleep. So, why not ask your friend for a great book recommendation?


I am currently reading ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver, so look out for a review on that very soon! If you have any book recommendations or want to see me review a particular book let me know in the comments or reach out to be through social media. There’s nothing like a good book recommendation.

Introducing me

First I’d like to say welcome to my blog and thank you for checking it out. Let me introduce myself; I’m Eden, I’m 19 years old and I’m going into my third year of university at Reading where I study history. My blog has six sections; uni life, food, travel, books, budgeting and after uni in which I aim to give advice on everything you need to know about university life.


Where to look for what?

Travel – you may think being a student or a graduate on a budget makes travel impossible. Read how you can still enjoy travelling on a budget and my recommendations on the best places to go on holiday.

Budgeting – if I’d have tried giving budgeting advice two years ago, it would not have gone well but I’ve learnt over my past two years at uni. Learning from my own mistakes has really helped me develop a good relationship with money and to stay out of my overdraft.

Food – going to uni may be the first time you start to cook for yourself which can be difficult. Read my tips and recipes for easy to make food that you can easily make single portions of or make a large batch to freeze and enjoy later.

Uni life – there is so much going on at uni that you may need advice for, so check out this section where I will hope to answer all your questions about being a student.

After uni – as I’m going into my third year of uni I’m having to think about what I am going to do after uni. I want to document my experience in learning about the options out there and the path I take.

Books – want to know what to read next or whether a book is even worth the read? Have a read of my book reviews.


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