A Stateside Summer

A Stateside Summer

Home for the next 14 weeks…

Wow! Where do I even begin to describe the BEST summer of my entire life? Well…

The 8th June, 2018 at Dublin Airport <DUB>. The day I left all my friends and family behind for 14 weeks to go and work at a summer camp, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Saying goodbye to my family!(my dad and brother trying not to cry was so cute!)

After a 6 hour flight, I touched down at Logan International Airport, Boston <BOS>.  A couple of hours of waiting around later, the Camp Assistant Directors, Vicky and Kevin came to collect me and a few (equally as nervous) camp-goers. Little did I know, within weeks, these people would become some of my best friends in the world!

A 90 minute bus journey later, and I had arrived at a place I now called home, Camp Burgess and Hayward,  in a small town called Sandwich (lol yes, i know), Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was greeted by about 10 or so people, who arrived at camp before me (one of them being my best friend Jessie – who i’ll talk about later!). Everyone was immediately so so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t believe it! First thing was first though…SLEEP! I could feel the jet lag starting to kick in already. The Camp Director, Allie, brought me and another girl, Megan, from Liverpool to our room where we would be staying the ENTIRE summer as ROOMIES!

Where it all began…

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This is the van – my baby for 3 months! Fun fact: in this picture the van was stuck in sand for 6 hours, where we had to be rescued by the local police and then be threatened with a $1000 fine for it to be towed!!!! Luckily enough the tow-truck man loved my accent so let us off for free!

So basically, it’s a funny story how this whole trip came about. I initially never really had much interest or knowledge about the whole ‘Camp America’ thing, but my friend Jessie (who I mentioned before) had applied and was offered a job as a Horseback Director in January, at Camp Burgess and Hayward. She told me that she had got placed and I was over the moon for her, but also envious that I still had no plans for the summer.

Anyway, a few months passed, and in April, Jessie mentioned that the camp was still advertising for people to come and help out for the summer, and that they needed people to be van drivers. As soon as she told me I couldn’t have emailed the Camp Director, Allie any quicker. A whole 3 months at a summer camp, with my best friend, driving around in a van?! SO much fun, I couldn’t say no!

Allie (who was the BEST BOSS EVER) emailed me back and we arranged a phone interview. The interview consisted of questions about my driving abilities where I completely lied and said I had drove 1) an automatic before, 2) a van before and 3) on the other side of the road before. Thankfully Allie trusted me enough to give me the job!

So there it was – I was officially going Stateside for the summer, with 2 months to save up enough money to last me 14 weeks and to fill out enough paperwork to last me a LIFETIME.

A day in the life…

Every single day at camp was so different. There was a general schedule which we followed every day, but what happened within that day just depended. Each morning at 7.50am we would have ‘flagpole’. This was a fun way to start the day where a member of staff would stand up and do something to help wake everyone up, like teach everyone a dance or do some stretches. We then raised the flag and said the Pledge (so American, I know!)

We would then go to the dining hall for breakfast, which was usually something like pancakes or waffles (believe me, after eating the same food every day for 3 months you start to get sick of it). Although the food was always amazing and the kitchen staff worked so hard to cater for almost 400 people a day!

As one of my duties as Resource Specialist (the scientific name for van driver), I would do a run into the local town, Hyannis, which was about 20 minutes away, at 10am, where people would spend their days off. After that, I would usually have somGA3e wee jobs to do  in the morning time, like collect things for camp or do the daily Dunkin’ Donuts run!

Whenever I didn’t have any van related jobs, I would spend my time at the waterfront, playing on the water trampoline, over at horseback with the 12 gorgeous horses we had (Elsa was my favourite) or playing on the slip ‘n’ slide. Yes I know, my summer job was SO DIFFICULT AND BORING!!

Lunch and dinner time in the dining hall was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Everybody gets up and sings at the top of their lungs, standing up on chairs and dancing around the place like crazy people! At the beginning it is so daunting, because everybody knows each other so well from previous years at camp, and being the new ‘international’, you feel so shy and awkward, but after a few times, you soon start to learn all the words and become just as crazy as the rest!

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This was the big bags of paint that we separated into small buckets. My hands were stained green for DAYS!

At camp, one of the big events was the colour run. This was one of my highlights of camp. The run was 5k around the camp property, and all the kids and staff took part. Hundreds of dollars worth of powered paint was ordered in, there was inflatables, waterguns, a popcorn stand and speakers blasting music all day. The atmosphere was literally unbelievable! It was a day i’ll never forget.

The grand finale of camp was our 2 day long colour war, M&P (Mariners and Pioneers). The Mariners are the blue team, and the Pioneers are the red team. The neutral team in the middle was purple (the team I was on).I can’t put into words how seriously this colour war is taken. Looking back it’s funny because it’s only a colour war at a summer camp, but people get so competitive. There literally was blood, sweat and tears over the course of the 2 days.

The Pionners won this year, and the moment it was announced, the whole camp ERUPTED! It was such an amazing way to end the best 3 months of my life.

After camp ended, me, Jessie and Megan did some travelling for 2 weeks. We went to Boston, New York and New Orleans. Safe to say it was a crazy whirlwind of events. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, here I am, a month and a half now i’ve been home. In final year and working 35 hours a week. The joys!! Roll on next June when I can return to the second place I like to call home!

G x

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Grainne Arkins is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: @GrainneArkins

 

5 ways to improve your mental health

Before I begin I would like to say I am no export when it comes to mental health, however I have carried out a lot of research surrounding this topic as well as previously doing a presentation on one of the biggest mental health charities, MIND. In addition to this, I have had a small number of friends and relatives that suffered quite seriously with their mental health but thankfully all of which have taken a turn in the right direction. In 2017, 6213 successfully committed suicide in the UK and Ireland with Northern Ireland’s rates being the highest by population. Pretty scary numbers, right? I honestly feel that I see posts on social media about people committing suicide every other week, it’s horrific. So, I thought I’d write this blog describing 5 ways that we can improve our mental health before it becomes too late.

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1. Look after your body

You may not realise it but staying active and looking after your body is excellent for reducing depression and anxiety. According to studies, exercising releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy with yourself and who doesn’t want to feel happy… Experts recommend you do 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week. If you read that last sentence and you’re thinking you don’t do anywhere near that amount of exercise, don’t worry now is a perfect time to start. Also, drinking plenty of water and controlling the amount of alcohol consumed would also be beneficial. Of course, a few drinks with your friends is absolutely fine but in moderation. Probably the most important factor within this category is the amount of sleep you get, rest is essential! Experts believe that a lack of sleep results in high rates of depression and stress, especially in younger people. In other words, DON’T LEAVE YOUR ASSIGNMENTS TO THE NIGHT BEFORE.

 

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2. Try something new

If you’re not happy then you’ve got to try something different. A good example of this is from one of my friends who suffered from mental health problems for a little over 18 months and decided to take up fly fishing. He started off going once a week with his dad and basically fell in love, he now simply can’t get enough of it. He always said it was somewhere he could go and get away from everything for a few hours and relax. There’s no harm in trying new things, if you begin to enjoy it, it’s probably because you’re good at it and being good at something will boost your self-confidence. It’s a win-win situation.

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3. Surround yourself with good, positive people

You don’t want to be associating with people who put you down and think they’re better than you. They are the worst kind of people. Individuals that have strong relationships with family and friends are going to healthier than those that lack that kind of support and togetherness. It’s definitely healthy to meet up or at least keep in contact with your friends as much as possible to maintain a strong bond. It is also important that you try and meet new people through perhaps joining a new sports club for example.

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4. Have a balanced diet

The food we consume can very much change how we feel. For example, have you ever ordered a Dominoes and at first thought it was a great idea then after eating it you think to yourself ‘I really didn’t need that?’ No? Maybe it’s just me… Food can have a lasting effect on your mental health as it is essential that your brain gets key nutrients to function properly. From a personal point of view, I always find that when I’m eating clean (which isn’t very often I must admit) I tend to feel a lot better about myself and feel that I have more energy. However, the odd McDonald’s breakfast never hurt anyone.

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5. Get help when required

I am leaving the most important factor to the end. If you ever feel like you’re going through a hard time, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Expressing your feelings when you’re feeling low is seen by many as a strength rather than a weakness. There are so many different people and charities out there that would be willing to listen and offer advice. If that is too much for some people a short conversation between a family member or friend may be enough. There are far too many people that ‘bottle up’ their feelings and that is never healthy.

IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY.

Rory McAllister is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: @R_McAllister14 on Twitter.

How a vegan sausage roll became the first PR triumph of 2019

Back in December, an email was ‘accidentally’ leaked that contained details of the upcoming launch of a vegan sausage roll by Greggs. And with Greggs not confirming nor denying rumours, social media became flooded with anticipation of this new product that was set to change the way people viewed veganism.

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We all know the stereotypes that surround vegan food. Soya, jackfruit, tofu, cashew nut cheese (yes, the kinds of terms you’ll find in Lucy Watson’s instagram stories) – it’s a lifestyle that most of us (especially students) usually wouldn’t be able to afford. Veganism is widely thought of of being an expensive way to live, so this new vegan alternative to the much loved £1 sausage roll from Greggs was set to throw a massive spanner in the works. And it has.

On 2nd January, Greggs posted the launch video for this ground-breaking new product on their YouTube channel, and it was an instant hit. It mimicked an Apple advertisement, with the new alternative sausage roll taking centre stage just as the latest iPhone would in one of Apple’s annual announcements. And in keeping with their launch video, Greggs sent out samples of their latest product to journalists and influencers, encased in a white box distinctly similar to an iPhone box, complete with silver-embossed text that read: “Pastry Layers: 96, Flake Resolution: Optimal, Taste Level: Maximum, Mega Bites: 10.”

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I know what you’re thinking. All this, for a £1 sausage roll? Well, there was method behind the madness. Knowing that veganism is thought of as an expensive lifestyle, Greggs have tapped into this stereotype by presenting this inexpensive sausage roll as something luxurious and glamorous. John Brown, founder of communications agency Don’t Cry Wolf, for example, stated:

“A lot of companies would be terrified of offending the vegan lobby so it takes a bit of guts to treat the whole thing as a bit of fun – for instance with the iPhone theme. A lot of vegans do own Apple products – that’s a neat touch.”

Most of us would have thought of Greggs and veganism as being polar opposites – Greggs is the ‘cheap and cheerful’ guilty pleasure we go to when we’re skint and want a quick bite to eat; veganism is a lifestyle choice that is widely stereotyped as being pretentious and stuck-up. So by combining the two, Greggs have completely changed the game – and it’s a genius move that none of us saw coming.

The packaging and marketing of a product that sells at £1 created a lot of hype and interest surrounding it’s launch, and Greggs’ clever use of humour has meant that the sausage roll itself has gained a massive following on social media. One day after it’s launch, the hashtag #greggsvegansausageroll was the top trending hashtag in the UK. And you only have to click on it to get involved in ongoing conversation surrounding the new alternative product, and even join in the wide-spread debate – Can it really be called a sausage roll if it doesn’t contain any sausage?

Greggs themselves have caught on to the social media thing, and used it to their advantage. The product gained yet more publicity when Piers Morgan (yes, I know, of course he had to get involved) criticised the product and questioned the need for it. Greggs however tweeted him back, arguably making a complete fool out of him; and other fast food chains such as McDonalds even joined the band-wagon when he also criticised their new meat-free products.

The geniuses behind Greggs’ latest PR stunts obviously have a sense of humour, and in this case, it’s served them well. We’ve seen a few examples of this from them recently. For example, there was the time they went undercover at a food market as an up-market, niche brand called ‘Gregory and Gregory’ and asked a few posh people to unknowingly try their food; as well as the time they lay a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the three wise men, suggesting that said sausage roll could take Jesus’ place. That campaign, however, backfired, as many Christians took to social media to complain that it was offensive to their religious beliefs. In terms of sales, however, this controversy didn’t actually do any damage to Greggs’ brand; in fact, according to website PR Week, in the weeks after the controversy stores across the UK were selling out of sausage rolls. The fact that Greggs came out of the ‘sausage roll Jesus’ controversy unscathed, then, may explain their ballsiness in attempting to mock the vegan community – a community that in recent times have been the butt of a lot of jokes. They took the risk, though, and it’s paid off.

All of the work that’s been put into this £1 sausage roll – that’s not even really a sausage roll – has meant that Greggs have been sold out of the product in stores across the UK as early as midday. People have even began bidding online for them on eBay, and paying as much as £7 for one that comes in the iPhone box packaging. So there you have it: sausage rolls, vegan alternatives to sausage rolls, and putting Piers Morgan in his place – this is how you capture the hearts of the UK public. And with a bit of clever marketing and PR added into the mix, you’re almost guaranteed success. 

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Anna Stewart is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Advertising student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @astewart95 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-stewart-b3127a139/

 

 

My summer of a lifetime – 5 things you need to do in Chicago during the summertime

So if your anything like me, you are hating these long, cold winter evenings. I am having serious summer blues and vitamin D withdrawal! What better way to get over these summer blues by reminiscing on the good times….. or just making myself even more upset that summer is over for another year.

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Chicago is the first place I have visited outside of Europe and I must admit – I have a sweet spot for this state and I left my heart there! I traveled to Chicago to work and live in the summer of 2016 for 3 months with a group of friends. I also visited Chicago last year on a mini weekend holiday whilst working in New York.

Chicago was everything and more! From street festivals, rooftop bars to the absolutely breath-taking lakefront, there is a long long list of things to do. Before jetting off for my summer of a life time with my friends I had a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do and see whilst over there!

What to do?

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A massive thing I loved about Chicago is you are always within a 10mile radius of the beach, no matter where you are in the city! North avenue beach was a personal favourite of mine, I mean look at that view! It is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches, this beach has everything you need for the perfect chillaxed day at a beach, there are volleyball courts, and a snack area including all my favs, nachos, hot-dogs, cheese fry’s the list goes on! There are also Jet Ski rentals which I highly recommend, and of course the bar! Although don’t say I didn’t warn you, this beach is the busiest in the city, I love the buzz about that but if you are looking for somewhere a bit quieter and relaxing I would suggest oak street beach which is also amazing.

Street festivals

There are endless amounts of street festivals on all the time in Chicago, from music street festivals to food festivals there is something for everyone. Myself and my friends got to work on a food stall at one of the food festivals called Taste of Chicago it was an amazing experience and we also got to go around all the different food stands, I was in my element as you can imagine!

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If there’s one thing I love more than drinking in the sun, its drinking in the sun on a rooftop bar taking in the absolutely stunning views. Cindy’s was my favourite, it has the best views of the city and the atmosphere is amazing! Don’t get me wrong we most definitely were not living it up in rooftop bars all summer, we were J1ers after all and of course had to budget, but it was nice to get too treat ourselves every once in a while. We deserved it right?

Free movie in the park

As I mentioned, we were J1ers and some days were completely broke – I’m talking not even enough money to eat sort of broke! We’ve all been there.. Thank god for free movies in the park eh? Chicago park districts movie in the parks line-ups are pretty awesome, some movies myself and my friends went to see were grease, Mrs Doubt fire and footloose, footloose being my all-time favourite! Don’t disagree with me on this one. As you can see we made the most out of this whole free movie thing – just pack yourself some snacks, a blanket and your sorted!

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Navy Pier is M-A-G-I-C-A-L, mark my words! Navy pier is one of Chicago’s top attractions, and once you visit you will understand why. Guys I honestly can’t put into words how amazing this place is, the pier has fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night during the summer which are a must see!

So guys if any of you are thinking of going away for the summer to work or just to visit – I highly recommend Chicago, it won’t let you down!

Niamh xx

Niamh Cosgrove is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-cosgrove-62b986131/

Are we a “lazy” generation?

In today’s society, we have technology that allows us to answer questions in a matter of seconds, just by lifting out our smartphones and typing it into google. If you really think about it, if you didn’t have your smartphone to tell you about everything and anything, would you go to the library to search for a book to read up about it? I mean, the effort! We literally have everything at the tip of our fingers. But does that make us fortunate, or is it just making us lazy?

Obviously, baby boomers and some of generation X will tell you differently. Have your aunts or uncles ever gone on a rampage when you took your phone out at a family event? Ranting on about how in their day technology didn’t exist and how it’s ruining our generation and blah, blah, blah, blah.

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Despite of what the older generations think, the technology we have today is amazing, we are able to achieve so much with the facilities we have, I know I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the internet itself. Because of this technology, doors and opportunities have opened for so many of us. As generation Z are entering the world of work, we are bringing our technology skills with us improving their communication systems, learning systems, sales systems and management systems.

We can gain new experiences, relationships and even a degree purely through the internet. Older generations seem to think that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen for our generation. They believe it is making us weaker, lazier, spoilt, impatient. Are they right? Is this affecting us academically, physically and socially?

Academically

Now, I’m not saying our parents were writing essays with a goose quill, under a candle light with a tonne of dusted books stacked beside them, but I mean they did spend lot more hours in the library doing research while it takes us 10 minutes to do research with the amazing tools we have today. Although… with my concentration skills and wondering imagination, I still wouldn’t be far behind my parents. It can be concerning that rather than doing our own research by going out and physically getting it, we might rely on the internet to much. Not only that, but they didn’t have Microsoft word or spell check to make sure their sentences still make sense at 3am and 1000 words in to an essay. We can literally achieve a degree today from our sofa, using only a laptop, smartphone and maybe a few physical books. Is this teaching us the skills we are going to need when entering our field of work?

Phsyically

Have you ever scrolled down your Instagram feed for hours and came across gorgeous girls with beautiful figures and thought “awch i want that!”, but then continue to lie there for a further few hours scrolling through your feed, maybe switch over to Twitter, then Facebook then maybe watch and entire Netflix series all in the one night? Same. I often wonder if I didn’t have my phone would I go outside and be more active.

I can even book a car to come pick me up right at my door through an app! Sometimes the taxi driver himself is disgusted at me for booking a taxi when the destination is only a 5-minute walk away.

Also, for a girl who loves clothes, makeup and spending money, I despise shopping. I despise the stress of trying clothes on in a small cubicle, I despise the pushing about in busy stores, I despise carrying bags and bumping into people with them and most of all I despise going home and realising I forgot to get the one thing I actually went to the shops for. But luckily enough for me, I can also do this at a touch of button from my smartphone and get it delivered directly to my door. It’s just too easy!

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Socially

If you have Instagram, especially if you are a female, you will understand the awkwardness of walking by another girl whose photos you’ve been liking for months but have never actually spoke to them in person. Not knowing whether to say hello or not because it might be weird because you’ve never physically met them before, but you know that you both know each other. How weird is that? We literally have made friendships through the internet but are to socially awkward to go up and strike a conversation with them in person.

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Dating websites such a Tinder have also made it weird for someone to go up and ask for your number in a normal place like a coffee shop. It’s like “eh, omg no of course you can’t have my number I haven’t even stalked your Facebook profile yet”. Have you ever gone on a date with someone without stalking their social media pages? I didn’t think so.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and as I mentioned above, it opens so many new doors and job opportunities for us. However, I have made a vow to make a point of being less lazy by doing simple things like deleting my FonaCab app, going to the library and doing more physically research with actual books and I might even go as far as deleting my PayPal account to make me go out and physically do my shopping (I said maybe!).

Aoibheann McKinley is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/aoibheann-mckinley 870316112 ; Twitter – @aoibheannmckinl ; Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/aoibhymcmua/?hl=en                                                                                                   

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

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As the cliché goes, “university will be the best days of your life.” Now don’t get me wrong. Being a student is great. Most of us go to class a mere nine hours a week compared to 6 hours a day when we were in school. We get to live with our best friends (there for being able to borrow their clothes everyday), we have  independence for the first time, meeting new people is inevitable and getting to try new things is a must. It’s great. However, like everything else in the world it has its downsides.

When talking about university with friends or family what most people will never mention is the amount of stress and anxiety we as students face every day. Behind all the socialising and freedom we will encounter large amounts of university work, social anxiety, money problems and feeling like we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. Don’t worry if you’re feeling over whelmed, you are not alone! A new report showed that a massive 82% of students at a university in the UK claimed to have suffered from stress and anxiety when starting their course. Out of these only 25% said they would ask for help as the others said they wouldn’t know where to find it or else they’re too embarrassed to ask for it.

I have came up with tips from my university experience that will help you unwind, relax and enjoy this experience as much as you can (and no they don’t all involve socialising and drinking.)

  1. Partying

I may as well start with most student’s favourite topic. Partying. Who doesn’t love having a night out with your friends, wearing your new favourite jeans, all for the night to end with you all in the pizza shops struggling to get a taxi home. Nights out can create some of our best university memories, however you don’t need to feel under pressure to go out every night, no one enjoys this.

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Alongside it being expensive, waking up with a hangover before going to class is one of the worst feelings ever. Rather than always picking a bar to socialise in invite friends down to watch a movie or go for food. It’s cheaper and saves you having a killer hangover the next day. If you want to get out of the house most cities have cinemas and crazy golf as well , both are social and will give you a chance to catch up with friends without having to shout over loud club music into each other’s ears.

  1. People

Our parents have always told us it’s important to always surround yourself with the right people, and guess what? They’ve been right all these years. When we’re in university, most of us have some type of idea of the person we are, and want to become. Surround yourself by like minded people. Focus on the good people in your life, the ones that motivate you and want you to achieve the best you can. Surround yourself with friends that will be happy for your success and are willing to spend countless hours in the library with you rather than people who will miss two classes a week so they can stay at home and catch upon their latest Netflix binge.

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3. Money

As soon as our student loans come into our accounts it feels like we are rich (if only for a few hours). We convince ourselves we deserve those new shoes after all the hard work we’ve been doing all year and now ordering dinner seems like the much more attractive option over pasta and a jar of Dolimo sauce. However, don’t be fooled! Yes it’s nice to treat yourself once in a while but this money will primarily be needed for university essentials- rent, textbooks and your cost of traveling to and from university.

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Over the past three years I’ve figured out what I spend the majority of my loan on and figured out how to minimise it. Firstly there’s rent, expensive and unfortunately unavoidable, so let’s move on. The second biggest cause of my painfully small bank balance is of course… drink and food. The best and easiest ways I deal with this is having a balance. You don’t need to eat less to save money on food, you just need to eat smart. If you’re feeling lazy and want a take away for dinner go onto google and search food places with discount codes for students. If it’s a Tuesday and you and your flat mate are big pizza lovers, Domion’s does “Two for two Tuesdays” where you get two pizzas for the price of one.

Similar to this, pick clubs and bars that do student offers such as “90p drinks.” It will save you a fortune. Give yourself a budget that you can afford to spend on a night out. Then take this money out, put it in your purse and leave the bank card at home. Your head and bank balance will be thankful for this tip in the morning, trust me.

So there we have it, my top three tips to help you survive university. Even though it sounds like I have a lot of bad things to say about university, I wouldn’t chance my experience for the world. Endless laughs everyday with your friends, being able to stay in your pj’s until 2pm and no one in your house will judge you if it’s 2am and you want to order a Chinese.

If you’re feeling over whelmed it’s okay to miss a night out and hop on the bus home. At the end of the day nothing will beat a home cooked meal and getting cosy up on the sofa catching up with your family and watching your favourite TV show.

Anna Grant is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram- @annagrantx.

 

Spinning a yarn

The world of politics is something we shouldn’t shy away from, especially from a communication angle, it’s important we all have a vague understanding of it.  It really does affect our everyday lives, from policy to taxation, so it’s important to incorporate keeping up with current affairs into our daily routines – it’s all too easy to fall down YouTube rabbit holes for hours. The U.K have a particular communicative style, from the bustling and shouting in The House of Commons, to the tabloid media and everything in between, communication in politics is rife with interesting techniques and strategies. But first, let’s strip it back to the core.

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Public opinion, Political communication and the media go somewhat hand-in-hand.  “Somewhat” because essentially, public opinion is formed in the public domain, outside of any authority. It concerns matters that are discussed and debated about. Simply put, this is our sense of “nation” (Goodin, Pettit, 1997). So, those 2am discussions at your friend’s table can be important- Talking about our thoughts on political matters with those around us, in a democratic society, gives us the ability to act together when it comes to voting. The media, in turn, is how we receive most political communication.

Media relations

It’s been widely discussed that Media relations can be used to craft specific, “tailored” communication for the public, in what’s called “spin” (McNair, 2007). Often, “tailoring” is achieved through marketing strategies, like opinion polling, focus groups or surveys to better understand the electorate. Gaber (2000) divides spins into “above” and “below” the line spin – above concerning the usual press releases, interviews and articles, and “below” usually being associated with spin doctors.

While there are many tactics and techniques used in Political communication, there’s just too much we could go into. Here’s a brief, condensed outline of some of the main devices used in the dark arts of below the line spin.

  1. Staying on the message

This is when a consistent line is kept across political figures so that information isn’t miscommunicated to the public. A great example of this, Labour’s 2003 “FivImage result for five a day campaigne-a-day” campaign, wherein all political members stayed on the message about the benefits of eating your fruit and veg. This allowed political figures to speak as one on the matter, leading to effective communication to the public (One of your Five a Day is still plastered on foods 15 years later).

  1. Spin.

“Spinning a yarn” is a term most of us have heard at one point or another. We’d associate this with telling a story, which gives us some meaning for this tactic. Spin provides context to a story, or a certain interpretation. We can think back to the Brexit Campaigns, with leavers claiming economic gains for the UK severing relationships with the E.U. Spin offers a perspective to the public, usually, to shed a “favourable” light on matters and make one thing sound more appealing than the other or protect reputation and to “sway” public opinion (Wilcox et al, 2015) .

Image result for Brexit headline nhs(Source: http://www.themediablog.co.uk/the-media-blog/2016/02/ukip-candidate-dislikes-the-eu-shocker.html)

  1. Agenda Setting

Ever tried to steer the conversation a certain way? Maybe you’ve a point you want to get to, news to share or hide. I think we’ve all been guilty of trying to avoid talking about certain topics at one point or another. What we didn’t realise, that on a much smaller scale, we were implementing “agenda setting”. This is the act of controlling what is discussed, the scope of discussion and how it is discussed. This can take forum in giving journalists exclusives, deciding the time frame of when news is exposed.

  1. Fire Breaking

You could think of this is pointing far away and shouting “Fire!” in hopes that it’ll distract people enough so you can throw your rubbish out the back door. Basically, setting up a diversion, or “planting” stories to take the medias attention away from a scandal (Gaber, 2000). A successful enough case of this was the Cook affair (1999), it was exposed that the then Foreign Secretary was having an affair, so to avoid a sex scandal (there’s been a fair few), Peter Mandleson, former Director of Labour’s Communications, suggested saving Britannia to media outlets- a hot topic at the time. This in turn, set the news agenda, as it stole the headlines, leaving the Cook affair in the dust.

Image result for throwing out rubbish

  1. “A good day to bury bad news”

This one is a bit “next level” House of Cards. Burying bad news refers to releasing somewhat unfavourable information while the media’s attention is redirected on to another issue. Probably the most famous example of this was right after 9/11 when former press officer, Jo Moore, told her team “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?”. Essentially, living in the hope that something happens at the time of a scandal so the media is too concerned with other matters to focus on your dirty laundry.

In conclusion…

You can see how these tactics can be useful to keep in mind, because it allows others (and us) to set the scope, frame and as a whole, improve our media relations skills. Being aware of these techniques, whether you agree with them or not, can help us better understand the wider world around us. They could prove useful across many kinds of campaigns, not just political ones. Keeping a consistent line between staff, for example, can help in communicating a message a lot more clearly, than if everyone was running around telling us something different.

The thought of actually going and watching Prime Ministers Question Time 4 years ago would have sent shivers down my back, but once you start to familiarise yourself with it, a massive interesting world opens up, and in turn, it helps us better our communication skills, and be aware of how we communicate and the best ways to carry it out.  Make grabbing the newspaper in the morning, tuning in to PMQ on Wednesdays or even just following a few political figures on Twitter part of your routine, with these tactics in mind we’ll learn a lot about press management, as a P.R practitioner this is a very valuable skill.

References:

Gaber, I. (2000) ‘Government by spin: an analysis of the process’, Media, Culture & Society 22, p508-p532

Goodin and P. Pettit (1997), Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, p73-p124

McNair, B (2007) PR must die: spin, anti‐spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997– 2004 Published online: 17 Feb 2007, p03-p47

Negrine, R. Stanyer, J. (2007) The Political Communication Reader. London: Routledg, p254

John Wiley & Sons. Wilcox, DL, Reber, B.H. and Cameron, GT. (2015) Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. 11th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education. p248-p295

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1997/aug/09/labour.mandelson

Griana Fox is a final year CMPR student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.