I have just begun my final year of studies as a Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at the Jordanstown campus of Ulster University – scary! I’ve attached a link here for anyone interested in what the course entails. One of the modules in my final year is Critical Perspectives of PR. We have not done a PR module since first year so it all seems pretty new again and, like I’m sure many of you understand, it can be a bit daunting starting something new. Our first task was to write 3 blog posts around the subject of PR. As an avid blog reader, I was excited at the prospect but I wasn’t too sure what I should write about that would be helpful and interesting for you as a reader. So, I figured what better way to start than giving you some of my own (perhaps not all that useful or informative) advice on how to go about being a PR student. Halt all frantic “What am I doing with my life?!” searches on Google as this blog might just have the answers to all your university worries.
In our first PR lecture we were given the simple task of telling the room our name and an interesting fact about ourselves. Seemingly an easy task, especially for a room of people who are aspiring to be our next generation of PR specialists – but no, the dread set in. The first person started with their name and informed the class that they had swallowed a Barbie shoe as a child. One by one, each of my class mates started to tell us all brilliant facts about themselves. When it came to my turn I told the class my name, and the interesting fact I settled for was that over summer I hitchhiked from Slovenia to Italy with a Slovenian man whose only English was “Good music ya?” – but that is a different story for a completely different blog post.
So, this is where my first tip sets in;
Be confident – you are interesting and your voice matters! Don’t sweat the small stuff as the saying goes. It’s easy to hide in a lecture hall full of 100 people, but don’t! Stand out, contribute, challenge your lecturer on everything they tell you. I guarantee you they would rather you be interactive and in debate than sitting in the back-row blank faced thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch from the culinary masterpiece that is the Jordanstown Student Union… It may seem like you are the only clueless person in the room but believe me for 1) You are not as clueless as you think you are and 2) If you’re feeling like this I guarantee you that you are not the only one having these thoughts.
My second tip is one of those learn from your mistakes type scenarios – or rather learn from my mistakes! Start reading. All those articles and textbooks that your lecturers keep telling you to have a look at – start actually looking at them and reading them. Read them twice if you can. We’ve all been guilty of rolling our eyes and thinking ‘I’ll skim read the article just on the off chance my lecturer asks me a question in the seminar’. But start taking interest in the articles they are giving you. You may just surprise yourself at how interesting you will find a lot of them. Also use them to start writing reference lists for your assignments. I always find it far easier to tackle an essay or assignment if I have a list of references ready for me before I even start. Try swapping your Daily Mail updates for a read of a newspaper a few days a week. Understanding what a newspaper looks like and how an article is printed on paper is such a huge part of PR. My older sister currently works in a PR agency and the first thing she does every morning is read the newspapers printed that day – it’s her longest standing companion in the office!
Take breaks. It’s hard to see past the mountain of work and reading gradually piling up but it is so important to close the books, stretch, go for a walk, listen to some music, do whatever you find relaxes you. Clear your head for a few minutes when it all seems too much and come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Your education is important, but look after yourself, keep on top of your work and the rest will come. Here’s a link to my personal favourite ‘Study Break Song’ because if Marvin Gaye won’t cheer you up what will?
Finally – enjoy! Enjoy your time as a PR student. At the end of this journey you will more than likely be entering the big bad world of work which comes with a huge amount of great experiences but you will never have an experience like you will have at university. So, keep up with the work, read everything you can, make contacts in the industry, strive for that 2.1 or 1st class honours degree because you deserve it! But make time for your friends, take up a new hobby every week and drop it when you realise maybe learning Spanish on Duolingo just isn’t your forte and start learning French – Je m’appelle Claire (as you can see mine is coming along nicely). Find time for everything you want to do, go for a drink or two at the weekend, take time to travel and experience the world. Enjoy these years because they come and go quicker than you may realise and give you some of the best memories you will have in life.
So finally, all that’s left to say is good luck! And if all else fails here’s a link to a wiki how page on how to survive Uni – although, speaking from experience, it may not provide exactly the strategy you need to pass!
Claire Stinton is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @clairestintonn and Instagram @clairestinton.