HOW PLACEMENT YEAR CHANGED MY MINDSET

Where do I begin…

In second year of uni the time soon came to start deciding and applying for placement year opportunities. I’ll be honest with you, my first thought was no way am I dragging this uni carry on out for an extra year – basically I wanted to go straight to final year, graduate and be done with it. 

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At that point of my university experience I wasn’t enjoying it, I was struggling to think why I even picked this course. I still submitted all my work, attended regularly and got grades ok enough to get me through but I had ZERO motivation, the queen of procrastination and honestly I was doing the bare minimum (apologies to my lecturers reading this).

Although after hearing about all the benefits of doing placement year I decided, sure i’ll apply for a couple and see what happens. One day I came across Translink’s placement advert, I applied, went to the interview – which I thought went awful. Before you know it I was offered the job to my complete shock. At the time I almost felt bad because I knew other people would of done anything to get this post and I still wasn’t overly fussed, as I’ve said I was utterly surprised when I even got chosen for the interview stage. Anyway, my friends and family told me I should go for it because it could help me in the future etc.

Little did I know this kind of mistake would completely change my outlook on university, career, business and of course the world of PR all for the better. I was so shy, unconfident and hated meeting new people so the thought of starting a new job within such a large organisation was daunting to say the least.

In my first few weeks I was still finding my feet, getting used to the 9-5 life and just doing what I was told basically. As time went on I began learning new things about PR and also seeing stuff I aimlessly took down from a lecture slide come into play, I was involved in more campaigns, I was given responsibilities and I loved it. To be honest my idea of a placement student was making coffee’s for all the ‘important’ people.

After a few months my manager asked me how I felt about carrying out my own project which was basically going around primary schools and giving a talk on the benefits of public transport. This involved getting contacts for schools, planning a 30 minute talk that would be interesting to this age group, travelling around NI to deliver these talks. Of course I said ‘yeah no problem sounds great’ even though speaking in front of large groups TERRIFIED me, this was honestly one of my biggest fears.

Anyway I carried on with the project and soon the time came to go out to these schools, fair enough the first few were a bit all over the place and I was sooo nervous but I soon got to grips and I loved it. I couldn’t believe how much I had actually gained from speaking in front of primary school pupils, my confidence grew, I felt that I really had overcome that fear of public speaking and I was actually quite proud of myself for coming out of my comfort zone.

This just goes to show that maybe doing something a bit outside your norm can benefit you so much, from that experience I grew so much and was much more open to meeting new people, working hard and getting the most of my placement year. Saying yes to that placement was the best thing I could’ve done – I made amazing friends, gained confidence, realised why I picked this course in the first place and I’ve came back to uni more motivated than ever to do my best and actually put in the effort.

I’d recommend doing a placement year to anyone who has the opportunity, you just don’t know what good it could do for you. 

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Emma McFadden is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.