On Dippy the Diplodocus and childhood obsessions

You aren’t to know this but, much like myself, my mum was also a mature student. When my siblings and I were growing up mum was studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at the very institution where I’m now studying Communication Management and Public Relations. My point? Well, basically, what I’m saying is, when we were growing up dad spent an awful lot of time trying to get the four kids out of the house.

When you have four kids most activities become expensive, no matter how cheap they may seem at first. This meant that we spent a lot of time when we were growing up hanging out at the Ulster Museum. Museums are great for families, they’re free, and there’s always something interesting going on.

Every time dad would take us to the museum, he’d tell us about two things. One, did you know there’s a giant blue whale at the Natural History Museum in London? Two, there’s also a giant diplodocus called Dippy!

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Maybe it’s because we all grew up in the 1990’s when Jurassic Park was still the best film ever, but we were all obsessed with dinosaurs. We still are to be honest, when we visited New York as grown adults three of us decided it was a great idea to do a photoshoot of us pretending to be the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. All the pictures on this blog post are from trips to see the dinosaurs with my siblings. So Dippy always stuck with me. I was determined to see him at some point.

The first time I saw Dippy I was 18. I went to London with mum to visit my sister and celebrate my birthday with them both. And I insisted on going to see Dippy. He didn’t disappoint. He is just as cool and big and everything I thought he’d be when I was 5 years old and dad was telling me about him. He became the one thing I was going to see every time I was in the city. Saw him again at 21 with mum and always took my friends to see him when we were over for gigs or West End shows.

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So, you can imagine my complete and utter devastation when the Natural History Museum announced that they were going to take Dippy down. How dare they? Did they not know that he was my favourite thing about visiting London? And they were going to replace him with that blue whale dad loved to go on about? I mean, the blue whale is cool and everything, but he’s no Dippy!

Then came the announcement. Dippy was going on tour! And he was going to come to Belfast! Obviously, I was going to visit him.

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Going through the doors of the building we spent so much of our childhood in hearing about Dippy to see Dippy felt a bit odd. Up you go, to the fourth floor, and there he is, my buddy, Dippy looking just as good as he did in London.

By now I’m sure everyone is wondering what my original point was. After spending the day with Dippy (and my sister) taking pictures and having a great time. I tweeted about it. Twitter at this point is probably my biggest vice, it’s been distracting me from things I should probably be paying more attention to since January 2009 (that would be the first time I was at university, Twitter is a really good distraction from assignments).

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So, there’s me, tweeting about seeing Dippy and how much I love dinosaurs, add a couple of photos, post and don’t think about it again. A few days later, the Ulster Museum, the Natural History Museum in London, and Dippy himself have all replied to me. Seems silly, but having an account run by the Natural History Museum for a dinosaur exoskeleton reply to me on Twitter might actually be the social media highlight of my year.

We as public relations professionals certainly understand the importance of social media as a communication tool and for building our network. Until that point, I didn’t realise how important it might be to interact with our publics. A couple of replies on any day is just five minutes work for the person running the Twitter account, but there’s no way to tell what the feeling is on the other side of the interaction.

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I know Dippy is just an exhibit in a museum, but the person tweeting for him doesn’t know that Dippy has a history with our family. He’s in the days spent in the museum so mum can get her head showered, he’s in the trips over to visit the big sister, he’s in the gigs I went to with my mates in London. Social media allows us to build our network and interact with our publics more than any other form of communication. Recognition that there is another human being on the other side of the interaction helps us to build a more connected network and probably makes our publics care a little more too.

Annie-Rose Mulholland is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – bananiepie / Twitter – @bananiepie / LinkedIn- Annie-Rose Mulholland.

How to be a savvy student

Starting university can be a difficult time for anyone. Whether we’re returning for final year or coming into university for the first time it can be a highly stressful time. Many of us are being faced with new situations we have never dealt with before such as living away from the family home, balancing a social life with studying, and learning how to manage a budget for the first time.

UK research[1] shows that:

  • 60% of students are not aware of their consumer rights;
  • 29% of students experience problems with an energy supplier;
  • 73% of students feel they are taken advantage of by companies; and
  • 66% of students believe that companies make it difficult to complain.

Luckily for us The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland have developed their Student Guide full of handing tips and advice on “How to manage your household bills and get consumer savvy”. While the Student Guide may not solve all the problems we might face at university it is a handy tool to cope with some of the situations we might encounter.

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To make it easier for all of you I’ve read through the guide and picked out my top 10 tips for surviving student life.

  1. When you move into a new property you need to contact the electricity supplier to let hem know they have a new customer at the property. If you do not you may be liable for the previous occupants’ debts on the meter.
  2. Opening a student bank account may provide you with additional benefits such as discounts, vouchers, and free insurance. While a 0% overdraft can be essential for tricky term time finances – it is still a loan and does need to be repaid eventually.
  3. Always ask a retailer if they provide a student card discount. Many places from the cinema, restaurants and online retailers offer student discount, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

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  1. Students between the ages of 16-23 years old are entitled to a yLink discount card which gives a third off Translink services. If you are over 24 years of age and in full time education the 24+ Student Railcard is valid for the academic year. Both the yLink card and the 24+ Student Railcard are available at a yearly cost of £8.
  2. A TV licence costs £150.50 a year and can be paid in full or the cost can be spread weekly, monthly, or quarterly. You have to have a TV licence to watch or record programmes, including online TV services.
  3. The tenancy deposit scheme requires your landlord to protect your deposit. It ensures you will get your deposit back when you move out if you have looked after the property. Within 28 days of receiving the deposit, landlords must advise you of how it has been protected.
  4. Before choosing where to eat out check online to see where might offer student discount. Many restaurants offer early bird menus which cost a lot less. Eating out doesn’t have to break the bank.

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  1. When buying online you have the right to receive any information about additional charges upfront. If “Free UK Delivery” does not include delivery to Northern Ireland, for example, you must be told upfront.
  2. There are many broadband providers available in Northern Ireland. It is important to check the speed of the providers network in your area before signing any contracts. Ofcom have a free mobile and broadband checker app so you can work out the best network for you.
  3. If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a retailer or service provider, you have the right to complain. If you are not happy with the response you have gotten from your complaint you can contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or, if your issue is in relation to energy, transport, water or postal issues you can contact The Consumer Council.

Starting a new term at university is never easy for anyone no matter what year of university education they’re going into. The Student Guide may not solve every problem that we encounter during our time at university but there are so many helpful tips on how to make life just a little bit easier. If you are struggling with an issue that isn’t covered by the guide Student Support Services at Ulster University are excellent at providing everything from information and advice to counselling services to students.

If you are interested in reading The Consumer Council’s Student Guide you can download a copy from their website here: http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-08/Student_Guide.pdf

For more information about the Student Support Services available to students at Ulster University visit: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/studentsupport/services

Annie-Rose Mulholland is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – bananiepie / Twitter – @bananiepie / LinkedIn- Annie-Rose Mulholland.

[1] Ombudsman Service, Know Your Rights, 2015