Wonder

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

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To celebrate World Kindness Day on Monday 13th November, Lionsgate decided to perform their own act of kindness and screen a preview showing of their new family drama Wonder, for free, in 300 cinemas nationwide.

I had never heard of the book or the movie Wonder – even though it stars my absolute favourite Jacob Tremblay – so when my sister messaged me to tell me she had free tickets to the cinema, I could have been signing up to watch anything, but of course I agreed- I am a poor student, someone says free and I’ll take it!

So, for anyone who was like me and hasn’t heard of the movie, let me be your personal IMBD. Wonder was adapted from R.J Palacio’s New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of August Pullman – or Auggie, as he is nicknamed in the film – a young boy born with some facial differences. Up until now, Auggie was home schooled and had never been to a mainstream school. He decides now is the time – fifth grade – he’s ready to join his peers in school. The movie Wonder tells of his extraordinary journey in starting school, dealing with bullies, making friends, losing friends and becoming the unlikely hero of his fifth-grade class.

This movie is an emotional rollercoaster, which leaves you with the warmest butterflies in your stomach. People laughed, people cried (some sobbed – not me of course…) and people left that cinema theatre feeling truly inspired. The true triumphant of the movie was how it brought people together. I have not been to a cinema screening in so long that had such a variety of people. There were mothers and young sons, fathers with young daughters, couples, sisters, brothers and everything in between.

Here’s a few things I learnt from the movie;
1. August Pullman has a facial disfigurement. It makes the first few weeks of school hell. He struggles speaking up in class, he finds it hard making friends and he wants to give up. What got me about this movie is how relatable it was. Auggie blames his facial differences for all the trouble he faces in school. He just wants to look ‘normal’. What really grasped my attention and got me so emotionally invested, was how relatable this notion is. In a world of Instagram models with the ‘perfect bodies’, and celebrities having surgery to change the way they look, don’t we all feel a bit like Auggie Pullman. Struggling to fit in and just wishing we could be like everyone else.

One of my favourite lines used in the movie drew on Dr Seuss’ famous quote, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out,” and that is absolutely what Auggie does, he stands out. I think we should all be taking a leaf from Auggie’s book. Our differences are what make up special, they are what make us who we are. Let’s start celebrating them, not trying to change them!

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2. Family – in whatever way, shape or form you define family – is the most important thing. For me my family is my mum, my dad, my brother and my sister. But family is also all of my friends, my mums friends, my aunties and uncles, everyone who surrounds me with love and support. The Pullman’s aren’t the perfect family, they have their flaws just like the rest of us. But what they do have, is a wholly unconditional love that they put in to everything they do. Being popular, having a wealth of material goods, and everything else we define ourselves by are all redundant when it comes to family. Without our family, who support us and love us for all our flaws and all our little traits that make us, us, life would be a very lonely place.

3. Finally, and in fitting with the World Kindness theme, a quote by Dr Dyer was used in the movie;
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
What I love about this quote, is that it is almost an oxymoron. In choosing kind, you are making the right choice. Kindness really is the most extraordinary gift we can give to anyone. And if this movie teaches you anything, it really is that kindness always wins. Smile and be kind, and the world will smile and be kind back. Everyone we meet is facing a battle that may not be as obvious as Auggie’s battle in the movie, and one smile from you may be exactly what they need.

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As you can probably tell, I fell in love with this movie, I also fell in love with Lionsgate for the World Kindness Day PR stunt which introduced me to the move. There is nothing better than a movie that inspires you to do something good! So, all that’s left to say is, stand out, cherish those who love and support you, be kind… oh and go and watch the movie!

Claire Stinton is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @clairestintonn / Instagram: @clairestinton 

Tips for Picking a Successful Dissertation Topic

It’s final year, it’s time to pick a dissertation topic. If you are anything like me, the first thought that will come to mind is probably a big fat HOW?!? How do you go about picking a topic, how do you format your question, how is it possible, in this day and age, with the mass expanse of literature and knowledge everywhere, that there is a gap in any literature, and if so, surely you – as an undergraduate- cannot possibly find it. Your dissertation is really the first time that you introduce yourself to the professional end of the research scale in university. It also plays a massive part in the degree classification you end up leaving university with. For me, I found the initial step of creating a dissertation topic to be extremely difficult. There were many nights of procrastinating (safe to say Henry the Hoover and I are now the best of friends), nights of hair pulling, and nights were the occasional tear was shed whilst lying in bed listening to the ‘Sad Songs for Crying’ playlist on Spotify – would highly recommend for this type of mood. The bad news is, picking a dissertation topic is no small feat, but the good news is, you will come out the other end and you now have the opportunity to pick a topic that you are completely interested in, and believe me, being interested in your research is crucial when you are dedicating your whole year to it. So, below are a few tips for picking a topic and for dealing with all the stress that comes with it.

Tip One – If you’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, then climb the mountain and enjoy the view.

Speaking from personal experience, I epitomise the phrase ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’, so I understand how difficult it can be to try and approach choosing a dissertation topic in a laissez faire manner. But a solid middle ground is what you should strive for. It is good to get worked up about any type of university work, because at least you know you care, but try not to spend all your time panicking and turn some of that anxious energy in to productive energy. If you have gotten this far in your degree, then you’ve done most of the hard work and this is the final push. You wouldn’t be here picking a dissertation topic if you weren’t capable of doing so.

So, have some faith in yourself! Let yourself feel anxious, worried and even a bit stressed, then throw all that energy in to your work. Spend time reading other dissertations, read all the existing literature, discover topics that you yourself find interesting to read and learn about, and an idea might just pop in to your head easier than you had ever thought.

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Tip Two – Be Unique

Step one covers the initial stress of picking a topic, so for step two, we’re in to the practical approach. After you’ve got over the hoovering, crying and listening to sad songs phase of finding a topic you are interested in, then start doing more reading! Read all the articles you can find on every database available to you in the time you have. As I am writing this from an undergraduate perspective, it may not be possible for your research to be completely original, but try and find something unique that isn’t explicitly there in the existing literature and mould it in to a research question that you can fulfil within the time and scope of your research project deadline.

Ask yourself, are you repeating something that you have already read? Is your research topic something that you would have stopped to read when doing your own research on the existing topics out there? And finally, are you going to learn anything new from carrying out your research?

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Tip Three – Change, Review and Change again

Be open to change. Inevitably, the first research question that you come up with is going to be completely different to the one you end up handing in for your final deadline. You may mould and change your question along the way to suit your research methods or just because you have come up with a new and improved adaptation of your original topic. Be open to making changes during the earlier stages of your dissertation. Your question is not set in stone and this is a blessing rather than a curse. Once you have completely familiarised yourself with the literature and analysed the different methods of research that you are going to use then confirm with yourself exactly what type of topic you are going to choose- and if you need to change the wording along the way, then change it!

Tip Four – If you need guidance, consult your supervisor

Your supervisor is there to guide you through your dissertation and at the early stage of picking a research question, you are definitely going to be looking for some guidance. Stay in contact with your supervisor, set up meetings and meet the deadlines they give you! Your dissertation supervisor is only going to guide you if they can see that you are putting in the hard graft and doing the work. Don’t expect to show up with no ideas and for your supervisor to hand you your research proposal on a shiny silver plate. Go to them with ideas and concepts that your interested in and think work for your study area and they’ll steer you in the right direction. It is your own dissertation and sadly no one else can do the work for you but having someone there who knows what they’re doing to help you along the way will be the reassurance you need.

So, all that’s left to say is be confident, do your reading, get interested and ask for help if you need it! And remember its ok to feel anxious, it’s the first step of a yearlong project – who wouldn’t feel a bit scared! And on those nights, were it all seems just a bit too much, just remember – in the famous words of Yazz – ‘The Only Way Is Up Baby!’

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Claire Stinton is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @clairestintonn / Instagram: @clairestinton 

 

PR Student Survival Guide

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.

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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?C2

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.

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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.