Student Life: Expectation V. Reality

As a nostalgic final year, I have reminisced on my brilliant university experience over the past 4 years. It has led me to remember what expectations I, and many others presumably had, as a first year beginning University.

 

Expectation: I’m rich!

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The student loan is a source of excitement particularly for prospective young fresher’s who imagine all the endless possibilities of their newly acquired ‘wealth’.  But whilst the loan may be the most money you’ve had enter your current account, it certainly doesn’t stay there very long. Once you factor in rent, food, clothes and alcohol, you really don’t have much left for those not quite as essential items such as electric, gas, and toilet roll…

Expectation: Hey MTV, welcome to my crib!

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Whilst you may expect to live in a nice house, the chances of that happening (especially in the Holylands) are pretty narrow. The slick pad you envisioned sharing with your friends will probably include mismatched furniture from the 80s, a shower with the force of a leaking tap, and a bedroom considerably disproportionate in size to the rest of the bedrooms – AKA “the box room”.

Suddenly, your home house feels like a palace in comparison, filled with luxuries such as in-date food, television, heat, and clean clothes! Which leads to the next expectation…

Expectation: I’m a strong independent university student.

Expecting to live self-sufficiently in your student house without regular visits home is a commonly misplaced expectation of university life. The reality is so, so different. Friday’s are typically when you go ‘home home’ to your family house, as opposed to ‘home’ which is your student house – get it? And if you’re lucky and have no classes on Fridays there is no doubt that you will be straight up the motorway on a Thursday evening. This is probably when you will beg kindly ask for money to get you through the following week when the loan has officially run its course… Whilst simultaneously raiding the cupboards for food to bring back to Belfast with you.

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Expectation: Party every night woo!

The hopes of going out every single night are usually short-lived and by Thursday you’re more than ready to head home for a weekend of comforts.

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Expectation: I’m going to cook all the time!

All the simple student cookbooks in the world will not encourage you to cook more than a maximum of 10 home-made meals in the duration of your first year. Instead you will have a vested interest in trying every takeaway available to you (provided they deliver – obviously). If you do decide to venture into the unknown that is cooking then you will probably whip up something like pasta, after sufficiently googling how to make it, of course.

 

E5Expectation: I will never miss a class.

Most of us probably told ourselves this at the beginning of University life, but in reality, it rarely happens. There will almost certainly be a day where you chose Netflix or drinks with your friends over class, and as a first year, no one can blame you for it!

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Whilst university may not be entirely as you first expected, most would agree that it’s a brilliant, unforgettable experience that goes by in the blink of an eye. So embrace student life and enjoy it whilst you can, because the real world *shudders* is just around the corner!

 

Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_

 

How Placement Prepped me for Final Year

Last year I spent 12 months working at Randox Laboratories, Crumlin. I never gave much thought into why I was applying for placement in 2nd year; I just thought of it as something we had to do and understood that it would be beneficial when it came to seeking graduate jobs, as I’d have some experience to show for. But its only when I began the daunting journey of final year, that I realised just how much placement year has benefited me.

These are 5 practical things placement year has taught me:

 

1. Keep a diary

Before placement, the only diary I had ever faithfully kept was my ‘Little Mermaid’ one aged 8 – to write about my favourite/least favourite family member that day, who I fancied, or how I got on at my Irish dancing competition that weekend. When I got my first proper A4 business diary when I started in Randox, I wondered how I could ever really need or fill it. But as time passed, the diary became as important as the computer I did my work on. Filled with to-do lists, payday dates, meeting times, and reminders; I used it every day and would have been lost without it.

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Now, I still keep a diary – although it’s a personal one with much less content, it’s just as important and keeps me right in terms of classes, meetings, appointments; you name it. Being organised is important in final year and this is one way to ensure you are!

 

2. Check your emails

Before placement, emails definitely were not my thing; with both my university and personal unread inboxes exceeding the hundreds. If someone needed me they could just Whatsapp or Facebook me – right? Wrong. It took me about 2 days of placement to realise that email is everything in the office. (Especially if you’re in Crumlin where there is no signal and it’s the only form of contact… Even lunchtime had to be arranged via email.) Everything is arranged by email, and failure to check emails in work could have resulted in missing a meeting that had been pushed forward or missing a last-minute task that needed to be completed urgently.

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The same applies to Uni now; forgetting to check university emails can mean missing events, job meetings or just general updates (#OpheliaClosure), so I try to stay on top of them.

 

3. Coffee is your friend

Starting work at 8:40 each day and finishing at 5.20 took some time getting used to for a second year used to having class 3 times a week for a few hours. Coffee definitely helped with this, and I rarely sat at my desk without an americano at my side. This habit, whilst not the healthiest, has stayed with me and I rarely go a morning without. It definitely helps for those late-night library sessions!

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4. Time is precious

Working full time makes you realise how precious time is – a simple doctor or dentist appointment requires planning and notice. Gone were the days where I could stroll into town at my leisure for a mid-week appointment and have a browse in the shops after! I think the reduction in time you have to yourself whilst working 9 to 5 in the ‘real world’ for a year ultimately helps you organise your time better in final year. Your weekend only part-time job in final year becomes a breeze in comparison and still leaves you with adamant time to socialise study.

 

5. Wake up early

Getting up before 7 every morning was not my most favoured part of placement, not going to lie… But it got me into a good routine, and even on days off I found myself waking up early because it’s what I was used to. This is in stark contrast to second year Emma, whose idea of early was 11AM… I find that waking up early puts you in a better mood for the day as you haven’t wasted any of it. Lie ins are great at times, but on the most part it’s beneficial to get up earlier as it allows you to get more done in your day – something which is particularly relevant in final year when deadline’s may seem to pile on top of each other.

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So that’s it, 5 simple ways placement has helped me transition from second year to final year. Undoubtedly, I learnt a lot more in relation to my course which has helped me throughout my modules so far, but these are some lifestyle habits I gained along the way.

 

Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_

 

 

JFK’s Bunratty Girls

Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 by the Earl of Thomond. The Earl had a tradition of hospitality, and since 1963 that tradition has been carried on through the many Bunratty Medieval Banquets held every year in the castle. The Banquets have welcomed guests from across the world to dine in medieval style and enjoy the classical Irish music as performed by the Bunratty singers – who have been described as “Ireland’s foremost cultural ambassadors” and the “Riverdance of their day.” But one significant fan of the Bunratty singers was none other than John F. Kennedy himself, President of the United States.

My grandmother, Una Wallace, was a classically trained singer and part of the original group of Bunratty Singers of 1963 whose travels included three tours of the East and West coasts of USA. In the Summer of 1963, they found themselves in the extraordinary position of being on-board an Airforce One helicopter from Shannon to Dublin to sing for US President John F. Kennedy at the American Embassy. Kennedy was the most powerful man in the world and an icon admired by many, and the opportunity of singing for him was an unbelievable experience for eight humble women from all over Ireland.

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The Bunratty Castle singers meeting David Power (left) and Ambassador McCloskey (right)

My grandmother remembers the day to be “absolutely amazing”. Kennedy was so impressed with the performance that he requested for the Bunratty singers to come to the White House to sing. Nanny describes meeting David Power, special aide to Kennedy: “he was a lovely man and he arranged for us to visit Washington to sing at the White House for President Kennedy.” Kennedy asked if the girls would also perform at Shannon Airport before his departure home, which of course they did. “We sang for him again at Shannon and as he was leaving, he turned around and looked at us and said, “there’s my girls” – he was just lovely, really lovely”, my grandmother reminisced.

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President Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and my grandmother, Una (in the green) at Shannon Airport

Unfortunately, before the Bunratty Singers got to visit Washington President Kennedy had been assassinated. They were taken to the White House and met the new President Johnson, but “it was so sad that he [Kennedy] wasn’t there” nanny said, “still, going into the oval office was something special.” My grandmother sat in the President’s chair at his desk in the oval office as she posed for a photograph with the rest of the singers. “The first thing Dave Power said was to take a look at the book on the desk – it was a photograph album of Kennedy’s and we were in it, a picture taken when he visited Ireland. We couldn’t believe it!” she told me, “It was such an honour to have met him, I have always cherished the memories.”

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My grandmother pictured in the President’s chair in the Oval Office, with the Bunratty girls and David Power

In June 1967 Jackie Kennedy, the late President’s wife, and her two children Caroline and John came to Ireland. During their holiday they visited Bunratty Castle and the Bunratty singers where a special banquet was held. “The children curtseyed when they came in, they must have thought this is what you should do!” my grandmother joked. The Bunratty girls performed for Jackie, and when they were finished she requested that they sing ‘Danny Boy’, which was one of the songs they had sang for President Kennedy. Nanny explained, “We wouldn’t have usually sang ‘Danny Boy’ in the castle as it would have been too ‘pop’, but we sang it anyway and I remember singing my heart out thinking that Jackie was thinking about her late husband. But when we had finished and she was walking out past us she spoke to us in her soft whispered voice and said, “that was lovely – Caroline has a pony called Danny Boy!” and I realised I was singing for a flippin’ horse!”

 

Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_