A Bloody Easy Donation

When Lent rolled around this year I sat and thought about what I was going to go off. Snacks? Alcohol? (Unlikely) Am I too old to go off being mean to siblings? Instead of going on a 40 day diet I decided I was going to do some of the good deeds I promise myself I’ll get round to but usually forget about – one being donating blood.

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I’d never given blood before but my brother told me he used to drop into the Belfast City Hospital when he was at university and donate there. I started to Google where exactly it was and what times it was open so that I could organise going around my class timetable. Little did I know that the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, located toward the back of Belfast City Hospital, was a mere 20 minute walk from the Holylands and open from 9:45am – 8.00pm Monday to Thursday and until 4:45pm on Fridays, meaning it’s easy enough to drop in either before or after class/work.

Before I made the journey to donate I was able to double check that I was eligible by taking this short, easy quiz: http://www.nibts.hscni.net/donating-blood/can-i-donate/. Once I arrived I had to fill out a form confirming I was eligible as it was my first time donating, however the nurses assured me that once I was registered I wouldn’t have to do this again. I was given my number and waited until I was called by one of the nurses.

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When I made the decision to go, two of my friends said that they would donate as well which I was grateful for as I found myself getting slightly nervous as I filled out the form. Being a Grey’s Anatomy veteran I felt like I’d had my fair share of experiences with needles and blood, even open heart surgeries. Sadly, I wasn’t sure if binge watching the surgeons at Seattle Grace was going to be of much help to me now.

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Once I explained to the nurses that it was my first time and I was slightly nervous they were extremely helpful in ensuring I didn’t see the needle or blood and reminded me that I didn’t have to go through with the donation if I felt uncomfortable. The needle prick wasn’t as sore as I had expected it to be, the nurses chatted to me throughout the whole process about everything from uni to the weather making sure my mind was off the fact that half a litre of blood was currently being drained from my body. The time flew and before I knew it I was finished. Once they took the needle out they popped a plaster and dressing on where the needle had been previously to ensure I didn’t get any infections afterwards.

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So, if you’re planning on heading out that night maybe consider a long sleeve shirt so you’re not sporting large brown dressing walking around Bot. I was told to rest for a few minutes afterwards before heading to the refreshments table. My nanny told me that years ago people were given Guinness after donations – whilst this is sadly no longer the case I was given the option between orange or lemon juice, milk and water. I was told to sit for a while and try and drink plenty of liquids to help replace the fluid I’d just lost. This meant I had time to sit and enjoy the biscuits on offer while watching my friends don nervous expressions I was sure I was wearing just 10 minutes previously. While some of the girls were off biscuits for lent the nurse assured us it didn’t count on this occasion because keeping blood sugar levels up was key.

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Once we completed our first donation we were informed that a small booklet would be sent to our homes which would include our blood type but also let us keep a record of donations (women can donate up to 3 times a year while men can donate up to 4.) The whole process was roughly 45 minutes. Because it was so easy I felt guilty that I hadn’t gotten round to donating before and we learned that, amazingly, just 1 donation can help up to 3 patients.

Roisin Watters is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

A 14 Year Old and a GoPro Walk into a Field…

My cousin Katie came home from her first day of secondary school gushing to tell me all about her classes and the people she met. She was decorating her diary, filling in her timetable and telling me all about the day’s events. I flipped through the pages of her diary and was horrified to find a page called ‘Snapchats’ with everything from EllieXoX to Hollie123 (I could tell you about the day she lost her phone and gone were the hard-earned 237 day streaks, but that’s another story in itself.)

What ever happened to the good ol’ days of giving out home phone numbers? Gone now are the glory days of your mum shouting at you to get off the house phone because Nanny’s probably been trying to get through for the past 3 hours. To this day I’m still annoyed I couldn’t three-way call like Lizzie, Miranda and Gordo.

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I’m not claiming that I don’t use Snapchat or any other forms of social media to keep in touch with my friends, I love aimlessly flicking through Facebook looking at memes and cat videos as much as the next person, I’m just sad to see so many young teenagers glued to their smart phones.

However, every once in a while we meet someone, an absolute anomaly, who isn’t obsessed with uploading their next Instagram post at prime time or with the latest iPhone that’s going to smash sooner than the last one (and I’m not talking about your dad that still has a Nokia 3310). Enter Katie’s older brother, James. His interest: farming and absolutely nothing else; whilst most teenagers would come home and go on Facebook, James got straight into his overalls and headed to our Granda’s farm, when other teens were getting play stations and footballs for Christmas, James was getting tractor simulators and new work coats for the farm. But alas, nothing lasts forever.

As James got older he became glued to his dad’s iPad watching YouTube videos by farmers called the Grassmen, a group of men who decided to experiment with cameras in their tractors and fields and soon developed a mass following with some videos gaining almost 5 million views. James watched all their videos and couldn’t wait to tell me when he met Donkey at The Balmarol Show. Naturally I assumed he meant the character from Shrek; I soon learned that Donkey was one of these Grassmen and a major influence on James.

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My interest was piqued when James’ parents asked if they could buy GoPro accessories for James from my Amazon account for Christmas. James? A GoPro? He’s not travelling to Thailand this summer to find himself, why does he have a GoPro? When I thought about it I didn’t know many people who owned a GoPro, never mind any 14 year olds. I was on placement in London at the time and soon forgot about it until one day my mum sent me a YouTube link with the message: “Watch this”, and five minutes later: “Did you watch it yet?” James had uploaded his first video – my reaction: instant fan-girl.

Being from the country I’ve seen plenty of tractors driving around and, as many of you probably know, it’s really not that exciting. With a variety of editing and the addition of music James managed to make something that people would generally find quite boring really fun to watch. The video currently has 364 views (of which I think 64 are mine). I remember showing my co-workers the next morning with pride written all over my face, their expressions were mere confusion as many of them most likely hadn’t seen a tractor in central London nor knew anyone that drove them. I’ll let you decide for yourselves but I’m sure you’ll agree the results are amazing, especially for a 14 year old that wouldn’t have touched an iPhone just a few years ago.

It turns out James wasn’t just producing short videos but was also uploading images to an Instagram account of the tractors and the fields. We still joke about him lying down in the grass to get the perfect shot, but the truth is the pictures are amazing:

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Some people are paid thousands to make content for social media and here was my cousin spending his time doing it for free all because he loved farming. So, as much as we want to roll our eyes and moan about “kids these days” with all their gadgets, at the end of the day they’re allowing teenagers to be creative in ways we never would have dreamed of just a couple of years ago. It also goes to show that social media isn’t just for the travel and beauty bloggers, farmers are even starting to get a piece of the action!

Roisin Watters is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

My Top Tips for Securing a Placement

Some of my classmates were very fortunate to be offered the first placement they applied for, this was not the case for me. I decided I wanted to spend a year away from the Emerald Isle and after a long list of rejections, I landed my placement on May 11th 2017 and made my move to London less than 6 weeks later to work for Warner Bros. as the European Publicity Intern. Through this process as well as my year in industry I picked up on a number of tips that I hope anxious 2nd years will find useful.

A Top-Notch CV

As a final year student I can’t claim to know everything there is to know about writing the best CV, but after being majorly included in the recruitment of my successor, attending information meetings from HR and talking to industry professionals, I was able to pick up some great tips that I hope to pass on to anyone reading who is currently applying for placement roles.

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It’s pretty much the first bullet point on every talk or presentation you will receive on writing a CV and it seems stupidly obvious but spelling and grammar is everything. You could be top of your class, have amazing experience and speak 3 languages but still manage to spell the name of your course wrong. Everybody makes mistakes, and if you’ve read over your CV 20 times you’ll likely no longer notice them. Get a friend, a parent or a careers advisor to have a read and you’ll be surprised at some of the things they’ll notice that you hadn’t. Employers go through 100s of CV sometimes, and if enough mistakes have been made they’ll get frustrated and most likely stop reading.

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Experience is key, whether this is working in your local shop or in an office over the summer, every job will provide you with transferable skills. While you may not have experience in your desired industry, any work experience is definitely better than no work experience. Employers are aware that at age 19/20 you won’t have led your own PR campaign and some even prefer to see the typical part-time jobs such as waitressing as it shows an ability to work with people within a stressful environment. If you have the chance to gain relevant work experience you definitely should, whether this is with your friend’s uncle’s cousin or through an opportunity provided through university, say yes to as many experiences as possible to beef out your CV. I volunteered to do PR for a charity in Belfast and in my interview this was commended as taking on unpaid work showed a passion for the job I was doing.

One woman told me that if applicants don’t have relevant experience she would look at their hobbies and interests to see if they displayed a particular interest in the industry. I thought this was great advice as not everyone has the means to get experience but could be the perfect candidate for the job. So whether you’ve recently attended a talk about women in technology, you go to the cinema once a week or you write a blog for your university, these small factors show a genuine interest as well as make you seem more knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in.

Stay Connected

Following the companies you’re interested in on LinkedIn and Twitter is a great way of keeping up-to-date with the opportunities available as well as the projects the companies are working on. My employers were unsuccessful at finding a candidate at their first assessment day and decided to re-advertise the job, had I not been following @warnerbrosplacements on Twitter I may never have spotted the opportunity as the first deadline for all placements was in December. Additionally, you might find the chance to discuss something you noticed on LinkedIn in your cover letter, application or interview which shows you’re interested and staying updated with the company’s activities.

Stay Positive

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“What’s for you won’t pass you”- this motto became so ingrained in my life that I was sure it was going to be written on my gravestone. My parents, friends and classmates all told me this every time I received a rejection that at times it became hard to hear. I would advise everyone not to get disheartened by rejections but to learn from them and ask yourself what you could do better or what you could do differently. Staying positive is key and while at times it may seem like it will never happen, you will eventually secure a placement and gain invaluable experience beyond what you’ve ever learned in the lecture hall.

Roisin Watters is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

#DontBottleItUp: Bizzare or Brilliant?

L’eau de Chris

When Chris Hughes (one of this year’s Love Island stars, for those who managed to stay away) took to social media to announce he would be launching his first ever product with Topman last week it initially generated a lot of mixed reactions.

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The product called L’eau de Chris is described by Topman as “mineral water infused with a Chris Hughes tear”. Some followers found the announcement hilarious whereas many took to Twitter to ask whether this was an April Fool or just banter. Naturally the announcement gained a lot of attention, not just from Topman and Hughes’ followers but also from the media declaring that the Love Island star was being “slammed across social media” for his latest bizarre career move. Just to reassure their readers Metro even said: “Just confirm: Yes, this is real life.”

The product was officially launched the following day via a Facebook Live at Topman HQ to reveal the true story behind L’eau de Chris.

The Launch: Mental Health Day

The Facebook live began at 8:15am where the meaning behind the product as well as the full title was revealed: L’eau de Chris? No, Ludacris; turns out the ridiculous product was a publicity stunt to symbolise the ludacris fact that 84% of UK men bottle up their feelings on a daily basis (YouGov). Along with partnering up with Topman, Hughes also became a brand ambassador for the UK mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), an award-winning UK mental health charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. The limited edition bottles were auctioned at the calmzone.net/dontbottleitup and sold for £2 online at Topman (now sold out) with all proceeds going to support the charity.  Topman are also donating £2 from every pack of Topman boxers sold from October 10th-31st to CALM.

Facebook Live

So, What Didn’t Work?

When the announcement first came out that Chris Hughes was selling bottled water infused with his tears I thought it was hilarious, not to mention I appreciated the slo-mo black and white video, however when I read that there was an official launch the following day I had no interest in learning more about why or how Chris Hughes was shedding a tear into a plastic bottle – the same goes for the media. While the announcement of the product gained lots of media attention, the launch and the meaning behind the product didn’t come close. Was it almost too ridiculous that people lost interest in hearing more?

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Additionally, whilst Mental Health Day was a perfect launch date for the product it also meant that it didn’t get as much visibility as it probably would have hoped for. Every celebrity, influencer and blogger took to every social media platform to discuss their experiences of mental health by sharing inspirational quotes and stories. This meant that news stories became the generic: “55 celebrities talking about their depression, anxiety and mental health”.

Or Did Topman have any idea that Mental Health Day would also be the day that A- List Hollywood celebrities would announce that they had been sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein? Absolutely not. Of course this also an extremely important issue but again meant that the media’s focus was elsewhere.

But What Did?

The humour of the campaign as a whole, from the word play on Ludacris to Chris Hughes bottling his tears there’s no denying it provided a good laugh. Whilst humour isn’t on everyone’s mind when they think of mental health, maybe this is exactly the kind of campaign that engages young men and gets them interested and makes them aware of the help that is available.

People also questioned the appropriateness of Chris Hughes as an ambassador for mental health, some thought “little bit leave it” however Hughes bravely discussed his past struggles with anxiety during the Facebook Live. It also helps that he has an astonishing social media following that includes the campaign’s core target market and as the saying goes: go hard or go home.

My Thoughts

Whilst the campaign wasn’t perfect it was definitely a step in the right direction. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, with 76% of all suicides in 2014 being men (ONS, NISRA, GRO 2014) but how many people know this? I know I didn’t until I followed the link to CALM’s twitter page, a charity that deals with everything from anxiety to self-harm.

Whilst mental health is affecting families on a smaller scale, until the media, brands and influencers get involved on a national and global scale this is an issue that won’t get the necessary attention that it needs. I applaud Topman for being one of the first leading men’s brands in the UK to try and communicate with young men about mental health and hope that this blazes the trail for a wider discussion.


Roisin Watters is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters