Did I give up on my dream of becoming an artist…or am I right where I need to be?

So here’s a little bit about me: My name is Kayleigh, I am 22 years old and I am only half way through my university degree. However before I can get to the good stuff I have to take you right back.

From a young age I always dreamt of being an artist. When I was in secondary school I lived and breathed art. Although I was very academic I only worked hard in other subjects (history & business) so that I could get the grades I needed to get into art school.

Long story short… my hard work paid off and my childhood dream came true. I was going to be an artist!

The calm before the storm 

In September 2016 I packed my bags and moved to the big city (Belfast). I was full of hopes and dreams; nothing was going to get in my way. Throughout my first semester my attitude changed. This course was not living up to my expectations, my dreams. I changed as a person. My parents noticed how unhappy and unenthusiastic I had become. This course was draining my passion for art from me day by day.

I have been told it takes real courage to change direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Insight into Art School

One thing that you should know about studying art is that the meaning is more important than the execution. For example you could be amazing at art. You could draw the most perfect portrait, or paint the most beautiful painting the world has ever seen. But the question is… WHY did you draw that, what does it mean? 

It’s pretty…yes… but it doesn’t have a purpose or a story! (This is what they will tell you)

On the other hand someone could grab a ruler and draw a straight line. Perhaps they are feeling adventurous today and draw a square. But this is no ordinary square. Their square is the lines that define society.

My point is: It doesn’t matter how good the execution/final piece is, if there is no story or purpose to the art you will not get a good grade.

So is the creative idea more important than the execution if you want to become a successful artist?

*Come January 2017 I dropped out of my degree. I felt as though my world had ended but I couldn’t continue being this unhappy.

New Strategy

In September 2017 I started a new course: Communication, Advertising & Marketing at UU. To be honest I applied for this degree blindly. My dreams had been shattered. The future, unknown.

I was taught in school that marketing was a type of business degree that involved boring people in suits sitting in an office all day long reading reports etc. You would lead an extremely boring life…but hey you would be loaded!

How wrong was I? I was led down this path for a reason.

The re-invention of myself to date

I am now 4 months into my placement year at The Irish News. Every day I am faced with a new challenge or a new campaign. We create and pitch ideas. My ideas are actually listened to and taken on board. Once we establish that magic idea, we create a brief and send it to designers. We brief them on exactly what we would like the campaign to look like. From imagery, to colours to the overall design.

So am I the artist or is the designer who knows how to use photoshop?

I may not have created the final product…. BUT I was taught in art school that the final product is worthless if it doesn’t have a purpose/a story/a message.

It was drilled into me that I had a stupid dream because being an artist was like being a pop star, “you are never going to make it” “what will you do as a job”. There was a very slim chance that the world would see my art.

 

“Don’t give up on your dream because it is not going in the direction you want. There are different routes to the same destination. Stay focused and determined.”-  Janice Harris      

 

I took a different direction to achieving my dream. The dream I am now living.

I am no Picasso or Van Gogh but I guarantee that the majority of you reading this will have seen our artwork in the newspaper, online or perhaps on the side of a bus, you just don’t know it.

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Being a marketer means that my art is seen by the world, it has a purpose, it has a message and it has made a difference.

 

So… has my dream changed or developed? -That’s up for debate.

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

What I would tell myself 365 days ago…

I am currently on my year-long placement with Danone Ireland and I am lucky enough to enjoy it. However, it can be so easy to land yourself a job that you really don’t like. But this is good too. Here’s why…

I am writing this now because I was reminded of the stress of applying for placement jobs when helping a good friend with her CV in preparation for job applications. It made me question that when you start applying for your third-year internship, what do you really know? I mean you’ve only really completed one year of university and are still taking a wide variety of completely new modules and topics. How can you possibly know what role you want to undertake for a year? That’s the thing, you don’t. I study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University which should really be called Communication, Advertising, Marketing, PR, digital media and graphic design, because there’s so much more to the degree than the title portrays. And this isn’t just my degree, every undergrad degree is the same and offers various career path options. Unless of course you’re studying a vocational subject like nursing, medicine or teaching- then you usually know what you’re going into… I hope!

To get to my point, with a degree like mine, I reckon it will take a couple of jobs before I properly find my niche in something I really love and would settle with.

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When I was applying for internships last year, I stressed about it so much, I wanted something as quickly as possible, simply so that I could enjoy my year without that added weight on my shoulders. I was so envious of my friends when they’d arrive in class with the news of their job and all I had was either an attempt at a CV, a handful of confidence knocking rejections or the guilt of non-applied for jobs. There’s always that person that has a job in the bag by Day 1- I was not that person. I knew I wanted to go to Dublin. That was all. So that’s all I applied for really. And yes, it may sound naïve to apply for the place before the job, but why not? I am still a student and for me, a change of location was all part of the experience. And I knew that wherever I ended up I was going to learn something anyway so that’s where my focus was. Dublin is one of the friendliest cities

I went through the motions of applications, online interviews, face-to-face interviews, assessment days, cover letter and CV editing and of course, rejections. But the way I looked at it was, yes, this is for a real-life job, but only as a taster for the future…. Realistically, no company is going to fully depend on a student or expect them to change the world. We are there to learn and develop. Life is full of people that won’t get you or appreciate you or agree with you, so of course rejections are inevitable. I learned so much from the application process alone, the most important thing being not to take everything so personally because that gets you absolutely nowhere! My dream job was a Marketing and Publicity role with Warner Bros. Ireland and I was shortlisted to the top 9 candidates meaning I had to attend an assessment day. I was beyond nervous for this but when I was further shortlisted to the top four, I started believing in myself for once, that maybe I could be good enough. Anyway, long story short I received a phone call in the middle of a good old Holylands’ barbecue to say I didn’t get the job. The enjoyable street party was unfortunately short-lived because I cried that much I went home. I had had enough, bearing in mind this was mid-late April, I felt like time was running out. I honestly couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough and thought this was just the end of the world. It was one of those situations where you hear news that completely blow any other worry, excitement or feeling completely out of the park until they don’t matter anymore in the slightest. I hated life. After a couple of hours of life contemplation (I am so dramatic), I recognised that I couldn’t actually have done anything more in that interview, so it obviously wasn’t meant to be!

One of the questions I kept asking myself last year was, ‘how am I supposed to know what I want to do?’ and what I would tell myself 365 days later is that you don’t. Careers are like one big chain of trial and error. My job at Danone is mostly communications and corporate affairs. This isn’t what I envisaged for myself 365 days ago but here we are. I would tell myself not to worry if I get a job I don’t like, because then I will know what I can rule out for the future. I am walking/ running down a career path where I believe change is inevitable and absolutely necessary in order to learn and develop. I would tell myself that placement is only one of the small and first pieces of the ‘Hannah’s Life Jigsaw’. It isn’t the be all and end all, there’s still plenty more to be put into place.Image result for the life jigsaw

Last year, I put so much pressure on myself to get this ‘dream placement’ and yes, it’s good to have a goal or an idea, but I would tell myself not to fixate on it. There will be aspects of every job you won’t like and aspects you do. But theseopinions give you the chance to fine tune the end goal you want for yourself. I am in a comms role and enjoying it. But placement has allowed me to develop my plan that I want to get a masters and a job in other aspects of my degree aside from communications, because you never really know until you try.

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Less stress is best.

 

Hannah Gilsenan is a third year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @han_gil98 and LinkedIn – Hannah Gilsenan

Placement Panic

In this exact moment in time I wish I could just press pause in my life so all the stresses and worries of second year could disappear into thin air and just bugger off for an appreciated 5 minutes (that’s all I’m asking for).

It pains me to say that I am guilty of entering second year with the delusional mindset that it’s not going to be that much harder than 1st year, however, spoiler alert, it actually is a LOT harder.

I know there will be other people in my class who will read this and laugh at me because they may think so far second year is a breeze. They obviously haven’t felt the same weight on their shoulders as I have and if that is the case honestly fair play because I’d love to be in your position. However, surprise – I am not! Because here I am, writing this blog about how incredibly stressed out I am and it’s only the start of November.

The main cause of my current condition of basically just being a big bag of nerves is due to the dreaded topic of placement. At present, the only thing that seems to be going through my sore little head are the words ‘placement’ and ‘CV’. I’m sure many people have been in a similar position, because no one wants to consider that there will be a time (very soon) when they’ll not be kicking around the Jordanstown mall with their mates or making their way down to the Hatfield on a casual Tuesday night, for the weekly ‘County Holylands’. Instead, they’ll be making their overnight oats, laying out their clothes for their 9-5 in the office and anticipating the dreaded alarm blaring beside them at 7am the next morning. I know I know; I honestly can’t bare to think about it myself, I’ll start tearing up.

However folks, this is the sad reality of the dreaded placement life the majority of us will unfortunately all face at some stage in our university lives. So I’m writing this blog because I want my fellow stressed students to know I feel your pain, like a slap in the face, I feel it. It’s daunting, nerve-wracking and just down right scary that we have to step foot into the adult way of life and start putting together a 2 page document that defines exactly who we are, what we can do and what we’re good at.  Realistically, it would take a lot more for the people reading them to see how pretty amazing we all really are.

Personally, I’m not even exactly sure what it is I want to do yet, or what route of my course I want wander down because there’s so many different opportunities. I’m anxious about every possible aspect of placement, including what tasks I’ll be trusted with, what clothes I’ll wear everyday (so I look suitable for the role), if I’ll find myself in the same place or perhaps across waters in new surroundings (which in itself, comes with a whole lot more responsibilities my brain can’t even bare to consider right now) and if the people I’ll be working alongside will even like me…and not kick me out.

So I’ll end on a slightly higher note than I started. If anyone stumbles across this word vomit I have splattered out onto this page, and even slightly relates to how I’m feeling then please let me know! It’s a lot easier to suffer when you’re suffering alongside someone else who’s in the same boat, someone who reassures and comforts you because THEY GET YOU. As the saying goes, “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”, so let’s all try have a laugh, even if we’re all just laughing at ourselves.

Holly Gillan is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing BSc student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook: Holly Gillan, Twitter: @Hollyg453, Instagram: hollygillan987 and LinkedIn: Holly Gillan

Rewrite My Story

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20 years ago, I pulled up to the steps at Ulster University, Coleraine in the car with my husband driving. I looked at the steps, I looked at my husband and I said, “drive on!” I was in my 3rd year as an English student; I was disinterested, demotivated and couldn’t bear the thought of going to one more lecture or seminar. The steps that dominate the landscape at the Reception of UUC had become a symbol of oppression to me. Every morning, as soon as I saw them, I felt dread flood through my veins, and I wanted to run in the opposite direction.

And so it continued till the end of the year, when I miraculously got my degree and felt free of the shackles of education.

Fast-forward to 2019 and I am a mature student at Ulster University, Jordanstown studying a Msc in Communication, PR and Political Lobbying.

For the last few weeks I have spent every Monday immersed in a world of lectures and seminars with a class of interesting, talented people who challenge me, and I love it.

As I live in Coleraine, it makes sense that I use the library facilities there. On Thursdays and Fridays, you will find me eagerly making my way to UUC car park right after school drop-off. There you will see me skip up those front steps with an optimism that fills me in quite a wonderfully opposite way to the dread that almost suffocated me 20 years ago.

So, what’s the difference? Why the change of mind and motivation?

Truthfully, it’s a host of complex reasons that span my life, my experiences so far, my mindset and self-belief and my changing hopes and dreams. But I think I can boil it down to one word… GROWTH.

Firstly, I believe I have grown in self-awareness. Time can be a gracious gift that allows us to get to know ourselves better. I am grateful for the last 20 years of marriage, kids, a variety of work experiences and even feeling frustrated and having to ask myself hard questions about my identity and purpose. I feel more sure of the answers.

Secondly, I have grown in confidence. Anyone that has known me a long time would probably say that confidence is not something that I have ever lacked. Yes, I am an extrovert, but confidence is something much deeper and more sophisticated than what we present on the outside. Confidence grows with life experience, with meeting challenges, with overcoming difficulties and then realising I can do hard things.

Thirdly, I have grown in motivation. Nothing motivates like a second chance!

For many years I have wanted to go back to university to prove to myself that I can be a good student. Moreover, I wanted to return to do something worthy of my time, which I trust this course is. So far, I have learned more about an industry that I have long been interested in. I believe that my thinking skills have sharpened already because I am interested.

I have grown in so many significant ways that now I feel ready to put right the wrongs of my previous university effort. It is time to rewrite my story.

I don’t want to settle for a story of not trying my best, but I want to write a story of effort and commitment.

I don’t want to settle for a story of average achievement, I want to write a story of success to the best level I can achieve.

I don’t want to settle for a story of regret that I didn’t try, I want to write a story of courage and redemption of my past mistakes.

It just so happens I am not alone.

In my class of 12 people, a quarter of them are women just like me. Brave women in their 40’s taking on a new challenge because they believe that it’s not to late to rewrite their story, for their narrative to head in a fresh, new direction.

We are part of a new generation which has been tagged the ageless generation because we don’t feel like we are told we should feel at our age. In our 40’s/50’s we have similar likes and desires as our millennial counterparts. We feel young, we want to dress young, we are thirsty for all sorts of adventure and we believe we have something to offer.

Previously, we would have been described as “middle aged” with its connotations of gardening and elastic waistbands. Instead, we reject that notion of becoming middle aged like our parent’s generation. We don’t want our age to define us.

(As PR students it is interesting to watch the marketing industry slowly wake up to this huge marketing opportunity. Especially as research shows that women in their 50’s have the greatest spending power, notably in the huge cosmetics industry.)

I am happy to be counted amongst such brave, creative and strong women such as Oprah, Michelle Obama or JK Rowling.

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I may feel a bit overwhelmed when I look at those reading lists and the long list of assignments due in the next few months. But it’s nothing like the dread I felt looking at those UUC steps 20 years ago.

This is a mountain that I can climb because I have learned that I can stretch; I can learn; I can grow; I can do hard things.

I am ready to rewrite my story.

Danielle McElhinney is a full time Masters student in Communication, PR and Political Lobbying at Ulster University, Jordanstown. She can be found at Twitter: @daniellemac33 and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-mcelhinney-55ab0a24/

Introducing Orlagh Shanks: An Interview With The UK’s Best PR Blogger 2018 & 2019

 

This is blogger, and former PR student, Orlagh Shanks (22), who runs the blog https://orlaghclaire.com/, where she talks all things PR related happening in the world from day to day. She also discusses all sorts of life experience topics, such as being a student, living in different cities of the world and general lifestyle categories.

I was drawn into Orlagh’s blog when I was exploring the idea of studying a PR related course at university, and with Orlagh being from the same town as me and attending the same secondary school, I felt I could gain some well trusted guidance from her blog.

Her blog was one of the many reasons I not only decided to study a PR related course, but also then decided to start my own blog.

So, for me, it is not hard to see why she has been given the title of ‘UK’s Best PR Blogger’ for not only 2018, but also 2019.

This is why I wanted to do an interview with her, for those that may not know her, in order to get to know Orlagh and find out what drives her in staying so dedicated to her blog and also to find out what her future plans are now that she has graduated. I feel that Orlagh will have some great advise for this years final year CMPR and CAM students.



Siobhan: 
Hey Orlagh, how are you? I have seen that your life has been crazy at the minute, so I appreciate your time to complete this interview. We are both from the same hometown and have both chosen to do PR related courses. You have now graduated with a first class honours, well done! So my first question for you is a typical one, why PR?

Orlagh: Hey Siobhan, I’m really good thanks! Ah, I always dread this question even though it’s so straightforward. I had always planned on following a career in finance, but my interests were always centred around magazines, fashion, entertainment and music. But growing up in the small town that we come from, a career in any of those industries was never really seen to be real or achievable to someone from Lurgan, in my eyes. But I spent three days at a PR agency in Belfast for work experience and I was sold. I wasn’t really able to explain PR to my mum and dad (or myself) but I just knew that it would allow me to somehow follow my dream career in one of those areas and be able to work with journalists since I had squashed my own idea of being a journalist once my two favourite magazines folded. Choosing PR meant that I was going to give myself a lot of options once I graduated from university and only once I started to study PR at LJMU did I realise just how many opportunities PR opens up.

Siobhan: How would you describe your course at Liverpool John Moore University?  What did you enjoy about it and was there anything you didn’t like about it?

Orlagh: It was a good course. I studied Business with Public Relations so I was able to also study modules like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, HR and Corporate Social Responsibility alongside my Public Relations modules. I enjoyed that part of it a lot as I now have a fair bit of insight into these areas of business that I wouldn’t have if I had studied Public Relations on its own. Another thing that I loved about the course was the option to carry out a placement year. I knew I was going to be making use of this once I had applied for the course.

What I didn’t like about the course was probably that it was very top line. Unlike a few other universities, my lecturers weren’t very active online in the PR community. They didn’t promote writing a blog like Conor McGrath from the University of Ulster does or Richard Bailey from Leeds Beckett. They didn’t really seem to know what was happening outside of LJMU or even that I had a blog and had won an award. It kind of felt like you were there to get the bit of paper at the end and that was it.

Quite like the schools back home, the main career choices were pointed towards working in corporate comms, crisis comms or internal comms for not-for-profits and public sector organisations. Roles such as publicity, influencer marketing and social media management weren’t discussed much or thrown into the equation.

Siobhan: Why did you choose to go overseas for university rather than stay at home?

Orlagh: Being honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from Northern Ireland. I was around 17 when my dad told me to get out of Northern Ireland as soon as I could, to make a better life for myself. I knew that there weren’t any opportunities for me and I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of new people, live in a new city and see what England had to offer. I also think that if I hadn’t moved to Liverpool for university, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a placement in London as I would have gotten too comfortable being at home. Moving to England at 18 was probably the best decision I have ever made as I think everything that has happened since then has been a ripple effect from that moment. Right now, looking at Northern Ireland in the news and just being away for so long has really made me realise how far behind NI is and how much it is struggling in terms of government, healthcare, prospects etc. I know I won’t be coming home for a very long time, that’s for sure.


Siobhan: So you said you did your placement year in London, what was your experience with that? 

Orlagh: Yes! And it was the best year of my life so far, without a doubt. I was able to carry out a placement year at Coty Inc. in London working in the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing department. I lived and breathed my job and was so excited to go to work every single day. I was basically living my childhood dream of working with magazines, going to fashion events, music events, movie premiers, working with huge fashion labels etc. It was everything I imagined and more. My placement year made me realise that you really can find a job that you enjoy and wake up excited to go to. Now that I’ve had that, I don’t want to settle for a job that I don’t enjoy when I could be working and progressing at one that I do. My team were the best, my role was the best, the other interns were great and living and working in London was an overall great experience and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long while.


Siobhan: How did you become the UK’s best PR blogger for 2 years running?

Orlagh: Truthfully, I don’t really know. I started blogging at the beginning of my second year of university, so three years ago now. I think it really helped that I was consistent and kept blogging at least once every single week and I think with the amount that I was writing, I was improving with the practice and with every blog post that I wrote. On my placement year my content really ramped up which I think helped a lot. Then during my final year, I still managed to post at least once a week, sometimes up to three times per week and was able to give a speech to students at Greenwich University in London as well as be active on social media, contribute to Twitter chats and network with other PR professionals.

I think the main thing was consistency. I made myself stick to posting something every single week and then just got into the habit of doing it. Now, it’s second nature to post at least once per week and when I don’t post, I have a weight on my shoulders until I do. I think the more time I invested into my blog, the more my stats progressed and the more recognition I received, the more I became pretty obsessed with my site. I was constantly trying to make it look better, write better content, make it easier to navigate, make social media pages for it etc. I’m quite proud of how far my blog has come in the past three years and I think the time that I put into it shows for itself. I would be up to all hours of the morning blogging away and neglecting all of my university work just so I could focus on my own website instead. And now the middle of the night is the only free time I have to blog in New York.


Siobhan: How did blogging help you during your time at university? And how do you think it has help you in your career path?


Orlagh: I guess for university purposes, it helped a lot with my essay writing. I was writing 1,000 word blog posts a few times per week, so when I was given a 2,000 word essay, it didn’t seem as daunting. This is also how I approached my dissertation. To me, 10,000 words was just like writing 10 blog posts – achievable. It also helped a lot in terms of knowing what was going on in the world of PR and being able to draw examples for my work as I was constantly reading about PR and getting involved in conversations surrounding what was currently happening.

The main thing that my blog helped me with was my career, for sure. I really do think I owe my placement year at Coty to my blog and the opportunities that followed. Any public relations graduate can say that they are interested in the subject since they studied it, but a blog really emphasises how much you are invested in the industry since you are constantly writing, reading and talking about what’s going on. Having a blog about your degree topic is probably one of the best things to have on your CV (if you can write and spell well of course).

There’s a lot of writing involved in PR, so your blog would be a great example of your capabilities, who you are as a person and your skillset for the working world of public relations.

 

Siobhan: What does the next year have in store for you now that you have graduated?

Orlagh: After graduating in July of this year, I moved to New York City at the end of August to work for a year in influencer marketing. I feel extremely lucky to be here and can’t believe that I actually am. I’ve only been here six weeks but working and living in New York has been everything I imagined and more.

I’m excited to learn more about influencer marketing and further my knowledge and skills in the area as it’s the career path that I currently want to follow and work in once my year in New York is up.

So for now, I’ll be spending the next 12 months in NYC working in the finance industry and seeing and doing as much as I possibly can. Where blogging fits into that, I don’t know as I don’t seem to have a spare minute to myself at all.


Siobhan: What advice would you give to the CMPR/CAM students of Ulster University to help them get through final year?

Orlagh: Enjoy it as best you can! It may be called final ‘year’, but in reality it’s around eight months maximum. Those months will go by in a flash and it will be straight out into the real world. Make the most of your lie-ins, your flexible calendar, your student discount, living with your friends, many nights out and everything that your university offers. I was able to go to Amsterdam with my course during my final year and it was the best way to celebrate the end of our four years together.

Also, look out for one another. Final year can be very tough and you can feel a huge amount of pressure when thinking about what you’re going to do next. That was probably the toughest part of final year for me – deciding what my next career move was going to be. Make sure your classmates are finding everything ok and if they are struggling, help them. There is no competition in university as you all want to finish with the top degree, so help make sure all of you get the result you deserve.

But seriously, enjoy it. Don’t feel that because you are in your final year that you need to spend the entire time in the library. Do your work on the weekdays and enjoy yourself on the weekends. You can have the best of both worlds and still finish with a first class degree. As long as you put the work in, you’ll get the mark that reflects it.


Thank you so much to Orlagh for being involved in this blog post and answering some questions for me. I feel that we can all take in this quality advice from Orlagh to help us complete our degrees.

View Orlagh’s award winning blog by clicking here.

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations staudent at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

Always take the scenic route…

‘Always take the scenic route’ has unintentionally become a bit of a life motto for me. Following a leave of absence earlier this year –  in Week 9 of Semester 2 of a 1 year course – a move that perhaps shocked me as much as it did my lecturers and course director at the time – I am absolutely buzzing to be back studying at UUJ for what could well be – finally – the last time! Although…. Never say never, right?! My PhD may be calling…

Last year, I promised myself that I would start blogging, but I just didn’t get round to it. I suppose I did sometimes make excuses, like not having enough time or not wanting to come across as narcissistic, but it all boiled down to my own lack of self-confidence in my ability to take the plunge and just do it.

Well, here I am. Blogging. It might be rubbish, but so what? It’s my first time!

I’m writing this to simply offer some encouragement to my fellow students, at whatever point of your student life you happen to be reading it. I want to reassure you that it’s OK to give things a go, and it’s also OK if things don’t quite work out how you had thought they would. I think it’s really important to adopt this attitude as early as possible in the academic year, because you never know what curveballs life is going to throw at you! It doesn’t matter how many fail safe measures you attempt to put in place, or how confident you are in your own ability. Life may, and often does, get in the way.

For me, it’s been a mixture of health related issues and other personal or professional commitments which have made what ‘should have’ been four years study stretch out to what has now been my eighth September at a university. Some people think I’m crazy for sticking it out this long. Some people might even jump to their own conclusions and think that I’m not cut out for it, that I’m lazy or that I am non-committal.

I am none of these things.

Only I truly know all of the circumstances behind taking the scenic route to get to this point, and frankly, it is my business and nobody else’s. Sure, I might be asked to explain the dates of study at an interview, but it hasn’t happened yet, and as I have always held at least one part time job alongside my studies, I don’t need to fill in that uncomfortably prying question to ‘explain any gaps in your employment history’ when I apply for jobs.

What’s ultimately important, and again, I really hope this encourages some of you out there – I have always done what is right for me, and right by me. Yes, there’s been the odd leap of faith, or ‘positive risk taking’. I haven’t always made decisions with full knowledge of the repercussions of them (do any of us, all of the time?), but I can’t say that I regret any of the decisions I have made which have subsequently led me to where I am today. Not in relation to university, anyway!

I’m certainly not suggesting I am a role model, or that I would recommend my choices to others. We are all unique, as are our circumstances. This should be common knowledge, but there’s also such pressure in today’s society to conform and live your life in a certain way, and it can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters in such a commercial environment. A lot of this stuff you will learn in your Communication/PR degree, so I shan’t bore you with the details! I’m writing this to offer hope to those who might ponder on the ‘what ifs’ of the future, or otherwise panic if they realise their chosen course is not right for them, or not right for them right now.

For me, the best thing about taking a bit longer to ‘get there’ has been the opportunity to get to know and understand myself a lot more. My values, my dreams, my career aspirations… some have changed during the 10 years since leaving school, while others have become more concrete in my mind and in turn, life. What I’ve learnt that really helps along the way, is having people you can relate to, bounce off, and who will support you in your studies and decision making. For many of you this will be family and friends, whether on your course or not, but please do not underestimate the importance of a good working relationship with your course director, lecturers, studies advisers and the wider university and students union team.

Find out what works for you, find out who you can trust, and always go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But try not to see the world in black and white – it’s so much more wonderful in full colour and shades! You may well have slip ups, but they will not be the end of the world. A self-coaching technique I learnt a long time ago now that has served me well is really easy for anyone to use: when things aren’t going your way, you’re confused, or feeling overwhelmed, simply ask yourself; what is the worst thing that could happen? It almost definitely will not be life or death (except in some circumstances, almost all linked to physical or mental health – and remember, your health is your wealth!).

Take the risks, even if you are not following the crowd. Sometimes, especially if you are not following the crowd.

Do yourself proud. What you think will make your loved ones or educators proud may not actually be an accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings, and quite possibly may not make you happy or successful in the long run.

Do what is right for you, and by you. Be true to yourself, and you will ultimately succeed.

It might not look quite like what you thought it would – but most things never turn out exactly how you thought they would… do you ever try and recreate Pinterest or Instagram posts – how did that work out for you?!

This has definitely been a longer first post than I intended, but I do hope that it won’t be my last. I’ve deliberately been vague in my own experiences so I can expand upon these in the future – but I hope that despite this, the message is not too philosophical or cliché-heavy for your liking! I have included the clichés because they ring true, and can help illustrate a point without too much self-disclosure required, and because I want you as an individual to be able to relate and take away some comfort.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post; I really appreciate it. I wish you every success, and remember, you do you!

BElieve in YOUrself

Rosalie Edge is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Healthcare student at Ulster University. You can find her on Twitter @rosalieedge and LinkedIn Rosalie Edge

Five Things I’ve Learned before Graduating

As my final semester with Ulster University and the stress of final year continues to loom overhead, the end is almost in sight. However, as I was procrastinating from my assignments last week, I stumbled across an interview between pop star Taylor Swift and Elle USA to mark her thirtieth birthday. The article is titled ‘30 things I learnt before turning 30’, with Taylor providing life anecdotes and advice from friendships to family. Whether you’re a fan of Taylor Swift or not, I highly recommend reading this article as I instantly felt motivated after reading it. You can read it by clicking here.

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Although I’m only 22, this article inspired me to compare Taylor’s anecdotes to my own life, and compare it to all the things I’ve learnt before graduating. It allowed me to reflect on how different I am now compared to the 18 year old girl who stepped foot at Ulster back in September 2015.  Therefore, I’ve been inspired to write this blog about 5 things I’ve learnt before graduating university. Although everyone is feeling the heat and is eager to finish, I couldn’t help but think of all the positive things that have happened since beginning my journey at university.

 

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  1. Positivity is key: Failing and rejection is normal

As clichéd as it is, and I know we hear it all the time, failing is a part of life that will never cease to exist. I remember being so afraid of failing things at university. I was very academic in secondary school, and I didn’t want this to change in university. I’d been warned by my older sister of how different university marking/grading  is compared to school, and I remember in first year receiving my grade for my first ever assignment and feeling slightly disappointed.  I’d predicted in that moment that I was failing my degree and that I wasn’t cut out for university, but in reality I was completely overreacting. It’s easier to focus on the negatives, however it’s how we deal with those negatives is the game changer. From constructive criticism on your style of writing, to improving your interview technique or even receiving criticism from friends, it’s always beneficial to use this to continuing improving and bettering yourself.

I’m a very big fan of the quote: “what’s for you won’t go by you”, therefore failing helps facilitate the opportunities that are meant for you. A positive outlook can go a long way, and you’ll never stop failing in life, so keep continuing on your journey.

 

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  1. Be involved: Take interest in your degree

I can only speak from my own experience, but to get the most out of university and your experience at university is down to adopting a pro-active attitude. Due to the nature of my degree, I discovered from first year that it is important to have an understanding of what’s out there in the industry, whether that is local agencies or companies and learning more about the work they do. The university is excellent for introducing us to key notable speakers from Northern Ireland and beyond, as well as putting us in contact with successful past alumni of the university. I’ve really enjoyed attending these sessions, and yes, although it may mean staying in university that extra bit later, it’s a great way to network and meet people in the industry. This is a brilliant way to help secure contacts for your placement year, or for later in life.  There are a number of competitions/ opportunities available through our degree. In first year I took part in the PANI (Publicity Association Northern Ireland) and had the opportunity of working with local advertising agency, Ardmore Advertising.  Fortunately, our team were lucky enough to win this competition, meaning that our campaign for local charity Shelter NI went live across Northern Ireland in September 2016. Not only did I get the experience of working with a local agency; I also got to meet new students I wouldn’t normally have been in contact with, as we completed the competition with two graphic design students from the Belfast campus.  Small things like that not only enhance your university experience, but allow you to find your feet within the industry.

  1. Getting the right balance between work/play

Undoubtedly, there is a massive jump between secondary school life and university, as well as a massive jump from first to second year in university. Especially in first year of university, I found myself with a lot more free time than I did in secondary school. I didn’t know what to do with my new-found freedom. I always found it extremely important to get the right balance between work and play when managing my time. For many, this means finding the right balance between partying and studying, but I saw this free time as an opportunity for personal development. Free time allows you to indulge in new interests. For me, I decided to use my free time to work on gaining more experience in fields relating to my degree, for others it meant taking up a new sport/hobby. As I am in the final stages of final year, it’s truly opened my eyes to the importance of having a balance between work and play even more than before. There’s always going to be an assignment you should be doing or a journal article you need to read but spending time with friends over a cup of tea, going to the cinema in the evening or going on a night out with friends shouldn’t make you feel guilty (although I know I’ve been there). It’s so important to not burn the candle on both ends, but instead enjoy everything in moderation. A motto that I’ve found myself adapting in university is: “At the end of the day, I’ll get it done.” – and you will.

 

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  1. “I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar is all I need!”

One of the best days in the life of a student is when they receive their student loan installments. I have thoroughly enjoyed these days, and I’ve even had count-down apps on my iPhone counting down the days until I receive the next installment in my bank account. (Sad, I know) The opportunities available for using your money are endless, and a new-found sense of generosity kicks in; both to yourself and others. “Shall I buy every item in my ASOS basket?” “I’ve had a long day, I deserve this Dominoes.”  “I’ll pay for the taxi, you can pay for the drinks inside!” – (this is NEVER the case).

One thing that I’ve learnt from university is the importance of budgeting money. University for many introduces a list of bills/payments, from paying for rent to buying groceries for meals. If you’re struggling to keep on-top of your spending,  simple things like creating budgeting plans or giving yourself a weekly allowance can help keep your spending in check. Just don’t go too wild with your overdrafts…

  1. If you need help – ask.

This relates to a series of problems. If you’re struggling with the workload and unsure what you’re meant to be doing on an assignment, your course director and lecturers are more than happy to answer any of your questions via email or meet in their office hours. I’ve never been someone to shy away from asking questions, as ultimately the only person you’re disadvantaging is yourself. University can be a tough time for many people, as it’s an opportunity to fully embrace independence and finding your feet in society. For many, it’s described as the best years of your life; however there is an unspoken pressure that you must be enjoying yourself and having fun 24/7 which is unrealistic. If you feel that you need to talk to someone professionally, the university has a ‘Mind Your Mood’ campaign on their website and work closely with Inspire to provide one on one counselling.  If this isn’t something you think you need, even talking to a friend and venting out your stresses will make you feel a lot better. A problem shared is a problem halved, even if the solution isn’t always clear.

In conclusion, I’m excited to see what the next stages of my career will be; however, I’ve had the best couple of years at Ulster University both on placement and with an amazing group of people in my class – I couldn’t have gone through university without them.

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Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/