Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

After completing a placement year in my third year of University in which I worked with a Boutique Wedding Fair company, Quirky Weddings as their lead Social Media Marketer, I secured a job as a Personal Stylist for Topshop. I decided to apply to differ from the last year of my degree as this role was multifaceted and encompassed many elements of my ideal career. The role was a sales-driven role that involved fashion promotion, events management and an opportunity to work with a leading UK fashion brand in their marketing. Unfortunately, after a somewhat successful first 8 months within in this position, the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak happened. Due to this, my new job role was unable to be fulfilled as all retail had to close for the nationwide lockdown, leaving me on furlough from March 2020 until the present.

While furlough meant that I had financial security, I didn’t want the pandemic to interrupt the progress I  had made in my career nor, did I want to waste my time off from work. So I sat down and mapped out what I could do to put the time to best use, how I could transfer my skills from both my work experience and university studies into something fruitful. I decided to take my digital and social media marketing knowledge and reach out to work with small businesses on promotion and sales while restricted by the lockdown. Primarily, I reached out to several businesses that had to pivot their whole business model due to the restrictions. I worked with hospitality and e-commerce businesses to utilise the likes of Instagram stories, newsletters and visual branding to define their brand message and increase sales. For example, restaurants that had to close but were now doing deliveries, new e-commerce brands that had recently launched online and many businesses in general that had realised that they wanted to expand into the marketing world of social media. 

Working with a variety of local and small businesses was a chance to expand my knowledge of marketing different content subjects and help these businesses flourish in the face of adversity. Digital and social media marketing can be such an intimidating whirlpool of information and requires an ever-shifting well of knowledge that some business owners do not have initially and often don’t have the time to learn once launched. Especially when it comes to influencer marketing, I had seen so many new and established businesses investing in influencers with no return. With the lockdown restrictions, this was a great time to explore this form of marketing with businesses as it was an excellent online tool to spread the word of new products and services. 

One example was when I worked with a well-known cafe based in Ards that are famous for their ice-cream and due to the restrictions were now offering deliveries of the ice-cream to your front door. As it was excellent weather for this product this was an ample time to get creative with the offer of this service. I helped the cafe select the most relevant influencer’s suited to their products and services, organising with them a PR package to send that incorporated the cafe’s value’s, key message’s and what they wanted to promote. This package was received and promoted on the influencer’s Instagram page resulting in an influx of sales and follower’s for the café. It prompted many customers in the local area to order similar package’s as they were not aware that the café was offering such services. This was an instance that really highlighted the fact that word of mouth and traditional marketing had not necessarily been enough in that circumstance. Which was an amazing result to achieve a through a simple shift in marketing strategy. 

Similarly, I had this experience with a few other of the small businesses that I worked with to enhance their digital presence. Simply looking at how brands could improve their visibility through engaging social media posts, engaging with their customers on a more personal level and building stronger relationships with these customers. As the lockdown restrictions were so hard on so many local businesses, it was great to use my skill set to help them in such unprecedented times. I found this experience encouraging and that the pandemic may have been a time for me to reevaluate what it was that I wanted to do within the PR and Marketing industry. 

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

Experiences of being a student and keyworker during Covid 19

First experience of lockdown:

When the announcement came out about the nationwide lockdown back in March nobody really knew what to expect. At the time I was in week 8 of university and had a 12-hour contracted parttime job in a Eurospar. Within a week of that announcement coming out I was given a 40-hour contract and was working 9-5 most days. In that first week of working during the lockdown the first thing I noticed was the mayhem people were creating by buying stock in the dozens. Because of this the shop had to put a limit on almost every item to two per person. In the following weeks there was the introduction of capping the shop to ten people in at the one time, this meant that someone had to stand on the door and keep it to ten while also handing out sanitiser and cleaning down trolleys and baskets. I was given this job at the start and continued to do it until mid-August. At the time I really enjoyed the job as I thought I was being a great asset to the people of Dromore, but a couple of months in I began to get a bit fed up with the job. At this stage it was my primary job from 9-5, five days a week so it was getting a bit tedious, as well as this people began to somewhat stop caring about the whole procedure and walked in anyway which eventually would land me in getting a talking to by staff in the shop. 

Start of changes:

Over the months of April and May there were more changes implemented within the shop, there were arrows directing people in a one-way system, the introduction of screens put up at the tills and the deli. Throughout the pandemic the one thing I noticed was the difference between the people in April and August. In April the customers were very cautious and respectful to me working on the door and the staff inside, compared to in August where people almost seemed fed up with the whole queuing up system which is understandable. 

Adapting:

While I was still working fulltime, I still had university work to finish from my second year, so throughout the month of May my whole weeks consisted off finishing work then proceeding to work on my assignments for the majority of the night. This being my lecturers really helped with giving me extra days in order to finish the assignment to the best of my ability which in the long run was greatly appreciated.

Getting back in the swing of things:

With the sudden abrupt ending of university back in March it was five months since anything university related happened. The process of moving from working continuously five days a week to having to start thinking about university was harder than expected. In my opinion the hardest aspect of university being online is losing concentration far easier compared to actually being a lecture room. It takes a lot more motivation to get up for the early lectures when you know that you won’t be leaving your room and took the first couple of weeks to fully motivate and prep for the lecture ahead.

Struggles of Uni Online:

Another factor of learning from home was leaning how to navigate and use the online class software, which turned out to be harder than expected. As well as that, with many companies working from home my stepdad was one of them which made my already slow Wi-Fi even worse. However, once these obstacles were overcome online lectures began to go a bit smoother. 

Conclusion:

All in all, my experience of being a student and a key worker during Covid so far has been a mixed bag. It is somewhat getting back to normal now with my hours being put down closer to my part-time hours and with university being back it gets me back into a schedule. It will be interesting to see how this year plans out.

Rhys Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Student Life in the ‘COVID-19 Era’

Student Life in the ‘COVID-19 Era’

Whenever I signed my lease for my student house in January – I did not think this is how my final year of University would have started. As we all know, we are living in ‘unprecedented times’ and the rules and restrictions are always being adjusted and revised to ensure the ‘R level’ in Northern Ireland does not become overwhelmed.

Anyway, I’m sure everyone’s sick of reading and listening about COVID, so let’s talk about how student life has strayed so far away of what it once was a year ago. At the start of this year, my friends and I decided that we should get our student house sorted early this year so that we had the best options to choose from – little did we know 10 months down the line, our houses occupancy has went from 5 down to 2. 3 of my housemates have not yet lived down for more than a night in a week as student life just isn’t what it once was.

Obviously, the restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor/outdoor gatherings have a massive part to play in the student lifestyle but there is so much more to it than just this. The closure of the university and the implementation of online classes has really made me lose the ‘uni atmosphere’. What I mean by this is that I miss the socialising and studying with friends, procrastinating in the library when I should be writing an essay and even running to the other side of the building to catch the bus home.

I can’t speak for everyone when I say this but for me personally, I feel like I’ve lost somewhat of my motivation for my future. Unemployment levels are increasing every month due to businesses struggling to cope in this ‘COVID-19 Era’ and one of the hardest hitting groups has been young people aged 16-24 where there is now 156,000 fewer 16- to 24-year-olds employed, compared to three months ago according to BBC. I’m a very optimistic person and I understand that circumstances can change very quickly – Im hopeful that in some stage in 2021, (or preferably sooner) we can create a vaccine so we can all get back to our lives and hopefully bring this economy back to it’s one great self.

With new restrictions imposed by the Northern Ireland Executive for lockdown, it has meant that my housemates and I will not be living down in our student house as there is just no point. The 5 of us will be left to pay our monthly rent whilst only staying there about 5 nights within the month. Obviously this is not the landlords, governments or even our fault. This is something that nobody expected but I feel I need to vent the frustration somewhere, right?

Although we’re living in crazy times and possibly a future 20 mark history question, things will get better and COVID is just a pitstop in our lives. I have to give credit to my lecturers – nobody expected that this year would have been remote learning and I must say, they are making it a lot easier for us than I expected. I feel that classes have lost that interaction between the student’s and lecturer but they do try to make it more interactive as it make’s the lecture a bit more exciting for everyone.

Hopefully by the time graduation comes round, normality will be resumed and we can all get on with our lives without having to worry about COVID.

Luke Johnston is a final year BSc in Public Relations & Communication Management student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

WFH? 6 Steps to elevate productivity levels!

*Inserts Covid-19 related quote along with sentence on how the world has been turned upside down, back around and discuss the fear of uncertainty.*

I’m as optimistic as they come but I can’t be 100% honest in saying lockdown 1 was a walk in the park…it hasn’t for any of us by any means but I think I speak for many people when I say we’re now just riding the wave, waiting to get back to shore – no one is deep diving and breast stroking their way faster than others, we’re all in the same boat.

Working from home has been a breath of fresh air for many and a nightmare for others. Connectivity issues, loud pets, lack of motivation and distractions are some of the many barriers people have had to eliminate in order to find themselves performing at an efficient and effective level.

I’ve been lucky to have a mixture of both, after returning back into the office in June I’ve now had a staggered schedule which include a few days at home, a day to catch up with university work and the rest spent in the office (socially distanced of course).

With shorter days, colder weather and the threat of a second lockdown in December looming over us, the motivation levels have also got shorter and colder to say the least. When it comes to relating to specific quotes and motivational speeches, I’ve kept it pretty basic and there’s really been one that resonates with me this time round = JUST DO IT!

Do it to get the job done, do it to reach the word count, do it to finish that report, do it to make yourself feel better.

JUST DO IT!

I’ve found making slight changes in my routine & staying consistent has helped me keep focused and follow the day through with productivity at an all-time high so I thought why not share this with some of you. It might help, it might not but it’s worth a shot – if you do anything different that you can recommend, let me know I would love to hear your recommendations.

  1. Consistent Morning Routine

Try waking around the same time every morning, you may start work at 8AM so maybe it’s best to not wake up at 7:55AM…yes you might get an extra few minutes in bed but we all know you wake up flustered, groggy & generally not prepared to take the day on. If you really love your extra time in bed, maybe pick a Friday to lay on. (Treat Yourself)

2. Get Dressed

Now when I speak about this point, I’m guilty of being miss professional on zoom from the waist up and miss loungewear from the waist down. After all, comfort is key so make the effort…even if this means changing from one pair of pyjamas to the next.

3. Make a list

This is one I swear by, in office and at home. I prefer the old fashioned way of writing down a list into my diary and ticking off as I go along. Many people prefer doing this on their devices and that’s perfectly fine, whatever works for you. Anything to keep track of what you have to do, this not only keeps you accountable for your actions but also allows you to reflect on what has been accomplished at the end of each day.

4. Network with others in your industry

As I’ve said, we’re all in the same boat looking for great ideas and recommendations to make our lives just a little bit easier. Share your best tips on LinkedIn or on your own favourite platform, even if it helps one person you’ve done a great job! Speaking with others within your industry will also give you an insight into what’s out there at the minute in terms of free courses, webinars & podcast episodes which will help you level up.

5. Go the extra mile…it’s not as long as it seems

All this extra time at home gives you the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. We’ll never (hopefully) get this chance to be at home with nowhere to go again, so take it in your stride and get productive. There are SO many free beneficial courses available, industry specific ones too that will look great on your CV along with your LinkedIn channel. REVISE – UTILISE – STRATEGISE.

6. Be authentic to your true self

If something does not feel right or you feel like you could add to a campaign by sharing your ideas = do it. You don’t ask you don’t get; you don’t contribute you don’t get featured. Even on the other end of the scale, if you feel pressured with work and need to take some time to catch up, speak out, this is NOT a sign of weakness or a sign that your incapable of handling your work load. If you have a strong & caring support group around you they will be more than happy to help you out…trust me.

I really could go on all day about there being so many tips, guides, and resources out there which can help all of us in many ways:

  • Those still working from home who need extra motivation.
  • Those transitioning back to office wanting to find their groove again.
  • Those who are seeking for new opportunities & want to add to their CV and personal brand.
  • Those looking for new job roles who want to increase their social media presence on a professional basis.

Of course I had to add in a few courses and free E-Books which I’ve found beneficial and valuable…you might too!

Thanks for reading!

Domilia Timonyte is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

The world isn’t what it used to be. The past eight months or so have changed what we consider to be everyday normality.

For someone like myself, a student, I found the whole experience so far to be pretty surreal. One day I’m paying rent for a house so close to the train that you could slap the Translink logo. The next I’m moving back home to a fully stocked fridge and free heating because the city is in lockdown.

Whilst there is no denying how horrible the events of the last year have been, I want to focus on the positives instead.

Lockdown was oddly a perfect opportunity. When else will the world come to a grinding halt to give you a chance to self-reflect? Well that is what I did (unintentionally).It made me be more proactive in both my course and improving real world attributes that will serve me down the line in career prospects. Here’s why.

It only took a pandemic…

Before Covid:

Before the pandemic hit, I would be quite confident in saying I was an average student. I would attend my classes. Take notes. I would use the library to study or get work done. Sit in traffic for longer than I can bare. Then after I get home everyone is making their dinner, watching tv, and debating are we going out tonight or studying. Add in a few shifts for my part-time job and there you have it.  Some might call that a routine, it was really more of a rut. I just didn’t realise that yet.

Looking back on all of that, I think it’s safe to say I was just going through the motions. I was getting by, but I could have been doing more.

Without realising it, I was tunnel visioned. I was working my job in retail so I could afford rent and groceries. I was paying for those things so I could have a student experience living by myself and be closer to the university. I felt like I was beginning to mature and be more responsible.

After Lockdown:

Well this is where Coronavirus comes in.

No more student house or student nights means less distractions. Online classes now mean no more mad dashes in the morning. Are my friends here or will I be sitting by myself? It sounds a bit dramatic but when you take away these small grievances, all you’re left with is the lecture. From my perspective, I found myself concentrating better. No distractions.

Now I sit in my room, headphones on, relaxed, ready to learn.

The fact that the lectures are being recorded is personally something I wish had always been around. Being able to revisit the recorded lecture to better my understanding is something I didn’t even realise I wanted or needed. Long may that continue. It might be up for debate to see if university teaching was perfect the way it was before lockdown. Or could it benefit from some slight additions or structural changes.

Furthermore, I feel like I wasn’t being productive enough before. Time spent travelling. Going out for food. With more free time in the house I feel that I’ve finally been able to devise a schedule I can work around. Even saving a few hours a week now that I’m at home, it has made me realise how to organise myself better for when life returns closer to normality.

Applying What I Know:

A lot of marketing and PR has had to go mainly digital thanks to lockdown. No better time to apply what I’ve been studying. Having extensively delved into digital communication and marketing, it’s almost free experience being handed to me. Observing the amount of social media advertising from both brands and individuals, and being able to see their effectiveness, is invaluable going forward.

One trend I’ve definitely noticed across Instagram, are young women promoting these nameless health boost juices. The media they share seems so disingenuous and pandering. It seems to target vulnerable people locked in their homes who are maybe out of work. With more and more PR taking itself online, analysing what works and what doesn’t in a crisis like this will hopefully give an edge in the future.

As far as work is concerned. My job was a typical customer assistant for a large retailer. Another module I’m studying about organisational communication couldn’t be more relevant at the moment. Organisations must evolve or they will suffer. My place of work struggled to adapt its hierarchy correctly for the current situation. That lead to ineffective management, which led to ineffective engagement from employees. In the long run the organisation has now seen a large change in workforce due to that issue. Compare that to my sister’s place of work. Recently graduated and now working in a modern adaptive organisation, both her and her team’s engagement outshines anything I’ve ever experienced at my own job. I can physically see what I’m learning be applied right in front of me. It’s a lesson I’m going to be mindful of when looking for work in the future.

Wrapping things up:

With everything that’s been said, I still want to make it clear that like everyone else, I can’t wait for Covid:19 to disappear and for normality to return. What I am thankful for is that it presented me with an opportunity to make sure I’m going into that future as prepared as I can be.

Rory Skillen is a fourth year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

On the 27th Of August, I finished my placement year at Invest Northern Ireland. I was a Communications Assistant in the Communications Team and did various work for the team’s different divisions. During the first six months, my work mostly consisted of building, writing stories, and publishing for the internal newsletter, Newsweekly. I also did some work for the PR team writing press releases and Twitter posts. In the final six months of my placement, I was given control over the Innovation Accreditation Twitter account and learned how to manage a corporate social media platform fully. I was delighted for this project to land on my desk because I knew it was a precious experience that could put me in good stead for the future.

My placement was filled with both exciting and challenging times. Covid-19 hit during the seven-month mark of my placement, and I was lucky enough that Invest NI had a plan set in place to allow employees to continue their work from home. This worked out perfectly for me as I was able to visit my boyfriend in Manchester and stay for much more extended periods. I was in Manchester when the travel ban hit, so suddenly, I lived permanently with him and his family during a pandemic. It was a scary time because I didn’t know how long I would be over for and integrate well into the household. Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about as everything went super smoothly!

The end of my placement was fast approaching, and I was worried about what I would do to earn an income to cover my bills. My friends and I signed for a house in Belfast, and the rent was coming out every month, eating away at my overdraft – so I needed to find something quick!

I looked at what my friends were doing, and many of them were working in bars or doing home care. I couldn’t drive, so home care was out. And the thought of drunk people shouting at me was a scary thought, so I had a sit down to look at some options. I thought, why not have a go at freelancing and put the skills I learned at placement to fair use? I spent about twenty minutes looking through freelancing websites and tried one called Upwork, which promised to be the best out there. I joined and applied to every job I seen that I was qualified for. After one week of consistently applying to jobs on Upwork, I won zero. I then took a step back and looked at my second option, a website called Peopleperhour. I set up an account and applied to my first job, which required one 800 word article to be written for £10. Within about half an hour, I heard back from the client that they had accepted my proposal. The excitement this brought me was crazy; although I wasn’t making much money for the time I would spend on the article, the fact I had gained work on my own gave me such a buzz.

Since then, the relationship with the client continued and turned into more orders. They even helped me out with my pricing and gave me some great business advice! I applied to a few more jobs on Peopleperhour, I won some and I lost some. I loved the freedom this website gave me and the opportunities to connect with people all over the country.

The most significant turning point in my journey was when I made a LinkedIn post recommending the website to anyone who was in the same position as me and I did a little shameless self-promo. The response was something I could never have expected. I had people messaging me about my freelancing!!! I couldn’t believe it; I managed to schedule calls with four business owners. This has to be the most daunting thing I have ever done, but I got through it, and each business owner converted into a paying client!

I was now fully working for myself, doing what I love, and helping SME businesses in the process. If there is one thing I have learned during the process, it would be to slip in what you do everywhere you can to everyone you can. A quick example of this is when I was recently chatting during a new instructor’s driving lesson. I dropped in that I was Managing a few social media accounts for SMEs alongside my final year at University. The driving instructor immediately explained how he had needed someone to get his social media off the ground as his school is rapidly growing. I suggested we have a chat about what I could do for him, and we have agreed to schedule a call.

I hope to continue freelancing alongside my degree and sign more clients when I graduate. If you’re thinking of putting the skills you’ve learned during placement or your course into practise and want to dive into working for yourself, then I couldn’t recommend it more – why not go for it? If I can do it, I promise, you can too.

Lauren Simmons is a final year BSc in Communication, Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn

What life is like as a student during Covid-19

What life is like as a student during Covid-19

2020 is still a year many people are trying to wrap their head around, myself included. Covid-19 has brought on a lot of stress for those who are working and have lost their jobs and also to those who have returned back to university, everything feels so surreal. During lock down it had been announced that university would be done online this year with the possibility of being back on campus by second semester, this isn’t something many students wanted to hear; however, we know that it was needed due to the circumstances so we quickly came to terms with the news.

When I “returned” to university this year, I had been feeling anxious before we’d even gotten past our introduction week as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with online learning, so far my fears have become a reality. Lack of concentration, finding it harder to read academic literature online, not being able to see my friends and catch up about the last year we’ve been apart. All minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things but we are halfway through the first semester and nothing has improved. This has caused me a great deal of concern about the future as I’m a final year student, this could affect my degree massively if I don’t try and implement things to boost my concentration levels. Having lectures and seminars on campus makes learning so much more fulfilling, you finish the day feeling like you’ve actually done something with your time and you feel more accomplished. Whereas, doing online lectures at home you find yourself feeling tired, and mentally not at the lecture, most of the time you don’t even realise you’ve zoned out until you zone back in again.

I’ve thought of a list of things that could potentially help me concentrate better and anyone who reads this that’s in the same situation can try them out too.
• Leave your phone in another room – Yes, I know this is a hard one, our generation is constantly glued to our phones, which is probably the main culprit for lack of concentration levels, but put it away and only use it on your breaks.
• Work from a desk not from a bed- Probably a bit hypocritical of me as I write this from my bed however, I definitely will not be working in bed from this day onwards. Working from your desk will make you feel more productive, especially when listening to a lecture you will be more likely to take notes and remember the information you were taught.
• Drink plenty of water- Keeping hydrated will leave you less heavy headed and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed whilst working.
• Go for a walk between lectures- Whether it’s to the shop or just to your front door for some fresh air, try and get a walk in especially if you have a long day online, it will prevent you from getting groggy and tired.
• Interact in lectures- Ask questions, answer them, speak up if you’re unsure on something, lead discussions. Interaction during lectures will not only give your lectures peace of mind but it will also help make the lecture more enjoyable.
These are just a few things you can try and implement to get the best out of your online university experience. This year will definitely be a struggle for the vast majority of us, but if we try and get ourselves into a routine and the right head space, I have no doubt we will all do as well as we hope.

Remember to keep yourself safe and well, your university lecturers are always there to help and guide you if you’re struggling so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask questions.

Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin.

Why volunteering is worthwhile.

Why volunteering is worthwhile.

I wanted my first blog to document my crazy travel experiences, however I’m boring and don’t go anywhere so it was back to the drawing board. I decided to do something else in my life that I truly enjoyed, so I thought what better than my volunteering experience at Superstar’s café, which can hopefully convince a few others to get involved in something similar. 

                                                              

I’ll be completely honest I didn’t initially join up due to my undying desire to help other people or to feel more fulfilled with my life. Like most people in fifth year, my school was on at me about starting to broaden my CV to improve possible job prospects and make me stand out. Simply to have something to talk about on the impending careers day I started to research activities I could get involved in and soon came across volunteering. However, I knew if this was something I was seriously going to partake in then it had to be something hands on that I would enjoy. I had heard of Superstars café as it was local in my area and thought I would find it more interesting than helping in say a charity shop, as I already had a part time job in retail which I HATED. It was a café which offered job opportunities for people with physical/learning difficulties as well as autism. It also offered a youth club with a range of activities on different nights such as bowling, drama and crafts.

In terms of getting started I was a bit worried in case it involved and interview or experience as interviews still made me nervous and I had next to no previous experience. Thankfully it was just a simple informal conversation over the phone, and I was ready to start immediately the following Tuesday. When Tuesday came around, I remember being so anxious not knowing what to expect. I started off helping with the bowling club at the local leisure centre and thankfully very quickly got into the swing of things. It was mostly about just being social which is something I would say I’m quite good at, I think? I had worried I wouldn’t know what to talk about as I was so ignorant to special needs and what it meant due to lack of experience. I soon realised like the young people of this club where more like me than I first thought and spent hours talking to the girls about music, TV shows and weekend plans. I found soon found it came very natural and more importantly was so much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

After a few months only doing one night a week at bowling with young people aged 16-24 with special needs, I decided I wanted to be involved in other activities with different people for even more experience. The members where constantly asking me was I coming to watch their production of ‘the lion king’ and I could finally say yes if I joined the drama club, so I did. My experience at this was probably one of my favourites from my time volunteering here. It was so refreshing sharing the company of people not afraid to put themselves out there and really go for it. Thankfully I was only responsible for helping in practice and didn’t have an actual part, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it quite so much. (I’m no where near as fearless as them) It was so rewarding when all the tickets at Burnavon theatre sold out and the production was complete, everyone had worked so hard and it clearly showed. I knew then id go to every show they put on whether I still worked there or not, a promise which I have so far kept might I add. Honestly, I can’t explain how much I would encourage someone to get involved in something like this if possible. It was the most rewarding and memorable experience and proves in my opinion, that volunteering can also be a bit of fun and light-hearted. Of course, there is also the benefit that made me join in the first place which is that it is favourable among employers, but you get so much more from it.

 

 

 

 

 

There is also loads more behind the scene stuff available to do if you didn’t think the more hands on activities where for you. For example, I also offered to help with money collection the odd Saturday morning outside shopping centres and in the town. Another highly anticipated within the club are the seasonal parties. They where always the talk of bowling nights, particularly the Halloween ones as everyone always loved the fancy dress parties the dress. The absolute scramble to find the best costume to win a prize. It was a great chance to meet up with the other volunteers and enjoy a three-course meal. I mean if the prospect of free food doesn’t convince you then I just don’t know.

There’s literally too much stuff to get involved with to list as they’re constantly creating new activities and opportunities. I could guarantee there is something that would appeal to everyone though, no matter your interests. If you’ve just skim read the rest of this blog due to lack of interest or you just don’t feel like reading right now at least take away one main point. Volunteering in any form is one of the most worthwhile experiences you could take part it. Although it can be hard with uni, a job and spending time with friends and family, trust me I know. However, if you ever get the opportunity then I say go for it!

Katie Doyle is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram-@katiedoyle54 LinkedIn-https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-doyle-9a0551195/ Twitter-https://twitter.com/ktdoyle6

Successful Way to Binge Watch Netflix

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Firstly, to binge watch Netflix successfully you must know the good series so I will let you all in on what I think is good now and what I recommend before letting you in on my trick of binge watching, I tend to binge watch some series multiple times. And I will let you all in on a few Netflix top tips… Unless you already know that is.

  • Friends

This is an all-time favourite for a lot of individuals because of the relatable characters like Joey, Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler and Phoebe who have real life problems. Friends fanatics tend to find it one of the most quotable shows making it very exciting to rewatch with sayings from Ross like  “Pivot” and “We were on a break” or creative songs by Phoebe “Smelly Cat” being one of many. Google have recently celebrated the anniversary of Friends with quirky reminders of the show – if you google the characters you’ll understand. Friends founded itself in the middle of the rising New York media in the ’90s. When watching Friends at some points in the last few seasons you might feel, why am I still watching this? The series finale is a near- perfect end to the show we continuously wish we had new episodes to watch. And it’s rumoured we might get to!

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  • Stranger Things

Like Friends the young, constantly growing cast can be relatable but new at the same time. New characters that have been introduced to our screens included Billy, Bob Newby, Max and numerous other characters, these new characters help to create a new but developed narrative in each season which will make us as the audience more likely to watch on and see how the new relationships develop. Stranger Things has its advantage of young characters there is a lot of humour especially in the sci-fi/ 90’s aspect to it. ‘Stranger Things’ is meant to include tension, but the constant humour creates a friendly nature, the adults present a perspective for other potential audiences. The interesting characters within the show is the best reason to binge watch this show it is based in a fictional town but tends to have distorted views of non-fiction within, it is a great watch and season 4 will hopefully be out soon to do some more binge watching.

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  • Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders is one of my top picks and was released on BBC in 2013 and has been expanding to audiences since then – it is about a small family run gang in the Streets of Birmingham after the great war – it is run by the Shelby Family with they key character being Tommy Shelby who is also one of the most hated characters. (who is my personal fave). Even though the Peaky Blinders have 6 episodes in each season, it gives viewers a lot of action in a short space of time than any other period dramas, constantly keeping your heart in your hands. With the number of episodes Peaky Blinders is easy to binge watch over a weekend. As soon as you start to grow to love the characters the show wastes no time putting them in danger putting your body in full adrenaline mode keeping you on edge. With characters like Tommy and John Shelby you will be dying for more episodes, the Shelby men are easy on the eye.

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  • Gossip Girl

There are so many reasons to watch Gossip Girl, the New York fashion scene – since majority of characters are wealthy, they have a lot of high-end clothes. With the ladies wearing high heels and Blair Waldorf’s fashionable headband the men also know how to strut their stuff. The cast are also very likeable characters with relatable characters having problems in their personal lives. It takes place in New York, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Upper East Side – you can visit some of the places in Gossip Girl which is exciting for any fanatics. The key phrase in this show has to be *key the music* “You know you love me XO XO GOSSIP GIRL.” However, the second last episode the characters realise who Gossip Girl was the whole time, which is the penultimate moment of the drama, then finding out other characters who have known already. (I am currently rewatching so felt that this was a necessary one).

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OK, so getting into binge watching there is a lot of Netflix hacks to know – there is a latest tab which will keep you into seeing new and upcoming shows and you can click into them – you can also get reminded of when they come out on Netflix by getting notified when they arrive! Another tip is the preview section, you can watch a clip that will show you a good preview and understanding, you can add shows to your watchlist after watching the previews by pressing the plus sign or play and watch the whole thing there and then. You can get recommendations by getting ratings, so give something a thumbs up if you really love it.

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Step 1:

Clear your schedule:

  • You need to make sure that you have no priorities when starting to binge watch, when several episodes deep you’ll not want to do what you might have planned to do later on.
  • You need to review your show before starting as some shows don’t have that many episodes and may be binge watched in a few hours but some a few weeks. This may make you choose between a night out with the pals or a night in with Netflix and chocolate.
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Step 2:

Find somewhere cosy:

  • Since you’re going to be chilling in the one spot you might as well make yourself comfortable. So, try binge watching on a recliner or on your sofa, try watching on a TV and avoid watching on a computer or mobile phone because it can cause eye strain.
  • Only problem with watching TV in bed is it can lead to insomnia, this can be seen through studies that have concluded the blue light from screens trick your brains and making you feel more awake. Screen time affects sleep through its effect on pre-sleep arousal.

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Step 3:

Stock up on treats:

  • Nourish yourself so you don’t have to get up mid-season, if you like healthy snacks, don’t forget to stock up on them.
  • Try to portion out your snacks so you don’t make yourself sick by eating too much at the one time.
  • You might as well have a few treats do give you a bit of energy.

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Step 4

Use a binge-watching session as an opportunity to hydrate. (This step is optional)

  • Keep your water handy to yourself and refill between episodes.
  • Feel free to twist it up with some of your healthy snacks (berries/ orlemons) to give it a bit of flavour.

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You can sign up for free trials on Netflix if you’ve never tried it before – the 7-day free trial is one of the best inventions for binge watching because it is a free way of watching without paying and there’s a time limit so you’re more likely to binge. Make sure to cancel to avoid any charges as Netflix normally ask for credit card numbers (this is their way to catch you).

Watch with a friend it may be free for you and is also more fun watching with someone else because you can get opinions afterwards. Try to avoid watching the show with someone who has seen it as they could potentially spoil it on you.

Finally, if you are binge watching before bed turn off 30 minutes before you go so you can get a good night’s sleep, you must give your brain some time to unwind like I said earlier.

There are no real necessary steps these are just a guidance.

I tend to constantly binge-watch series both inside and outside Netflix so hopefully these steps will help you. Another few amazing shows to watch that aren’t on Netflix are “How to Get Away with Murder”, “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

For more popular reviews on TV shows go to websites like Rotten Tomatoes.

 

Caithlen Loughran is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/caithlenloughran.x , LinkedIn – Caithlen Loughran and Instagram – caithlenloughran

When One Door Closes, Another Door…Closes??

That’s what it felt like for a few years anyway. Things just weren’t what I anticipated when I left school and threw myself into University life, that I was sceptical of going to in the first place (I’ll get to that in a bit).

‘What’s for you won’t go past you,’ as my ma liked to remind me every so often, when something went wrong or didn’t work out the way I wanted… Usually to my own accord mind you. Being too laid back, going with the flow and thinking everything would work out eventually. Or, was I just being too lazy and not taking life into my own hands? Lazy probably being the obvious answer.

They say things happen for a reason, and everybody is on a different path in life. Perhaps my path was just a little different than usual? I’ve often asked myself this question. Quite simply, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences and journey so far. It has allowed me to become more mature (very debatable) and understand ‘me’ a little better. So here it is.

In school, my degree of choice, at that time, was available to study at either Ulster University Coleraine or Queens Belfast. Queens being the more desirable choice of the two as I was enticed by the reputation of being a ‘Queens student’ but, I didn’t get the grades; Shock…

After multiple meetings with the VP of our school, he convinced me to take on the challenge of going somewhere other than Belfast and the Rose & Crown, thinking it would be the best for me. For me, a gap year was off the cards. Even if it was Coleraine, I just wanted to get to Uni and experience the student lifestyle. So I bought into it.

I had it all planned out in my head, new adventure, living away from home, house parties, maybe go to class the odd time, go for runs on the beach on my days off and hopefully in the end of it all get my degree. Absolutely, none of these things happened. After a month into the course I realised I hated it. I was staying in halls, living with two other lads that were, to say the least, not the most social of people; so the house parties were soon knocked on the head. Living away from home was not great, as I soon came to realise. Living on microwavable meals every day, it was fair to say I missed my mas cooking. And for the runs on the beach, it was f*@King freezing. The picture I had in my head, Uni life turned out to be everything but that.

To no surprise, shortly after February I dropped out. From then I took on my first full-time job. Having no degree or trade, my choices were limited. It’s true what they say, beggars really can’t be choosers. But could factory work really be that bad? The full-time pay did sound good after all. The following March, I started on the factory floor. A normal day-to-day in the factory consisted of; packaging eggs, standing at the same spot looking at the same assembly line and the same people for 10 hours a day, 6 sometimes 7 days a week. Before swiftly getting ‘pRoMoTeD’ to dispatch. Here was just a slight upgrade from hell, were I loaded deliveries onto Lorries to be distributed to local supermarkets. As EGGxiting as this all sounds, it wasn’t.

I spent 9 months there, before getting fed up with the long hours and I can assure you, my hate for eggs was very REAL. I don’t think I ate an egg for a month or 2 after I quit, the bad memories just weren’t worth it.

My next move didn’t get much better. I went and done sparking for a few months travelling throughout the UK spending a lot of my time away from home, working 12 days at a time. I was 19, homesick and had hated the thought of missing out with the lads, the craic back home and feeling the football season just passing me by. Life just wasn’t the same. Yet another job that wasn’t what I wanted or could picture myself doing all my life.

Lo and behold the prodigal son has returned!!!

Yes, I was back in the egg business, something I thought I’d never see again (never say never). People need their eggs, and no better man to get the job done and provide that service than myself. . . . . However, I knew this wasn’t my path. At least I hoped not.

I lasted another 6 months before getting a job in engineering which I actually liked, but I think that was more to do with the craic with the men more so the work. I wasn’t getting a break with the right jobs. It really did feel like once one door closed, the right door was firmly closed shut and wasn’t for opening anytime soon. The only doors I seemed to unlock were dead end jobs.

As they like to remind us, mums are always right. This is leading me onto ‘what’s for you won’t go past you’ paragraph. At work, the men would have kindly nominated myself to do the weekly run to the local deli to get them a fry on a Friday morning. A treat for us at the end of a hard weeks work – few of them could definitely have done with a salad instead, which I liked to remind them of. One morning, I bumped into an old teacher of mine. As we got chatting, I told him I had an idea of going back to university but had no idea what field to go down. Without hesitation, he arranged a date for us to meet up. I agreed to go, in hope for inspiration and to start a new path in life. A clean slate.

Finally, a door worth opening.

There’s a silver lining to every story, including this one. Who knew a run in with my old teacher would give me the push I needed to make another attempt at Uni. This time it was different, I knew this because of what I had come through in comparison to when I started in Coleraine, 3 years previous. Here I am, in my final year studies writing my first blog. Who would have guessed with my track record? So if you’re struggling like I was, keep banging on them doors, hoping the right one will open and if not, put it through.

Shea Hamill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shea-hamill-66026a180/