Why I chose to study Part-Time

When I decided to leave my degree after my first year at University in Liverpool due to student finance problems in 2015, I felt completely lost and undecided on what to do next. The only thing I was sure of was that I needed to move home. At the age of 22, the majority of my friends had either finished their degrees, still completing their degrees or in full-time work since our school days, which made me feel even more behind.

I still find it surreal that young people at the age of 16 are asked to choose a career they want to do for the rest of their lives. I am 26 years old now and if I am completely honest, I am still not completely sure. At 21, after much consideration, I felt I had to complete a degree to achieve successful career prospects. However, I was never the academic type, I was a more practical learner. For example, if I was shown how to do something, I would pick it up much faster and a downfall throughout most of my school life, if I wasn’t passionate about something, I would lose all interest. Therefore, I knew whatever option I chose to study I knew my degree had to be something I was particularly interested in or even good at.

After my time studying in Liverpool, I realised my skills lied in the promotion and the marketing aspects of many of my module tasks. It was then when I got back home I decided to look into courses around, PR and marketing at Universities in Belfast. I looked into Ulster University’s website and seen the course Communication Management and Public Relations. I decided to apply and go to their open day at The MAC theatre in Belfast and it was there I got to speak to the Course Director, Kerry-Ann. I emphasised my interests and that I wanted a course that would be flexible around my part-time job, that was when Kerry-Ann suggested part-time studying.

My perception of part-time was night classes, where the majority of the people would be older than me and I wouldn’t exactly get the university experience. However, Kerry-Ann reassured me that I would be in classes with the full-time students during the day, although it would be up to me what modules I decided to do and how long It would take me to complete my degree. Although for me there were still both pros and cons, one con in particular. A placement year wasn’t included in a part-time degree, for reasons I didn’t understand. A placement year was something I was always interested in as many friends of mine had the opportunity of a placement year and always mentioned that it was some of the best years of their lives, whether they stayed at home or moved abroad. However, the idea of part-time still sparked my interest and I decided to look into it further.

After some research, I was shocked to find out so much about part-time studying and confused as to why I had not looked into it before. What I found was as a part-time student you can be eligible for a means-tested fee grant and also a course grant. I also found out to study part-time was much more cost-effective and realised you can save a lot of money in comparison to full-time. Therefore, if you decide you want to complete your part-time degree in within 5 years, that is just one more year than a full-time degree with a placement year. The part-time total fee can be paid either in an up-front payment which means if you pay the full cost of your annual fees at enrolment you can receive a 5% discount. Or you can opt for a flexible payment, to help spread the cost of your studies, this means tuition fees can be paid back in monthly instalments if you wish.

Fast forward nearly 4 years, it is November and this semester I have started my final year modules that will cover the rest of this year and next. This will be a total time of 5 years spent at University when I finally graduate.

Looking back since I started my university journey part-time, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout my time studying I have been able to balance my degree around my home life, social life and best of all my work experience. Throughout the past few years, I have been lucky enough to secure part-time paid work experience in marketing and Public Relation agencies. Therefore, when I complete my studies in 2021 I will have a degree behind me as well has over 2+ years’ experience in Marketing and Public Relations, which I know a lot of employers look for. Not bad for an extra year of university, and fewer student fees at the end, I must say.

 

Kirby Axon is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: Kirby-Axon and LinkedIn: kirbyaxon

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/.

Placement, In Retrospect

Everyone’s placement journey is different, for some of us we may find our dream job in one interview and for others, it may take several bottles of Rescue Remedy and endless nights on Glass Door.com.

What I learnt from the placement process is the most important thing you have to market is yourself, or how about, #SWOTYourself?

Strengths

Yes, we all did well in our A Levels, we’re here for that reason – we work hard, but we are not homogenous. Each of us offers something unique to future employers, some of us know what that is and some of us don’t but if the fit is right for you, your placement will be your match.

Try your best not to let your nerves get the best of you – excel in your strengths and your ability to communicate your ideas on why you are the best match for the prospective placement.

Weaknesses

My name’s Olivia McKearney and I completed six placement interviews; the first 1-4 were train wrecks. I prepped for each for them, had pages of notes of buzz words memorised but when I sat in front of the panel, everything was forgotten. I stuttered answers even though I knew I was more than capable to answer those questions.

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After each politely worded rejection I gave up for a few months, I applied for a final two placements and gave myself the ultimatum that if I didn’t get them I would go straight to final year – which is a completely worthy path but not the one I had planned to pursue.

On a Wednesday in May I had my fifth interview and I went in with one thing that had been absent from disasters 1-4, Confidence. I wasn’t intimidated anymore by the people across the table, I was able to converse with them because I knew the answers, and I didn’t need memorised statements.

The next day, I had my sixth interview. That afternoon, I was offered both placements and chose to accept McKeevers Chemists based in my home county of Armagh. You wait for a bus and two come at once.

Don’t become disillusioned, it will work out.

Opportunities

These prospective employers are here to give us opportunities to succeed, they wouldn’t have advertised the role if they didn’t want us, we’ll be taken seriously and treated professionally. I can only speak to my own experience when I say I received an unprecedented amount of opportunities on this year. From event planning, social media influencer outreach and content creation, this year provided the building blocks to my future career.

Don’t let anyone look down on your chosen placement, I have had, and still have people question the experience of what you can “really” achieve in a local company – check out my CV.

Some people remain largely ignorant to the effects of marketing, but not us as students, take every opportunity you can.

Threats

The obvious threat is that of competition amongst fellow students. We’ve faced that our entire educational career and it’s not going anywhere. As I said, you are unique as a person, better yourself and let employers see the real you across the desk – don’t let the biggest threat to success be you.

Placement was a pivotal year for me; I become financially stable and massively independent;

  • I travelled the West Coast of America for three weeks with my best friend.
  • I made my way to Budapest for a once in a lifetime music festival.
  • I realised the career path I want to endeavour and enhance my skills at.
  • I made wonderful friends and connections.
  • I achieved my own personal KPIs and know that I am more than capable and deserve my standing in the future of Communications.
  • I made myself proud.

If I can do it, you can too.

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Olivia McKearney is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mckearney  

 

 

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

Return of The Student – A Sequel 20 Years in the Making.

Here goes, first blog. This is all so different to the last time. It was 1999 the bookend to the decade of Britpop, The Peace Process and Pre Spinning Around Kylie – in no particular order. That was also the year I obtained my BA in English which naturally led on to a career in the Financial Services sector. After living the dream for 20 glorious years I have taken the financial and personal plunge back into the world of Academia in an attempt to revive my long mummified intellectual creativity….it may be a deep dive

A simple question to begin – why now? Its not that I didn’t enjoy getting to grips with endless analysis of policy wording for Property Insurance and when you throw in the endless submissions detailing the construction of rural factories and workshops – well what’s not to love. But in truth while my children were little this was fine and I really do believe some to the skills honed during this period will stand me in good stead. For me though it is now time to try something new, something that can make a positive impact on the world around me – if that doesn’t sound too cheesy 🙂

Of course organisations need comprehensive insurance cover but I’ve definitely served my time. However part of the job I have enjoyed involved interactions with business placers – the face to face meetings in Dungiven and the like, the trouble shooting workshops over the phone – in other words the communication aspect. If I can apply this interest to a framework which I find both fascinating and frustrating in equal measures – again what’s not to love. A hint maybe that my specialism will be Politics – an interest cultivated at school and maintained ever since. Someone needs to sort out Brexit I suppose…maybe not in my first week though!

After such a long break from education I can say that the landscape has certainly changed. So its all about Blogging, Vlogging, Social Media – you get the picture. These concepts simply weren’t a thing in 1999 and since then not something I would necessarily equate to Academic life but here we are. It is amazing to learn that YouTube channels are the way to go now, but all is not lost. I can call on my secret weapon the J.O.E – my 12 year old son. This guided missile of modern communication has been broadcasting away for several years-with nothing but his phone and a headful of opinions on the MEU (Marvel Extended Universe). With 99 followers and his broadcast on why Apu should not be binned from The Simpsons reaching 800 views he will most certainly be my personal social media mentor. Let the good times roll.

 

See the source image

 

Deirdre Vaughan is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter:  @e65434f0fdba4bf and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deirdre-vaughan-48274166/