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/

Welcome to Procrastination Station!

If you’re like me and find anything to do other than what you’re supposed to be doing, then welcome aboard my train departing from procrastination station first stop anxiety and on to guilt and self-destruction. I will be your captain for this evening, and I am a 22-year-old recovering procrastinator.

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The very idea of this blog post came to me while I was distracting myself from coming up with an idea to write this very post…ironic I know! From my summer exams first year in secondary school to my final year of university I have always been somewhat of a procrastinator. The very definition of procrastination in the oxford dictionary is “the action of delaying or postponing something.” I will always find an excuse to delay an assignment or revision to the last possible moment. Disclaimer, not a good idea!!

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I always start with good intentions for the day don’t get me wrong. First step setting an alarm and getting up when it goes off which is the first success of the day which I feel I need a reward for so before I can open my laptop, I check all social media accounts. Down the stairs to the kitchen sit down with my still closed laptop but before I start anything I need revision fuel. Time for breakfast which takes longer than it should, stare at the laptop for a few seconds and then remember I need to shower because how could I possibly do any work if I didn’t feel clean. Off to the shower dry my hair, straighten my hair, moisturise maybe paint my nails while I’m here. Look around my not so tidy room and how could I concentrate on my work knowing this mess is here. Time for some spring cleaning after all tidy house tidy mind. (However, this life motto only seems to apply to me when I have a deadline due.) Now finally back downstairs sitting at the kitchen table laptop fully charged notepad open and pencils sharpened. But then I look down to my doggo staring back up at me and it’s such a nice day outside how could I not take him for a walk?? So an hour around the country side taking in the scenery and it really works up your appetite and just in time for my bestie to txt wondering if we should take a break from all the work we haven’t be doing and go out for a coffee, how could I refuse? Before I know it it’s 9 o’clock in the evening and we’re sitting by the fire waiting on I’m A Celebrity to start and there’s no work being done once Ant and Dec come on.

So, you get the idea and forgetting specifics can anyone else relate to a day like this? This added stress is not good for your mental health especially when it’s self-inflicted and can be 100% avoided, so I decided to do some research and come up with a few tips to help. Some of you might be thinking this is just another way of procrastinating to get me out of starting my assignments and some of you would be exactly right but at least if I know what causes it, I might be able to beat it. Here’s what I found:

There are 4 types of procrastinators.

  1. Anxious procrastinators.
  2. Fun procrastinators.
  3. Plenty of time procrastinators.
  4. Perfectionist procrastinators.

Anxious procrastination which is self-torture is when you are doing something but feeling guilty about it. Watching a tv series and not being able to enjoy it because you know you should be doing work but continue to watch anyway.

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Fun procrastination, going out with your friends at the weekend when you have an assignment in for the Monday but you’re young and should be out socialising with your peers, so you somehow always seem to justify it.

Plenty of time procrastination. “Well my exams not for another two weeks if I revise something now, I’ll not remember it come the time so best leave it another few days.”

Perfectionist procrastination is when the thought of not being able to produce the best possible work is to over-whelming to even start at all.

We’ve all fallen into one or more of these brackets and some stage. I know I’ve had experiences of all four but now we know what they are we might be able to overcome them.

Tips for overcoming procrastinating and hopping of the train for good:

  • The 10-minute rule – starting something can be half the battle and once you get over the first hurdle you get the momentum to keep going. The thought of sitting down to hours of work can fill with you with dread, so one way of overcoming it is to not sit down to hours of work. Set yourself a time to only do 10 minutes straight. I find once I’ve got the first 10 minutes done, I get into the swing of things and end up getting much more done than planned.
  • Take regular breaks – if you’re a newly recovering procrastinator this may take some more practise but taking short well-deserved breaks for a cup of tea or a walk can be beneficial in clearing you mind and letting new thoughts and ideas flow to you. Just make sure to return to put these ideas to paper!
  • Get rid of any distractions – social media can be your best or worst enemy but it’s up to you to decide. If you are a constant checker of your phone like me a two-minute break on social media can easily turn into 2 hours. For this I would recommend the app “FLORA”. It is a free app that helps you stay focused by setting timers when you’re supposed to be doing work and it doesn’t let you use any of the other apps on your phone. If you succeed it plants a virtual tree in your garden and after a good days work you can have a lovely plant-filled garden or if you fail a dead sad looking reminder of how easily you can be distracted. I don’t like to lose, and my competitive side comes out and helps me stick to the timer. Also, to help the environment the app gives you the option for a small fee to plant the trees you have in your virtual garden in real life. It’s a win-win, a first class honours in your degree and you save the planet. (Maybe slightly over-exaggerated but a good app none the less.)

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  • Make a schedule: making a timetable of when to do university work and fitting it around your part time job and socialising helps make things more organised. Having social time to look forward to is a good motivator to get your work done in the allocated time. Having a schedule of when your work is due and when to do what makes the workload seem a lot less scary and more doable.

As a recovering procrastinator I found these tips the most helpful for me to help overcome this thing that was keeping me back. On a lot less dramatic note this helps you feel less stressed about final year. It can be hard enough as a final year student so being organised can cut your stress levels by half. If you need me for any more ideas you can reach me on my website lastminute.com

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Mary Keenan is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster university. She can be found on Instagram: mary_keenan20 or Twitter: mary_keenan_.

 

How did I get here and where do I go next?

Hi, my name is Jamie Doran. I am a final year communication management and public relations student and any fifty shades of grey jokes will not be tolerated.

In all honesty, I’ve struggleJD5d to settle on something to talk about. I’ve read a good few blogs now with topic’s varying, which have been written by students in my year. I’ve decided to talk about some of my experiences before and during university and discuss where I want to go from here. In all honestly, I’m only writing this blog because I am required to, I’m a more keep myself to myself kind of guy. I know that the whole point of a blog is that people read it however, the thought that my peers may read my post sends my anxiety levels sky high. If you haven’t worked it out by now I’ll tell you the obvious, I have never written a blog. Taking this into account, please have patience as I try to write a post that makes sense and doesn’t waffle about nothing for the next six to seven hundred words.

Having completed art and design, religious education and travel and tourism for my A-Levels I didn’t really expect to be in the final year of this degree. Infact, when I left school in 2015 I thought I was the new Seth MacFarlane or Matt Groening and began an animation degree in Ulster University Belfast campus beforeswitching to communication management and public relations the following year.I have always been very keen to demonstrate creativity in whatever job I find myself in, animation seemed like a good idea at the time but after spending a full semester on this course I realised I am tremendously average at drawing, (I have included a drawing below so that you can judge yourself).JD4This sudden realisation was a slap in the face, I had always seen myself designing and creating and I believed at the time that this was the only route to follow. I decided to reapply through UCAS to Ulster University in January 2016, on this occasion I decided that artistic creativity may not be the best choice and I searched for another platform from which I could develop my own ideas and plans, CMPR was by the the best option.

My first two years in Communication management and public relations don’t count towards my final grade which I cannot be more thankful for as the most valuable piece of information I picked up over this time was tuck your wing mirrors in when parking in the Holylands… Ok so that’s not entirely true, I have learned so much in my first two years in CMPR which I plan to put to use throughout final year and of course carry these new skills on into my JD3future career. When I say my career though, I have no idea what I’m talking about, in my own head I still feel like a first year, I still have no clue what I want to do with my life and I don’t feel like I’m getting any closer to an answer. At this point I can’t see myself jumping straight into a graduate job. I still have relatively no idea what the world is really like outside this Northern Irish bubble, therefore I do not want to commit myself to staying here whenever I have no idea what the rest of the world has to offer.

I’m not scared of maturing so don’t let the last paragraph fool you. I didn’t complete work experience between second year and final year; however, I have had several positions within large organisations. In the past number of years, during my breaks from university I have had full time positions working for RBS bank, Vodafone, Cisco, the Library board and the Northern Ireland Civil Service. These experiences have proved to be extremely valuable because this semester I am completing a module called ‘organisational communication’. Having experienced working life in so many organisations, I have been able to closely examine how they operate internally – using this module alongside my experiences should prove very effective when completing my coursework. All of the positions that I have mentioned have required me to speak to both customers and other members of staff throughout my shifts, helping to educate me in how to correctly present myself in a professional workplace.

Without taking up too much more of your day, I’ll just let you know what I plan to do in order to find the correct career path for me. Personally, I believe that travJD1eling the world for a few months or years would be as much of a benefit to me as a work placement is for others. My hope is that I will be able to find that one ‘life calling’ and using the skills that I have picked throughout my years in Ulster University, base a career around it.

Some people want a good career for the money, others want it for the lifestyle, I want my career to be fulfilling and fun.

5 days a week for the next 52 years is a long time to not enjoy something, so I’m going to make sure I pick the correct path and take my time in doing so!

Jamie Doran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram – @jamiedoran96

Placement Year Vs Final Year- Should you stay or should you go?

Having just returned to final year after a year out of education, the month of September had me reminiscing on the previous year I spent on placement and the adjustment I needed to get back into the swing of lectures, coursework and the dreaded dissertation!

As mid-September came around, I was struck by the ‘change curve’ mindset which went as follows:

  • shock and denial that my endless days of summer and freedom to do as much or as little as possible were coming to an end
  • anger at the thought of assignments, early mornings and long days
  • bargaining with myself that I would still have lots of free time if I did assignments as soon as they came in
  • acceptance that this was only one more year of hard work before I’ve finished education forever
  • problem solving in the form of a 2019-2020 diary to plan my life for the next 8 months

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This mindset got me thinking about my second year of university when I was considering whether a placement year was for me. There’s a lot to consider such as the type of placement you want, where you’re willing to go for a placement year, be it Northern Ireland or overseas and finally, the commitment a yearlong placement requires.

I decided I wanted to go ahead with a placement year because of how many post graduate job applications I saw that asked for some type of industry experience or training and while this isn’t the case for every job opportunity, I wanted to challenge myself to try something different and pick up skills that would help me face final year and life after university.

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These are some steps to consider if you think a placement year is for you and what to expect:

  1. Apply Early!

You’ll hear this from all of your lecturers, students before you and everyone around you but you can’t prepare early enough. Each placement you apply for will require a different cover letter tailored to their specific requirements and some have applications to fill out all of which is time consuming. The earlier you start applying and creating your CV and cover letter template the better chance you have of securing the placement you want.

  1. Preparation is KEY

From the very first interview you’re offered, the more preparation you do the better. When I was applying for placements, a few of the interviews took place on the same week, meaning I had to divide my time between two different roles and learning about two different organisations. The more you know about the role you’re applying for and the organisation, the better so starting to research early is important.

  1. Keep Calm

This is most definitely easier said than done but when you’re going for interviews, it’s important to stay calm and try not to panic otherwise all the preparation you’ve done will go to waste. It’s important to remember the organisations you apply to want you to be professional however they know you’re still a student so DON’T WORRY– they don’t expect you to have the same level of knowledge they have. You’re there to learn – remember that and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

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  1. Diary of a Placement Student…

Once you’re offered a placement, buy yourself a good diary or planner because without one, I’m not sure how I would have survived placement year. With many different tasks to do depending on the nature of your placement, it’s unrealistic to remember everything, especially between phone calls and emails, so a diary will be essential to keep track of your day and to ensure your using your time effectively.

  1. Stay professional

The transition from university student to placement student can be difficult at the beginning as you begin to learn things like how to speak to clients and email etiquette- abbreviating your words or sending memes isn’t always appropriate! This is important because you represent your organisation every time you speak to or send an email out to a client so being professional and approachable is a must.

  1. Don’t forget to have a life!

If your placement is a particularly busy or stressful environment, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking work home with you to get ahead the next day, or to overthink a working situation at home but it’s important to remember you can’t just live and breathe work- take time to have a social life or some time to yourself and get the right work/social life balance.

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  1. Make the most of your year

Placement is a unique experience in that it’s essentially a learning curve as well as work experience so take every opportunity you can and experience as many areas as your organisation can offer you as this can help you decide on what industry you’d like to work in and your strengths and weaknesses in a business setting as well as being a great addition onto your CV!

Overall, having just returned from my year out on placement, I would recommenced this because it gives you an insight into the industry you could potentially want to work in as well as preparing you for life after university including writing a CV, job interviews and it enables you to start forming your career path with some experience in mind.

Eimear McGrane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eimearmcgrane/
LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/eimear-mcgrane-54a46a156

Was University For Me?

First blog with no idea where to start, but here we go.

Growing up, there was no pressure on me at all to go to university as nobody else in my family had decided to do it, and they all turned out OK (well, as far as OK can go).In school I was SET for going to university, but then again, I done no work for my school work, probably not the best idea when I actually wanted to be a nurse. I know what your thinking, ‘if she wanted to be a nurse, how the hell is she a final year student in CMPR?’

Lets go back to the start, firstly, I would highly advise anyone who wants to do what they want to do for the rest of your lives, pick A-level subjects you actually enjoy, that was my BIGGEST regret. That’s just the start, I chose to study biology, home economics and sport for my A-Level subjects, understandable that you don’t care about that. But how long did I actually last at them subjects? Actually the whole year, I know, SHOCK!! But did I do well? Absolutely not. This set me back a whole year, making me doubt whether or not I wanted to attend university as all of my friends were going to be there one year longer than me.

Believe it or not, because of this reason I considered continuing doing the subjects id hated and failed just to keep up with my friends. Idiotic idea, I know. The only perk of going back to repeat the year for me was that I would be able to go visit my friends all the time and get a few days in the Holylands like a legend!

Thankfully with the persuasion of my mum and the fact I wasn’t the only one going back and changing my subjects, I decided to go back and repeat. After the two years, I was completely motivated to pursue my dream career as a children’s nurse. Then came the interviews. Wow. Them interviews really was the end of that dream for me.

Believe me, I was more than disappointed in myself for not getting past the interview stage as in my eyes I had done everything I could. This completely knocked my confidence. I had convinced myself I wasn’t good enough. Not just for nursing but for every course.

After school ended and I got my results (good results they were), I decided it was best to take a year out from education. I expected to do so many things in that year out, go travelling, get a job that id get good experience from, maybe even move away. But did I do any of the things I wanted to do? No. I was working in a dead-end part time job, didn’t leave Ireland, (apart from going on a two-week girl’s holiday – would not recommend.) But did I want to apply for university again? Definitely not, and this was all because I wasn’t accepted into what I wanted to do first time round. The only good thing to come out of that year out, was the new friends I had made, friends for life (cringe)!

But one night, (two nights before UCAS deadline, I know, panic time) my friends mum (shoutout to Christina McCann), persuaded me to apply to CMPR because she knew how I felt about advertising and the way companies go about marketing.

Along came the day, I got accepted into the course. The joy I felt was crazy!! All I could think of was getting a house with the girls and freshers, just as every fresher student would think of! (Coming from a 22 year old final year student, who has been attending freshers from a young age, they get boring. Sorry to disappoint).

As months went on, semester merged into semester, I was really just going to university to keep up my attendance, every lecture was going in one ear and out the other. I left every assignment to the last minute and decided to start revising the night before each exam. I thought this was normal, all my friends done it too. It was not normal.

Doing this put me in the horrors of all horrors. I’ve always said I work really well under pressure. But doing a university assignment the night before its due really is pressure I’ve never experienced. (I swear I’m not writing this the night before.) Bare in mind I got through the first two years doing this and here I am sitting in final year trying to figure out what to do my dissertation on..

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This blog isn’t just my story on my experience on my university life. I will swiftly move on to living that amazing student life that everyone dreams off, including myself. I thought moving out of my home house during the week would be the most amazing thing. That me and my friends were going to be living our best lives in Belfast, going out every night of the week. But I never thought far enough into it. I never thought about the bills id have to pay, the rent I had to pay monthly, that it would get really, really cold in the Holylands when it snows or the fact that I would had to feed myself.

Within the first month of first year my little bubble popped. I had spent most of my student loan from going out, eating out and continued to block out the fact that I had debts of rent to pay. Finally, first semester ended, and I could go home for Christmas, bare in mind I didn’t drive in first year so I had to stay down until one of my friends were driving home each week even if I didn’t have class.

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Me and the girls living our best lives!! **NOTE – Hole in the roof, oops**

Felt like years before second semester ended and I couldn’t have been happier.  Especially after having a rough encounter with mice in our house and living in the library before exams.

Second year came, and I don’t know why I thought it would be any different to first year. In first semester, I done exactly what I done first year. Partied my life away the same way any normal student would. After this, the friends I lived with began to one by one drop out of living in the house. There I was all alone. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. I hated living in Belfast this way without anyone in the house and having the fear of god in me every-time I heard a noise in the back yard. February came and I took the plunge to move out of the house. It was the best thing I have ever done. I finally started to actually focus on my university work for the first time in the two years.

I thought I was ready to do the student life as I was always up for a night out at home, but it gets boring after a while when your doing it every night every week for 24 weeks of the year.

Was I ready for University? Yes.

Was I ready for the student life? No.

Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not! It was a learning curve if anything.

Anyway, back to the dissertation I go…

Emma Murphy is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-murphy-bbb628196/  , and Twitter – @EmmaMurphy97

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

Why Study a Masters?

Why Study a Masters?

Never, in my life, did I ever think I was going to do a Masters, never mind a Masters in Communications and Public Relations. However, I’ve somehow found myself here. And honestly, it has been one of the best decisions I have made yet. And here’s why. 

I left school with hopes of being an English teacher and so I went on to do a bachelors degree in English with Education at Coleraine. However, I found very quickly, that being a teacher was not for me, although I continued with the course until the very end. I came out of it with a 2:2 and feeling very much like I had wasted three years. Don’t get me wrong, the course was fantastic with great teachers, it unfortunately just wasn’t for me. 

And so, I spent three long months trying to get myself full-time work with zero experience and honestly, little motivation. I personally found it so hard to find something that I could apply for, given that my course wasn’t particularly specialised and I had done a minor in education that was primarily aimed at going into teaching. I also had very little experience, as my course didn’t offer a year’s placement, which a lot do, and so I felt slightly at a disadvantage. 

Until one night, I went to my friend’s house and they all suggested I do a Masters. To begin with, I laughed. Thought a Masters was just something people did to put off going into work for another year. But then I thought about it, realised it would open more doors and, possibly, spark a passion in me for something that I didn’t know I had a passion for. 

So the next step was what? What Masters course will I do? I began looking on the Ulster website and nothing really jumped out to me except for the Msc Communications and Public Relations course. I remember in school I had wanted to study CAM but didn’t think I would get the grades and so didn’t apply and forgot about it, But here was a Masters course, that was very much like CAM, that I did have the grades for! And so I applied in August and here I am in April, absolutely loving it. 

Starting a Masters however, was very daunting for me. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I thought there was going to be nobody my own age in the class and I thought I wasn’t good enough for it and I was going in with no knowledge of the Jordanstown campus and no friends there. But I was so, so wrong. I felt so welcome when class began. Everyone was so friendly and chatty and we are a small class which I love. The lecturers are amazing too. Very approachable, will answer any questions or queries you have and are up for a bit of craic too!

 

Now this is not to say that a Masters is easy. Because, believe me, it’s not. Yes it may only be two days a week, but that just means more independent study, more than I ever had to do. And let’s not forget that there is only student funding for tuition fees and so I have had to start working full-time on top of my studies. But it is so worth it. Not only have I gained another qualification, but I’ve opened so many more doors. I’ve gained a new perspective and I’ve found my passion. I’m more engaged in my classes than I ever was at undergraduate level and I’ve learned so many new skills. And I’ve made so many new friends.

If you’re in final year, I would never rule out a Masters. I am so happy I chose to do one, and, if you’re anything like me, a Masters just might be for you.

Kathleen Convery is an Msc in Communications and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-convery-814078158/

 

Why I chose a PR degree…

Why I chose a PR degree…

I remember when I was really young, the first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a pop star – big surprise there, every 6 year old girls dream! Watching Britney Spears on the TV every single day and admiring her so much, can you blame me?

As I began to grow up a little more, I wanted to then become a hairdresser, then a pilot, then an astronaut! My dreams came crumbling down around me when I found out that to be a pilot or an astronaut, you have to have perfect eyesight – I wanted to break my little round face glasses into a million pieces. As if my eyesight was the only thing holding me back from being an astronaut and not the fact that I had a really average set of GCSE’s!GA10

As I was getting a bit older, around the time of my A-Levels I had started to become really interested in social media – Instagram in particular. I was completely in awe of all these ‘Instagrammers’, who were making a living out of advertising products on their page, like teeth whitening and big makeup brands. How had they built themselves up so well that worldwide companies wanted them to advertise their products? I couldn’t get my head around it.

My aunt, who works in PR, was able to explain to me all about advertising and social media and how it is such a big platform today for companies and businesses to advertise their products through, with the help of influencers and celebrities. From then, I have always been so intrigued and loved researching all about it.

As an A-Level business studies student, we learnt all about marketing, advertising, media and communication, and I knew from then that it was what I wanted to further my education in. I began researching University courses that could accomodate this. Originally, I wanted to go away, to Edinburgh or Liverpool, to study, but I had happened to stumble upon the CMPR course at Ulster University. I couldn’t believe my luck when I began looking into it, and all the different modules it had. I was immediately drawn to this course, and put it down as my number one option.

One of the aspects of PR that interests me the most, is the variety. PR really is just a blend of everything media related. Promotion, advertising, campaigns, keepingGA11 up an image, brand management, press releases, media releases – the list goes on! There is a mix of absolutely everything. The reason I like this so much, is because I enjoy working in a fast-paced and dynamic workplace, rather than just doing the same thing day in and day out. It makes work interesting and different each day, and that’s what excites me the most about any of my future careers that I may have in PR.

As I mentioned earlier, I have an aunt who works in PR. Although i’ve never really realised it, but she’s been one of my main influences to choose a degree in PR. She has built her way up to the top of an extremely tough industry, and her success is inspirational. Although she works hard, she also has a lot of perks to her job and recently worked on the Strictly Come Dancing Tour, and was sending me all her selfies with the celebs and judges! I was so envious! I can remember being younger, and she used to take me to the premiers of all the newest films, as she worked for CineMagic. They are some of my fondest memories.

These are just a few of the reasons that I chose a degree in PR! Why did you choose PR?

G x

 

Grainne Arkins – final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrainneArkins

 

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/

Some advice to help you think twice!

For my first year of university I studied in Leeds Beckett- previously known as Leeds Metropolitan. I studied Events Management, which at the time seemed like the easiest option as on my A-Level Results day (August 2014) things didn’t quite go to plan, and plan B *which I stupidly didn’t have and had to create on the day* came into play. The pressure of having to go to university really hit me hard and I jumped to the first option which was any available course I could take!

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I had a few options from clearing, but Leeds cried out to me the most, I say this as I decided on this option in a moment of sheer panic as my cousin was going into her final year in the same university, so I had some sort of common ground with the city and university. That day seemed to go by in such a flash and I just remember jumping into all sort of decisions and not properly thinking them through. The words ‘Sarah are you sure this is what you want to do?’ haunt me to this day as my Mum repeatedly kept saying those exact 11 words all through the day as we frantically sorted my accommodation, my fees, and basically my whole life which was from that moment going to be my life for the next year or what was meant to be 4 years.

That day alone taught me so much, but I never realised it until May 2015. Throughout that year I had some highs and a heck of a lot of lows, but I never really realised it until my year was coming to an end. Leaving for Leeds I had the mindset of ‘this is my life for the next 4 years’ which I personally think did not help me at all, I almost put myself in a dark whole that I thought I couldn’t get out of before I had even left Belfast.

University away from home just was not right for me as throughout my whole last year of school I had been working towards studying at home and never really looked into going away for university but when the opportunity came up I jumped at it and thought about the philosophy ‘everything happens for a reason, this must be part of my journey” …….NOPE I was wrong, I do believe everything happens for a reason but for in this case in August 2014 ‘everything’ really should have been thought through a bit more on my behalf. I learnt from this that these spontaneous decisions really are not for me!

Living away from home really taught me and I am sure anyone who does live away from home how much you really appreciate home and being with your family in friends on a regular basis, oh and of course my dog. I made so many amazing friends in Leeds of whom I am still so close with, but I really am a home bird as much as I did not want to admit it for the first few months after moving back home. This decision was difficult but I knew it was the right one for me. Below are a few photos of my time in Leeds and some of the life long friends I have made.

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I am writing about my experience as I hope possibly someone who may be wanting to study abroad or away from home takes this into consideration, or can take away something from this, to think decisions through, now I am not talking about whether or not you should have that last piece of chocolate….I am talking about  the bigger decisions in life. Looking back on my year everything really does happen for a reason, because I learnt so much about myself and as much as I hate to admit it and mum and dad probably hate it too, I am a home bunny. Leeds as a city is an absolute dream, everything is really a 5 minute away from anywhere and the people are so friendly but the uni course and that uni life was just not for me.

When I look back now I always think about how different my life could have been if I had stayed in Leeds, I would have not had met the people I know today, I would not have the job I have now and not be writing this blog post. I was so scared to tell my Mum and Dad that I did not want to stay there and wanted to come home and spent 1 week deciding on how I would tell them, but the logistics of it all were that they just wanted me to be happy and sort of knew my heart was not fully in it. They know I am so much happier than what I was for that year and know I am comfortable in my situation now.

3 things I’ve learned from my year away:

  1. Don’t jump into decisions when deep down you know they aren’t the right ones, big or small.
  2. Take the time you need and don’t let the pressure of society get to you.
  3. Don’t tell taxi drivers you are from Belfast as inevitably the conversation will always turn into an in depth discussion of the troubles and a hangover and a long discussion of the Troubles does not go well and what was meant to be a £10 taxi turns into you being £25 down as the people of Leeds love a good chat….

Sarah Heath is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @sarahmeganheath,  Instagram @sarahmeganjane, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-heath-375053a6/