Moody Mondays

It’s a cold, damp Monday morning in the middle of October and I woke up feeling not myself. I know what your thinking he had a “mad one” the night before and is nursing a hangover (shockingly this was not the case this time I assure you all). I’ve never been a Monday person like so many others, it was just me feeling a little unmotivated and maybe because I knew I had the daunting task of writing a blog which I have never done before. The joys of university. More to the point, I was feeling the pressure of meeting the ever-growing amounts of coursework deadlines and to be honest life in general. As the famous saying goes, “when it rains its pours”which it most certainly does. So as any young adult in this technological age, instead of going to someone I went online for some inspiration and came across a powerful motivational speech which has now inspired this blog that you are hopefully still reading. My aim now writing this as you read is to motivate myself and also motivate others who endure their fair share of “Moody Mondays”.

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The speech I am talking about took place in the University of Texas at Austin, it was a 2014 government address by Admiral William H. McRaven. If you haven’t seen it please watch the video below. This retiring Admiral and Navy Seal trainer delivers one of the most inspiring and uplifting speeches you will ever hear.

 

FAILURE? What do you define as failure? The English dictionary description of failure is, “the state of not meeting a desirable objective.” Sure the dictionary is correct, but for me failure is an ambiguous word with several meanings that any given individual can take from it. For many it can mean the end of the road, an impassible brick wall that can not be broken but for others failure is merely the stepping stone for success, if we don’t fail then how do we know what is feels like to succeed truly?

For the majority of us it is hard-wired into us to judge our success on whether or not we achieved the result we set out to achieve. You will read and you will hear that failure is not an option. That is ridiculous, failure is always an option. Failure is the most readily available option at all times. But it comes down to choice. You can choose to fail or you can choose to succeed. Failure in anything whether it is losing in a county championship final or in something so simple like losing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with your housemate, to which the loser has to clean those dreaded dishes (we have all been there), it can be a hard pill to swallow. For those of you blessed with a dishwasher, I envy you.

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On a more serious note. Anyone who has achieved anything great, anyone who has changed their life has at some point willingly made a choice to embrace failure instead of fighting it. So when failure smacks you in the face, take a step back, appreciate all that is great in your life. We are in a constant uphill battle living in a society that is driven by results, driven by numbers, driven by what a computer screen tells you, whether you have enough money to squeeze in a “Cheeky Nando’s” or a McDonald’s, its a society driven by us. We are the drivers, so take your foot off that accelerator, slow down and breath. When failure comes knocking (which it probably will), answer, except it and start again. As Thomas Edison famously quoted, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”.

Without ramming too much of this motivational talk down your throats, I hope that this blog has in some shape or form motivated you, even it was just one person then I’ve accomplished what I set out to get from this blog.

The moral of the story is I’m still not a Monday person and may the coffee be strong and the Mondays be short. 

Travis Kelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/travis-kelly-509007150/

 

 

Fears of Final Year

Fears of Final Year

I was told to write a blog, so here I am, writing my blog…

Not having a clue what to write about, I decided to write about what is on my mind most at the moment, FINAL YEAR and the uncertainties that go with it.

As many students would agree, entering final year of University is extremely daunting but yet quite exciting. Now that I’m already four weeks into potentially my last year of education, the doubt is getting the better of the excitement. With workloads starting to build and deadlines looming; the stress levels are beginning to rise. So, for anyone who may be in the same position, reading this may give you some peace of mind.

Now with only eight months left of my life as a CMPR student at Ulster University here are my five fears for final year:

1. Adapting back into the University life

I successfully secured a placement post at Invest Northern Ireland as a Communication Assistant. I spent 12-months there and it was a tremendous experience and I learned so much.

For me I found it quite easy to adjust to the 9-5 life; having a structure; knowing what most days entail; and the bonus of getting paid monthly, I found myself at ease. Although I was still living in the Holylands, and still enjoying the odd Wednesday night in Bot, I had the best of both worlds of having the benefits and of working full time, and still being able to enjoy the student life of living with my friends.

I finished my placement year in August, I then went Island Hopping in Greece for three weeks and was back to University five days after I came home. So, I never really had much time to mentally prepare myself for final year. I just sort of, fell back into it.

Now that I only have class two days week, I find myself with way too much free time and not knowing what to do with it (watching way too much Netflix). However, I don’t think this will be the case in a few weeks’ time when I’m rushing to finish a 3,000-word essay and wishing I used my time more wisely.

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2. Dissertation

The dreaded ‘D’ word! To say I’m dreading writing a dissertation would be an understatement. Apart from it being 10,000 words and worth a huge chunk of my final degree mark, I’m still not that entirely sure what a dissertation is – although my dissertation lectures are starting to make a bit more sense as the weeks go on.

I have a few ideas on what I want to focus my research on (consumer behaviour or influencer marketing), I’m still yet to settle on a topic.

3. What to do after I graduate

This is probably the one I’m fearing the most – what to do next?

After doing my A-Levels and getting accepted into Ulster University, I had the next four years planned out. I don’t have a plan for the next four.

I have a number of options; get a job in Belfast, Dublin or even round home in Fermanagh; Apply to a grad-scheme; Move to somewhere big like London or New York; or just book a one-way flight somewhere exotic and travel for a year.

I’m already getting email notifications that grad-schemes have opened their application process, however this is giving me flashbacks of applying for a placement job and the stress that comes with it, or there is the opinion of applying to an entry level PR job when the right opportunity comes up.

I’ve always seen myself moving to London after I graduate, with my two sisters and my nieces all living there, it makes a lot more sense for me to relocate.

However, the thought of working for the next 60+ years is quite frightening, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that yet. But whatever happens, happens.

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4. Money Worries

Prior to now, money problems never crossed my mind. I’ve worked part time from the age of 16 and was always able to buy what I liked without asking my parent for help.

Last year I got used to having a full-time wage and I gave up my part time job when I began my placement year. Now than I back in final year, and for the moment living off my student loan – that is rapidly disappearing, and with most of my savings spent on €15 cocktails in Mykonos, money worries are always at the back of my mind.

And with still not knowing what I want to do after I graduate, I need to have some money set aside to pursue whatever I decide to do – whether that be move away, travel or just blow It on another holiday.

5. The end of an era

So, I’ve only eight months left to make the most of (hopefully) my last year in Belfast. Is it time to make the most of it? Or just settle down and hibernate in the library?

For a girl that made (too much) the most of first and second year. My week usually consisted of: Sundays – Hatfield; Monday – the Fly; Tuesday – Thompsons; Wednesday – Bot; and countless all-day rips in the Rose and Crown. It’s quite sad to think that it’s all coming to an end, and after this I won’t be getting many more opportunities to do that again.

However, first and second year didn’t count towards my degree, so…there’s a lot more at stake this year! So, for the next eight months, I plan to put the effort in, while also enjoying regular night out as well.

Wish me Luck x

 

Ruth Leonard is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – @ruthleonard_ / Twitter – @RuthLeonard_ / LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-leonard-057860129/

What is today’s white picket fence?

“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often” – Brian Tracy (Inspirational Speaker)

I think we have all been in the position, where we ask ourselves, where do I want to be in 5 years? When do I want to be married, have kids, move away from home? No matter your gender, it’s something we have all definitely chatted to our friends about or thought to ourselves at least once! But what really is the norm? What is todays ‘white picket fence’? I know for myself, I have faced my fair share of obstacles throughout the past few years, which have allowed me to regroup my thoughts on my future, and maybe think about it more realistically this time.

I am now a second year student, studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University, and I love it. One, I never thought I would be a second year (those who know me will understand my struggle) and two, I never thought I would be doing something I love. I’m a 21 year old student, who has stumbled through the past 3 years of her life, struggling to find ‘where I belong’. When I left school, I got accepted to Queens University to study Business Economics, if you knew me you would have known that this would already be setting me up for a fail! Being the eldest in our house, getting accepted to university was an incredible achievement. I knew from day dot that the course wasn’t for me, but I just didn’t have it in me to tell my parents that I had decided to drop out. I would sleep all day to avoid them (and uni), drive to Belfast to pretend I had gone to class – you name it. I did anything and everything to avoid the real issue… my happiness! I would go to Belfast, and stay for the week with my friends, trying to avoid the reality. It had gone so far, I had got myself into a terrible state, where I wouldn’t even leave the house, worrying about what people would say about me if I told them I was no longer in uni. I finally plucked up the courage and told my parents. They weren’t too happy, but they knew there was something which was making me as unhappy as what I was and were glad I had figured it out. The ultimate Beauty School Drop Out you could say.

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So, I started thinking about what to do next. From knowing I wasn’t happy in my previous year, I spent the next year making friends, going to out, going to parties, and ensuring I had a good year of ‘uni life’. So much so, uni wasn’t even in the equation. I promised myself that I would never be as unhappy as I was in my first year, but I didn’t do much to make myself happier. I got myself a job in Belfast and stayed up there for weeks on end, rarely coming home. I got myself into a bit of a rut, doing the same thing every day. Going to work, not having class, going out (every night)… it just wasn’t a healthy way of living. Having days with literally £2.87 in my account, and worrying about how to buy groceries to do me until Friday (we’ve all been there). Using the oven as a hairdryer and my iron as straighteners… I may have failed at uni but this gal wasn’t failing to impress. It’s a lifestyle we can be very easily sucked into when in the company and I most certainly had my fun, but it is definitely behind me!

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Last year I went to America for about 4 months and it gave me a while to ponder. I said to myself that when I come home, I would re-apply for university and get ‘my life together’. I completed my first year of CAM last year, bought and insured my own car and am now in my second year and applying for placements as we speak. A few years ago, I was more worried about what everyone else had to say about my situations, and how they would react to the decisions I had made. I would panic about not graduating with everyone else and worry about not being the same age as people in my class. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t over think and make a bigger problem in my head.

It goes without saying; we all face our obstacles in life, no matter how big or small. They are important to us and it’s the way we deal with them that matters most. Go with the flow and do what makes you happy. Don’t let others influence what you do unless you know it is for the best, your only fooling yourself  in the end. The old Émer maybe didn’t deal with her problems in the best way – but hey, I’m only human and there is certainly no point kicking myself.

I may not be graduating at the same time as my school friends and I don’t plan on getting married anytime soon either. The way in which we portray things and other people’s lives on social media makes us challenge our vision of a ‘white picket fence’ every day. Seeing pictures of our friends, who are graduated, living in other parts of the world, having kids or even engaged, shouldn’t make you want to wish your life away. That’s just where they are supposed to be I guess! I’m content with where I am, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get to where I need to be in time… but I am in no rush! It’s my first time living this life, and my last, so whatever it may throw my way, I’ll deal with it when it gets here. It’s very easy to get sucked into living our lives ‘for the gram’ and worrying about how other people interpret the decisions we make. Instagram is the preview, not the full movie don’t forget.

It’s hard not to care (it’s the world we live in), but it is important to live your own life, whether you’re in the slow lane or fast lane. You’ll get there, and cheers to that!

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Found this cool video which summarises all of the above and includes the things I once should have told myself. If you have a few minutes it is definitely worth the watch!

Émer Stinson is a 2nd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @StinsonEmer and on Instagram: @emerstinson

Student Life: Expectation V. Reality

As a nostalgic final year, I have reminisced on my brilliant university experience over the past 4 years. It has led me to remember what expectations I, and many others presumably had, as a first year beginning University.

 

Expectation: I’m rich!

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The student loan is a source of excitement particularly for prospective young fresher’s who imagine all the endless possibilities of their newly acquired ‘wealth’.  But whilst the loan may be the most money you’ve had enter your current account, it certainly doesn’t stay there very long. Once you factor in rent, food, clothes and alcohol, you really don’t have much left for those not quite as essential items such as electric, gas, and toilet roll…

Expectation: Hey MTV, welcome to my crib!

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Whilst you may expect to live in a nice house, the chances of that happening (especially in the Holylands) are pretty narrow. The slick pad you envisioned sharing with your friends will probably include mismatched furniture from the 80s, a shower with the force of a leaking tap, and a bedroom considerably disproportionate in size to the rest of the bedrooms – AKA “the box room”.

Suddenly, your home house feels like a palace in comparison, filled with luxuries such as in-date food, television, heat, and clean clothes! Which leads to the next expectation…

Expectation: I’m a strong independent university student.

Expecting to live self-sufficiently in your student house without regular visits home is a commonly misplaced expectation of university life. The reality is so, so different. Friday’s are typically when you go ‘home home’ to your family house, as opposed to ‘home’ which is your student house – get it? And if you’re lucky and have no classes on Fridays there is no doubt that you will be straight up the motorway on a Thursday evening. This is probably when you will beg kindly ask for money to get you through the following week when the loan has officially run its course… Whilst simultaneously raiding the cupboards for food to bring back to Belfast with you.

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Expectation: Party every night woo!

The hopes of going out every single night are usually short-lived and by Thursday you’re more than ready to head home for a weekend of comforts.

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Expectation: I’m going to cook all the time!

All the simple student cookbooks in the world will not encourage you to cook more than a maximum of 10 home-made meals in the duration of your first year. Instead you will have a vested interest in trying every takeaway available to you (provided they deliver – obviously). If you do decide to venture into the unknown that is cooking then you will probably whip up something like pasta, after sufficiently googling how to make it, of course.

 

E5Expectation: I will never miss a class.

Most of us probably told ourselves this at the beginning of University life, but in reality, it rarely happens. There will almost certainly be a day where you chose Netflix or drinks with your friends over class, and as a first year, no one can blame you for it!

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Whilst university may not be entirely as you first expected, most would agree that it’s a brilliant, unforgettable experience that goes by in the blink of an eye. So embrace student life and enjoy it whilst you can, because the real world *shudders* is just around the corner!

 

Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_

 

UK versus USA education and culture, the difference across the Atlantic!

In the UK and Ireland, we all have a distinct perception of what college in the U.S. is like, Right?

The parties, the frat houses and the socks and sandals combo – yes it is real!

In general, we aren’t far wrong. But having been there, done that (and bought hundreds of T-shirts) my views have changed and, to be perfectly honest, I prefer it over there!

…and here’s why:

SCHOOL SPIRIT –  

Americans have SO much school spirit! Whether it be a big basketball game or a coffee morning charity event you can’t help but notice everyone wearing the college colours and excessive face paints to show their passion.

People you don’t know or have never met all of a sudden become your best mate just through random events. I LOVED IT!

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WORKLOAD –

I was very surprised by the amount of work! It’s undeniable that the workload in the U.S. is considerably bigger that over here, but the work is definitely worth less of a percentage towards your overall grade.

In other words, if you do badly on an assignment it’s not the end of the world because it’s only worth 10%, unlike our 50% exams at home.

I also had a love/hate relationship with pop quizzes (well more of a hate!).

These are tests at the beginning of class, adding up to a ‘daily grade’, but as long as you’ve done the reading, you’re sorted. These tests also became a godsend because it definitely took the pressure off during midterms and finals – if you did it right, which I certainly learned in second semester.

You do also have to buy the textbook, and I mean ACTUALLY buy it! There’s $100 you’ll never seen again…

GRADING –

Coming from home where it’s considered a miracle to break 70% on your assignments, I arrived in America and suddenly began getting 95% on things. WHAT?!

No matter how many times I got 90%+ on a piece of work, I still always felt like I’d become a genius, destined for Mastermind.

Having said that, one of the nicest adjustments was that Professors in America want a personal relationship with you and to get to know you both inside and outside the classroom. They know your name and not just your ID number and for me that really helped while settling in.

And sometimes, they’ll let you re-do their work if you’re not happy or will offer extra credit so you can boost your grade. Extra credit is literally free marks, just let that sink in for a minute. Free marks?! Completely unheard of at home.

DRINKING – 

Drinking culture is also a huge part of American college life, but because most college students are below the drinking age, a lot of it exists underground — whether that be at house parties, frats, fields, or through the use of fake IDs.

A massive culture shock for me was not being allowed to legally drink or go into pubs and clubs. But to be honest, it was actually nice to not revolve your days around it – like we do at home.

Also, just a heads up – NO ONE in the United States thinks red Solo cups are interesting.

They are seen as the dirty, plastic cups which you spend half of the morning after a party cleaning up and are the ideal beer pong receptacle. But because they are ever-present at American parties, they have made it onto TV and because American college movies are watched everywhere, red Solo cups are now “a thing” abroad. Weird.

 

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HUMOUR AND GENERAL LINGO-

Or should I say ‘humor’…

Sometimes in British humour the jokes on you – Americans cannot grasp that. Plus, we use irony, A LOT.

But when Americans use irony, they will often immediately admit it by adding an unnecessary “just kidding”, even if the statement is outrageous and obviously ironic.       For example, “If you don’t come out tonight, I’m going to shoot you… just kidding.”

Don’t get me wrong, Americans can fully appreciate irony, I just think they don’t feel as comfortable using it on each other in case it causes hurt or anger. Whereas over here, we use sarcasm as both a shield and a weapon. We mercilessly take the hand out of people we like or dislike. And also ourselves, in fact, even more so ourselves!

It’s not so much about having a different sense of humour, but more an all-round different approach to life. Americans are not embarrassed by their emotions and they applaud ambition and openly reward success. It’s an openness that always made me feel slightly guilty and apologetic when their achievements were met with silent appreciation, rather than claps and shouts – we just don’t do that. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary.

A major thing I noticed is how Americans say, “have a nice day” whether they mean it or not. Here we wouldn’t dream of it! I don’t know whether it’s because we don’t want to sound insincere or because we don’t want to celebrate anything too soon.  As bad as it sounds we are so much more pessimistic and expect the worst. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the next president of the United States. Over here we’re told, “Have a plan B, in case things don’t happen for you.”

FOOD

Ah, ONE of America’s greatest assets.

A friend of mine once said “American food means taking everything you learned about moderation and healthiness growing up, and completely ignoring it.” I mean, what’s not to love?

US students can NEVER go hungry, especially if they have an unlimited meal plan, just one swipe away from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even without a meal plan, you can sometimes use the dining hall for as little as $5, then eat all the food you possibly can and get a box to go for later.

This is very unlike the UK and Ireland where, by week 12 you’re living off beans on toast because you’ve almost completely run out of your loan (and by almost I mean ‘ran out two months ago’).

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I could talk ALL DAY about the differences between here and the U.S.

I think it’s so important that each of us get the chance to experience different cultures and interact with different people at some stage in our lives. It’ll definitely change how we see things and if you’re in anyway like me, how you say things…

and so on that note,

Have a nice day y’all!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

A Message for Final Year Students

As many students would agree, entering final year of University is extremely daunting but yet quite exciting.  As you mentally prepare yourself all summer for the dreaded dissertation and promise yourself you will be organised this year; you buy a diary so you know your deadlines and make your way to Paperchase for pretty notebooks and matching files, pens and highlighters in every colour possible – you feel ready for it all to begin.  Now, all of a sudden, it’s March.  It feels like only a few weeks ago that Christmas was approaching, as were the deadlines, half the overpriced Paperchase pens were missing, your Christmas Spirit was overshadowed by that 3000 word assignment and the stress was absolutely real.  Despite the amount of times you heard, “You’ll be finished before you know it”, you felt there was literally no light at the end of the tunnel.  But, here we are, now a matter of weeks from ‘the end of an era’ and emotions right now are well and truly mixed; stress, fear, sadness and excitement are whirling around as we all approach our final deadlines as students and long-anticipated graduation.

Coping with final year studies as well as sleeping, retaining a social life and sanity and managing a part time job is without a doubt stressful.  For the past year whilst studying, I have worked part time in Ballyclare Secondary School, first as a clerical officer and this year as a classroom assistant also.  Despite the busy and sometimes long days, I am very lucky to be able to say this job is amazing.  Going ‘back to school’ as a member of staff was a little strange as it was only a few years ago I was a pupil – now I’m ‘Miss Hill’ and I can call teachers by their first names – for me, this took a bit of getting used to.  However, I can definitely say this is a job and school I absolutely adore and I will be devastated to leave when the time comes.

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Recently, as a member of staff I have heard (for months) pupils fretting about the school formal; who’s taking who, where the best place for a spray tan is and about how ‘updos’ are no longer popular (who knew?!).  I remember these dilemmas myself when I was 17 and indeed they were (in most 17 year old’s head) the biggest issues in the world.  Fast forward 3 years and I really wish my biggest problem was where to get nail extensions – not how to write a dissertation, apply for jobs and revise for exams all at the same time.

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Back in the day, in our little BHS bubble

Now, from a staff/adult perspective I can see that as a pupil in school, you’re unknowingly in a little bubble of safety, absolutely oblivious to the adult world – and quite rightly so.  You get to see your friends every day and you’re surrounded by teachers who will put their all into helping you achieve the grades you need, so that when you log in to UCAS on results day, it congratulates you on securing a place at the University you wanted to go to.  As a pupil, I definitely took this for granted; the routine, the friendships and the constant support available will, in my opinion, never be replicated.  Despite the hard work, determination, sweat and tears we will be putting into our dissertations and final year exams over the upcoming weeks, as a matter of fact, we have been working hard for this since the first day we sat in school as tiny year 8’s.

Oblivious to it at the age of 12, we were actually preparing ourselves for right now – entering ‘the big, bad world’, that place the adults always talked about.  When we were picking our GCSE or A-level subjects we were told to consider the ‘careers’ we wanted.  These choices we made from such a young age; the subjects we chose to study, the extra-curricular activities we participated in where we gained innumerable skills and qualities, the countless nights of revising and all-nighters of coursework have all contributed to the next matter of weeks and brought us to this point in our lives.

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3 years later – Devan is engaged and training to be a primary school teacher.  I’m preparing to graduate and begin a career in PR.

From our sweet and innocent school days to the young adults we have become, we have been working for the next matter of weeks for years – that’s right, years.  Therefore, to everyone who is currently stressing about how fast May is approaching and the volume of work that is yet to be completed, remember you’ve had years of practice, you can and will get through the next matter of weeks with the same determination that got you here.

Good luck to everyone completing final year, make these next coming weeks count – what’s a few weeks in a lifetime?!

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Lauren Hill is a Final Year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/

 

 

Let it snow.

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When I was seventeen, I spent a week in Geneva.

It’s a beautiful city. I met nice people, I tried fondue for the first time and for the first time in my life I saw snow. I’m from Northern Ireland, we are a mild, wet little corner of Europe and some years in the winter we get snow. But Geneva was the first time I saw snow.

I’m talking about snow that comes up past a grown man’s knees the kind that a city does not simply weather for a few days but that they actively plan for, in the sure and certain knowledge that if they don’t, it’ll grind the city to a halt. What surprised me most was how completely unaffected the city was by a heavy snowfall, they were ready.

Geneva came into my head because of Toby Young. As far as I’m aware, Young isn’t Swiss but then I don’t know very much about him. I read how to lose friends and alienate people a couple of years ago (mostly just to see if there was a theoretical basis for what I was already clearly very good at) but I don’t have particularly strong views on him one way or the other.

Toby Young got me thinking about Geneva because he was, at the start of the year, at the centre of a ‘Twitterstorm’.

You’ve seen a Twitterstorm, there’s one almost every day. In fact the only thing that was remarkable about #Younggate was how unremarkable it was. You can google for the details but to summarise;

  • Toby Young was appointed to the Office for Students (OfS) which is a group the government set up to regulate the higher education market
  • Tweets surfaced of Mr Young saying some regrettable things
  • The proverbial hit the fan
  • The government doubled down and supported Young
  • Eventually Young decided to resign his post after the pressure wouldn’t let up

OfS is invested with a range of powers and responsibilities. One of its most eye catching powers is the power to fine universities that ‘no-platform’ certain speakers  a fairly blunt instrument approach to dealing with a problem that some people think exists.

The “Snowflake” problem.

The term is bandied about these days, primarily by middle aged white men, to decry the stereotypical student or “young people today” as soft and easily offended, too pampered and protected to ever listen to ideas they don’t like.

‘Snowflake’ is a stupid term for two reasons. One, it’s a bit like Justin Bieber jokes, funny at the start but now just lazy. Ironically, considering how it’s used, it’s actually a phrase designed to shut down debate i.e. “I don’t have to listen to you, because you’re a snowflake”.

Secondly it’s being used wrong. I know, there’s a lot of people who want to paint students and young people generally as unwilling and unable to listen to ideas they don’t like. Much has been made of Universities and student group’s no-platforming certain speakers. Milo Yiannopoulos and Germaine Greer are two very different people but both have been refused platforms by different University groups who consider their views offensive. No-platforming is criticised as being anti free speech and cowardly. The argument is that students should be opened up to ideas they might not like in order to challenge them and that all speakers should therefore be entitled to platforms at all University’s.

Have you been on the internet recently? This isn’t the 19th Century, the great debates of our day aren’t taking place in draughty lecture theatres anymore, they rage day and daily online. There are literally thousands of platforms for people to promote any ideas they have. Hard right news organisations like Breitbart are mainstream now. Even if you buy into the echo chamber idea and believe that everyone online is only listening to people they agree with, late last year actual Nazi’s marched through Charlottesville in the USA chanting “Blood and Soil!”. The actual Nazi’s are back in the mainstream news and the real world.

The “snowflake” generation aren’t avoiding hearing ideas they don’t like, if anything they’re inundated with them. Never in the history of humanity have so many people had so much access to so much information. It’s not that “Snowflakes” are incapable of hearing ideas they don’t like, it’s that they hear them and think “Enough”.

This isn’t a sign of weakness it’s a sign of strength.  People are realising that they don’t have to listen to stuff they find offensive silently and that social media provides not only a platform to make their voices heard but also a tool to organise, to amplify those voices.

People might be acting like “Snowflakes”, but only in the sense that they are realising their collective strength. Alone, a snowflake melts easily, but as part of a multitude, they can shut down cities.

So what’s this got to do with a blog that’s supposed to focus on PR and Communications? Well, these “Snowflakes” have the ability to drive news agendas and shape public policy without ever looking up from their phone. The Young example from the start of the year is just one example of how people who were dismissed as “Snowflakes” for finding Toby Young’s old tweets offensive used a social media app to dominate the news cycle and drive a change in the real world.

The genie is out of the bottle now the “Snowflake generation” have seen what happens when they flex their collective muscles and to dismiss them as “weak” or “afraid” is to fundamentally misunderstand them and more dangerously underestimate them. Instead, the lesson for organisations is to be like Geneva. Twitterstorms exist and sometimes they’re going to hit you, the only thing you can do is prepare for them.

 

Jason Ashford is currently studying an MSc in Public Relations and Communications with political lobbying at the University of Ulster. He can be found on Twitter @jasonashford89