Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain

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I did not go to university to find a man

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently came out with the golden nugget of knowledge that women go to university to find a man. At first I thought it was some kind of mistake but after a little looking around realised that those words had actually come out of Mr Johnson’s mouth.

At a press conference he joked that women had to go to university because “they’ve got to find men to marry”. The Mayor of London is often making inappropriate jokes and I understand if people were not to take the comment seriously, but it dismissive ‘jokes’ like this that make my blood boil.

I went to university and did not go to find a man. The possibility of finding a man was never something that even entered my mind. I wanted to go to university to learn, to get a degree and to have that experience. I wanted to go to university to study something I love, to delve into the subject deeper than I had at A Levels and GCSE and to inspire me.

I did not go to find a man. It implies a woman only goes into higher education to get hitched. It implies that women are not capable of furthering their education because they want to but instead because they have to find a man. It implies that fulfilment comes from being in a relationship rather than by doing things that you want to do. It implies, yet again, that women cannot be women without a man by their side.

A person like Boris Johnson, a public figure, need to watch their words. They are far more powerful than people often realise and this power doesn’t diminish in any way because the words spoken were a ‘joke’.

Once when I was in a club at university with my girlfriends, I headed to the toilets by myself. As I came back to meet my group, a boy groped me. I turned around and told him to get off. He told me I was sexy and asked if I wanted to go home with him. I pushed him away and told him to F*@% off. He called me a slag, told me I was frigid and then said he was ‘joking’. As if, because it was a joke, it forgives everything.

I see people be rude to each other, offensive in a way that crosses the line and when the other party is hurt, the word ‘joke’ and ‘banter’ is thrown around like it’s a soother. A cure that will heal all wrong-doings. It is like this, through the ‘jokes’ and the ‘banter’ that we take a small step back for every step forward.

Sexism is still a huge part of our lives, especially as women. They may be small acts of sexism that were all part of a ‘joke’ or ‘messing around’ but they accumulate to a wider thinking. They make that person, who is the target of your jokes, uncomfortable, angry, fearful or upset or all of those things. They dismiss a woman as a human being and Boris Johnson’s own ‘joke’ adds a little more fuel to that incessant fire.

Finding a man is not the ultimate task. Marriage is not what defines a woman. We can be fulfilled, happy, successful and confident without a ring on our finger and a man by our side. This has all been said before, it is essentially old news with a fresh coat of paint and yet, it continues to happen. Sexism is still prevalent – and sometimes, often, dismissed. It is still an issue for plenty of women in the UK and millions of women across the world. It is still a problem which is why jokes like Boris Johnson’s will continue being part of that problem. A joke is not an excuse to be dismissive towards half the population. A joke does not validate sexism. It is rude, it is derogatory and it is part of a continuing, long-standing problem.


Leaving Education

I want to start this post off with an apology. An apology for my lack of blogging rants and rambles. I’m sure you haven’t missed me and therefore will have no need to read my explanation. But I’m still going to explain. Exam week is upon me, and this is the first time, in what feels like a long time, that I have actually had time to just sit and let my thoughts wander without guilt for not revising or interruption from nerves. The worst of it is done and I only have two exams left: one tomorrow and one next Friday. I have time again to read and enjoy my spare time.

Soon my textbooks and notes will be packed away permanently and I’ll be able to start work, properly, at my local newspaper. I’m really excited to start but I’m also excited to be able to leave the office, and not feel guilty for not doing work at home. If I do work from home (which I already know I will, I like to keep busy), it will be because I want to, because I’m hunting for a story that I can’t let go off or because I want to get ahead. It will be a question of switching on the jetpacks rather than just trying to keep up in the race.

This will be the first time I am properly out of education. I have been in school or some sort of educational institution since I was five years old. I’m now 21. That’s 16 years. It’s a very long time. But it does feel like it’s paid off in some way. Going to university and then taking this journalism course has taught me a lot about myself and my drive and that I’m a lot more like my dad than I realised. It has confirmed to me that journalism is what I want to do.

It will be good to leave something where expectations of what you deserve are always high. You expect a good standard of teaching; you expect teachers to, practically, spoon-feed you information; you expect it to be entertaining so you’re not bored; you expect it to be done for you. Education has become a bit of a complacent subject in many people’s minds. The fact it is compulsory makes people believe that it’s a life requirement. It may be a human right but not everyone is as fortunate. Education has just become one of those things to get through.

Standardised testing developed league tables and school has become more of a military operation to get those A’s and those passes so that they climb higher in a ladder designed by the institutions higher up. It doesn’t matter about how you’ve grown or how you’ll survive when you actually have to deal with people that aren’t paid to be fair to you and teach you things. It is all about the piece of paper with the various numbers or letters that you are given at the end of your time.

It sounds very dramatic and I am very much aware I am fulfilling all the literature graduate stereotypes I could by writing the following, but it feels a little like a horse with blinkers on. Education gives you a goal: to pass, to move onto the next step. A little like rolling the dice and hoping your number is enough to get you to the Free Parking on the Monopoly board. You go through the system, turning and stopping and starting when you’re told to and then you reach the end. The blinkers are removed. You can see. It’s a sense of freedom that only comes when you’re finally given control of your own life and choices; when you’re young and all you’ve ever known is classes and homework that can be a terrifyingly brilliant prospect.

Right now I’m still in the tunnel of exams, squinting my eyes to see the light. I can’t wait to be done with it. I’ve really enjoyed my course but having too much of anything soon makes it lose it’s flavour. That’s what I feel like with a institutional education. I’m done, it served me very well and I enjoyed the majority of it. It was a great part of my life but it’s time to shut that door. I want to now learn through the real world, through making my own mistakes, through hearing those of others. I want to now walk on that board game that is our existences and choose where my next step is.

So thank you educational system for giving me the basics I needed. You could be better, but so could I. I’m grateful I got a chance to walk through your channels almost to the top of that imaginary ladder everyone likes to use in their metaphors (the top is a PhD right? Could NOT have done that, just thinking about it hurts my brain).

I’m very appreciative I got to ride the educational merry-go-round. But I’m looking forward to getting off, and going to find another.


You don’t need a television

I used to love television, I still do, but not in the dependent way that I did. Before university I used to enjoy having a television as my background, I wouldn’t say it was time wasted, I watched documentaries as well as the more trivial programming but still.

At university I didn’t watch any television. If there was a programme I liked I would watch it online, without the adverts and the temptation of watching whatever came next. You don’t realise how truly short a programme is without the adverts.

If this was the only thing on TV maybe it would be easier to avoid it.

After graduating, television became something new and strange that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to get sucked back into. Now winter is here (England doesn’t really have an autumn, Mother Nature only likes to do extremes on this little island) the television has come back into my life. It’s almost like a routine to come home, relax and watch a little TV before I do some work and go about doing whatever I need to to relax or prepare for the next day.

Recently I’ve been trying to step back from being in front of the television as a way of relaxing. Yesterday, for example, by going upstairs away from the television I was more productive than ever. I did everything I actually want to do while still watching a few of my favourite shows and then switching off instead of trying to fill the background noise with pointless shows that I don’t care about and are still detracting.

You don’t really need a television in today’s day and age. Obviously I still enjoy some of my favourite shows: Revenge, The Simpsons and a few others I can’t remember are great ways of chilling for short breaks. I am trying very hard to only watch shows that I like and enjoy rather than watching something just because my show has finished.

This is the power of television.

Those moving images keep going, and try to entice you to keep watching. That’s where your time is drained with the shows that are stupid, pointless and you don’t actually want to watch but have on in the background as a distraction.

By switching off your television, you’re saving energy (duh) and you’re making yourself more productive. Those flashing images are not the only source of entertainment. I exercised, I read and I did work to get ahead in my course. The television should not be considered an essential in every home, it should be an addition.

Although I don’t believe that the television will ever die or fall out of favour, it does not need to be as important.

After all, if I loved television as much as I thought I did, I would have given it a second thought when I lived without it at university.


What I thought university would be and what it was: from a graduate

A generic university image. Because my brain exploded when it tried to think of a suitable, yet entertaining/creative, image to match this post.

University degrees have changed. This is the first year that fees have been increased to a staggering £9,000 a year and the old argument is university is worth it. I put in my two cents to the debate a while ago (it’s here in case you’re interested) but I’ve been thinking about university in general lately. Partly because the boy is still at university so it’s not quite out of my life yet.

Looking back on my overall university experience, I would definitely recommend university as a thing to do if you’re passionate and enjoy a particular subject.

My degree, because that is what university is about – though it may be lost in translation for some, was enjoyable, challenging and interesting. It was hard work but fulfilling and I did enjoy my time studying English Language and Literature. It wasn’t what I expected however.

Before I went to university I had a certain expectation of what it would be like. I imagined brilliant debates ignited by the lecturer or a particular passage in the novel that would challenge and stimulate the students. I envisioned students being forced to consistently question their ideas and be made to think about things different, study things in great depth during independent study all to come up with a different point of view, a new angle, an altered insight.

I guess I expected the universities depicted in great stories or films where smart people are forced to not only look at the superficial and just under it but actually get their hands dirty learning, adapting, evolving.

It wasn’t like this.

Without including the dissertation and big projects, university was a lot like school and college. You are expected to answer exam questions in a particular way so that an examiner can tick off certain boxes on a marking sheet. You need to regurgitate information in a particular way to be able to get the marks that allow you to get the degree. It isn’t as much about original thought as learning what other have done. There’s no development after that.

Obviously it is important to know the background and the ‘pillars’ of the subject. Having a foundation to then form something new and to be able to make you an individual academic that contributes to the subject rather than just learning about it. Becoming an active student rather than a passive one.

However, that isn’t fully encouraged until it’s time for your dissertation or project in your final years. There isn’t discussion though or bouncing off each other, at least in individual projects. You miss that and although the final year project/dissertations are fun in a strange way and hard work; they are closer to my imaginings of university.

It is still an individual thing however. Long, long before I was born, university was more about the learning of the foundations (like we do now) and then discussing, debating and trying to form new ideas. This is what makes innovators.

People weren’t afraid to question things, challenge them and actually attempt to do something better. This is what creates great people. The ability to challenge, argue and learn from others to do something yourself – not regurgitating information like a helpless baby bird.

University has become too caught up in league tables and getting as many students as possible through the door to up potential grants given to them. Universities were forced to adhere to guidelines that higher education can’t really match if it is to be fulfilling and rewarding enough to create brilliant thinkers and do-ers, people that could make ripples, or waves, in the world.

I understand that this type of learning would not suit everyone. That many would be put off by the amount of independent learning, lack of spoon feeding and necessary opinions based on research and background knowledge.

But I don’t think this would be a bad thing.

It would mean that people would be going to university not based on their household income (although this isn’t as big of an issue in the UK) but for those that wanted to do something brilliant through, or with, their degree. It would mean that open-mindedness would be a necessity, rather than something you’d hopefully learn (you’d be surprised at the ignorance people still leave university with).

University should be a place to grow, be challenged and be happy for it and the learning it gives you. It should not be a memory test, or the ability to write a certain answer in a certain way to please a certain teacher.


How to be an awesome student

In the past I have been classed by friends and fellow students as a ‘geek.’ I don’t know if I agree or not, mainly because I’m pretty sure if I was as geeky as I should be then I wouldn’t stress as much about my work and it would be at least a little easier. Or maybe that’s part of what a geek is? – Caring too much about their academic studies and always aiming to do well so it’s never easy.

A diagram of some parts of geek culture. Awesome right?
Found on piccsy.com and uploaded by James Bourner.

I digress, being a geek isn’t important. Well it is, if the rumours are to be believed of geeks inheriting the Earth but still. A geek however, is always a good student. Always.

It’s September and a lot of the population will either be going back to school, college or university. So in the midst of all the butterflies, the checklists to make sure you have everything ready and all the new stationary and other things that make September exciting; here’s my top five how to guide on how to be an awesome student.

Get organised

As dull as this is about to sound, it will be the key to you getting the best marks with the least stress. As soon as you have your timetable, get some ring binders and if you’re at university or college and have access to your class notes in advance. Access them, print them off, stick them in a folder for that module and read over them before class.

At the end of every day, read over your notes from whatever lessons at least once. It’s a form of subtle revision that you begin as soon as you start. This will mean when you come towards serious revision time (always a fun period of any student’s life), it won’t be more appealing to throw yourself down a cliff.

Do your work as soon as you get it

My advice is completely new stuff right? It’s obvious but it’s true. The earlier you do your work, the better. As soon as you get it, do some research, and depending on the type of assignment, create a POA (plan of action – it sounds exciting when you use the abbreviation). The POA should have ways you’ll be researching, books that you need and an essay plan (if you’re writing an essay, otherwise just a plan of what you’ll write in each section of your work). Also, go to your teacher and ask for advice: what would make your piece of work outstanding?

If it is possible always try to finish your work four days before the deadline. Once you’ve finished, spend a day away from it doing something entirely different that you enjoy doing, or doing another assignment because you have that many deadlines. Either way don’t look at it, read it or think about it for 24 hours.

After these 24 hours, read over it and highlight any errors and make any notes if something isn’t explained properly. Then correct this and give it to someone else to read if you can (this isn’t always essential but I found it really helped me). After that, if they are experts in whatever you’re writing about then make the necessary changes (if you agree with them). The read over it one more time to make sure there’s nothing you missed. I usually spread that across two days so that my brain has a chance to refresh itself and come back to it anew. This should mean you finish the assignment a day early.

Ask lots of questions

By asking lots of questions to yourself, other students and your teachers; you’ll be better prepared for your classes, assignments and exams. Questions can often lead to more questions that you wouldn’t even have thought to ask before. Again, this should make you better equipped to handle certain lessons that are more confusing than understanding why people would colour themselves orange in the bid for a ‘natural glow?’

Start revising before it is natural for a student

This is the one bit of advice that I couldn’t stress more for a student. The earlier you begin revising, the better. I have stages of revision: reading my notes, highlighting my notes, researching any points I want more information on, rewriting my notes, rewriting and abbreviating my notes, rewriting abbreviated notes again, keywords from abbreviated notes.

If your brain is anything like mine, the word revision makes it go into self destruct mode. This begins with crying, a prolonged screaming ‘no’ and then a complete blank that makes you only a little smarter than the average, old style village idiot. Revising in advance (I’m talking months here) is like the safety button, the ABS in a car, the seatbelt and all those lovely things that save our lives.

When you’re in class, be in class

This was one of the hardest habits to break. A habit I didn’t even know I had. Let me explain, I love to doodle. A few of my university notebooks were filled with cartoons, doodles and scribbles and I realised when I read back over the notes that I’d made in between doodling and compared it to the class notes – I had missed a lot. A scary amount in fact.

I made a conscious decision to stop doodling. I focused hard in class and made a conscious effort to not only jot down notes but if I wasn’t writing to seriously listen. It was more exhausting than you’d think and it’s something that you assume you’re doing. But, until you actually do it, you haven’t done it. It’s one of those things.

Eat something before class to make sure you’re glucose levels are high. Brain activity consumes a lot of glucose and if those levels are low so will your concentration and your ability to retain information (a little science from the boy for you dear readers). This will help you actually be in class when you’re in class. Rather than experiencing a cool, out of body experience that you’d probably much rather be having.

And finally to be an awesome student, you have to really want to be an awesome student. The amount of time and effort you put in will be reflected in your grades.

Be smart about how you study. Use your time wisely and take at least one full day off a week to do whatever you want: jump out of a plane, eat enough chocolate to make a factory profitable for the rest of the year or just slob in your underwear on the sofa watching bad TV: whatever. It’s up to you, but that day of complete and utter nothingness will help keep you rejuvenated and ensure that you can dig yourself out of those books when you need to.

So here’s to September and being an awesome student. I’d love to hear any top tips that you all have. I will steal them (no point in denying it) to help me get along with this intensive six month journalism course. An intensive course which I am really excited about starting on Monday! Geeky or what?!

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1 more graduate in the world

On the 19th July at 4pm my graduation begins. Three years are coming to an official end and I will be handed a piece of paper by an apparently important man wearing some robes and told ‘Congratulations.’

I don’t really know what to make of being a graduate, I got my results whilst in New York and I’m happy. Obviously, because I am not a decedent of Einstein’s, I did not get perfect marks. Due to lack of perfection, it took me roughly 24 hours before I could be fully happy with my 2:1 degree.

I ordered my gown, hood and mortar board yesterday. It was expensive just to hire it for a mere two hours. To buy the damn thing was extortionate: the hat alone (effectively just a cardboard square wrapped in black cloth) was £105.00. Insanity; you’d think after putting me in thousands of pounds of debt they could at least give me the hat. Jerks. At least I’ll feel like Harry Potter in my graduation robes; that, at least, gives me some comfort. I’m not even ashamed to admit that.

But I can’t help thinking that university is a much smaller deal than many people make it out to be. Especially in today’s society where jobs have double the amount of applicants; and unemployment is such an over talked about subject that people have just accepted that that’s the way things are. University and getting a degree, like I’ve said before, are just stepping stones. It’s good to have for the experience and the opportunities it has for you when you’re there.

I don’t think it should be sold as the best experience of your life though. If university is the best time of your life, that means out of the 80 or so years of your life expectancy. Only three near the first eighth of your life have been worth it. How silly.

When I graduate, I’ll be feeling proud. I’m coming out of these three years with more experience and more confidence in my ability. But that hasn’t just come from my course, that’s come from living away from home, from falling in love with the boy and from falling out and making new friends.

Many of the things I studied will probably be little use to me in terms of subject matter. In terms of teaching me how to learn, investigate, research, revise and ask for help however; they have done a lot for me.

Graduation is a lovely ceremony to have at the end of university. An accumulation of recognition for the three years of hard work that I have put into my degree. However, like the rest of the university bubble, I cannot help admit that it is over expensive (tickets cost £15 each) and a little superficial considering that I will be handed my certificate by someone I have never even met. That is likely to not even know my name.

I’m nervous and excited about graduation. My brain still can’t quite comprehend that it is just next week and although I may criticise university and it’s capitalist ways, I’ll be throwing my little black hat in the air just like everyone else and I’ll be one of the happiest people in the world come Thursday 19th July. Even if I am just another graduate in the world.

I MUST remember to get a photo like this.

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Unpaid work – not volunteering – just unpaid work

I have officially finished university, I’ll be throwing my little mortarboard in the air come July and being very proud of myself for having been able to do what many have done before me: graduate. So now what?

I have lined up an NCTJ course which I begin in September, it’s only 6 months long because I figured if there’s an intensive option I’ll always pick that, why waste time and drag something out longer than it needs to be dragged out. Hopefully alongside that I can work for my local newspapers; and after the six months is up, find something either through local newspapers or internships or graduate schemes or contacts or whatever. I’ll probably have to work for free. I probably don’t have a choice in terms of that. The work I will hopefully do at these unpaid internships or work experience placements is worthy of being paid, to be honest, I’ve probably done something similar at university and been paid.

The thing with internships is that people are so desperate for the experience that they are willing to work for free. A lot of jobs that I know I could do (and that’s not arrogance, I promise), I’m not qualified to do because I don’t have the two years of experience they prefer. It doesn’t stop me from applying but I’m obviously dismissed. The only way to get to those jobs is to get those unpaid internships and even those you can be rejected from.

It’s a vicious cycle and gives employers more power than they should over an individual. I am fully prepared to work for free and have another job to help me pay for my outgoings but I know that I could go into another career (maybe one that isn’t as heavily saturated or used to taking advantage of people) and be paid, not much but paid, for the entry level jobs that I am gunning for as a graduate. Free internships are a way of taking advantage, much like when you’re forced to do work experience at 15. For my work experience, I went to a school and spent two weeks sharpening pencils, trying not to get headlice and being poked by a very fat eight year old boy; it was horrific.

Yes an internship may be unpaid but it gives you that crucial experience and that foot in the door. But maybe it would be more productive to branch out on your own, or be brave enough to demand that your skills are worth some sort of money even if that request is after two weeks free work. The things you’ll do in your unpaid internship or during your work experience are likely to be the same things you do when you get your first job in whichever career path you’ve chosen. At least that ensures a quick promotion, right? Maybe that’s an awkward question to ask actually. After all, people that have been doing the job for years are more likely to be promoted even though technically you’ve been doing the job for just as long although half the time it was for free.

Unpaid internships don’t even have the feel good factor of being volunteering. You’re doing it for selfish reasons, effectively so all sense of smug pride and being so nice is automatically taken away. Unpaid internships are like volunteering but not volunteering just working for free. Free work. We’re effectively asking for employers to give us the opportunity to do anything we can in their offices that would be helpful. We are like puppies looking for approval with big eyes, cocked head and a pleading look.

Us in puppy form. He’s a little cuter and a little less desperate though.

Whatever. It’s frustrating and just another obstacle for anyone wanting to get anywhere in professional circles. On that note, and however unfair it actually is: I’m off to fill out another tedious application form that doesn’t actually show anything about me with the same mundane questions. Wish me luck.