Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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One miserable day with a hint of sunshine

Today it’s raining. My bicycle, having been ridden everyday with the boy for about a week (the novelty of learning to ride is yet to wear off), is sitting locked away in Spider Kingdom aka The Shed. It’s dark already at 4pm and the lights are on, my feet are cold and the boy has left to go home. Today starts the year of weekend visits.

This looks a lot happier than I feel.

 

That’s better. This is more how I feel. Poor puppy, I feel your pain.

 

It is a miserable day.

Let me explain: I’m feeling sorry for myself. I won’t deny it because, well, it’s true.

Today has been a crazy week. I’ve had family from Portugal over and that, naturally, promoted me from eldest daughter to taxi driver for the family. I love my car, but even I was getting sick of making two trips everywhere. (Two because there were too many of us for my car. Should have bought a limo for situations like this).

The boy was also over and we didn’t get as much alone time together as I would have liked. It meant stolen kisses, and time alone was snatched rather than taken graciously. Sounds almost romantic? Nope. It wasn’t. Yesterday we ended up driving around for a place to eat and being rejected from everywhere (our body clocks are awful and everywhere was closed – who knew restaurants closed at 10pm?) I was like a bottle of champagne as I drove home: bubbling, fizzing and wanting to explode. As a careful driver, I was able to do none. Pretty sure I’m due a breakdown within the next 72 hours as a result.

From now on, the boy will be finishing his degree at the university I have just graduated from. I will be starting my intensive course in another town. We’re not far from each other (about an hour drive) but we are busy. Weekends it is. It’s like I’m in prison and that will be my time off for good behaviour. I am dreading weekend visits. Shamefully I am completely in love. As a result, although he sometimes annoys me, I do love to spend time with him; and as much time as possible at that. But this isn’t a declaration of love, so hold off on the sick buckets just yet. What I’m trying to say is that: I’m going to miss the hell out of him and like a puppy, I almost feel lost. I’m independent and it hurts to say that, but it’s true. It is. Awful I know.

Today the family fly back to Portugal too. I will be driving of course, with a crying heart at the fact I’ve already said goodbye to the boy and a screaming purse at the thought of the cost of parking at Stansted Airport. This is one miserable day. The rain won’t stop and I’m pretty sure that Matilda the cat is mad at me even though I’m her favourite.

The hint of sunshine? My work experience starts tomorrow! I am so excited and so nervous simultaneously that I feel like I consistently need a wee. I am terrified that I won’t know what I’m doing and that lovely thing called doubt is slowly entering my brain. It’s making my heart race as if I’m running a marathon and my stomach has decided it’s on a rollercoaster. Brilliant. Fingers crossed I don’t throw up on my way there.


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This is a title

This is a blog post. You are a person reading this blog post; you may be skimming through or reading every word as carefully as it was written. You may be letting these words wash over you or may be letting them sink under the skin to settle.

I am a girl. I’m trying to become a journalist. Right now, according to society, I am a nobody. My box according to the world would be ‘graduate: potential journalist.’ I’m sitting in my garden lacking inspiration, being frustrated at continuos application forms and cover letters that need to be filled out or written, all essentially wanting to know who I am. What I can do for them. What makes me special.

How can I explain something like that? How can I summarise in a letter or a box that allows for only 200 words that I should be hired above the other hundreds of applicants? Where do I even begin?

I am like everybody else. Because everybody else is trying to be different and I am trying to be different. We’re all trying so hard to stand out and get ahead that we all end up on the same start up line. We are united in wanting to be individuals. There are only so many words that can be used to describe myself, even obscure words are in limited number. A language, although constantly evolving, is not quite infinite. So how can you show you are more hard working, more passionate, more determined than everyone else if there are only a certain amount of words to use and everyone else uses them too?

The thing with applications, CVs and cover letters is that attempting to make them stand out to a company that probably sees thousands of these documents a year, makes the task very, very hard. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible of course. Nothing is impossible.

I received all the documents for my journalism course starting in September. They mentioned work experience and I know that you just can’t stop trying. It doesn’t matter if you’re being boxed in and labelled as whatever hole it is that society is trying to mould you into.

It is what it is. You are what you are. The words you put on the paper are much like the words I’m typing into this blog post. They could be skimmed over, ignored, read over and appreciated. Either way it’s a hit and miss thing when you’re writing something to someone that has never met you and doesn’t know you. The best thing to do is keep trying, you’ll get someone that really does let your words sink in and sit in their brain. They’ll be the ones that will see the difference in your overused words on an application form. They’ll feel the emotion behind the typing (hard to do but it’s true) rather than just take the words at face value. They’ll have mastered reading between the lines and if they feel that you’re different, even though we’re all the same, just trying to be different. Then that’ll be the moment. The one you’ve been waiting and working for. The moment that changes things, that creates ripples.

We’re just people. These are just words. It’s all trying very hard to stand out and still to connect with someone.


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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.


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£9,000 degree: is it worth it?

It’s pretty old news that tuition fees are rising. The next bundle of fresh faced students entering university, aptly named freshers’ in England, will be paying anything from £5,000 to £9,000 for their degree and overall university experience. I was one of the lucky ones due to, well, simply being born before the ridiculous tuition fee hike meaning I reached 18 a lot sooner than those born three years later. Unlucky people.

My sister is just starting college and is already setting her sights on university. But it got me thinking: is it really worth spending a little under £10,000 to study for three to four years?

To reach this point, it means digging yourself into a hole of incredibly large debts; only set to get higher

I know countless reports have shown that many young people have been put off going to university because of the rise in tuition fees, and to be frank, I think my feeling would be much the same.  I come from a low income family and although I don’t feel deprived without the student loan I would not have been able to afford to come to university. My loan barely covers the costs of living off campus, food, bills, books and everything else that is necessary when you’re living away from home. I work two jobs and live frugally (I still enjoy the old present to myself and dinner out with the boy though: fun is required after all). It means that as a result my worries about money do not need to be so big that they cause early heart attacks. But they are still present. If I realised I would be owing the government, by the end of my three short university years, over triple what I will owe them when I graduate this summer. I would have had to seriously consider if I could go to university, no matter how much I wanted to.

University is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to put everything into it then it isn’t worth doing. It would be more productive to get into your chosen career through internships and work experience and build on what you studied at college.

The thing with university I feel, is that if you don’t try to do as much as possible, it is a waste of money. Yes, you’re there for a degree but you can’t graduate and only have a degree to show for it (unless you get perfect marks in every single thing – then maybe, just maybe, you can be excluded).

You’re at university to get a degree that will, hopefully, lead to a better job but more and more graduates are finding that this ‘promise’ is becoming more of a myth. Graduate unemployment is at an all time high, what are we spending our money on then?

That’s why I think that if you come to university, if you’re paying that much money (and I’m talking the £3,500 a year not the £9,000), you need to milk it for all it’s worth. Otherwise it’s like buying a car for £50,000 and only using it at weekends. As a university student, the one thing you definitely pay for are the opportunities and the experience, a bit like what the MasterCard adverts are trying to say. You can join societies, sports clubs and the opportunities available to university students while at university is vast. However university degrees are not really catered to getting you into the work force. Universities are still in the renaissance period when you went to university to become an expert in your field so you could spend your whole life in academia. Society was divided into the scholars, the working class and the rich. Going to university put you in the scholar bracket. In the modern era, a degree was supposed to be a ‘fast track’ (a term that should be used loosely) way of skipping the bottom rungs of the proverbial career ladder. Nowadays? A degree isn’t worth anywhere near as much. Recent reports stated that employers prefer experience to a degree (well duh!) and if you’re only focusing on the degree side at university, as strange as it seems, but you’re wasting your money.

At £9,000 my knee-jerk response was no, university is not worth it. I would still recommend it to everyone as I have loved and am loving my time at university and I feel that I have made the most out of my time here by involving myself in as much as possible: the radio, the newspaper, volunteering, athletics and frisbee for however brief a time, creative writing classes and other wonderful things that I would probably not have been able to have the opportunity of trying had I gone straight to work. The easy thing about university is that these opportunities are all in easy grasp, all you have to do is go and ask someone. In that sense, university is worth it. It helps you realise that you can do anything, it helps you decide what you like and what you don’t. The experience of living away from home, the growing up that is required is also worth the money. University is a push to fly the nest, and let’s be honest, once we’ve left we don’t want t go back and stay for very long; in that sense university helps you grow and cement somewhat your metaphorical wings and that is worth the money.

But still,  I have to question the £9,000 rise. It still doesn’t sit well, it still doesn’t seem to make university worth it.

University has been a great experience for me; I adore what I study, I have learnt loads, my writing has come along in leaps and bounds, I have made new friends, gained experience in journalism and media, had lots of fun and I fell in love.  I wouldn’t change a thing and like I said, I would recommend university to most of the people that asked me. Yet I would have to add that for £9,000 a year I probably would not have taken the plunge to go.  Unless I wanted to go into teaching or medicine: a profession that requires a university degree to progress to more specific areas of your career progression then there’s no point. That money would be better spent travelling and gaining work experience through internships, apprenticeships and college courses than through spending three years being seen by the rest of society as parasites that do nothing but sleep all day and drink all night.

University is hard. It requires a lot of work and a lot of dedication. They will be great years filled with so many memories you won’t be able to remember them all (an oxymoron but nonetheless true) but they are not the best years of your life. University is almost like the stepping stones between being growing up and then entering the real world; it’s what comes after university that will be the best years of your life.

£9,000 a year however? It seems a little steep considering how a degree is no longer as highly esteemed as it used to be. But maybe that’s why the rises are happening. To put those that aren’t as committed, and the poor, off going into higher education meaning that degrees will hopefully climb back up into being held in high regard. Essentially a degree is like everything else in life. It is a path to a target, once that target is reached another pathway is taken and the old one no longer matters.


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If Only Money Grew on Trees

ABBA once sang ‘Money, money, money/ Must be funny/ In the rich man’s world’ and I agree, money MUST be funny for a rich guy; they can laugh about all the great opportunities they can have due to their full wallets. Money however is not really that funny in my world. Maybe an ironic funny in that ‘haha I have no money I have to eat beans for the next week’ you know, that kind of funny.

I am now in my last year of university and facing a mountain (or a gulf depending on your point of view) of student debt: it’s very hard to fathom how much money you owe a company just for studying. As graduation is in the not-too-distant future I have had to begin thinking about what comes after graduation. It’s a scary but exciting prospect.

I want to go travelling in the summer of 2013 for a year with the boy. He graduates a year later than me and I’m more than happy to wait. It gives me a year to start networking, making money and doing other splendidly useful things with my time. So I have two choices that I’m focusing on: working after graduation, and trying to get the precious work experience that my desired career path requires; whilst also making money by either getting a second job or finding work experience that pays. The possibilities are endless; it’ll be hard but worth it. My second path that I can follow is continuing in education and trying to get myself a Masters; I would love to do this and it’ll probably give me a jump start on the old career ladder but my problem is it isn’t funded. I need £10,000. This would cover the Masters course and provide me with minimal funds for living (so my lovely, poor parents need not fret about helping out!)  This is on top of saving for a yearlong travelling experience that I have to do; the travelling isn’t an option, it’s a necessity: no debate there.

So it sounds impossible and right now I should insert here some sort of motivational quote about how it’ll all work out and that if you work hard enough God, or destiny or whatever will cut you a break. But the truth is I don’t really think that’s the case. It’s going to be damn hard to save £10,000 and still be continually saving for travelling. It sounds impossible actually. And I’m going to work my butt off and we’ll see. This blog is going to be an attempt at recording my progress at budgeting, the temptation of not spending money and if I am able to achieve saving £10,000. It’s a win-win situation in my eyes, if I don’t save enough and I’m not able to do my Masters then I’ll be devastated but that money will go towards travelling and I’ll have a year to do as much work experience and try and get as many internships as possible. I have nothing to lose. So here I go, it starts now: the super saving. I have about a year, give or take, to make this pretty big sum of money. Wish me luck or wish for me to win the lottery or something, the latter one would probably be more useful. Just saying.