Thank you very much for downloading the second podcast. How am I doing? Very well thank you. Before continuing any further with this podcast a little bit of housekeeping.
This podcast can now be found on the iTunes Store. Simply search for “Musings of a Public Relations Student” or click the text link I have provided on the written article for this podcast.
For those of you who are regular visitors to my blog you may have noticed that the shrink and expand options on all the blog articles have been disabled. Unfortunately this has resulted the home page of my blog to be stretched down your monitor by thousands of words. This bug will be fixed once Ajaxed WordPress, the plugin I use for the shrink and expand feature, has become compatible with the latest version of WordPress which I currently run.
On with the substance of this podcast.
Ambassador of business
In the last podcast I mentioned that I had been a Student Ambassador for one of my old colleges. The title “Student Ambassador” sounds far grander than the job role actually is. The basics of the job is to promote the university where you study at along with the course you are taking. Now, I am aware that Public Relations students and practitioners visit this blog. This podcast might be more interesting for those of you who actually work within the PR industry rather than a student. In fact, if you are a prospective student thinking about studying any subject at all, you should find this podcast useful as one student’s perspective with how university has been as a whole. Obviously, I can only give you one side of the story as I only study at the University of Gloucestershire and purely focus on Media, Journalism, Marketing and, of course, Public Relations.
Part of the job of being a Student Ambassador is to not only show prospective students around my university but to also visit different schools. I don’t view this as a role of propaganda. If there is one value I have held through life it is that people are free to make their own decisions, no matter how bad they might be. We are all on our own sort of journeys through life. This journey is social, emotional, academic – anything but plutonic. We adapt ourselves as we go to university, because lets face it, everything changes. You are in a different location, with new people, studying a new course, most of us have to cook for ourselves and understand how to live with ourselves. Anybody who says that going to university is an easy transition is wrong. I imagine that even if you come from a tough background university will still be a change. It is important to realise though that this change is a good thing. Even if university does not work out well for you, you will learn a lot from your experience. Either a little bit more about the world but more likely, to learn to a greater depth what you are like as a person.
Several months ago I received an email from my college inviting me to an ambassador’s day. Anything but political, they were asking for university students to speak with sixth form students about what life is like after they had finished their A level studies. My college was split between two schools; Richard Challoner and Holy Cross. As both names suggests they are Catholic schools, but despite being an Atheist myself, they offered a fantastic education. After all, I am at the University which I first applied for.
The set up of this ambassador’s day was rather simple. Each university student was placed in a room concerning their subject area. For this reason I was placed in the, not very exciting title, ‘Business Room’. Part of me felt that Public Relations was better destined for the media rooms where the turnout would inevitably be far greater that those who visited the ‘Business Room’. The merit of the room I was placed in was that ‘Public Relations’ was put as the title on the door. Must have been a little annoying for those uni students who were with me in the room doing other business related courses! After all, I was the only student ambassador, out of 5 others, who was actually studying Public Relations as a degree.
The students who came into our room to chat about university were hugely mixed. There is this idea that those who mostly study business studies are foreign students. As my college is based in New Malden/Kingston there is a very high Korean population but surprisingly for me, the prospective student mix was, well, very mixed. All of the students seemed very bright and very interested in what university was all about. Before I stepped into the room I had made a promise to myself that I would be as open about my experiences as possible… Now, instead of putting you readers/listeners through the pains of each individual Question and Answer asked to me on the day I thought I would write down an honest account of my experiences. It is very likely that I will unable to ever be Prime Minister after this account. So I hope you enjoy it and don’t judge me too much at the end.
First fucking fortnight
So the honesty begins, when I first visited the University of Gloucestershire I thought it looked like a scrap yard. I was right. The University is made up of four different campuses, I am based at Pittville campus, the arty campus. Which makes me hugely jealous since I am not arty myself and so being around students all day who have the talent to draw from imagination or to copy an image precisely seems like witchcraft to me. It isn’t even like there are no arty people in my family. My granddad ran his own printing company for years, could tell a hundred different colour mixes and can copy perfectly. The gene pool must not have been in my favour! But anyway, the campus I am based on is a polystyrene campus. I used to joke about our halls being constructed out of polystyrene and cardboard. Until the day I mentioned the joke to my taxi driver in Cheltenham and he responded, “Oh yes, controversial build”. I must be honest, that did take me by surprise. There is no doubt that where Pittville lacks for its archtecutre, it pays back in community. I know it sounds cheesy and fan boyish. I can just hear the screams of “Pittville till I die!” now. It is true though. Out of all the campuses at the university Pittville has the warmer community. Which is clearly evident in the student union bar.
None of this though was apparent to me when I first began at the university. I stepped out the car trying to hide my shakes from the super star help team, collected my keys and headed to my new room with my parents. Stepping into that small room was fairly terrifying. I knew that my university life had begun and this room would be my hide out from now on. It really was a hide out in a strange way. I am not the sort of person who enjoys clubbing or hard drinking. I may drink fairly consistently during the week but I never usually drink vast quantities in one evening. Obviously university was a change in this respect.
I won’t deny it though. The first evening was good. I head down to a BBQ which the uni had planned for the freshers with my new floor mates and went around searching for people who were on my course. I met a couple but quickly went with the crowd to a whole host of different halls on campus. Until I got bored and decided to head back to my own hall, Spencer. Where, by chance, a drinking game was going on, which I didn’t take part in but I did slowly learn who everybody was through listening. That evening one girl revealed that she had anal sex in the past and enjoyed it. After that every time I saw the girl I couldn’t help but think “she has had anal sex”. A word of advice, don’t be too open straight away, as whatever dirty fact you reveal, you will be remembered by. For those of you who are listening rather than reading this article I have included a picture of a very tired/sad me which was taken that evening.
Getting to know people, for me, does take a while though. Although I may come across as a confident person I do find it difficult to connect with people. Just a personal problem of mine really. The first fortnight of university went very slowly and it was very lonely. Most people seemed to go out to a club every night, which I would be far too frightened to attend, which meant I hardly left my room. It was here that one of my vices became a virtue, I am a smoker. Before university I was mostly a smoker of cigars but it became clear early on that cigarettes were more, shall we say normal to smoke regularly. I switched over from the Hamlets to the Marlboros and through smoking outside the halls occasionally I met new people. For such a bad habit smoking helped me meet some really great people at university. Smoking also gave me an excuse to stand outside to escape the hormonal, sweaty, drunk, noisy clubs for a few minutes. It may have been a drunk conversation outside full of tin pot philosophies, empty ambitious plans and meaningless praise to absolute strangers. Much better than the looming dance floor and sticky floor within.
That first fortnight at university was the worst though. Although I did have a smile on during the day, inside I was feeling hopelessly depressed. For this reason everything was an act to a certain extent. My sleeping patterns were terrible – going to bed at 3am and waking up at 7:30am. At which time I would leave my hall, walk to a random road nearby and phone my parents. Many of the times I spoke with my parents on the phone I was holding back tears. I am still unsure about how much of this depressed mood was purely caused by university. Around the end of the first fortnight I was sitting in my room and that crazy feeling descended upon me. It happens sometimes. I was just sitting by my computer and realised that I could leave the university.
Without any hesitation I picked up my small bag, emptied the contents of it on my floor (which mostly consisted of pens and paper), packed a toothbrush and left the university. In the past I remember having looked at a map of Cheltenham, from which I remembered the patterns of the roads leading to the train station. At this stage I had only been at the University of Gloucestershire for just over 2 weeks. I found it difficult walking into town, let alone trying to find the train station. It took about an hour to walk to the train station with nothing but a mental image. I walked down the wrong road once but somehow I made it. Now, to get a perspective with how I felt – the only thought running through my head was to see London again. I wanted to arrive in London whist it was dark so that I could see the lights of the Thames and the millennium wheel. No doubt about it, I was being seduced by the picture of London in my head.
The train cost me £50 which I spent without hesitation. I got onto that train with no suitcase or packed clothes. Everyone travelling to London was required to switch lines at Bristol station. I got off at Bristol, and suddenly my brain kicked started into life again. The image of London was thrown aside; pictures and thoughts of before university filled my mind and I cried again. I tried phoning both my parents and managed to get through to my Dad.
I felt bad for worrying my family. I think my Grandparents were the ones who were most concerned. I had to spend another £10 travelling back to Cheltenham and helpzone advisers (the delightful people who look after the students, who I think run the most important part of the university, a student’s wellbeing) met up with me. They were very kind, as they always are, and helped me make my university transition a little smoother. Occasionally I was meet one of them whilst walking to a lecture and they would make sure everything was still alright with me.
At the time I told both my parents that if I still hated university at the end of that month then I would leave. I didn’t have to leave in the end. I made some of the strongest friendships I had ever experienced in the following few months. That transition, for me, was painful. What I only can describe as intense loneliness. It is true that it is much easier to focus on the bad. *Phew* But anyway, on with the happier part of this podcast.
Questions and Answers
There are just so many questions about continuing into further education. Obviously I can only offer the university side of the spectrum. We have the treacherous arena of finances, we have over 10,000 courses on offer which can each be studied at 100 different universities, where should we study and what will be the result of our studies in the future. Obviously prospective students will have a lot of questions to ask. I have listed some of my points in paragraphs:
1. To begin with the dry question of finances. Do not worry about them. Well, not exactly, make sure that you don’t spend over the budget you have set for your first year. The fact of the matter is that some point in life you will need a loan. The largest of which will probably be for your mortgage which could possibly climb to hundreds of thousands. I am expecting to leave university with a loan of around £20,000 but the loans are apparently very easy to pay off. Otherwise you would be better of killing your parents and moving country.
2. Whatever you do live away from home. Don’t worry about the costs, living away from home is a good experience. If you live at home and go to university then you are not having the full experience. Fair enough, living on campus might be expensive but you are not just buying a small room, you are buying into an experience. The change you will see in yourself after having lived away for a few months would possibly stagger you. With regards to having catering done for you. Are you really that lazy? Cooking is a life skill. Living away should force this need to cook upon you. Don’t be that lazy sort of person that allows somebody else to cook all their food for you.
3. Get stuck into everything at university. Join the societies which interest you and grab every opportunity which is thrown at you. At no other time in your life will you have the chance to possibly write for a newspaper, join a radio station, run event management etc. The list of chances university provides for every student is amazing and it would be a blasphemy against the good nature of university to turn anything down.
4. Choose a course that you think sounds interesting, not a course which you ought to do. I originally made this mistake when I first applied for Computer Science courses. People had told me I was good at computing therefore I should follow this passion. Last minute decisions with my UCAS application found me applying for Public Relations. Do think about where a course could end you up. The lkilihood getting a job within business just based off a theology degree is almost 0%. You would need some really good work experience to back any jobs you apply in the future.
Which leads us onto our next point.
5. Gain work experience! There is no point receiving a degree without any experience with the industry you want to get into. It isn’t too difficult to find work experience. Most companies seem very happy for students to enter their businesses and share some of the latest news and approaches which you have learnt about the industry.
6. Build up that list of contacts. You will be surprised how easy it is to find contacts in the world. At the start of my first year I met Stephen Fry and got contact information with a lady who worked in publishing who was standing in the queue.
7. Work on that balance between social and work time. Some people don’t understand the balance and fail university as a result, or decide to drop out. I think we have had at least four different people on my own course leave because they spent far too much time drinking during the week, missing lectures and falling dangerously behind workloads.
Apparently we are all meant to meet the person we will marry in the future at University. Quite a terrifying thought but just shows how much university could influence your life.
And without any sense of bias do continue into some form of education after sixth form. With the problems of the job market at the moment further education is the best place to be. Of course, you could always study Public Relations at the University of Gloucestershire.
I am afraid that is all we have time for this week and now I am off on holiday. I hope you have enjoyed this brutally honest blog/podcast. As always, thank you for listening/reading and feel free to join in with me on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelwhite1.
Until next time, goodbye.