It’s like I blinked and I’ve finished my first year already? It’s crazy. A year in high school or sixth form would drag but my first year at uni has flown by.
University was always a path I was going to take, it was a natural step for me; what I was going to study was another story. I didn’t have a clue.
To cut a long story short(ish), when my friend Jord passed away at the beginning of my second year of sixth form, I lost all hope, motivation and interest in everything – I despised sixth form, my tutors, my counsellor and I just didn’t want to be there. My form tutor was pestering me about getting my personal statement written and every day the answer was the same ‘how am I meant to write 4000 characters on why I want to be on a course when I don’t even know what course I want to be on?’. It was so frustrating.
I went to an open day at Staffordshire University and got chatting to Head of Journalism Pete Leydon – I’d always had my heart set on Staffs, but I just didn’t know what. I was tempted by the Photography course and potentially the English course, but nothing was ever definite. I sat through one of Pete’s talks and Journalism was looking more and more appealing, so he suggested I take up writing my own blog; alas, I started up Strawberry Blonde Music Blog. This little blog of mine led me to working with my amazing REBEL team of like-minded music and culture enthusiasts, with whom I’ve become great friends and colleagues. REBEL really supported me and gave me the push I needed to get on Journalism at Staffs.
I wrote my personal statement and sent it to three of Staffordshire Uni’s courses, including Journalism, Journalism and PR, and Broadcast Journalism, Journalism at Derby and Journalism at Manchester Met. I had figured that if I got onto any of the Staffs courses it would be simple enough to swap courses, so when I heard back from all three Staffs applications with a big fat YES and an interview for Journalism, I cancelled my applications for Derby and Manchester and headed to my Staffs interview with my portfolio in hand. My interview was with Pete, and I heard back from him later that day to tell me I had a place on the course. I was ecstatic. That’s when I knew I had definitely chosen the right option.
Fast forward to September; BeffShuff blog had been up and running for two months, I’d had a fabulous summer and I was nervous but excitedly awaiting to start my first year. For those of you who want to know what a first year journalism course entails, then read on…
I didn’t want to live in halls because I’m very set in my ways, I like my home comforts and my big double bed and there’s just no way I could leave my dog for that long. There’s also the fact I can’t cook, iron, or use a washing machine, which would also cause a bit of an issue since I also don’t like pot noodles or baked beans. That being said, don’t be like me; if you’re ballsy enough, go and live in halls. I’ve often spent a Wednesday night scrolling through my feed and seen my coursemates getting ready for a Gobble night at LRV and been a little bit jealous. I’ve not been on a single uni night out; I didn’t even go to freshers. That’s one thing I’d do if I could re-do first year.
In our first week we were doing a lot of ice breaker challenges, meeting new people, making new friends and what not. Jade, Mel and I have been pretty much inseparable this first year and they’re absolute gems. Together we’ve consumed many a chicken burger, maccies, subway and sweet potato fries over revision and shorthand notes – I may be fatter this year, but at least I passed all my classes. There’s also the big Journalism Quiz which helps students that don’t know the area to get to know Stoke a little more as tutors Sarah, Carmel and Pete send you on a mammoth journey via Twitter – it’s pretty hilarious. Oh, and there’s freshers fair where you basically get as much free shit as you can possibly carry (and loadsssss of takeaway vouchers – winner). We even got free pizza from Domino’s.
So there’s 13 weeks in your first semester, where you learn all the basics like writing a news story, a follow up news story, essential media law and shorthand. I had Friday’s off which was an absolute bonus too. Shorthand is something that’s been pretty fun to learn, it’s pretty useful and it’s something people will look at and go ‘wtf? How do you know what that means’ and it’s pretty cool. The Law side of things is a tiny bit boring, but it’s things you absolutely need to know and can potentially save your ass; and in fairness, you only really scratch the surface – nothing too technical, but you definitely need it. I had 4 out of 7 assignments done by Christmas and 2 of 4 exams.
They also took us on a heavily subsidised trip to Paris for 3 days, so we only paid £60 – this was another great opportunity to meet new people whilst exploring a beautiful city.
In my second semester – another 13 weeks – I passed another exam, my 80 words per minute shorthand and worked towards my final assignments and law exam. 13 weeks is nothing, let me bloody tell you. Deadlines come round so quick so time management and pacing yourself is really important. I managed it and I did it, passing all of my assignments and exams – even got a First in one of them!
To finish off the year, we have the Journo Party, which was at The Underground. It’s essentially a massive piss up with your tutors before all your mates go back to their hometowns for summer. It’s the one and only time I had a uni night out during first year, but it was bloody lovely seeing everyone from first years to third years watching our tutors make tits of themselves singing on a stage I watch bands on most weekends.
What I guess I’m trying to say is if you’re unsure about going to uni – just do it. I couldn’t be more proud of myself or more thankful to the people that pushed me. It’s so nice to be actually enjoying what I’m doing and knowing it’s leading to something that I want to do. I’ve been off for a month already, and I’m off till September, so it’s a pretty cushy summer break that’s given me lots of time to work on my blogging and reviewing.
My 5 top tips for surviving first year would be:
- Start work as soon as you get the briefs, take your time and do a couple drafts before making it final
- Eat well and look after your body – yes freshers is fun, but the hangovers and liver poisoning is not
- Check your emails regularly because you never know what could happen
- Stock up on pens at the freshers fair
- Budget your student loan – I didn’t touch mine for semester one or two and managed to buy, tax, insure and get breakdown cover for my car using my loans – huge burden lifted