My time at uni: a reflection

University is an insanely nerve-wracking prospect for young 18 year olds who have never left home for any considerable length of time.

When I was 18, I was excited but scared...fizzing and bubbling with an overflowing cocktail of anxieties and worries. To relieve these worries, I decided to track the changes in my impressions of uni life by answering the following questions at the end of each academic year.  Overall, it now reads as my university story from my time in catered halls all the way to my final year. So, without further ado, here are my reflections written at 19, 20 and 21...

*Dramatic curtain reveal*

Did I cope by myself? *Worried face*

1 year on...

I survived first year! So, yeah! But that was all down to the people. You see, within 20 minutes or so of arriving in my dorm room, I had met two new best friends. I waved my family off really quickly as soon as they had helped me unpack. Last summer, I had promised to myself that I wouldn’t mope around by myself in my room until dinner. I was desperate to meet new people. So, I was never by myself as such. I think I cheated with the cooking part. I only ever really cooked pasta for lunch because I was in a catered hall. Next year will be the real challenge. All in all, I love the freedom of university; there were a lot of all-nighters, getting up in the afternoon and naps. I don’t think I’m a ‘grown-up’ yet though. Far from it…

2 years on...

Throughout second year, I matured quite a bit. There were fewer parties and more responsibilities like cooking, cleaning and food shopping. Sure, I lamented over these duties every so often but they were always done and dusted (sorry for the pun!). This was also the year of a burglary, a heartbreak and the onset of an illness. It sometimes felt like I couldn't cope but I'm so proud that I got through second year! I also learnt how to cook my beloved chilli con carne (my favourite meal) so that was a winner!

3 years on...

I'm not sure if I'll ever return to education and I miss many aspects of uni life not least the days off I enjoyed as a humanities student. However, final year was certainly the least enjoyable year of my uni life. I transitioned from a diligent student to last minute Jenny leaving everything till the day before the deadline. My stress levels were beyond anything I'd ever experienced before and I relied on the sole support of one particular person who I am eternally grateful for.

Did I get lost? *Bemused face*

1 year on...

Not really. I perfected ‘the-walking-around-until-you-find-it’ method. And it worked every time. I just had to set off super early to find my destination. But there was that one time, I caught the bus on the wrong side of the road…

2 years on...

I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm hopeless with directions and not much has changed.

3 years on...

All is good. I discovered Citymapper.

Did I make any friends? *Anxious face*

1 year on...

Yep, I did! You see, I tried to make friends with everybody. This year, I’ve met so many interesting people with their own idiosyncrasies. They are incredible people. There are so many people I’m going to miss next year as they are going abroad. I’m also thankful that I have friends who read my blog posts and tell me that I’m a good writer even if they’re lying. (Lol). On another note, it’s odd to think that there are going to be people I won’t see again for various reasons.

2 years on...

I made quite a few friends in second year. This year was certainly focused on making strong connections rather than a lot of little connections. I also learnt that you can't be friends with everyone and met someone very special at a party.

3 years on...

I didn't make as many friends as I hoped I would have in final year. That's something I'm trying to catch up on.

Did I miss my family? *Smiley face*

1 year on...

To an extent, I did. The evidence lies in a tweet about missing ‘my loud family,’ directed to my bubbly sister. But, all in all, I was having too much fun to miss my family that much. My dad reprimanded me for not calling enough.

2 years on...

I felt rather hopeless and low at the start of second year so I missed my family greatly. However, things perked up enormously in second semester.

3 years on...

I don't remember missing my family in final year. That came later when I started my first job after uni.

How much has life changed? *Whimsical face*

1 year on...

It’s changed a lot. I feel like my life has finally started. I had more fun than anything else but I also had a lot of rewarding experiences such as my first taste of proper magazine journalism.

2 years on...

My self-esteem has sky-rocketed and I finally know which direction to take with my future career. I've also become a far efficient worker and have really pinpointed what makes me happy!

3 years on...

I really wasn't sure about my life in final year and began doubting myself, marinating myself in self-pity. My self-esteem certainly tumbled. That's something I'm certainly trying to rectify...

These reflections have been an interview from myself to myself to assess how I have changed from a fearful A-Levels student to a more knowledgeable university graduate. One thing's for sure, a lot can change in three years...although three years is a relatively short amount of time! Although I really enjoyed my first two years of uni, I'm glad final year is over. It's been six months since I left the comfort of student life with a humanities degree and since then, I've interned in corporate communications and started a new role in marketing. More about that here. Much has changed from year to year but a few things have remained: my insatiable appetite for horror movies, desire to write and...crazy night owl tendencies.

Now I've entered university and came out the other side a different version of myself, I'm thinking more acutely of the advice I'd give to those who are going to start university or are already there.

If I could do it all again, I would make sure to keep my emotions in check, take as many photos as possible for prosperity and...avoid renting a room on the ground floor. Sounds about right!

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Careers Case Study: Marketing Intern & Volunteer

Check out what I have to say about building a career in Marketing, the importance of experience and my voluntary work all on Marketing Career Path, the ultimate destination for advice on launching a career in Marketing!

(read my case study by clicking here)

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When I Was Younger...

I have a stack of baby snaps sitting on my bedroom table...

From time to time, I retrieve this stack, take a moment and sift through the memories. I love leafing through the pictures, marvelling at myself as a sweet cherub and rejoicing over everything I've experienced over my 21 years of existence (yes, even all the woes and worries)...

When I was younger, I would spend hours on end simply in my own company. As a young dreamy girl, I wasn't perfectly content with spending so much time by myself, cooped up indoors like an unwilling prisoner. Even as a young girl, I was aggravated by my loneliness and daunted by the fact my siblings were out and about in the great OUTDOORS. Isn't there such a stigma surrounding solitude?

I still spend many hours by myself but I'm really not my own best friend in this respect. I constantly fidget, procrastinate and despair. Despite days on end as a solitary kid, I would find plenty to do and I wish I could go back in time and re-adopt that healthy mindset. I would do stuff simply because I enjoyed them without the pressure of a deadline or an opinion; I did them for me. So, as a reminder of the past, I've compiled a list of the more quirky activities I used to enjoy as a child and teenager. I was one hipster kid (before hipster was even a thing!).

Autograph collecting

Whilst some people collected stamps, I collected autographs! Yep, back when Myspace was BIG, I would scour sites for various email addresses and Myspace contacts of minor celebrities. I would delight at all the international stamps from sunny places like L.A, inwardly smiling at each envelope that leapt through the letterbox. It was really exciting to retrieve my own post from the letterbox, back when I really didn't receive any post of my own! My most notable success was perhaps Taylor Swift. But I also received an autograph from Ashley Benson in her Bring It On days, who now stars as Hanna Marin in Pretty Little Liars. Now I love watching Pretty Little Liars!

Sims voice acting

If you never played Sims as a child, you seriously missed out! I went one step further and offered my 'voice acting talents' to Youtube shows composed entirely from Sims clips (and a little help from Windows Movie Maker). Back in the 2000s (and beyond?), Youtube was inundated by 'film-makers', stringing clips together to create shows with distinct and often outlandish story-lines. You can still find clips of my voice on Youtube today! 

Building websites

Before animations were known as Gifs and before Facebook was a thing (imagine!), I would build websites centred upon colourful little graphics. They filled me with so much pride and I wish I could go back and do it all again. I would draw my own graphics on MS Paint and store them in a sort of online portfolio with lots of fun things for the visitor. I credit my love for building websites then with my love of blogging today.

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Careers Hints + Tips: Why Putting Together A CV Is Like Putting Together An Outfit

A statement dress can command the attention of an entire room, elevating and flattering its wearer; similarly, a sharply written CV can attract and hold the attention of prospective employers time and time again. In more ways than one, the act of piecing together a stunning outfit is similar to furnishing the perfect CV!

In my spare time, I peruse a fair few fashion blogs and vlogs, admiring all the pretty outfits donned by fellow bloggers and fashionistas. And as a result, I've realised two things:

1) I really NEED to go shopping as soon as possible and refresh my wardrobe!

2) Writing about careers makes me quite happy which might be an odd thing - I don't know. Following a stint as employability intern in the summer, it's obvious that I love love love helping people in dreaming big about their careers and I'm quite happy leafing through CVs, cover letters, name it, if it's career related, I love it.

As the brain-child of these two thoughts, I've reached the wild conclusion that piecing together a hot outfit and writing a stellar CV are quite similar. Eerie, I know. We (usually) put together outfits and CVs to show off our best assets and attributes, right? Perhaps there are more similarities than we think...

They're used to enhance, flatter and complement your best assets

Rock your CV as you'd rock any outfit! You can do this by keeping a work journal or diary throughout different jobs and internships to store an abundance of stories, memories and achievements. Before you sit down and really write your CV, create a mind-map from all the information recorded in your work journal. Remember that this is YOUR space to emphasise your best assets.

They come in all different shapes, sizes and styles 

You'd tailor an outfit to a mood, an event or occasion. In the same way, you should always tailor a CV to the job advert directly mentioning key words from the job advert, reordering sections to emphasise relevant skills/experiences and writing with the employer in mind. And always print off your CV to proof-read it; it's much easier to spot any formatting, spelling and grammatical errors on paper before it's too late to do anything.

Less is definitely more

Much like a waffly CV, an over-accessorised outfit can appear busy and unfocussed. You're limited to two pages so use this space wisely. With mere seconds to attract the attention of a potential employer, there are a few things you should do...

  • Ensure your layout is as neat and tidy as possible
  • Use appropriate headings and sub-headings to make it easy for an employer to locate the information he/she needs 
  • Avoid flowery language, empty words and long, drawling sentences
  • Reference any important figures and concrete evidence to back up your claims, "I raised £546"
  • Use the active voice rather than the passive voice, "I raised £546" as opposed to "£546 was raised". Sorry for being an English buff here!
  • Employ the STAR (situation, task, action, result) or CAR (context, action, result) structures where appropriate
  • Be super critical with the information presented on your CV. Your date of birth, a photo, gender, nationality, ethnicity and sexuality don't need to be on your CV. Strike off irrelevant and out-dated jobs or experiences that are simply there as page fillers
  • Include a professional-sounding email address. Where possible, opt for googlemail or your own domain as some employers can be quite snobbish about certain email servers 

Make-up and accessories should match your outfit

Consider your CV and cover letter a team and match them as much as possible as you would with shoes, accessories and make-up.

  • Use the same font in both documents
  • Ensure that information is consistent across your CV and cover letter. As a general rule, if you haven't mentioned a particular job or internship in your CV, don't mention it in your cover letter. Your CV should only expand on what's written in the cover letter
  • For further definition, you might find it useful grouping different elements on your CV, dedicating sections to 'relevant work/volunteering experience', 'relevant skills' and 'other work/volunteering experience'
  • Make sure your CV and cover letter best reflect you! I'll be blogging tips about writing cover letters later on in PBJ

I've just stepped onto the careers ladder and will be starting post-uni employment in a few months (in communications and marketing). These are all tips I employ in writing my own CV and whilst they might sound obvious, some are usually overlooked or neglected. So, do make sure you consider them wherever you are in your careers life! I'd love to know where you are right now!

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