Tag Archives: Degree

Surviving Life After Graduation

21 May
Trash on Taylor Street, SF

Trash on Taylor Street, SF


It’s here, graduation, it’s what you’ve been working towards for a number of years and it’s finally time for you to step outside and view the world, not as a poor student, but as a poor graduate. May I be one of the first to say, congratulations, and don’t worry, it gets so much better.

Right now, you might be thinking about hiring your graduation gown and getting your sweaty hands on the piece of paper that is your degree, but this will not automatically change your view of the world. Don’t get me wrong, your graduation will be great fun, it should give you some great memories, but it’s what happens after your graduation that really matters, and here’s some advice to get you through the weeks, months, even years after this.

Don’t Compare Your Life to Anyone Else’s

This is the rule that I simply cannot stress enough; your life is your life, so quit comparing it to everyone else’s. When I graduated in 2009, which was a very tough year to graduate – especially with a drama degree – I felt like so many of my classmates were walking into great jobs. One person more or less walked into their dream job and had numerous other opportunities thrown at them, yet I was still working at my not-quite-minimum-wage-job in the fast food industry.

In short, I was barely out of my graduation robes and I already felt like a failure; I was intimidated by other people’s progress and envious of their success. When one former classmate moved to London, I was stunned, I couldn’t imagine leaving Edinburgh, let alone Scotland. But the path you go down isn’t the same path that your friends will tiptoe along, and no path is set, you can always change your direction, and you can always, always go back.

It’s OK to Not Have a Plan

You might be one of those people who has a plan, a plan that will not be changed, a plan that they have no intention of changing in any way shape or form. This is fine, but this is not the way that a lot of people work. You don’t always need a plan, you don’t always need something that you set stone; you need that spark, that flash of inspiration, the revelation that comes to you when you’re doing the washing up, the epiphany that emerges as you’re about to fall asleep. Whatever it is, write it down, don’t forget it, and see how you can make this new dream a reality.

Have Something Else To Do

By this, I mean have a hobby. If you’re trying to become a professional writer; write, read, but also have something to do on the days where you just can’t face sitting in front of the computer for another long and unproductive afternoon.

Get out the house; see family, see friends, go to the cinema, the museum, go for a long walk to nowhere and sit and gaze at the sunset. Cook, clean, learn to play a musical instrument, volunteer, head to the gym and work with the Iron, run with no destination in mind, do something that helps you remove yourself from your work so that it remains your goal, your dream, not an instrument of torture. Creating something, working towards your future and being artistic shouldn’t mean that you have to over work yourself; know when to give yourself a break, and know when you are burning out.

You Are Not Your Degree

If I had a penny for every time that I mentioned that I have a drama degree, and every time someone has asked me if I was an actor because of my degree, I would have a fair few pennies. Yet, I would still not be a rich woman. I work with a team of very, very talented people in my day job. One has a PhD, some have degrees in art, others have degrees in history, some are in really good local bands, yet, we work in online marketing, which, we’ll admit, was not part of our plan, but it’s where we are for now. Your degree doesn’t control you, it doesn’t bind you to a certain industry or job, and remember that it can only hold you back if you let it hold you back. Your degree is a small part of your life; that doesn’t mean that it is your life, and it doesn’t mean that it will be part of your future.

Never, Ever Let Anyone Make You Doubt Yourself

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in the years after graduating was listening to the wrong people. At that time, there were people in my life that liked to remind me of my limitations, and in doing so, held me back.

For example, during a conversation with a former friend last year, I mooted the idea of moving away from Edinburgh, possibly Scotland, maybe even the UK, to find work, to travel, or just to start anew. This former friend then reminded me that I own a flat, that I was very lucky to own property, and that there were so many other people out there that wanted to get their feet on the property ladder, which wasn’t fair. I can’t remember what it was that they said exactly, but their argument was that because I owned property and because other people didn’t/couldn’t, then I should never, ever think about travelling, ever. I was made to feel guilty and selfish for committing the terrible crime of Expressing a Desire to Travel Whilst Owning a House at the Same Time.

There are many reasons why this way of thinking is completely wrong, but when I thought about the conversation later, I realised that this person was talking about themselves, “I don’t think you should travel”, “I want to buy a house, how can you be so selfish when you have something that I want?” Don’t get into this way of thinking, anything is possible, even if you own property, have a small family, or a well-paid job. Don’t let anyone tell you not to follow your dreams, don’t let others have too much say in your life, this is your time, be your own person, create your own adventure.

Trash and The Quest for Higher Education

3 Feb
Journalism Postgraduate

Postgraduate Prospectuses

I graduated in 2009, after spending four years at a pretty chaotic university in Scotland. At the time, I was glad to escape and happy to get away from the university’s inability to return essays on time, their refusal to listen to student feedback, and most importantly, their desire to shut down the drama department of which I was a student. A department which had, at one point, been one of the leading drama departments in the country, and had helped the university gain conservatoire status. But that’s another story.

Since I graduated, I’ve achieved a lot; my writing has improved, I’ve written for a number of publications, I’ve worked as an editor, I’ve got a good ‘day job’, I’ve bought a flat, and I’m paying off my student loan. But I am struggling to get regular paid journalism work, and I can’t afford to take time off my ‘day job’ in order to take unpaid ‘editorial work experience’ that sees me making coffee, doing menial tasks, or worse, being ignored.

Since last year, I have been considering going back to university to do a postgraduate course in journalism. I know many people who have, and all of them are doing well; they work for big publications, they are establishing themselves in their field, and some of them are even moving abroad to further their careers. For me, I’m now at the point in my career where I have to make this decision; at the moment, I am still doing a lot of unpaid work, and I have a strong portfolio, yet when I have applied for journalism jobs, I have never even managed to get feedback on my application, let alone secure an interview.

I suspect this is because my degree is, to all intents and purposes, a drama degree, although I specialised in arts journalism in my final two years, I feel that potential employers are looking at the words ‘BA (Hons) Drama and Theatre Arts’ and throwing my CV in the bin. My lack of journalism qualifications is counting against me, despite my experience in the industry, but it’s time to face facts, I need to have a journalism qualification in order to progress.

However, postgraduate degrees, lest we forget, are expensive in the UK, disproportionately so, compared to fees in Europe and the system seems to be tailored towards attracting international students, as opposed to teaching domestic ones. Support for postgraduates is also low, and a recent report has revealed that 1,000 postgraduate students turn down places at Oxford University each year, because of the ‘financial demands of study there’. It’s ridiculous how expensive it is to study in the UK; some universities will change £6,000+ for a journalism postgrad, while others will charge more than £9,000 – and that’s just for fees, if you factor in basic living expenses, such as food and rent, then the average postgrad student is paying a lot of money for the privilege of further education.

So, last week, instead of doing my usual and just thinking about doing a postgrad, I made a decision. I went to a postgraduate fair organised by Target Courses at the University of Edinburgh, to see what I could do, and spoke to various people about my options, both financial and otherwise. To my surprise, the whole afternoon was very positive. The representative I spoke to from SAAS (Student Awards Agency for Scotland) which handles fees and loans, was very helpful, and while they can only offer loans towards part of the cost of postgraduate degrees, they took me through the specifics of the loan and explained everything clearly.

I also spoke to a number of university representatives, including those from Napier, Glasgow Caledonian, University of Salford, Manchester, UCD College of Arts and Celtic Studies, Study Options, Strathclyde University and the Fulbright Commission. Some of these conversations were very helpful, very positive and friendly, whereas others, weren’t. Just a quick heads up to anyone representing a university at a fair – answering questions with “Well, if you go to our website…” isn’t helpful, it’s lazy. I’ve spent time researching your courses, I’ve spent countless hours on many university websites – which aren’t always easy to navigate – and I’ve come with a list of questions, so the very least you can do is be prepared. Although, I had to laugh when I approached the ‘Study in Germany’ stand, just out of curiosity, because I didn’t know if it was an English-language college they were representing, and asked about their courses. The woman manning the stall paused, blinked slowly, and answered, “Are you German?” Whether she meant to say, “Do you speak German?”, I’ll never know, because the conversation quickly descended into farce from there, as she told me several times that I would need to speak German in order to study in Germany, gave me a website address, and sent me on my way with the most patronising of smiles. So, it wasn’t an English language college, then.

The people who were willing to talk to me, and had answers to my questions made me feel like going back to university is something I can do; of course, I’m still trying to figure out which universities, which courses, and most importantly, how I will pay the fees, but it doesn’t feel like an impossible task any more. Yes, the fees are too much, we shouldn’t have to pay in order to better ourselves through education, and further education shouldn’t be a luxury for the rich and the well-connected, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let that stop me.

Have you done a journalism postgrad? Are you thinking about it? Or are you determined to do it, like me? Got any advice? Get in touch, let’s talk.

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