Almost exactly a year ago (seriously, I’m one day off and I didn’t even plan that) I published “10 Things I Learnt In My First Year of University” here on this blog. Fast-forward 12 months and not only has time passed, but I have too! I have officially completed another two gruelling 13 week semesters full of assignments, presentations, pracs, last minute Turnitin outages and an abundance of caffeine fuelled emails and phone calls to anyone and everyone in a bid to interview them. Last year’s post included a bunch of things like ‘making friends is easy!‘ and ‘know your way around Blackboard!’ But with those lessons already learnt, since walking out of the campus for the last time until late February, I’ve started to think about what I’ve realised in my second year of university – besides the specifics, like how to write a 1500 word news feature article on traffic congestion problems awaiting the 2018 Commonwealth Games. If you enjoy this post please give it a “like” so I know, and let’s get on with the five things!
1. Work Smarter, Not Harder
This revelation came to me in my first semester of this year. Basically, in my International Journalism subject, along with the three international articles we had to write, there were five fortnightly modules for us to complete, but only your best four get counted. I had done really well in the first three, but to complete the fourth one you had to read a 16,000 word reading about climate change in a specific part of the world, and then either discuss the reading in detail or add to the issue in some way. It was ridiculous and completely different from all the other modules we had done before it. In one tutorial however, most of us decided that, instead of spending hours slaving over a gigantic reading none of us properly understood, we decided to skip that one and try our hardest for the final module. Long story short – I didn’t have to read the 16,000 word climate change reading, I used my time to work on other assignments, I smashed the final compulsory module and walked out of the unit with my first High Distinction. It felt very weird at first to choose to not hand in an assignment. But all in all, it taught me that when it comes to the pointy end of the semester, sometimes you have to be strategic (if your degree allows it!) and figure out how you work best to try and maximise your time.
2. Your Interests Aren’t Trivial
Just because you’re at ~university~ doesn’t mean your interests are suddenly trivial – and can’t be incorporated into your assignments. This point probably isn’t relevant if you’re studying something like biomedicine, but since I’m studying journalism, there’s more freedom with what you can write your articles on. Even though in my first year I was able to write an entire essay on Zoella’s career (and get a Distinction for it), when I walked into second year, I thought the days of those ‘fun assignments’ were over. But I couldn’t have been more wrong!
For International Journalism, heaps of other students decided to write about refugees, marriage equality, terrorism, Trump – all those topics that are always in the news because that’s what they thought they could only write about. Even though they’re important, I just wasn’t interested enough in them to find a brand spanking new angle news outlets hadn’t already covered, plus get ahold of the appropriate talent to agree to be interviewed by me.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, it comes as no surprise that my interests include, but are not limited to, the beauty industry and drag queens. Even though I know a lot about those things, they’re not in the news much, so I didn’t know how that would gel with my super serious, international news gathering process. However one day I just went, “screw it, I want to talk about drag queens, I know what I want to say and I know exactly who I want to talk to.”
My interests were validated when after pitching my idea to my tutor, and after giving her a whole big spiel about how it might not be “substantial” enough, she went, “that’s so interesting, I had no idea. Of course that’s newsworthy, I’m keen to see the photos you include.”
Lo and behold, I ended up writing about how a second RuPaul’s Drag Con drag queen convention had been announced for New York City after their Los Angeles one earlier in the year saw record breaking attendance figures. I got to write about something I loved, interview one of my favourite queens (and Sydney based wig extraordinaire and owner of Wigs By Vanity) Vanity Faire, plus quote freaking RuPaul. This was the same subject I mentioned before where I got a friggen HD. For my Feature Writing unit, I continued writing about what I was passionate about and explored the rise of the polarising male beauty guru, which was later featured in the Campus section of the Brisbane Times. So it just goes to show that your interests, no matter how colourful they are, still have a place in a serious university setting!
3. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Easier said than done, but I realised yet again this year that I can’t let myself make a mountain out of a molehill. I spend more time being stressed than not, and that will probably never change, but I realised so many times this year that you can’t sit around and fret, but just get in there and do it. Worried about not getting talent in time for your story? Start brain storming ideas of who to speak to right now. Can’t get them on the phone? Email them all now. Getting started early, and before the panic set in, was a way I coped with this semester and made things easier for myself.
4. Prac Isn’t (Too) Terrifying
I was packing death in the lead up to my prac. Spending two weeks running a newsroom with other students while you work alongside professionals who are marking you? A bit worrying. I had never done prac like this before, and I was ridiculously nervous. However, once I walked in that first day and understood how everything would run, I was fine. I would go as far as to say I even had fun. I learnt so much in two weeks of prac, and it was the most useful, valuable and real world experience I have had in my two years so far. I’ve gotten my marks back as well and I got a Distinction, which is very comforting considering I wanted to breath into a paper bag the morning of that first day.
5. Take Every Oppourtunity
At university, the opportunities are there if you take them. At the start of the year an email went out about applying for work experience and internships. I jumped on that, filled out the forms, suggested where I wanted to go, and quickly a week of work experience at The Courier Mail was locked on. The first ever journalism ball was also this year, and I promptly booked a ticket to that, because there is no guarantee one will be happening next year! On a bigger scale, an email about short term study programs went out, and I spontaneously applied, because when else am I going to get the chance to travel around Italy, learning about media and communication in the fashion industry with one of my best friends?
Even after the academic year had ended, my university was still offering opportunities. Since I’m going to do Radio and Television Journalism 2 next year, our prac will be based around the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. However, they can’t bring every student there, so only six have been selected. Everyone had the chance to apply and I did, and I was lucky enough to be chosen, so now I’m going to the Commonwealth Games! I think it’s important to make the most of your time at university. I do find it all a bit scary, but it’s important to keep pushing yourself to have a crack at every chance you get, because opportunities like this won’t pop up in your inbox once you graduate.
So those are the five things I learnt in my second year of university! What things have you learnt over this year, or things you’ve learnt through your study? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know your thoughts!
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All the love,