Thursday 13 June 2013

Looking back at the year abroad one year on.

Today I went and spoke to the second years that are off on their year abroad. I felt that it was important to make sure that they heard a balanced view and weren't bombarded with everyone telling them they'd have the best year of their life etc, knowing the pressure that was put on my year group at this time two years ago.

Sitting in that room telling them all about the best and worst things that happened in that year and our top tips for making a success of it really gave me some perspective on the whole thing and realise what I got out of it though.  Being able to look back and see what we each got from the year, what we learnt when we got locked in or had to visit the police station or what we would've maybe done differently really makes you realise how much you achieved in that year! Between us we realised that the very worst bits were also some of the best that made us learn about ourselves or about the language or culture of the place we were living in.

The two things that I wanted to make sure they knew before I left were:

It's your year, do what you like with it! Don't feel pressured into doing what other people are doing and don't compare your year to theirs.  Equally importantly is don't judge someone else's year against your own standards, just because they're doing it differently to you doesn't mean they're not making the most of the year! Just take it as it comes and do what feels right to you, that's how you'll get the most out of it.

Talk to each other, you're part of a great network of people who are all in the same situation. Share your experiences, the lows just as much as the highs and you'll make yourself feel so much better for it. The most viewed post on my blog, still getting hits to this day, is about the worries of the year abroad not living up to the hype that is built around it, what to do if you're not having the best year of your life and why that doesn't matter.  It took me a while into my year to realise this and I just wish someone had told me before, it certainly would've saved so much worry and fuss over the year! This post resonated with other people and I'm so pleased that it is still helping other people that find themselves in the same position.

I'm really glad I went along this afternoon because as well as making sure this years YA cohort knew all the things I didn't it has really made me appreciate my year abroad and what I have achieved simply by coming out of the other end of it in one piece, as well as all the great stuff I did and how much I learnt in the year.

One final note- this time last year I was on an Andalucian beach, today I'm in Lancaster armed with a brolly....

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Should the Kent Youth PCC have been forced to resign? The jury's still out.

Pre-warning:  This is not going to be the best piece I have ever written, I've not spent that long on it, but I wanted to voice an opinion that as of yet has not been heard.

Today it has been announced that after calls from MPs and the media for her to resign Paris Brown, the newly appointed Youth PCC for Kent, has stepped down from her role following the discovery of  racist/homophobic tweets on her Twitter account.  To many people this situation is apparently very clear cut, she wasn't fit for the role and it was too much responsibility for a teenager anyway.  Well, I'd like to argue that they're wrong.

Before looking at the specific case of Paris Brown I want to take a quick look at the decision to appoint a Youth Commissioner in the first place.  The appointment of a Youth Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent was announced earlier in the year.  Quoted by Kent News before the elections in August Ann Barnes (Now PCC for Kent) said :
“A police youth commissioner will create a link to those who really know what it’s like to be a young citizen in Kent,” “There are a lot of disenchanted young people out there and we need to give them a say in policing.”
There have been doubts voiced from the outset, including at least one Kent MP hailing it a "gimmick", but actually, was it such a bad idea?  I don't think so.  Although being a big responsibility for a 17 year-old I think the Kent PCC had all the right ideas and intentions to make this work, and could ultimately have created some all important jobs for young people who don't want to go to university or be sent down vocational apprenticeship routes.  There are plenty of young people out there who have the drive, commitment and capabilities to undertake the role, benefitting not only themselves but the communities that they work in, and there are plenty of under-recognised organisations that prove this.  Unfortunately, after this recent turn of events young people have not had the chance to prove themselves and those who already had low expectations of them think they have been proved right.

But looking specifically at the situation with Paris... well, I just don't know what to think.  Firstly I think that the way it has been portrayed in the media is unfortunate.  If you read nothing more than the headlines you would be lead to believe that these tweets were posted recently when in fact they were a few years ago, when Paris was between the ages of 14 and 16.  I fully recognise that the tweets were very rude and can be considered to be both racist and homophobic and certainly should not have been left in the public eye once the news of her appointment was announced.  However, I don't think these tweets were cause for calls for Paris to resign.  Aged 14-16 I doubt Paris realised the gravity of what she was saying and question if she even meant the comments in the way they are being read now.  Paris herself says:

"I have fallen into the trap of behaving with bravado on social networking sites. I hope this may stand as a learning experience for many other young people."  

If social networking websites had been in existence when many politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, etc had been her age can we guarantee that they're records would be totally clean?  You can bet that they wouldn't be.  Does mean that they still hold those opinions now and aren't fit for their job? It certainly does not.

Honestly, I'm disappointed in the lack of faith that has been show in young people over the last few days and hope that soon enough people will open their eyes rather than tarring them all with the same brush.

If you're interested in it, the statement made today by Ann Barnes PCC for Kent is here and a statement from Paris is here.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

WANTED: Bernards Watch.

Moving into a new bedroom has become quite routine for me over the last year or so (this being my 4th since July 2011), and so moving up to Lancaster into a new house didn't seem anything out of the ordinary.  My parents left, and I've got on with things like I have every other time.

Taking a walk to Williamson Park with my parents felt like I was on holiday, or discovering a new place for the first time again.  The trip to the supermarket to get everything stocked up could've been in Brussels, or even Spain (if it wasn't for the weather...).  Even standing on Alexandra Square yesterday in the rain as the fire alarm rang and rang I don't think it had all quite sunk in... Maybe that has something to do with the fact that, similarly to on my year abroad, I've found myself on my own getting on with things as my housemates aren't arriving until the weekend.

But it's not my year abroad any more is it?  No it's not, and the moment when it really hit home was this evening when I was sat on my bedroom floor surrounded by exec t-shirts, posters, flyers, timetables and plans with a job application open on the screen, my dissertation text open on the desk and my rota for the next two weeks on the fridge. Oh yeah, I'm back alright...

My year away from Lancaster made me appreciate everything that is on offer to me here and only served to fuel my determination to be involved in everything and make the most of every opportunity, a determination that I've had since I started here anyway.  The problem this year is going to be time, I have to face the fact that I simply can't throw myself into everything.  Well, I could, if I had no intention of getting a 2:1.  What I actually need is Bernards watch...

I have a friend from school that this week began her first year of Uni and is blogging her way though being a fresher, (take a look at it here) and also blogged about the lead up to Uni (also here), and it got me thinking about my final year.  If I find Bernards watch I might try and blog my way out of university, what do you think?  I think my road out of university is going to be quite a contrast to her first steps on the road through it, but let's see shall we?

Tuesday 18 September 2012

My Stansted Summer, and my last summer as an undergrad!

I realise I have really neglected this blog over the summer, partly through lack of things to write about and lack of time in which to do it!  For those of you that haven't read my last blog and don't know what I've been doing with myself this summer I've been working at Stansted airport on check-in for a rather well known low cost airline.  I weighed up the options of doing internships and getting jobs and even just escaping and going back to Spain for the summer but in the end the money won.  Now the summer is over and my experience at the airport has ended I'm really pleased with the decision I made, I may not have been working at some internship programme for a top graduate employer but the experience I have had I wouldn't have gained anywhere else.

Working at the airport played to the strengths I already had of working in a customer facing environment but took it to a level I've never quite had before.  The most conflict I'd ever had with a customer until now was an angry woman being refused alcohol at Tesco- passengers being asked to pay excess baggage are another kettle of fish entirely!  I've seen everything from tears to yelling, swearing and the contents of a suitcase being angrily flung around the place.  Over the last 12 weeks I have grown a thick skin to people shouting at me for things that aren't my fault and are just the result of the unfair policies held by the airline.

You'd think that after having spent a year abroad I'd be very used to communicating with people that don't speak the same languages as me, but this summer I have well and truly realised the benefits of speaking languages.  Every shift without fail I would speak Spanish, often having my colleagues call on me when struggling to communicate with a passenger.  I also had many an encounter with non English speaking Italians, obviously I don't speak Italian but I think my ability to speak other languages and empathise with them really helped me get on with them that bit better.

I've also been very lucky to have met as many new people as I have this summer and to get to know people outside of my normal home and uni friendship groups.  I've worked with such a variety of people too, from those that are students like me, those that have graduated, those between jobs and those just out of college.

This summer has also given me more of an idea about my plans for after graduation.  I'd been looking into translation previously but I was never 100% behind the idea, mostly because the work is mainly freelance I think, but there must've been something else holding me back.  Working at the airport and seeing how useful my languages have been has opened my eyes to working in travel and tourism, and if I can't find a job in that field I'm looking at some masters courses in London.  Amazing how one summer can make you change your mind.

So now it's back up to Lancaster for what is set to be a packed final year, I know that I'm going to have 10 tonnes of work to do as well as my job and everything else but I plan to make the most of this year, do as much as I can, meet as many new people as I can and take the opportunities that are given to me as I'm never in my life going to have these chances again!

Friday 3 August 2012

Summer pocket money vs relevant work experience.

As some of you will know, this summer I am working on check-in for a low cost airline at a London airport (My attempts to anonymise this blog later on will be some what futile, but at least I'm making the effort...).  

Originally I was supposed to be working in catering for the Met Police for the Olympics but after waiting for nearly 4 months for my security clearance to come through and with little communication from my employers-to-be I gave up on hearing from them.  I was also offered a volunteer position at the 2012 Olympics, it was a great position as I'd have been paired up with a national team and would've provided support to them by sorting out tickets and things, driving them around and if paired with a Spanish/French speaking team I'd have helped with the language too.  I'd have loved to have taken this position, I know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity but two things stopped me.  Firstly the training was whilst I was still in Granada so I'd have had to have made at least 2 trips back on weekends which would not only be expensive but really inconvenient and also I'd have had to spend money on petrol just to get myself to the tube station everyday.  Watching the Olympics now and seeing other people I know in volunteer positions makes me wish I'd taken the chance, but it would've just been unrealistic.

Before all this I had been looking at internships at translation agencies, I'd been accepted by two, one in Swansea and one in London.  The problem with internships is that whilst you are potentially gaining all sorts of experience in the area you're interested in very few of them will pay you, or even cover your expenses.  When I started to look at how much money I was going to have to spend in order to take up either of these positions I realised that once again, it was just unrealistic.   

And with that the job hunt began again.  As any student looking for summer work will know, finding someone to employ you when you're going to leave them again mid-September isn't the easiest thing in the world.  I applied for jobs left, right and centre and eventually got a phone call from an agency staffing the travel industry.  I went along for an interview and found myself on a waiting list for the last training course of the season in a couple of days time, luckily for me someone else dropped out and so the job was mine.    

A month into the job and I have been shouted and sworn at (although indirectly), called a jobs worth, practised lots of Spanish and a little French and met a lot of new people.  But that's an entirely different blog post!

Monday 9 July 2012

Bye Bye Facebook. Living disconnected from the social network giant that dominates the web.

Bye Bye Facebook.  Living disconnected from the social network giant that dominates the web.
This weekend I made the decision that others have only dreamed of a few follow through with.
I deactivated my Facebook account.
For me, the principal reason behind this decision was the realization of the inordinate amount of time I was spending on the site.  I’d check it on my phone in the morning, have it open on my laptop no matter what else I was doing it, and flick through it whenever I had nothing better to do.  I was constantly connected to Facebook, and I’m not the only one.  Don’t deny it, you probably do it too.  You’re sat at home, you’re bored, what do you do?  Many of us would choose to have a flick through the news feed, but it doesn’t stop there, we’ll spend ages scrolling right through, or checking out the profile of the new girlfriend of our best friends third cousin twice removed.  Facebook, as we well know, has become the ultimate procrastination.  But has it become more than that?  Are we addicted to Facebook?  If you had asked me this a while ago I would most probably have told you not to be so silly, and that we couldn’t possibly be addicted to the social networking giant.  Now however, I am beginning to change my mind.  If we weren’t hooked on the site, why would we dedicate such a large proportion of our time to it?
Another thing that concerns me about Facebook, although it can be said for any form of communication that doesn’t involve actually talking to people, is the difficulty in communicating exactly what you mean.  A rushed response to a wall post quickly gets misinterpreted and before you know it the situation has spiraled way away from where it began.  On Facebook it is very easy just to quickly reply to a message and put little thought into the words you use or how you may come across to a person that doesn’t know you or the context of what you said.  At least with emails you are more likely to put some more thought into what you’re saying and anyway, it goes directly to the person you are trying to speak to, without the world and his wife butting in and getting the wrong idea.
Deactivating my Facebook account is also serving as a bit of an experiment, I believe that we are now far too reliant on the site and that those that don’t use it are potentially excluded from many opportunities.  My experience with societies at uni is that they tend to use Facebook to set up their events and pass on important messages, few of these groups then back this up with emails, so what happens to the proportion of their members that don’t use Facebook?  These people do exist, I promise you!  They may be international students that have their own version, for example the Spanish tuenti (Looks just like Facebook in every way...).  How do those members know what is going on?  These days Facebook has pretty much eradicated the need to send emails/make phone calls to tell people what we are up to as once we have typed one post it is there for the world to see.  God forbid we should actually need to print our photos to share them, or send a nice email to a friend to catch up.  It’s all on Facebook, so what is the point?
I am almost certain that, like it or not, I am going to have to reactivate my Facebook account by the end of the summer.  Not only because I have a society to commit to, that will be making full use of Facebook no doubt- but also sending emails(!) but because I think that I might well miss out on things in my final year of uni by choosing not to use it.  This is wrong that we feel we have no choice in the matter, but would anyone dare to prove me wrong?  Or join me in saying Bye Bye to Facebook for a while?
I’m really interested in what other people think about this so please get in touch with me!

Tuesday 3 July 2012

So now what?

One of the biggest problems about coming home from the year abroad is finding something to keep yourself occupied for the 3 months before you have to go back to Uni again to finish it all off.  So far my feet haven't really had the chance to touch the ground, which is just the way I like things to be.

After arriving back in the UK on Friday 22nd I almost immediately headed up to Lancaster for the week for Grad Ball, Extrav (Big end of term event in each college), sort out some bits and pieces and of course see all the people I'd not seen in quite a while.  This didn't go as smoothly as planned as 1.5 hours into my journey I had to call out the AA... Long story short, my car is fine now but my Mum did have to come up in my Nanas car and swap with me so that I could continue my journey northwards.  Grad ball was a really good night, as was Extrav, as ever I think it's about the people that you're with as opposed to what has been organised, it's your night and it is what you make it.  I also attempted to visit the Lakes but managed to pick the day that Kendal flooded and had to turn round and drive right back again...

I got back to Maldon on Sunday evening and had an interview at Stansted airport on Monday morning. Today I've gone and joined the gym and had a call to say I've got the job and training starts tomorrow, as I said- feet never touch the ground for long!  Don't get the wrong impression though, this job hunt hasn't been quite as straightforward as it seems!  I had already been given a job in catering for the police at the Olympics but the company have been less than efficient shall we say and so that was beginning to look less and less likely.  I sent a lot of CVs and applications last week and luckily had this response.

I've also been thinking a lot recently about what I want to do when I graduate, I think this is because of the amount of people I know that are graduating this year and I'm seeing them make their plans and sort out everything for their jobs or courses that they're starting.  People tend to assume that because I study languages it means I'm either going to go into teaching or translation, and I'm not saying that I've not considered either of those options, but equally they're not my only options, in fact, I'm increasingly beginning to consider jobs that have no direct relation to my degree at all, watch this space, I guess I'll have to get looking at applications at some point...