Didn’t get the grades? It’s okay…

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It’s okay if you didn’t get the grades you wanted or needed. You may feel like it is the end of the world but honestly, a few years down the line, you’ll be laughing at how upset it has got you. It really doesn’t matter, despite what society says. Whatever you want to do, you can get there one way or another. You don’t need straight A’s to make it to the top. 

At school, I wasn’t really much of the academic sort. I hated school so much that I hardly ever listened in lessons (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!). I was the daydreamer type, always in my own little bubble. I remember being so angry at myself because I wasn’t “clever” that I used to hide in the toilets at school and cry my eyes out. I didn’t match up to anyone in my year.

I never ever got an A* in my life – I just didn’t have it in me. Some people don’t and that’s okay. In fact, I was a C/D borderline student at GCSE level. I knew exactly what I wanted to do ever since I was little and in a way, that saved me because I had a goal and was determined to reach it. At school, I was just so consumed with my low self esteem and that did have an effect on how I did. I was a slow learner so things like Maths and Science never really got into my brain. I enjoyed creative arts subjects like Music, Drama and English.

I did do well in my GCSE’s in most Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 21.08.51subjects (only failed Maths) and did get the grades to do A-Levels but I decided from Year 9 that I don’t want to do A-Levels. I hate exams and most A-Level subjects are academic and theoretical. Again, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and knew how to get there so I didn’t mess around. 

In Sixth Form, I did BTEC in Media Production. Yes, a BTEC. That doesn’t mean it’s any less than A-Levels and it doesn’t mean it’s for “dumb” people. BTEC is just as valuable as A-Levels. It’s vocational and I see it as a qualification for people who know exactly what they want to do. I didn’t see the point in doing academic courses for two years if I don’t think it would help me in the future. I would be wasting my time. 

And yes, you can get into university with a BTEC – I did. I got 2:1 in my creative based degree and look where I am now – not to sound like I am boasting but I am a full trained journalist and I learnt more by going out into the world and working (which was part of my degree) than in school. Literally at the end of my degree, I cried my eyes out in happiness because I proved myself to people that you can get to the very top without amazing grades. If I can do it guys, so can you. 

So if you received your A-Level or any other results last week and are getting your GCSE results next week, remember that whatever you got/get, it doesn’t define you or your future. You tried your best and that is all that matters. You don’t have to know what you want to do, but just don’t rely on your grades entirely. If you know what you want to do and didn’t get the grades to do it – trust me, there is always a way to get there – it may take you a different route and may take more time, but there is no rush. You will get there one day. All I can say from my experience is to try your best but don’t let your results define who you are.

My experience with anorexia at university

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Having an eating disorder whilst being at university is not pleasant at all. It may seem like you need your eating disorder and therefore it is harder to let go but at the same time, you are destroying yourself.

Many anorexics and bulimics are perfectionists. I can vouch for that. Battling an eating disorder for many years has not stopped me from trying to achieve and be the best I can at everything, despite hearing a voice in my head telling me that I will fail at everything and that I must try harder. Every good grade I received at university was an achievement along with every pound I lost was an achievement and when they both happened together, I was on top of the world. Calories, weight and scales ruled my student life.

In lectures, the voice of anorexia frequently would appear out of no where telling me I need to listen more attentively or I look horrible and fat today and I should just go home now and exercise because I do not deserve to be out in public looking this awful. The voice is so overpowering that not listening to it rather impossible because it is so strong.

Being the perfectionist that I am or rather my eating disorder tells me to be, I did all my coursework weeks even months before it was due in. With no food, I thrived in the hunger and typed away at my laptop all day and night. If I received a grade I was not happy with, the voice would tell me that I am not good enough and I should just stop eating completely.

Socialising is another thing that my anorexia has prevented me from doing. Special events and course get‐togethers were terrifying because it usually involved food. Being around food scares me let alone eating it and therefore my chances of making friends has not been great at university but I have been lucky to have made a fair few supportive friends during my third year. The disorder was so strong that believe it or not, I did not eat anything inside campus for the three years I have been there. No one has seen me eat. Is that an achievement? My anorexia seems to think so – but it certainly isn’t.

All that seems pretty exhausting, does it not? To be honest, I have no idea how I am managed it. Being in and out of hospital and studying – it wasn’t easy. I don’t think anyone can comprehend how hard it is to have an eating disorder whilst also trying to juggle university at the same time. It has been a challenge. It is a very isolating thing to be dealing with.

My eating disorder did get me good grades in the past but not in a positive way. I would rather do it all again but without the voice of my eating disorder screaming at me. It demanded me to be the best at everything by doing things in an unhealthy, destructive way.

If you have an eating disorder and are at university this is not the way to live. It is such a waste of time and energy. You may feel like you are in control of your life but in actual fact, the disorder is controlling you. It keeps you from enjoying yourself and takes all your freedom of university life away.

Get help as soon as you can. Go to your mental health or counselling service at your university and let them know about your eating disorder so they can find the right tools to help you. If you have moved away for university, ask your GP to refer you somewhere near your university.

Get in touch with Student Minds (formally SRSH) who are a volunteer led charity for students. They work with hundreds of volunteers across the country to provide support to students with mental health problems. They run eating disorder support groups at different universities, which gives you the chance to talk to other students in similar situations. http://www.studentminds.org.uk/

Also, talk to someone at your university. A tutor, lecturer, a friend, flatmate – anyone who you can trust so they can know what is going on with you and can give you the support you need. Do not stay quiet or hide away because that would only just make your eating disorder stronger. Sometimes, you need someone else to tell you that everything is going to be okay and that you are not alone.

My University Experience

I went to City University London to study a Foundation Degree (two years) and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industries.

2011 – 2014.

First year

The first year was rather scary because it was new. The transition from sixth form to university is such a big change and I found it rather overwhelming at first, especially because I still lived at home. Making friends was really difficult. During the first few months, I felt like university wasn’t for me and I was actually thinking about dropping out. I don’t drink, I don’t party and the whole university stereotype is basically drinking and partying and I felt like I did not fit in. After talking to a lot of people about thinking of dropping out, I decided to stick at it for a few months and see how it goes. I didn’t make a good set of friends until I was 5 months into the course and this is when I started to enjoy university. I started getting involved with the media team at university and did a bit of reporting for my student radio station.

With regards to the course itself, the first year was very practical and I enjoyed most of the practical modules. I got a lot of 2:1’s and 1st. Because university essays are rather different to school and college essays, I found that difficult and during the first year, my essay grades were not that great. I found referencing really difficult and I found the structure really difficult too. Also, I did not attend any seminars because during my first year, my social anxiety was rather awful and participating in class seemed terrifying. I got a bit more confident after completing my work placement at the BBC and when I went back to university after that, I really quite enjoyed it and felt really confident and was very excited for the next two years. I finished that year with a 2:1, which I was happy about.

Second Year

The second year was so much better. In fact, out of the three years, I felt like the second year I came out of my shell a bit more (which impacted my third year). My course was part music events management course and we got to manage and organize a music gig in the Roundhouse in Camden. I was into music a lot before but during my second year that kind of died down. I developed a passion for news, broadcasting and journalism so for that gig, I decided to join the broadcast team and challenge my filming and visual mixing skills, which I absolutely loved.

During my second year, I decided to write for the student magazine CityOnTopic. I wrote a few articles for the Politics section and it was rather lovely seeing my writing published in print.

My second year grades were absolutely amazing. I got a lot of 1st‘s and high 2:1’s as I did work very hard indeed. Again, I did enjoy the practical modules more than the academic ones. At the end of this year, I officially completed my foundation degree and achieved a high 2:1…and graduated!

Third Year

We had a choice whether we wanted to go onto the third year or not. I wanted a full degree so I decided to go ahead with the third year. This year was crucial and so much more difficult than the other two years. Starting third year was so overwhelming because I soon realized how much work I needed to do. In fact, it did make my anxiety rather worse but I realized I needed to work hard if I wanted to get a decent grade. I am such a perfectionist and study every single day for hours until I am happy with what I have studied.

We got to choose which modules we wanted to do focusing on our career paths – I chose the journalism route and did most of the journalistic modules, which I did enjoy very much so. Compared to other degrees, my course had to do two 6000-word dissertations. When I look back, that was quite scary but I actually quite enjoyed writing them both. My first dissertation was about ‘The Future and Management of British Newspapers’ and my second dissertation was about ‘How Citizen’s Perceive Press Coverage of Political Scandals’. There is a pattern. Both were about news and politics – something that I have a passion for. This is why I enjoyed writing them because I had a passion for the topic. In both of them, I got really good 2:1’s.

Basically, all my other essays were about news too. I got Firsts in all my third year essays, which I am so happy with. I love writing essays a lot, mainly because I love writing in general. I also did a full year Media Law & Ethics module and I honestly loved that module, despite it being so difficult, it was so worth it. In order to become a good journalist, you must know the law. I have no idea how many times I have written about defamation in my third year essays. Law certainly did have an influence on me during my final year. Coming out of university and going straight into working for BBC News – I realised how crucial Media Law was, so it was definitely worth studying it.

Because this was my last year, I applied to be a section Editor for the student magazine to increase my journalism skills. I got chosen to be the Health and Fitness Editor due to my passion for this area. I must say, I challenged myself a lot with this role and learnt so much about leadership and assertiveness as well as writing good articles.

Graduation was enjoyable and a very proud day for me and my family.

After three tough years, a lot of struggle – being in and out of hospital for my eating disorder, in the end, I achieved a very high 2:1, which I am so happy with.

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Going to university was the best decision of my life to be honest. It gave me so much confidence in myself and I developed a lot of skills for my career. Here I am now at the BBC. Dream job? Thank you university.

5 Ways To Reduce Academic Stress

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Sometimes, I suddenly go through a writer’s block phase and I do not know what to write about. Usually, it is because I am stressed with university work. Academic stress is certainly something a lot of you are going through at the moment. A lot of people tell me they are surprised when I tell them I am stressed because apparently I am one of the most organised person they know. Well, I am stressed but I do cope with it pretty well I suppose. Here are my top tips on how to cope with stress…specifically academic stress.

1. Work-life/Social life/Study Balance – What I find that stresses out a lot of students is when they have other activities on their mind, such as a job or socialising along with their studies. For me, that would be such a stressful thing because not only do I have to worry about getting my assignments done on time but I also need to balance my work-life. I am lucky enough to not have to worry about that but I know a lot of people aren’t. If you can manage, I would say for now, reduce those commitments, so you have time to study. Of course, you need to socialise now and then. Please do, otherwise things will get on top of you. All work and no play is certainly not a great way to go about things.

2. Study Plan – I know a lot of people dread this but I find that keeping a study plan keeps me very organised and it actually satisfies me because I know exactly what I have completed and what I need to do and by when I need to do it. It keeps me grounded. A study plan is a very good way to reduce stress. List all your subjects and modules that you need to complete and by when. Then, give yourself a limited time to do it in. Do it one by one – going in order of deadline. This makes it more easier and clear for you to follow.

3. Keep Calm & Breath – Do some light exercises. Yoga and Pilates reduces stress and keeps you calm. Along with exercise, you must make sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep. Get at least 7 hours sleep a day. I would NOT suggest pulling all-nighters. I don’t know how people do it. Sleep is very important to reduce stress and prevent illnesses.

4. Ask For Help – This is something I find a lot of people struggle with. They don’t like to admit that they are stressed and actually need some professional help. Universities and colleges all have counselling services. A lot of people go to them during the exam period. It will be an extra way to reduce stress if you can talk to a professional about your worries because they are the ones who can help you manage your academic stress. Do not be afraid. Ask for help if you need it.

5. Lower Your Goals – It is easy for you to say you want the highest grade but make sure you are not setting yourself up for failure. The worst thing you can do is targeting yourself the highest grade, stressing yourself out to get that grade and in the end, failing to get it due to the pressure of it all. Be realistic. Set a goal that you will be satisfied with and is achievable for you. Look through your past grades and think about if the grade you want is achievable for your academic level.

 

Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

Following Your Dreams

yI have wanted to write about this for quite a while now because it is very close to my heart and it is about following your dreams instead of your parents’ or peers because that is what I did and I must say, it has been a hard couple of years because of having no support in what I chose to do – career wise but I do not regret it one bit.

In the Asian/Muslim culture, creative subjects are seen as something that will not give you a rather secure financial future and so it is often scrutinised. I have always loved the media ever since I was little and I knew I wanted to work in this industry. I was never an academic child. I loved creativity and subjects like music but that is seen as a negative thing in my culture.

Coming from a rather academic family, I was expected to choose a more academic subject to study at college and university but no, I chose to study a subject within the media because that is what I had a passion for.

I know a lot of people who love the arts but yet their parents wanted them to become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant etc… and so they are pursuing that as a degree and not because they want to but they feel obliged to. Many parents in the Asian culture want their children to achieve what they themselves have not achieved when they were young and so I guess they think if their child achieves that, then it will make up for what they have not done and make them feel better about it.

Many people think that if you study a creative subject, it will not be a financial goldmine but the way I see it is why can it not be? If you truly have the passion for a certain subject and have the talents to do well in it, then why can you not earn as much as a doctor or a lawyer can?

I would really urge anyone, especially young people who’s parents are telling them to study a certain subject at college or university that you are not interested or passionate in, then please do not do it because in the long run, it will not do you any good. Do what you want to do whether it is English, Music, Art, Media, Photography etc…

I am not saying rebel against your parents., of course not. Sit them down, explain to them about what you really want to do and what opportunities there are in the future for you. Make them understand that it is not all bad.

At the end of the day, you have one life and you are living that life so you should do what you want to do. There is so much more to life than having a safe career. Go out there and follow your dreams.

How I Got Into Journalism & Advice On How To Get Into Journalism

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People often ask me how I got into journalism so I thought I would do a blog post on it about both broadcast and print journalism and my top tips on how to get into journalism yourself.

I actually have no idea how I got into journalism to be honest because I just sort of fell into it. I did not ever say, “When I grow up, I want to be a journalist.” Not really.  I wanted to be a teacher (as most kids do), a singer, a dancer….I knew I always wanted to work in the media industry, specifically music but that has died down now and I will talk about that a bit more in a bit.

I always remember being fascinated by the news and what is going on in the world. When I was little, I watched and listened to newsreaders on TV and on the Radio and tried to imitate them. I always wondered what it would be like to be a newsreader, a TV presenter or a radio presenter…but I always felt like I could never be those things because of my lack of confidence and so I just turned to writing and music instead, which was easier as I am not much of a speaker.

Writing has always been one of my main passions. I can articulate myself better in writing rather than speaking. I used to keep a diary. My diary went everywhere with me. It was a very useful way of letting my feelings out. It kind of was my only friend – do excuse the cliché. The reason why, was because I always felt rather misunderstood and so when I wrote things down, I felt like I was getting it all off my chest and therefore felt better. Also, my diary (along with music) was a big part of my life when I was being bullied and my times in psychiatric units. It helped, a lot.

There has been a lot of studies showing a correlation between creativity and mental illnesses and I can definitely vouch for that. Writing has always been a release for me.

I would not say my favourite subject in school was English, however I did get a good grade in my English GCSE and I enjoyed a lot of the coursework. I love writing essays. I remember writing a GCSE English essay about something to do with the media and I got an A on that piece – my first ever A that I have ever got in my life and I was proud of it. I then realised that I am rather good at writing. I was praised by teachers saying how well written my essays are and that really gave me a bit of confidence – I actually was good at something.

Because I enjoyed music and had a passion for radio, I wanted to work in music radio or become a music journalist writing for a magazine. I started a blog and wrote about music – reviewing music/bands etc… but I just was not happy with it. I did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it and I did not enjoy it.

During my stint at BBC Radio 4 , I really got into news and politics. I met rather intellectual people everyday there such as newsreaders, producers, journalists, presenters, philosophers, politicians and authors. It was then when I felt like this is what I want to do. I want to make news and current affairs programmes for a speech radio station such as Radio 4. I want to create news and inform people.

Music really at that point, did not matter to be anymore. Well, of course it mattered but not in a career sense. I love music and always will, but I do not want to work in that industry anymore.

I remember a lot of the Tony Blair years. I was only little but the Blair era stood out as a lot of things happened in that Labour government, overshadowed by the Iraq war. News was on everyday in the house and Blair was not that popular in our house. Gordon Brown years were absolutely ridiculous too. I was not heavily into politics then but Brown absolutely destroyed the government.

However, when I visited the Houses of Parliament and saw how the House of Commons looks in real life – I pretty much fell in love with it.

I am following the Coalition government very closely and since Radio 4 and my time at LBC, I have quite an obsession with politicians and how they think, how they act, their policies. I have developed this kind of analytical mind about politicians and I love writing about UK politics. I actually would love to work at Westminister as a politician’s assistant. How weird. I do not support and have never supported a particular party because being a journalist has taught me to be impartial. I would not want to be political journalist though as I love writing about various things, as you can see by this blog.

Putting politics aside, I have realised that I love storytelling, I love writing, I love reading and I love meeting interesting people. I love informing people about certain issues. It does take a lot of guts to do what with having issues with anxiety but in order to be a journalist, you have to talk which is what I am working on and journalism is my own personal journey to getting better and conquering a lot of fears.

Something that has helped me emotionally has become something that I made into a job now, which is absolutely amazing.

So, these are my top tips if you want to become a journalist yourself…

Be Passionate

Obviously, if you want to become a journalist, you really have to know your stuff – you have to be on the ball all the time – watching, listening and reading the news everyday. Attend events. Go to the scene of the crime. Take notes. You have to be passionate about news and getting a story out there.

Write

Start a blog and write whatever you are passionate about. I do not write about something that I am not interested in. I write about something that really interests me and if I have something to say.

Read

If you know me, you would know that newspapers have always been something that I have read ever since I was little. I love newspapers and I have a collection of newspapers (mostly The Independent), including magazines too. Read as much as you can. Books, newspapers, magazines, online articles etc… It really helps with learning.

Work Experience/Internships/Graduate Trainee Schemes

I do not think I would be a journalist now if I have never done a work placement at a place as big as the BBC. You must have some kind of work experience in order to get some practical skills. Apply at the BBC, your local radio station, magazine, newspaper – anywhere to get your foot in the door.

If you have graduated from university, apply for Graduate schemes. The BBC provide a Journalism Trainee Scheme. Many top journalists have been on that scheme.

University

Not everyone who is a journalist is a graduate but most journalists that I have met have some kind of degree behind them. Most top journalists have a postgraduate degree but of course, that is not essential. It is good to have a degree anyway – it will definitely be easier to get a job in the field.

Volunteer

If you are at university, volunteer at your student radio station or write for your student magazine. Get involved with your community radio station or your community magazine. Get a few articles published and keep them for your portfolio.

Have Ideas, Be Creative and Most of All Learn How To Write A Good Pitch

When you are a journalist, you have to constantly write pitches to Editors. It could be for a newspaper, a magazine, a radio station and television. I was not prepared for the amount of pitches I will need to write. Everyone wants an idea. Something unique. You need to be creative and you need to learn how to write a good pitch. When I feel like I am good at pitches, I will be sure to write a blog post on it.

And Finally…Be Persistent

You will get a lot of rejections. There is no question about that. You will just have to keep on going. It takes a long time to get to where you want. You cannot give up!