Saturday, 23 July 2016

I Didn't Fall Over! A Graduate's Tale

This week I graduated from The University of Sheffield with a 2:1 in English Literature and, as were many people I suppose, I was very scared I was going to fall over on stage or at least forget where I was going. However neither of these happened and in all honesty, no one fell over at all during the ceremony! So, in this blog post, I thought I would sum up a bit of my university experience and someone somewhere might find it useful!

Hannah and I have managed to get a collection started!

University is hard. There are so many changes within the three years and suddenly, after eighteen years of support at home and at school, we’re left to our own devices. This takes a while to get used to and to really feel at home at university – this is totally normal. People take things at different paces and personally, Freshers’ Week in my first year was incredibly hard for me to deal with. As an introvert, I found the week draining and, although I tried to make an effort talking to people and throwing myself into the life expected of me as a student, it did take a huge toll on me. I remember halfway through the week calling my mum in tears because I was just so overwhelmed. Thankfully I had really great flatmates who, at the end (or near the end) of our degrees, I’m still in contact with and they really helped me to settle in and we will always know six o’clock to be tea time! So don’t be worried if you don’t magically settle in as soon as you move in – you will fall into a good group of people eventually. If you are worried, don’t be afraid to find help. There are those support services in place at university so use them! And they’re free so even more reason to use them if you need to. The support is there to be used so never pass up the opportunity if the occasion calls for it. And never forget the support that your family and friends will be able to give you as well – university is scary for everyone, people will be able to understand your worries.

When people think of students, what comes to mind is drinking and nights out, and I’m not going to lie, there is the expectation that that will happen. However, never feel pressured into fulfilling that stereotype. It may sound cliché but you do you. I didn’t go out out in my first Freshers’ Week and I managed to make some great friends by doing other things – we watched movies and went out to lunch and went shopping. And also, no one cares if you don’t want to drink and if they do, they are not worth being around. I’ve had plenty of sober nights out and I’ve been able to enjoy myself so if you’re with the right group of people then how sober you are doesn’t matter – you have a good time whatever. Then again, if you do want to drink then know your limits – no one wants to be saddled with that really drunk friend who does stupid things. I have been that friend a couple of times and I have not lived it down (sorry guys – you know what I’m talking about!). But, in the midst of partying, remember you’ve also come to university to work. And your degree is something that you want to do – remember that. Let no one put you down about it. If it interests you and helps you in what you want to do in later life then that’s all that matters. This may sound contradictory but also remember that you have to relax at some point as well. Yes, university is about the work but you’ve got to blow off steam when exams and assessments are getting you down. Find a society that interests you and gets you out of the house. In my three years of being at university, my biggest regret is probably that I didn’t join in more with societies. I always said I would but just never pushed myself that far. So go do something. Carry on with something that you did before university or start something completely new! Employers like to see well-rounded CVs so, even though the final grade helps, remember that that’s not everything. The experiences and the opportunities offered to you during your degree are just as important as they give you the chance to learn new skills which might be more applicable to the career path you want to take. And remember to have fun! As the chancellor of my university told us at our graduation – university is not the best years of your life. You have your whole life ahead of you. You take the path you want to take. I have no big life plan honestly – I know I want to be a writer at some point, but other than that I don’t really know what I’m doing! I’m twenty-one and I burst into tears on the phone just the other day trying to sort out bills for my flat. Yes, university sets you up with some skills for life but there are some that can’t be taught – you just have to live them. Other career paths and choices do that as well so if you know that university isn’t for you then you will learn all you need to know to look like you know how to adult and perhaps even quicker than those at university. And as a very wise friend told me last month – no one has their dream job in their twenties, so don’t panic of things don’t suddenly fall at your feet. It takes a while just to set up how you want to live your life and you may find that your dream job changes or adapts depending on where life takes you. Nothing is set in stone so, although it’s easier said than done, do not worry about what the future might hold. You have the power to control your life.

This is my favourite picture of the day because its not posed!

Now, on a more personal note, anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely reserved when it comes to emotions, so if you’ve been my friend whilst at university, you may not know just how much you mean to me. Whilst I’ve been at university, I’ve realised that I’m not cute, I’m practical and personally, I find it quite embarrassing to say things like I love you even to people I’ve known for my entire life so, although I know it is extremely cowardly to do it online and in writing where you may never see it, just know that I do care about you guys and I have really appreciated the support and the wonderful memories that I have of us all. And I am extremely proud of us for getting this far – we graduated and I couldn’t have done it without you all helping me through the ups and the downs! So thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Personally, I think university has been the best experience and the worst experience of my life so far. I have never felt more exhausted and drained but then I have also never felt more confident, more self-assured and happy with where and who I am at this point in my life – even if I still can’t talk to people over the phone! It sounds so ridiculously cheesy but it’s the truth. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Just Another Day At The Office

These past few weeks, I have been despairing and getting increasingly frustrated at numerous job applications and I have felt like I have been getting nowhere. If you have read my last few blog posts, you’ll know that I received an offer to do a Masters in Creative Writing. Ever since I got the offer, I have been unsure whether I wanted to take it – there were many things to consider like did I want to take out another loan to pay for the course or was I better off trying to get a job? I applied for many scholarships but I didn’t think anything would come from it. However, yesterday I got an email back from the university’s financial services offering me a scholarship that will cover my tuition fees and part of my living costs for the next year. So basically this gives me a chance to do my MA without worrying too much about how I’m going to pay for everything! I can’t put into words how happy I am about this unexpected surprise. I genuinely did not expect to receive this scholarship and am incredibly humbled that I have. And I can’t wait now to get back to Sheffield and start my Creative Writing course!

So in-between all of this frustration and eventually excitement, I went to the theatre twice and saw two plays based in and around offices. The first one last week was The Government Inspector by Gogol. This was a good old Russian farce; a corrupt town anticipates the arrival of a government inspector and mistakenly think a broke middle class writer is the said inspector. This performance is part of Ramps On The Moon, a project which brings together seven major theatre companies and incorporates sign language, audio description and subtitles into their performances. Disabled artists and audiences are given centre stage and stimulates positive change and awareness within arts and culture. The inclusion of sign language and subtitles within the performance really added to the hilarity of the farcical nature of the play. Mistaken identity and miscommunication is at the heart of this play and the addition of sign language, which the majority of the audience was not able to understand, added an extra layer which was not prevalent in the original text. 

The set was like a matchstick town, representing how easy it was to bowl over its inhabitants. Kiruna Stamell was perfect as the Mayor's wife, Anna. She brought the vain, superficial character to life through affecting a French accent for certain words to make herself seem more than just a provincial mayor's wife. David Carlyle as the Mayor himself got gradually more unstable as the play went on. He was beset by a crisis of faith and uncertainty as he tried to maintain the way of life the town had built for itself based on corruption and bribery as well as his own conscience. Gogol's satirical comedy has stood the test of time and is still relevant and humourous today and through the Ramps On The Moon project, theatre has become even more relevant and accessible to an increasingly diverse audience. That is something that I hope can continue. 

The next play I saw one week later (and a week that had changed my life) was Mike Bartlett's new play, Contractions. It took the style of 3-5 minute interviews between Emma, a sales rep, and her unnamed manager. By forming a romantic relationship with a co-worker, Emma is informed that the relationship is in breach of the company's contract. This interview style of the play made it feel very fast paced as there was a lot to fit into a short space of an hour and the stark revolving stage echoed the revolving nature of the production. The audience voiced their own frustration and disbelief at key moments of the play, which is proof that it certainly held our attention. Sara Stewart was chillingly terrifying as the manager who was impassively corporate and extremely hard to read. Rose Leslie took the audience on an emotional journey as a woman stuck in a job that she couldn't leave and it had ruined her life. It was hard not to feel her desperation and frustration as she tried to hold onto some semblance of her life. After seeing this play, I'm kind of glad I didn't get any of the jobs I applied for; if Contractions is a real representation of an office environment, then I don't think I'm suited to that! Contractions is a darkly funny play and I would highly recommend going to see it, especially since Live for 5 tickets are available on all performances!

Anyway, I am taking a well-deserved break from applications and enjoying my week away on holiday. I haven't got many theatre trips lined up over the summer but watch this space for updates about whether I fall over at graduation and a much anticipated performance of No Man's Land with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in August.