It is done. I have finished my Freelance Journalism course. The strangest thing is, for the first time in my life, I actually feel sad to finish studying! Though I have very much enjoyed my course, it hasn’t always been easy. Returning to ‘school’ is becoming evermore popular, a quick google search suggests that a quarter of all students enrolling are over 21. A UCAS report from 2014 recorded 37,300 students over 25 accepted onto higher education courses that year. With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my troubles and successes as I am attempt to refire the old brain engine so others can see they are not alone in their struggles.
After years of trying and failing to come up with any form of alternative career plan last summer I finally settled on the idea of Journalism. As someone who has always hated being stuck in a classroom I didn’t feel going back to full time education was for me. I am however pretty good at self motivation and discipline, so I opted to study from home through an online course. It is also considerably cheaper looking at this from the viewpoint of a groom (poorly paid) and serial traveller (expensive hobby).
The course I chose was a Diploma in Freelance and Feature writing through the London school of Journalism (LSJ). This consisted of 12 lessons setting you up with all the knowledge and tools you will need to start out in the world of Journalism. Each lesson is downloaded individually from the student section of the website and is made up of around 20 pages of information with a series of tasks at the end. The assignments are submitted to an experienced tutor that works in the industry themselves. Your work is then sent back to you with corrections and feedback of what was good and bad about it and helpfull suggestions for next time. On average it takes 9-15 months to complete. I enjoyed this flexible approach to learning as the assignments were easy to tailor to the area you personally wanted your career to specialize in. I particularly enjoyed the tutor feedback which was thorough and full of useful insider knowledge.
For more information click here to go straight to the LSJ website.After the initial excitement of making the decision to study, signing up for the course, buying all the new, pens, paper and folders so I felt like a real journalist the time came to actually start writing. At first I found I just couldn’t get my brain to translate the words in my mind to intelligible sentences. I couldn’t spell or remember any of the rules of grammar, I knew things sounded wrong but I didn’t know how to put them right. I’d simply forgotten how to do any of these things that came so easily when I was at school. English used to be my strong point and now it was taking me hours to write one paragraph! We may regularly write text or facebook messages but that is about all and I’m as guilty as anyone else for being lazy with my spelling and punctuation there. It’s only when you come to try to write properly you make the alarming discovery that you have forgotten how!
It wasn’t just the writing either. Concentration has always been and probably always will be an area I struggle with. Sitting still does not come easily to the active. However it can be improved through making the sessions varied and interspersed with lunch, snacks and periods of doing research which I love. Try not to spend too long just staring at a blank screen, I find it just sends me into a panic that doesn’t help! My total lack of understanding of how computers work and just technology on a whole has been another challenge. So far taking a deep breath and making myself spend some time googling things and watching helpful youtube videos has mostly got things fixed. Having a tantrum and swearing at anyone in earshot has not worked. (*top do no try advice there*)
Above all other things the biggest roadblock I am only just starting to overcome is lack of self belief. This, I think, will be the case for the vast majority of people. When you’re sat there reading and rereading a paragraph and you just don’t get it, too daunted by the perceived difficulty of a task to begin, drawing a total blank on ideas or hitting writers block again and again. All you can think is I CAN’T do it. It’s TOO HARD. I’m NOT clever enough.
Well if you allow yourself to think that way you won’t be able to do it. Chase those pesky unhelpful thoughts into a little compartment in your brain, lock the door, throw away the key, get yourself a nice cup of tea (or can of Dr P in my case) and approach the problem again from a fresh angle. Fix your focus firmly on your end goal, the dream of how you want your life to be and have belief in yourself that it is possible. The Scientist of Google tell me that the brain is a muscle, so the more we use it the bigger it will grow. The good old ‘Practice makes perfect’ saying is proven correct yet again. A little bit of patience and understanding with yourself goes a long way too.
So my message to you today folks is, if you’re thinking of going back to school, do it. Though it is hard at first the sense of satisfaction you get upon finishing a tough assignment and pressing send is worth it. Know that you are doing something proactive to build that better future for yourself, cliched as that sounds. It does get easier and studying something you are interested in because you want to, with a mature and wiser head on your shoulders makes all the difference.