On the value of my University education

As an English and History graduate, I chose my degree because I enjoyed the subject. I wanted the opportunity to explore the past in different mediums, understand the authors who sculpted some of my favourite fictional characters. Similarly, I wanted the opportunity to delve into the minds of people long forgotten, to be able to understand what prompted certain people to make the decisions that they did.

Going to University, was an opportunity to improve my own knowledge, and with it myself. There was no consideration as to what would happen once my three years were up and I was thrown into the real and daunting adult world. For me, I was going for the education, not the status of owning a degree. Yet, is it worth £9,000 a year? Is there a guarantee that owning a degree will stand you in good stead when applying for jobs? Why bother going to University if you only want an education, why not just read books in your spare time?

One very expensive piece of paper!

One very expensive piece of paper!

Is a degree valuable? There seem to be two sides to this debate. On the one hand, you have those who believe you should study a subject you are passionate in, something that you will enjoy because this will motivate you and give you a better chance at achieving those top grades. On the other side you have the pragmatists, who believe that because you are making a substantial financial investment in yourself, you should do so in a degree that will eventually turn a profit, ie. fast-track you into a good job.

Now, this is all dependent on what you want to achieve in your life. For those of you like me, who have absolutely no idea, option one makes far more sense. Narrowing down a degree was difficult enough, let alone picking one with the end goal of a graduate scheme in place. However, for those lucky people who know how they want to spend their lives working, option two is the sensible choice.

You also have secret option number three. For those people who want to secure a brilliant job at the end of their degree they can add a placement year into the mix. Most sectors are highly competitive, and with the number of graduates steadily increasing, it is more difficult to secure a job unless you have relevant experience as well as a degree. In this instance a placement year is a fantastic opportunity to make sure you enjoy what you plan on doing post-graduation, gain relevant experience, and have the opportunity of applying your knowledge in a real-life example. For an extra £9,000 it might be worth considering if you really want to secure a good career.

As a social science advocate, I have spent many holidays discussing with members of my family why I chose to study the past. The all-too-familiar ‘so are you going to work in a library?’ is something I am sure many history students can relate too. As well as providing you with a substantial understanding of the world, a degree in the social sciences leaves individuals well-equipped to deal with everyday situations. Transferrable skills including the ability to research, analyse and contextualise, as well as decode the truth from a pile of waffle are key things that employers look for. A social science degree proves that you are passionate.

What University also trains you to do is to be independent and work towards deadlines, more so than sixth form. Most of us have been spotted in the library burning the midnight oil the night before a deadline, but we get it done. In the real world you don’t have the option for extensions, if you fail to complete a project on time that is not going to reflect well on you. Or the company.

Juggling deadlines, weekly seminar reading, social life (if you are lucky enough to still have one of those a month before finals) and paid/voluntary work is something that cannot be taught. But by going to University, you learn more about yourself through this process, as well as developing new skills that will raise your job application forms above the rest. Being able to explain to a potential employer that you wrote your dissertation whilst organising an end of term ball for your society, as well as still working three shifts a week is something to be incredibly proud about. Yes, you might have single-handedly eaten your entire body weight in biscuits whilst doing it, but you got it done.

“Yes, you might have single-handedly eaten your entire body weight in biscuits whilst doing it, but you got it done.”

Moreover, University is a sheltered, miniature version of adulthood. Life does not hand you tasks one at a time, they always buddy-up and knock on your front door when you already have a million and one other jobs that need sorting. Prioritisation and organisation are skills that you learn indirectly as a result of being at University. A degree is more than just a very expensive piece of fancy paper. Behind it are numerous amounts of hours, sweat and words that each and every one of us have put into our work. It is also a list of skills which can be used to demonstrate to employers why you are the best candidate for the job.

For me, my time at University was an incredible and invaluable experience. I discovered depths to my personality and determination that I didn’t know existed. I learnt that it is possible to exist on four hours sleep a night and chocolate orange digestives for a weekend. I also learnt a hell of a lot about History and English. Knowledge that comes in incredibly useful when playing Articulate with my family over the holiday seasons, and indirectly answers those pesky questions about why my degree was useful.

Is a University education enough? All employers request relevant experience in job applications, and so possibly a degree is not enough. Yet despite this, a degree proves something that experience does not. It shows that you are so passionate about a subject that you were willing to spend thousands of pounds on it. This is why I believe you should choose your subject around your personal interest. If you are investing all of that money into something, you might as well enjoy it.

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On Strictly week one

I apologise that this is being published a bit late, but because I am without a television I am unable to watch Strictly live on Saturday and so I had to wait until the show appeared on BBC iPlayer. But, as promised, here is my account of the first week.

I have to say that I quite like the set up for this season. Having half the contestants perform on Friday evening and then the rest the night after, trying to squeeze them all into one show would be a disaster darling in mine and Craig’s opinion. Firstly there would be less time for the BBC to pad out with the introductory clips and not mention the amount of time that is needed or Brucie to make his jokes – believe me, some of them are pretty long-winded. Bruce mentioning twerking was something I had never expected in a million years and felt very uncomfortable and uncanny opposed to the laughter it was aiming at. Does Bruce even know what twerking is? Or he is simply just reading what they have written on his cue cards.

Is there anything the BBC won't let him do?

Is there anything the BBC won’t let him do?

As to the contestants and their first dances there was the expected usual array of magnificent and mediocrity. From Abbey and Aljaz being awarded 4 eights in their first dance at the top of the leader board, and unsurprisingly Tony and Aliona and Dave and Karen in joint last place with a total of 16 points – have the top score. Now the main problem I have with the show (don’t misunderstand me, I love it right down to my very pointed toes) but there seems to be no continuous scoring scheme that is used by all the judges throughout the entire course of the show. Yes Abbey danced an amazing Waltz but there is no possible way that she can only progress by a mere 2 points from each judge between now and Christmas. Moreover some of the judges seemed overly harsh with some of the contestants; Vanessa and James’ Cha-Cha was not the best dance in the world, but it perhaps should have been awarded more than 19 points considering there were many faults in Deborah’s dance. The judges need to make it clear to both the public and themselves how the scoring system works. Do they score fairly throughout the whole show, awarding rarely higher than a 5 in the first few weeks and really make those 8’s and 9’s count. Or are they going to continue to throw them out willy nilly.

It also seems completely unfair that they have celebrities on the show that do have a background in dance. Yes it is not fair to discriminate, but in this instance Natalie Gumede trained to be a professional dancer until she became injured. Yes it was made public on the show but that still goes a long way to justify why she was given 31 points in her first dance – it was a bloody brilliant one at that. Similarly I also find it hard to make a decision when the celebrity is a performer. Fiona Fullerton was an actress and was able to disguise her nerves and cover up her mistakes like a professional, her dance quality was not much better than Vanessa Feltz – but her acting gave her the grace that she needed to make it into the middle of the table. I do think that this might be the year that Anton will make it into November and won’t be voted off in the first few weeks because his partner is disliked and unable to put one foot in front of the other on live television. Perhaps all his years of struggling in silence will have paid off; he won’t be lifting the glitter ball this year, but he will have a better chance than any of the previous shows.

Are you watching Bruno? Silly question...

Are you watching Bruno? Silly question…

Of course, an episode of Strictly would not be complete without the necessary sexual innuendo, flirting, tanned chests on show, sparkles and a few testosterone egos bumping into one another. The comment of the weekend for me was Bruno as he spoke to Ben Cohen, the Rugby player, offering his services if Kristina is not able to keep up and make use of all of Ben. Yes a little cringe worthy, in fact very cringe worthy and awkward to watch, but that comes with Bruno. All of the judges have their quirks and gimmicks.

Next week also looks like it will be a promising episode. The ballroom dancers will be swapping to latin and vice versa, then we will really know who is the cream of the crop.

On Britain’s discovery of its backbone

Britain has a history of sticking its nose into other peoples’ business. We really just can’t help ourselves. We see trouble; we decide that it is our moral obligation to help out those poor innocents, regardless of whether they would actually like our help in the first place. Jolly good show old chaps, you really have pulled one out of the bag this time, really gone the extra mile, and lady justice is pleased.

Yet it seems that perhaps we have come to our senses. We have left Syria alone. What madness is this?! We, a nation constituted of moral righteousness and vanity have decided that perhaps we are not wanted. We are not needed. Have the Commons finally accepted that we are no longer the mother of the world? We are no longer the keeper of peace?

In recent years the British public have sat back and watched as the US puppeteer us. We are no longer that Great nation that once ruled half the World. We live in shadow of the US; we bend to their every whim and fancy. Dave can often be seen making tea for Obama at the UN conferences, just to make it 100% clear which side he is on. But Britain has had enough it would seem. Despite Dave putting up a good fight in the Commons, bless him he really wanted his own Prime Minister’s war to mark him in the history books, but the people said no. He graciously admitted that “it is clear that the British parliament…does not want to see British military action” which must have really grated his non-existent backbone.

Perhaps Dave’s gallant retreat had ulterior motives. Perhaps he has realised that our best hope now lies to the East, amongst the new rising tyrants China and Russia. Has his allegiance switched or has he finally come to his senses and realised that Britain has little interest in the outside world. The majority of us have bigger fish to fry than what is happening across the deep blue. We have £9000 a year tuition fees to eventually pay for, we have an economy that is just about holding on as it gradually climbs the steep slope of recovery. We have a government that is as close to shambolic as you can possibly get and what’s more the X-factor has returned to plague our screens.

Of course I am not saying that we should ignore Syria. The destruction and devastation that is occurring within that country is truly horrific and it is a disgrace to the name of humanity (which really is saying something, because most of the time I would rather not classify myself as a human if possible). I am merely suggesting that perhaps Dave and his chums in power should perhaps grow a pair and decide that we are better off alone.

On Strictly and it’s “razzamatazz”

So it is that time of the year, strictly fever has hit the nation. We all tuned in on Saturday night to watch the partnering of the 15 celebrities participating in the 11th series. The beginners to the professionals. The infamous group dance at the end of the show is what most of us held out for. The endless videos and biographies from each of the celebrities, not to mention the new professionals that have joined does become fairly tedious after a while. I was quite thankful that I had recorded the program, as there were some moments when I really did have to fast-forward.

Yes, I know! Slightly sacrilegious. For a humongous dance fan to want to miss out on all the minor details seems so entirely wrong. Well on some level I agree with you. BUT it is a dancing show after all. I watch it for the dance. The performance. The glitz and glamour. They are strictly the reasons why I watch the show.

The line up.

The line up.

Despite some of the criticism the show received, one articular review on the daily mail website by Jim Shelley, I believe that the red carpet opening was totally in-keeping with the show. It was an elaborate performance, decorative, mesmerising, chaotic: all the things that performance and musical theatre are known for. Criticising that the show was just too “razzamatazz” seems completely idiotic in my opinion and almost as if Shelley has completely missed the point of the show.

I think the partnering of the contestants works fairly well. There are many couples that definitely have brilliant potential just from what was apparent in the group dance. Also considering that Natalie Gumede trained as a dancer until she received an injury at 19, seems like there will be some good performances in store for us. The 10th series was the best to date (another cliché that is mentioned each year, that the talent is the best they have seen, that time it really was) and so there is a lot riding on the celebrities. Can they beat the brilliance that was broadcasted every Saturday across the nation? I hope so.

Plus, the competition was only made more apparent when last years champions Louis and Flavia performed their brilliant Charleston “Dr. Wanna do.” No pressure guys, but that is really is awesome. Yes he has his flashy gymnastic tricks thrown into the choreography to add a little bit of that “razzmatazz” but the dancing too is fantastic.

Reining Champs.

Reining Champs.

I am so excited, and I really can’t hide it. Strictly fever has well and truly set in for me and my household. Saturday nights have a new priority and with it probably goes my social life as I start University again. Well worth the sacrifice. I know that many people are not attracted by the dancing, the glitz and the razzle dazzle of showbiz. But this really is all rolled up into a neat little ball. Yes I have danced all my life. Yes I can probably sing most of the lyrics to A West Side Story. Yes I dance instead of walking down the street. But I have no way of waiting another 3 weeks calmly until the show really gets under way.

For those new to the show, take Bruce and his presenting with a pinch of salt (or fast-forward like I do). Take the sequins and spray tanned waxed chests as what they are and embrace your inner goddess; because strictly speaking, we are all diva’s deep down.

On arranging a dinner party with my favourite characters

Have you ever had that feeling where you see something so exciting, so interesting, so fascinating that you cannot physically make yourself think about anything else? Your brain is trapped, unable to remain focused on anything else for long before it wanders back off to this new wonder. Yet you can’t work out the entire reason why you have become so transfixed on this object. It is just another image or thing, there are probably another million of them available. Other people have seen it too, it is not like you have a premium and have been granted sole access to this magnificent creation.

This happened to me yesterday. I was sifting through my facebook newsfeed, with no major expectations. I wasn’t on the search for a new blog topic, I was just wasting a bit of time. Then I saw it. Wham bam thank you m’am.

It changed my thought process.

It changed my thought process.

You see, the thing is, I know it is just an imagine of a round table. I know that it is a pretty badly taken image. I get that. But I just can’t shake the endless possibilities and the worlds of characters and people who I have grown to love and that have grown up with me all sat around one table. One of the other reasons why this image has changed my life is because I cannot, for the life of me, make a final decision on who the 7 characters would be. More importantly, sorting out the seating arrangement would most definitely be a nightmare.

So I decided to have a look at the comments. That was an even worse mistake. There were already some truly brilliant seating arrangements out there that it made my task even more daunting. The subscribers to the Nerds do it better site really had made great choices. But then I realised that I am at the cross over point. I have so many favourite tv and film characters that it would be difficult for me to choose only 7 of them just from the fantasy and science fiction genre; but I have so many other characters outside these genres that I love that the weight of the task seems to be increasing exponentially.

So I began the task. “The task has been appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will” Galadriel kept whispering at the back of my mind. So I started with the women, the most inspirational, important, fabulous, sassy, beautiful, intelligent, passionate, wise and just damn-right-ass-kickingly-awesome women I could think of. Once I had them in mind it was just a simple matter of deciding where they would sit at the table. I mean they would need to be able to hold a conversation with the people I placed beside them – much easier said than done I have to admit.

I knew that there were some people who would be definite. The other guests would have to be arranged around them. Yes that is favouritism, but this is my fantasy dinner party after all. So here it is. My dream dinner party.

1. 10th Doctor  2. Gandalf the Grey 3. Danaerys Targarean 4. Lara Croft (from the game, not Angelina Jolie) 5. Colin Morgan as Merlin 6. Jane Eyre  7. Mr Darcy

1. 10th Doctor played by David Tennant
2. Gandalf the White
3. Daenerys Targaryen
4. Lara Croft (from the game, not Angelina Jolie)
5. Merlin played by Colin Morgan
6. Jane Eyre
7. Mr Darcy

 

I don’t really feel like I need to justify myself in my choice of guests because they are truly awesome in their own way. However I will explain why I have positioned them where I have. David Tennant is to my right because I love him as the Doctor. He is my favourite Doctor and it would just be amazing to have him sit next to me and tell me stories of all the places in the universe he has visited, if he does run out of topics he is pretty dreamy. Gandalf and the Doctor would get on like a house on fire as they would both wish to learn what the other has to say. They are both wise men with long pasts, but more importantly, they can both regenerate! Dani would feel at home with a wizard like Gandalf and they could converse about her dragons and the magic that they possess. I believe that both Lara and Dani are the same woman just living in different worlds. Lara is an adventurer/explorer who like Dani has her own mission. They are also extremely powerful women and I have no doubt that they would not enjoy each other’s company. Merlin as a historical fictional character would be able to reveal all the mysteries of old England to Lara and help her with her research. Finally Jane Eyre and Mr Darcy are both characters from two of my favourite books, but more importantly the same era, written by women and I believe they would get on well. Having Mr Darcy on my left could potentially divert some of my attention from David Tennant long enough for him to speak with Gandalf.

The more I look at my seating arrangement, the more I wonder if I have made the right decision. I have so many favourite characters that have been axed from the dream team and I only wish that I could have more up there. But I guess I will need reserves, because they might not all accept my invitation! Who would you choose?

 

On catching up and feeling guilty about George Martin

I love going on holiday, I really do. I am sure most people will agree with me on this one, especially if you jet-setting off to an unknown place, full of places to explore and people to meet. The thrill and adrenaline you get from just not working, lounging around all day doing nothing. Visiting places of wonder and snapping them all so they can be shared on facebook the moment your hand touches your laptop once you arrive home.

The only problem I have is that there is an awful lot of catching up to do when you get back; especially if you completely switched off from the outer world on your holiday. All those episodes of the white queen I missed had to be watched straight away so I had enough time to catch the most recent one later that day.

I am also a big believer in reading before watching, but sometimes life just doesn’t work like that. You run out of time, work piles up, you have other things that have a higher priority, or you simply just can’t get hold of the text quick enough. Now I have to admit, I hadn’t read George R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones before I started watching the show last year. Yes I was even a late comer to the show too. I do feel bad that I put so much emphasis on the importance of appreciating the literature before the video, but that is just the way my preferences work. Book before look.

The book.

The book.

However this holiday gave me the leisure I needed to do some very serious catching up and the ability to remove some of the serious guilt that has been weighing me down for the last few months. Luckily my dad was a proud of owner of the set to date so I didn’t even have to splash the cash (something that also made me feel incredibly guilty about not having read them yet) before the trip abroad. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I knew the book would be, there can only be so much elaboration and dramatic enhancement to the original text to make it appealing to a wider audience. In my opinion the original is always the better version. I was proved correct once again.

The depth of character development, description and imagination involved throughout the whole of the first of the series of A Song of Fire and Ice was amazing. Although I already knew the story line and so I guess reading the books condensed my understanding of the story. I think that in fact, I am going to eat my own words right now, but perhaps watching the HBO show before reading the books was a good way to do it. There are so many characters and relationships, not to mention the characters that are never alive in the text and are mentioned to help us understand the history of the people; that watching them on a screen makes them more prevalent in our minds.

Aside from the potential to confuse, which I think is a necessary element of all fantasy writing because the history needs to be well-developed and believable; but the 800 plus pages disappeared like a flash. I have always loved a fantasy novel, trilogy, saga and have never really struggled with any of them, but A Game of Thrones was entirely different. The characters jumped off the page to me, I warmed to even some of the most venomous characters that in the tv show I could have easily burnt at the stake for their crimes. I even found myself disliking characters that I had originally admired and honoured (yes, I am talking about you Eddard Stark).

The show.

The show.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that I am well and truly dumbfounded. I still stick to my opinion that you should read the original before you watch the adaptations, but this one has been different. The guilt will be carried with me for life, until i catch up and read book four that has yet to be adapted. But even so, the book and the HBO series evoked different emotions and pulled at different heart stings, even though the events were the same in each more or less. Unfortunately this seems a bit inconclusive, but I guess you will have to find out for yourselves and let me know if you have ever been a similar predicament.