Advice from a 2nd year: Top 5 Fresher Tips

I’m now a second year at University, which is both scary and surprising. Considering at the end of Sixth Form I was not interested in going to Uni at all, and would actually laugh at the idea, I’ve managed to somehow get this far. Though, it hasn’t all been rainbows and happiness. It was hard bloody work. For all of you going to University, and even to those that aren’t, here’s a few tips that may help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made over the past year:

 -Keep an Open Mind- 

You may already think you have seen all you can see in this world. You haven’t. For this reason it’s so important to keep an open mind to everything you experience, don’t judge a book, all those cliché sayings. Doing this will allow you to get to know some of the most interesting people out there, some of the most creative people, and it will also help you really get to know yourself. People will appreciate you for listening to their opinions in a conscientious manner, instead of shouting your own over everybody. As quite an opinionated person, this is something I could have done with somebody really explaining to me before I set foot into my new environment.

Keeping an open mind doesn’t just apply towards the people you’ll meet, it’s also really important to remember this during your fresher week activities, in particular, the societies fair. This is a vital chance to sign up to some activities and meet some people outside of your halls. I didn’t sign up for anything. Please, please avoid this. If you want to sign up for the tea-drinking parachuting club, you go for it! You shouldn’t give two thoughts to it, just put yourself out there. University will be one of the only times in your life you will have the opportunity to be as free, and you should make the most of this. It really doesn’t matter if your flatmates don’t sign up for something you want to – meet new people!

University Societies

– Create a Comfortable Environment – 

OK, here’s the basics: your uni halls shouldn’t just be a place for you to collapse in after your ‘mental’ night out & it definitely shouldn’t have the capabilities of hiding stray cats/cones/sign-posts in. Well, unless that’s your idea of comfortable. Your tiny, 5 metre square room is, inevitably, where you’re going to be spending the next year. For this reason, respect it.  I didn’t appreciate this at first, and my uni room wasn’t homely at all. Nothing seemed to really match, and this made being away from home even harder.

Do what it takes to make it even a little bit better, plaster pictures on the walls or keep it minimalist, it’s your little space, you decide. It’s easy to get swept up with the excitement of things in the first week and forget about how rewarding it can be to finally own (well, rent) your own little place.

In terms of the communal spaces, such as your kitchen, you can’t control other people. No matter how many passive-aggressive notes you are capable of writing, people are always going to do their own thing. And that’s fine. Yes, it is going to get messy. Yes, it will smell really, really bad and the bins won’t get emptied for weeks. Cleaning rotas never work. That’s the blunt truth of it. This is why it’s exceptionally important to make your own room exactly how you want it. Just avoid arguments about whose plates haven’t been washed in 5 weeks, it’s not worth it.

I found a fairly decent article here about making your uni bedroom just a little bit better (sorry, it is slightly outdated, but it was the only piece I could find that wasn’t particularly sexist…)

University room

– Be Prepared – 

Freshers week is really, really fast paced, so it’s important you’re actually ready for your lectures & seminars the next week. Don’t do what I did and ask the seminar tutor for a pen and a piece of paper whilst looking extremely hungover. That will guarantee you an enemy for the entirety of the first year. Buy your pens, buy your paper, buy your books, whatever you’re going to need to guarantee yourself a head start in those first few vital weeks.

Secondly, beware of the vicious statement ‘your first year doesn’t count anyway’. This is not a right of passage to then attend 3 lectures out of 25 and sleep through the rest. Here’s a reality check: you have to at least pass your first year to even attend the second year. You will learn all of the vital skills you need to write your essays in that first year. Treat it as more of a test-run for the forthcoming years. This is also your chance to get to know your lecturers, who will be a huge help and also an academic support network. After all, you’re potentially paying up to £9000 a year for tuition, don’t waste it.

Sleeping in a Lecture

– Have Some Time Out – 

By some ‘time out’ I don’t mean some time out getting ‘absolutely slaughtered with the gals #town’, I mean some time away from the drink. Some time to be actually be on your own for a while and adjust properly to this new life you’re living. Don’t become someone that everyone expects you to be, just be yourself. Do not force yourself to go out drinking, and certainly don’t succumb to peer pressure. Do what you want to do.

You don’t have to be around your flatmates 24/7; go and explore the new city you’re living in, snuggle up and watch a film, or even go for a run. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what makes you happy. I’ve always had respect for people that are truly individual and not a clone of the typical University ‘fresher’.

Relax

– Keep in Contact – 

Finally, it’s crucial you don’t desert everybody you know from back home just because of this new University life. Particularly your family. Make an effort to call your mum, she’ll be worrying like crazy. People naturally drift apart, but this doesn’t stop you making an effort. Your family have raised you, you have only known your flatmates for a few days, and trust me, true colours take a while to show.

Keep your routine, yes you may not be able to pop home for Sunday roast, but you can at least have a weekly Skype call. I find it incredibly sad when I see Uni students rejecting phone calls from their Mum/Dad, especially thinking about how worried they must be. Plus, they’re going to be doing your washing, so keep on their good side.

Washing

I hope this reassures anybody that is feeling a bit strange about Uni life even a little bit better, you’re not the only one 🙂

Young people are not ‘disengaged’ with Politics.

Let me just start by saying that not all young people are disengaged with politics. This is a completely presumed myth that has somehow turned into fact. I feel as if people just automatically presume this due to the demographics involved in politics for as long as anybody can remember. As an example, after the 2010 election, the average MP age fell (FELL?!) to 50 years of age. This makes people panic about young people, but don’t you worry, most of us have got this politics thing worked out just fine. Just because we’re not all running around in suits at the House of Commons, it does not mean that we are not disinterested, uninvolved, and uneducated about politics.

This year’s election (2015) was my first year of being allowed to vote, and though this is a big deal, I’d rather keep my personal political views private. Though, my point is that even I was overwhelmed at other young people my age so heavily involved with politics. I suppose the media had tricked me, as well as others, into believing that the ‘youth’ just didn’t care. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the ‘I’m voting!’ button on Facebook was rather cringeworthy, but engagement on social media regarding the election and politics was incredible, and who makes up the main demographic on social media sites? Young people. I saw arguments upon arguments in Facebook comments and Twitter mentions. But this is in no way a bad thing. I’m hoping it shows the concerned older generation out there that we do actually care about what’s happening to our country, and world, for that matter. One day we’re going to have to sort out the messes that recent governments have created, and I feel comfort in knowing that my generation is fully aware of this. Though we may be divided through our political differences, we are united in caring about our futures.

The House of Commons could always, always do with a shake up. More female MPs, and the other usual issues, and I believe it’s about time that we started putting some focus on the ageism within politics. There are young individuals involved heavily with politics, but it’s time to stop being individuals and start being a majority, which already happens on social media, but in order for people to actually notice, it’s time to go further. With blogs, being involved in demonstrations, signing petitions, whatever, it’s just time to put these myths about not caring about how our country is ran to rest. I’m sick of hearing lectures from older generations about the importance of politics, we already know.

Somebody close to me recently counted the general election votes for our area, and indulged me in the variety of ages involved, most of these people having the motivation to count due to their interest in politics. But the media never seems to notice this, maybe it’s because it’s easier to attack youths than pensioners because there’s less guilt involved. Or perhaps people are only interested in reading about what trouble young people have started again. It’s amazing how many people forget they were 18 once.

I do agree that the country can do so much more to educate young people about politics as a whole, though. I admit, I feel like I don’t completely understand or know everything to do with the political system, and if I had this education at a younger age I would be able to make much more informed decisions about most things in my life. There would be no harm with putting Politics on the school curriculum. Just as long as it wasn’t biased, which I feel is easier than most people believe. Teachers do not have to, nor should they need to, indulge students in their personal political beliefs, but should rather point pupils to resources that they need to make their own decisions, websites such as https://voteforpolicies.org.uk/, or textbooks that include history about the political system in Britain. Teach them how the voting system works, how important decisions are made by the Government, and even show them their local political system. Emphasise democracy in the school environment. Encourage them to write to MPs about what they believe needs to change, inspire them to be even more involved/interested that a huge amount of them already are. I don’t understand why this isn’t already happening.

Granted, my above points are slightly late in timing since the general election has just happened, but we all have a responsibility for the next five years to stop the media making out all young people to be uninterested with everything, really. We have five years to make some kind of significant political change in this country. Let’s actually do it this time.

An open letter to Leelah Alcorn’s parents.

To Leelah’s parents,

Imagine for just a moment, that you had, what you’d consider a ‘normal’ child. A devout Christian boy who listened to every single word you said and never disobeyed, I bet you’d love that, wouldn’t you? Here’s the thing, that is not the child that came into your life. Simply from reading Leelah’s harrowing suicide note I can tell that she was a spirited, beautiful, and wise, young woman. Transgender or not, you should have been proud. You were blessed.

As you said to Leelah, ‘god doesn’t make mistakes’, so why were you so convinced she was one? What a contradiction.

Here’s the thing. We are all humans, we are all in the same position in life. Yes, we go through different things, but think back to basics, we are all the same creatures. This is what irritates me the most, when people suddenly think they’re higher than others because of certain beliefs they have. I don’t care if you’re a ‘lovely’ Christian couple. Being religious doesn’t instantly make you a good person. It doesn’t instantly make you right. Did you know that Adolf Hitler was religious due to his upbringing, and was technically a part of the Catholic church? Do you still think he’s a good person because he has faith? Attaching yourself to a religion does not make you instantly above any body else, or better than any body else, or ‘cleaner’ than anybody else. It’s simply a belief, and it is saddening to think of the many people that have attached themselves to certain beliefs who refuse to have an open mind and respect other people’s views. I guarantee Leelah never tried to change you, so why did you try and force her to change? Let me guess, because she was your child and therefore you were dominant? There’s another depressing recurrence.

Since I heard about Leelah’s death, it’s been running around and around in my mind what sort of rejection, or lack of acceptance you must have once received in your life to treat a child in such a manner. Because if I’m honest, I can’t think of any other reason why you would feel the need to reject your own child.

Leelah was right, we do need to fix society. We need to stop thinking that it’s right to force our own beliefs onto our children, when infact they are their own human being, their own source of life. Let children breathe, experience, and tackle life on their own, given them support whenever it is needed. Just when I thought society was getting more accepting, just when I had read about Angelina Jolie’s child identifying as a boy rather than a girl and the married couple accepting it with complete ease, something/somebody has to come along and slap the world in the face with complete and utter ignorance.

I feel like this ignorance would come to an end if we stopped the lack of acceptance at the source; don’t give birth if you aren’t willing to put your whole life into that child no matter what your beliefs are. Leelah, and so many others, have and continue to, grow up in a generation of hate, and trolls, and sometimes I don’t blame them for not wanting to live as a part of it.

I am ashamed.

A Year On…

It seems so strange to be thinking that it’s around my blog’s 1st birthday. No, I won’t be shoving a birthday cake into my computer screen, or getting all emotional and lighting a Chinese lantern to reminisce on the past year of continuously becoming frustrated with WordPress wanting money from me to simply change the colour scheme of my site. Instead, I had a huge urge to delete my blog and all of the content on it. This morning, I genuinely hovered my mouse over the ‘delete site’ button, because for some reason, what was written on my blog didn’t seem real, or good enough, any more. For example, I have recently become more absorbed in other things in my life that have kept me from writing content, and for so long I went on about University not being worth it for young people, all of which seems to have amounted to nothing. One of the most difficult things about writing is looking back at your work and knowing that’s it’s not good enough and doesn’t meet your standards.

Obviously, since you’re reading this, I haven’t been a complete idiot and deleted my blog, because I realised that even though what I have produced in the last year may not have been good enough for me, there have been multiple occasions where what I have written has pleased, and maybe even impressed, other people, and my blog has helped me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.

Firstly, my blog gave me more of a voice (cliché), because frankly there’s no way I could have got away with writing about UCAS or Gove in the way I did, in some sort of school newsletter. It also gave me a unique voice. Whilst it’s all fine and dandy blogging about make-up, hair, and shoes, I feel like there’s something much more empowering about being controversial and writing about topics that maybe other young people don’t have the courage to.

Secondly, as an aspiring journalist, my blog gave me an easy and free platform to write on, which then lead on to me writing for Wannabe Hacks, Future Talent, Lunacy of Ink, and as of today, I am a writer for Shout Out UK, with many, many more exciting projects in the pipe line. Plus, being nominated in the Cosmo Blog Awards still doesn’t feel real yet.

Lastly, writing my blog has caused me to mature. Though I may post the occasional (hilarious) cat picture on Twitter, I’m much more aware of how to have a structured conversation/debate with an adult about difficult subjects, for example I had a conversation not too long ago about the scam that I believe to be Private & Independent schools.

Overall, I should be proud of how far Through A Fresh Pair of Eyes has come in a year, and strive to create better content if I am not happy with what already exists. What can you take from this? Creating a blog is a really great opportunity and experience, but if you’re not going to make it original, and mean something, then is it really worth it?

I’m still on the search for guest bloggers, so if you fancy have a little whine on this website as opposed to your website then just contact me laurenleacunningham@gmail.com.

The Top 10 most asked interview questions – TRANSLATED!

I felt it was only suitable, since many young people will begin to look for jobs this summer, to write the most cliché post about interview questions, but with a twist and some honest brutality! I found the most asked interview questions from The Telegraph (https://jobs.telegraph.co.uk/article/10-most-frequently-asked-interview-questions/), and I’m going to translate them for you. Aren’t you lucky? ‘But Lauren, they are simple’ you say? There, you are mistaken…

So, in no particular order:

‘Tell me about yourself
What it may appear to mean: The interviewer is interested in you as a person, and wants to know all about your hobbies and the mates that you hang around with, and that one time your cat ate your goldfish. How lovely of them to ask. 

Honest, brutal translation: I don’t actually care about you, or what you do when you are outside of these offices, but my manager says I can’t phrase it like that, in case we do hire you. I want you to give me the character profile of who we are looking to hire, and try and make it at least a little bit convincing, I’ve had five people in before you who were plain terrible at lying. 

My advice: Research the type of people that already work at the company (without gaining a restraining order), and try to see what their qualities are. Obvs, be sensible with this; do not say you are into computer science (because you saw one of their employees had a degree in this), if firstly you are not, and secondly you are applying to a completely unrelated job, e.g Chief Tea Maker. Finally, it’s not worth changing yourself completely for one job, you won’t enjoy it as much if you can’t actually be yourself.

 ‘What are your key skills/strengths?
What it may appear to mean: This is secretly a challenge, I want you to list as many good things you have done in your life in thirty seconds, GO!

Honest, brutal translation: I need you to let me know that you actually have the skills to fulfil the job that you are applying for, otherwise you’re completely wasting my time. Oh and for gods sake make the skills relevant.

My advice: You can’t just list random skills, they have to relate to the job you are applying for. Don’t try to list as many as you can, prioritise your best and most relevant skills. Tip: Strength does not mean physical strength. I can tell you many horror stories of people that have mixed this up, but that’s for another time. 

‘What are your weaknesses?’ 
What it may appear to mean: Wow, up to now you appear like the perfect person for the job, please dear immortal, tell me where you flaw. I’m certainly going to believe you if you say ‘I don’t have any’. 

Honest, brutal translation: Every other interviewer in the history of interviews asks this question, so I should probably do it too, you know, to keep up. Plus, if you’re cocky and think you’re amazing at everything your co-workers are probably going to hate you, and that’s even more paperwork for HR. 

My advice: You have a weakness. If you think you don’t have a weakness, make one up. If you’re a crier, like me, please avoid anything that is going to start the tears flowing. For the love of god, the interviewer doesn’t want to know that you are emotionally unstable. Plus, here’s a top tip, show how the weakness can be improved quickly by getting the job you are being interviewed for. No cheesy stuff, avoid the cheese. 

‘Why did you leave your old job?’
What it may appear to mean: OOO give us some juicy detail on that MASSIVE argument you had with your boss. 

Honest, brutal translation: Show us you can have some confidentiality and handle yourself well in pressurised situations. We don’t like a gossip. 

My advice: Unless it’s for legal reasons, you don’t have to tell the interviewer everything. The best thing to say when asked this question is something along the lines of ‘I felt like I could not advance any more where I was’, or something more suitable that proves you are serious about this new job. 

And finally, the gut-wrencher…..

‘What are your salary expectations?’

What it may appear to mean: IF YOU SEEM GREEDY IN ANY WAY YOU ARE NOT GETTING THE JOB. TIME TO WORK FOR FREE, SUCKER.

Honest, brutal translation: Money is pretty important, that’s kind of one of the main reasons you will be working for us. Let’s test you and see what your priorities are. 

My advice: You don’t want to get into a difficult situation with money that causes an argument in your interview, so handle this properly if you get a job offer. During the job offer, try and emphasise that salary is negotiable, and when asked for a figure give a realistic range of numbers that isn’t going to scare them away from you…

You don’t NEED to vote.

For those of you who may have been living in your little cage of revision, today was the day for people to vote in the EU elections. This may be an iconic day for some of you, if like me you have recently turned 18 and therefore are voting officially for the first time. Let me stress something: This does not mean you HAVE to vote. First of all, let me start by saying that I certainly didn’t; I felt like I didn’t know enough about the candidates standing to vote effectively, and I’m certainly not going to abuse my right to vote.

This relates back to what I have seen so much on social media of today – people pressurising other people to vote. Yes, we have the right to vote, but that doesn’t mean we have to. By not voting I am not ‘abusing the system’, and by not voting it does not mean I can’t have an opinion on the election as a whole. One comment I heard in particular today was ‘If you don’t vote, then you can’t complain’. A vote is something that I believe to be completely a person’s choice, and I think it is wrong to pressurise people into voting when they don’t particularly want to. I would rather make my vote educated rather than just closing my eyes and picking a random box to tick.

I mean, Facebook is even pressuring me now. Five times today I have heard my phone ‘pinging’, and every time it has been Facebook trying to tell me where my nearest voting station is. Not that they’re hard to miss, with the big white signs. Yes, I agree, it’s amazing we have the right to vote, and society has come very far, but I also have the right to buy 10 tons of chocolate every day if I wanted to, and I certainly don’t that. Because I don’t want to. It is not hard to understand. If you are a young person that has voted today, well done to you, but I do hope it was an educated decision, or because you wanted to, not down to the peer pressure.

It feels as if nobody pressures older people to vote, and that is what annoys me the most. I would never go up to my parents, or anybody older, and interrogate them with statements such as ‘Oh, I hope you have voted’, ‘You better have voted, otherwise *insert people they don’t want to get into power* will win’.

I’m certainly passionate about politics, but I’m not passionate about pushy people.

The self-proclaimed philosophers of the internet

We all have a teenager on one of our social networks that think they are literally philosophers. Sometimes I dread to open Facebook because I know my news feed will be full of that one person’s comments. Comments such as the re-used Marilyn Monroe ‘quote’, ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst then you certainly don’t deserve me at my best’, or the typical quote about heartbreak. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with expressing yourself, but at least do it originally, because re-using the same quotes used by other people over and over again is certainly boring.

I can guarantee these are the same people that delete their Instagram photos after 3 minutes if they don’t get any likes…