This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I will ever write, trying to sum up my undergraduate experience in a nutshell, cheers to that!
Anyway, for those who don’t know, I recently finished my course Journalism: Broadcast last month. It was a tough journey to say the least but i thoroughly enjoyed it. There were many ups and downs, but all I can say now is that I made it through.
I will be graduating this month, on 21st July. I feel as if my parents are looking forward to it the most as they have been telling literally every single person on this planet! To be honest, I expect nothing less from them, I have tried my best and made them proud.
As the only black male student in my year, will on the course over the last few years I am extremely proud to have achieved what I did during my time at University. It is a career that many people of color shy away from as they feel they will not have be given opportunities. But I can testify, will hard work, determination, taking opportunities, IT IS POSSIBLE #SelfBelief.
As a black male student, It was an interesting experience to say the least. Many people will think black students like bringing up race and separate themselves. However, the differences in culture are completely different, background and even the way people portray themselves. There are certain things I would bring up in conversations with people not from the same background, but they failed to understand because they do not have experience that me and other black people experience… I’ll leave this topic for another day.
My Undergraduate Experience
First of all, the hardest thing when I started University was what should I do to make the most of my experience. When I started University I was presented with so many opportunities whether it was sports clubs, societies, work among many other things. Being honest, I was overwhelmed and a month into my university I basically scrapped most of the things I wanted to do. It was a difficult choice to make because a lot of the things clashed with each other or with my University time table.
I wanted to ensure that I excel in my education before anything else, manage my time correctly and make sure that I pass my assignments and exams. Besides this, I wanted to make friends as well, which of course I managed to do. Making friends was scary and fun at the same time, before University I always stuck to the same people over the years and wasn’t a person who made new friends all the time. Eventually, I managed to be part of a group of friends who I’m still good friends with now. More than anything, I found a group of guys who were from Zimbabwe (where I’m from) who are great and we were able to share our experiences and culture.
Before going to University I was very keen being a Sports broadcaster, which was my dream from a young age. I grew up watching Sky sports, BBC sport and ITV sport and wanted to desperately to gain skills so that I could take on a job there in the future. However, that all changed a year or so into my course. I became interested in government, current affairs and international politics. At around that time, it was leading up to the referendum to leave EU, so I was constantly glued to my TV for months following what was going on. Since that day I haven’t looked back, I still immerse myself in current affairs and all things politics. I never thought this would be the case, but here I am!
Besides attending lectures, doing assignments and exams, I spent every holiday going on work experience. I desperately wanted to get my hands dirty (not literally), to practice what I have learnt during my classes, meet professionals and make connections. My first ever work experience was at a start up magazine in Manchester at the end of first year just before my summer holidays. It was for two weeks in the center of Manchester. I was apprehensive about it before I went for my first day. After all, it was my first ever experience in industry. Long story short, I turned up on my first day in a full suit, tie and smart shoes… Guess what, everyone in the office was in trainers, t-shirts and jeans. I mean it was good I didn’t make a bad first impression, but at the same time I wasn’t aware of the dress code. The following days I dressed down a bit and followed the look that everyone else had. It was an interesting two weeks to say the least, I wrote lots of articles, went out to do stories and basically did everything I could to impress. After the experience was over, they said keep in contact just in case there are any upcoming opportunities. So I did… Few months down the line it turned out that some of the workers were here illegally, the boss took all the money and left the business and yeah, the rest is history. I would love to write the full account of that experience but I’ll be here all day. Fair to say I never went back there again.
To keep it short, during my three years I managed to land myself work experience at Sky News, Sky Sports and Sky Sports News, BBC Radio 1, BBC World Service, Sale Sharks Rugby Club, ITV Granada and ITV – Real Stories. Crazy right?!
All I can say is, if you never apply, you’ll never know! For a lot of budding journalists these are the places that everyone wants to go to and they are extremely competitive. I couldn’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had over the last three years, In fact I’ve received about three this month which I applied for months ago, so it’s a journey!
Due to my long list of work experience and placements, I was fortunate to land myself a job at BBC Radio 1/1Xtra. Having taken part in work experience at the beginning of my second year, I was offered a job five months ago. It was a rigorous process, of which I managed to get through it and be successful. I am absolutely grateful for the opportunity, although it’s not my dream job, it’s a step that I have to take to get to where I want to get to. It has been an overwhelming experience so far, not in terms of the work load, but how receptive the people who work there are. I have had a lot of people coming to introduce themselves and offer themselves whenever I need help. I don’t think I have ever met people who are just willing to help me and spare a few moments of their time, not ever at university. I hope that I will continue to progress over the years, at a place like BBC there’s no doubt that I will if I work hard and take opportunities and risks.
STUDYING – That’s right I am going to keep studying. I managed to get a place on the Political communication course at Goldsmiths – University of London. As I said earlier my dream was to be a Sports Broadcaster (which could still happen one day), I grew to love current affairs and all things politics during my time at University. I felt that this masters programme will help me to build my knowledge as a future journalist and take on tough stories in National news.
To anyone who wants to be a journalist and are told that you shouldn’t do it, take the risk and do it! My parents, well my dad to be specific, wanted me to follow his career of working in economics or finance, typical African career aspiration (if you know you know). I chose to be rebellious and do something I love, and I have no regrets. Funny enough, my dad loves the choice and I made and he is constantly giving me advice, he has really grown on it and spends a lot of time giving me careers advice, amazing right?!
I would also say make sure you have written goals (this can be for anyone, not just journalists) of what you want to achieve in your career and your time at University. I stress this so much to students in the younger years. If I hadn’t written my goals on my wall, I think I would have just tried to make it up as I go along or even forget specific things.
Anything is possible with hard work
I always found it odd when people say black people have to work much harder than their counterparts. Coming from a family where we have doctors, medical staff, accountants, economics and so on. I always thought that everything is going to be smooth sailing and that I can just elevate my career with the click of my fingers. However, as I’ve grown up I have heard stories of just how difficult it is for black people to excel, especially in UK. Regardless of what career, University or attributes that you have, It is still difficult to break the boundaries and progress in your work place, even after you get a job.
This has been reiterated by people who work in my industry and have made a career for themselves. I have been told by a number of professionals in my field and otherwise that as a black student or worker you need to put in 150% more than non people of color. Hearing that made me wonder, is this was I’m going to be faced with.
I still believe in hard work, determination and taking opportunities. But now, more than ever, I feel like I am or will be in a position to help young black students to achieve what they want to achieve regardless of career. Like I have noticed, the University experience can fly by and end before you know it. I would say do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your goals, keep going and strive for greatness. I’m not saying that I will not help those who are not people of color, but seeing the struggles that PoC have gone through in their careers, It’s an avenue that I want to help in and help others get the opportunities that I have.
It’s probably a bit longer than I expected it to be, I will definitely try to break the topics over time in shorter blogs, but for now I hope you enjoyed my post sharing my experience. I hope it inspires someone to take on their dream, take on that course they have always wanted to do and be the best you can be.