Tag Archives: university

On the Go

First off, apologies for my really long absence. I’ve been ill for a few weeks, and before that, I was just lazy. So, sorry.

The final year of my degree has not exactly been leisurely. If I thought revising for University Challenge was bad, I clearly hadn’t encountered synchrotrons.

For those of you who don’t know what a synchrotron is, it’s a type of particle accelerator used to produce light. That is all you will ever need to know for the entirety of your life.

I, however, know a little more about them. I’m waiting for the day I’m idly wandering the streets when a policeman shouts “Oh, sweet Lord! Can anyone here use Matlab to produce a model of a FODO lattice for use in third generation light sources? Lives depend on it.”

I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

I love synchrotrons, and their radiation, utterly disproportionately. You won’t believe all the clever things they’re used for. Still, there’s this nagging feeling that maybe I’ve taken this physics thing a bit far.

To start with, it was a brilliant idea. Do some research. Get a specialism. Know what I’m talking about. Now, it’s getting silly.

But you know what? I don’t care. The more I think about it, the more fun it is. This is what uni should have been from the off- researching something I knew nothing about. I’ve learnt so much.

“All knowledge is precious, whether or not it serves the slightest human use.”

That’s why I want to be a journalist. To know, and to tell everyone what I know.

Let me.


Applying Myself

It’s that time of year. The time of year that most people aren’t aware of. Applications time. Which means I’m more nervous than ever to write anything.

When I say “more nervous than ever”, what I actually mean is “nervous”. I’m nervous. I don’t really get nervous, but here it is.

On my applications, it does mention slightly that I have a blog. I also know for a fact that, being human, I have made mistakes in this. I know where they are; I’m just too embarrassed about them to go back and fix them.

I also don’t want to express any opinions until after any applications have been processed. I also don’t really want to mention what applications I’ve made, in case person A gets annoyed about application B, or vice versa.

So, essentially, I’m too scared to write anything, because I’ve got far too much riding on this.

Actually, I am writing at the moment. Trying to keep my hand in and all that. Just- not in places where I might be forced to express any aspect of my personality, lest I be judged by the one person I really want to say yes to my application.

Sigh. Have a good Christmas. I’ll try to.

NaNoWriMo Week 3

Subtitle: the end of the road.

Yes, I know, it’s tragic, I’m rubbish, I’m just giving up and I ought to be ashamed of myself.

Last Friday, my cat died. I then took a two-and-a-half hour car journey all night to visit my parents, who I never see, and spent Saturday in a muddy field watching my first, and I can only hope my last, game of rugby. On Sunday I watched Skyfall, which I know is all very fun, and then got back into the car for another 150 minute journey, which was clearly not.

I know. Excuses, excuses. I could have let everyone else go to the cinema without me, while I forced out 1667 words. Maybe I shouldn’t have even visited my parents.

On Monday, I came down with a cold. I know, pathetic, isn’t it? A cold. It doesn’t matter that my sinuses were agonising. That I couldn’t sleep at night. That I had three deadlines that week, not to mention that my entire Wednesday would be swallowed up by work training.

People get colds every year. It’s not the ‘flu. It’s not even food poisoning. It doesn’t matter that when I sneeze or cough particularly hard, my ribcage slams down into my abdomen, behind bits of body that it should definitely not be behind. It’s just a cold. You can’t stop writing a novel just because you’ve got a cold.

When I started this, I knew it was ambitious. I knew I was busy. I just didn’t realise how busy.

This morning, I tried coming into university to finish captioning my work. I knew it shouldn’t take more than an hour, but still I left with plenty of time. There was a traffic incident on the way in, which delayed me by 40 mins.

I then had a run-in with a particularly unpleasant little man.

I won’t give you the details, but he was a complete stranger, who was petty, aggressive and belittling. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of breaking me there and then, but as I walked away, I started to panic. Hyperventilating and crying, the reality of how hard I have been working hit me.

There’s a challenge, and then there’s martyrdom. Goodbye, NaNoWriMo. Maybe we’ll meet again someday. But this is not my year.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never write a novel. I will. Try and stop me.

Moving on…

So, that thing I wanted to write about? Forget about it. It’s being dealt with, and I’ll tell you all about it later. It’s consumed too much of my time and thoughts to bother with any more.

So, I’m trying to get a job. Around this time of year is when the race is really on to nab all the juiciest positions. There are quite a few 50k a year positions on offer, too, by the looks of things. So, I’m confronted on all sides by continual CV revisions, interview preparation, trawling through job sites and filling in application forms. But then again, who isn’t?

This is clearly a big time of year for . The exciting, and rightfully so, Reed adverts envision a world where you love Mondays. On the other hand, Jobsite ads are rather sinister. I’ve not been on the Jobsite website, almost entirely because the advert terrifies me. Also, Reed is an enormous help.

Still, graduate employment is a toughie. I imagine there’s nothing worse than finishing university at a loose end, and yet every year, thousands of students graduate without plan or hope.

It’s a problem that has got worse in recent years (and has nothing to do with politics- the economy is broke and nobody knows how to fix it). Over the course of six years, graduate unemployment has increased by 50%, resulting in 1.5 million graduates looking for jobs last year.

What’s the problem, though? Are there not enough jobs? Are there better candidates? Are there too many graduates?

It’s a combination of the three, in my opinion. But that’s just my opinion. You disagree with me, I’ll disagree with you. Still, here are my reasons.

There aren’t enough jobs. In this country, we’re expensive to employ, and whole factories move overseas as a result. Not only are hundreds of unskilled jobs gone, but so are the managerial roles. As the money runs out, companies make cuts- and positions close forever. Graduate schemes are an unnecessary luxury- why bother investing for tomorrow when there might not be one?

There are better candidates. A lot of employers care more about “life experience” than they do about whether or not you have a certificate. I read about a CEO who made a point of always interviewing candidates with a third, as they probably had an interesting reason behind it. A first may well be useless if you haven’t got the sought-after extra-curriculars, work experience and personality. In many people’s opinions, you’re more likely to get a decent bit of chat out of an apprentice than a posh graduate.

There are too many graduates. Not very leftie of me to say so, but I’ve never been afraid of that. I could at this point run through a list of all the daft courses people are graduating with, but my experiences with the women at Aim Higher (in my experience, no men work under the Aim Higher banner), no course is a “Mickey Mouse degree”. They’re all degrees, and we have to encourage everyone, no matter how stupid, to try and get onto a degree course.

In the words of an Aim Higher Woman: “we want everyone to be going to university”.

In addition to Staffordshire University’s four-year BA in stop-motion animation and puppetry, there should probably be degrees in interior decorating. Although Southampton Solent tackles the tricky topic of yacht and powercraft design, perhaps we should be running similar courses for nail technicians.

We need interior decorators. We need nail technicians. Surely we should allow them to be the best that they can be?

This attitude wastes everyone’s time and money. No, we do not need courses in “Adventure and Media”, University of Cumbria. Let our film-watching windsurfing instructors earn some money instead of wasting three years of their time. As for failed dentists, medics and lawyers- don’t lead them on. A BSc in oral health science does not a dentist make. A three year detour into human biochemistry will not turn a mere mortal into a doctor. Don’t even get me started on “justice”.

We are not all meant to go to university. We don’t all need to. And those of us who shouldn’t have gone shouldn’t expect a job at the end of it.

So, does that include me?

My calling is the written word. Did I need a degree for this? No. I need money and a room of my own. I’m afraid it looks like I need a job.

Most of it’s done online now, by clever companies who arrange aptitude tests, webcam interviews and keyword CV searches. The only problem with this is online forms. If there are standard requirements for the job, it won’t let you proceed with the application unless you’ve ticked the box, forcing you to lie.

Am I available for interview on the 24th December? Why, of course. Do I have an HGV license? Who doesn’t! Am I willing to give up chocolate? Well, I do really want a job, so yes.

It’s all very well being told not to lie in a job application, but when you’re told you have to in order to get the job, it’s a different matter.

Computers are stupid. You can’t argue with them, charm them like you would a real person. They level the playing field- which really isn’t fair for those of us who were playing downhill before.

Still, I have an interview. Which I can’t complain about. Good luck everyone- you’re going to need it with a card like me in the market.

This Is It

Monday, BBC2, 8pm. University Challenge. Featuring me.

I love University Challenge. Really, I should say loved. Because being involved has given me such a strange sense of awkwardness towards it.

For years, and I’m not exaggerating here, every time I learnt a piece of trivia, Jeremy Paxman’s voice would enter my mind and phrase several questions. I would make up in my mind when was the best time to buzz in so as not to incur a penalty, and retire feeling confident that, should I end up on University Challenge, I would definitely be in with a shout should that particular morsel rear its head.

I enjoyed playing along at home. I’m one of those annoying people who shouts out and even discusses the answer to quiz questions at home. The reason? I’m good at it, and I want you to know.

Now that’s not particularly nice, is it? But that’s what I do. And I make sure to make a particular effort if I’m watching University Challenge with a new acquaintance. Act casual. Know the answers. Deliver them as if everyone knows that. Act modestly when the congratulations come my way. I make myself sick with it sometimes. I know I’m ridiculous, that I’m showing off, but it won’t stop me.

I’ve been doing this for years. Ever since I realised I had a knack for storing odd bits of stuff in my mind. When I applied to university, there was some question over whether or not I might go. I should have done better in my exams. I could have gone to a better institution.

Then I watched Starter For Ten. I’m odd with films. I tend to compare myself to the characters, particularly if they’re the same age as me. This is why I never liked films with children in when I was a child. I had not been given a chocolate factory, and Charlie Bucket was not all that exceptional a child.

The quiz team in Starter For Ten were average. The film, let’s be honest, was average. I always find that, though, when extraordinary people are written about by people who are ordinary. It doesn’t line up. For the man-on-the-street, the quiz team stacks up. For me, however, it made no sense.

I’m arrogant, and I knew I was good enough. So I went to university. To say that University Challenge was not a major driving force in my wanting to go to university is a lie. I should be taking a degree in general knowledge, and I know that. Subject-specific education has been constraining.

In reality, though, I didn’t want to know whether I was good enough or not. Yes, I had better general knowledge than anyone I knew, but there are tens of thousands of students in Liverpool. Nearly two hundred turned up to take the exam. My chances, on paper, were not so good.

But this wasn’t paper, and through some quirks of fortune and my own ability, I made the team, entered the competition.

And now it’s over for me. The whole series has been recorded, the winners awarded. I can’t watch any of it. The episodes I’m not in, I still feel a part of. It makes me feel uncomfortable.

The build-up was so great, to have it all end in just over half an hour was hideously anticlimactic.

I still get Paxman’s voice in my head. Nobody told my brain it’s over. It’s just keeping on training, putting itself through the same questions it has for longer than I can remember. I keep stopping myself mid-question, telling myself off. It’s done. You can’t compete twice.

So, I won’t be watching on Monday. You can. But for me it’s just too surreal. It was built up for so long, and over in an instant. I almost feel like it never happened at all. But this is it.