10 months in Leeds…

As the #prstudent blog competition is coming to an end I have been looking over the past few months. Over my studies, my blog, my personal life etc. and I can truly say I have grown a lot. Whilst going through this growth I have also learned a lot about myself.

Study life

When it comes to school I have discovered:

  • I am rubbish at closed books exams that count for 100% of my final grade.
  • I am not as good at small talk as I thought I was (I will however try to suck up all the questions and topics my hairdresser comes up with, next time I go for a cut).
  • I am very good at cooking, baking, cleaning (with a toothbrush even) and at upholstering furniture when I should be working on assignments (at least I have other things I could fall back on as professions if my comms path doesn’t work out).
  • When a person is 34 years old and a mother of 3 and doing a masters in England she might not party and socialise as much as she imagined before she arrived , as she’s likely to be the one of the oldest students on the course. She might also be the only mum and she might even get the nickname “mamabear” as she looks out for her co-students like she would her kids and friends.
  • Home cooked food and homemade pastry will make you friends anywhere, across professions, cultures, age, gender etc.

 

(On these pictures you can see my skills as an upholsterer, I’ll have that to fall back on if everything else fails!) 

When I started these studies I believed I had learned some stuff at my Icelandic uni when it came to comms and PR. However, I did sit down with other students and the Dean and we told him the course was lacking theory and tools. What I didn’t realise when I sat down with him was how right I was! As I finished my undergrads I said I didn’t have the confidence to say I was a PR person or even to claim I had much knowledge in the field. I did however have a lot of knowledge in philosophy, politics, ethics and some in media. All well and good and are all topics that will help in a PR career. However, recently, when I spoke to a girl that did the undergrads with me  I told her that there was so much we missed and that even though I will definitely need some real-out-of-school experience , I feel so much more equipped to work in the field now as I have lots of tools in my toolbox! Before studying in Leeds, I hadn’t even heard of a stakeholder map! Believe you me, it is so logical and so much common sense, but it BLEW my mind! As if you have never heard of it it’s not common sense.

One of the biggest surprises I have had since I started my masters course (apart from the pregnancy!) is the fact I am now considering a PhD. When I started I met other people on the course that only saw the course as a step towards a PhD and they knew that was where they were heading. I shrugged, I told them it was too academic and theoretical for me. I wanted to study something hands on and then go out into the world and start earning experience and money to provide for me and my family. Only about two weeks ago, all of a sudden, I changed my mind. Well, at least I started considering the possibility of doing a PhD.

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There are many things to consider in regards of further studies and finances are the biggest obstacle. I want to stay in the UK so I would want to do it here, however, it is very expensive as I’ll have to pay as an international student. This is probably my biggest frustration since I came to the UK. I have had such mixed messages from the university and I ended up sending an email regarding this to the admission team. I explained how I was being treated by society and the university as a person within the EU but then when it came to fees I wasn’t. This is a part of the reply I got:

“As an EEA citizen, you do not require a visa, and like EU citizens you have no time limit on your residence in the UK. In this context, you are not regarded as an International student. However, as a non-EU citizen, it is possible to hold ‘Overseas’ fee status. In Higher Education in the UK, ‘international student’ and ‘overseas fee status’ are not interchangeable terms as they refer to different things.”

So, basically they CAN charge me more and therefore they WILL. I have heard one can get funding for a PhD and I guess my next step is to look into that and see whether that would be a possibility for me.

A letter to the future me

When I started my course I came across many amazing teachers. People that were incredibly clever and full of information but I will never forget when I met my comms teacher. She’s an incredible woman, she’s so bright and expects a lot from her students but at the same time she has an infectious energy and positivity about her. Her laughter is what we would call “dancing” in Icelandic as it’s out loud, warm and comes from within. She wears the nicest clothes and they are as colourful as her personality!

If we wouldn’t say “Good morning” loud enough in the mornings she would make us stand up and do a little exercise. She was our Monday morning teacher and what a great and energised way to start the week! She has truly been an inspiration!

When the first semester started she gave us the task of writing a letter to ourselves. We were supposed to find a value or a quote we liked that resonated with us.

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My letter to myself

When the second semester started we were handed these letters again. I didn’t want to open mine straight away. I was still waiting for my results from the semester before and I just wasn’t feeling as “on top of things” as I wanted. Therefore, I waited. A few weeks ago I opened the letter. It brought a smile to my face. It read as following:

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream impossible: the fear of failure” -Paulo Coelho

This year, to achieve my dream, I have to plan and be disciplined. I have to reach out and read more than what the teachers tell us to. Watch YouTube, follow the news etc. Having said that even though I have a goal, which is the degree and later on a good job, I must enjoy the journey. Enjoy the fact I live abroad with my family, that I’m in university etc. Therefore, I have to step outside my comfort zone, play, be goofy. Reconnect with the fun me!

                                                                        Live – Learn – Enjoy!

And have I done these things? Proudly I can say I have, in most cases. I have talked at another university when given the amazing chance to do so. I spoke at Club7 about myself and my story. I entered a blog competition and I am in an IABC committee that is planning a comms event.

Blogging now and then

As I have covered before, I started blogging when told about the #prstudent blog competition at school. I didn’t enter to win. I entered to make a portfolio and gain some experience in writing in English.

It took off a little and I was told I was one of the top contestants. I got competitive and put a lot of energy into it and at the same time felt it was very therapeutic. The only thing I knew, was that I wanted it to be real and authentic. That way I would never have to make sure I was “in character” as it was just me.

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I also used the blog as an opportunity to tell my story with my own words. Sadly, I know there are people out there that tell my story and they do not paint the nicest picture. One of these people uses every given opportunity to sabotage me and whatever I build.

I do not want to get into a fight, nor do I want to bring that person down. All I want is to tell my story from my point of view, with my own words and this blog seemed like a good way of doing so, when I saw it connected with the subject and when it was appropriate.

However, doing so threw me off track a little. I did have to take a break during Christmas as I simply had to prioritise all the things that were going on. Soon after Christmas I started writing again but never seemed to make the list. I didn’t understand it and enquired about it. I got the explanation the competition was for PR students and should cover related topics, one way or another. That was a very fair point and I started writing my blogs with that in mind. However, I knew I had missed the boat. I hadn’t been mentioned for a few weeks so I was not competing for one of the top places anymore. Nonetheless I decided to keep going, both because I enjoy writing and finally I was onto the comms/PR side of my studies (last semester was mostly marketing) but also because I wanted to push and compete with myself. I still wanted visits on my site, gain followers within the PR/comms industry etc. as this competition is more than just the title of winning. It’s the net of people that might know about ones existence, the people one could ask for advice, that one can learn from etc.

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The blog has also helped me to connect theory from uni to real events in the news or that I come across in life and that is very valuable as it deepens ones understanding.

I believe I will continue blogging, maybe take a short break while I finish my assignments. I may blog about comms, PR, being a mum, a fiancée, a friend and a human being in general. I will use it to keep connected while on maternity leave. I will also let you guys know what I decide on studies, whether I’ll study more or start seeking for a job!

….any pointers regarding PhD funding, jobs etc. etc are most welcome!

Have a great Easter break and take it from someone that is afraid of most things, fear of failure can be crippling  and can and will stand in the way of us achieving our dreams if we let it!

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Do you mind sorting my problems out for free and do it quickly please!

“Oh are so you are a lawyer? …I am going through a nasty divorce at the moment, what would you do if you were in my situation…….?”

“A nurse? Impressive! Would it be inappropriate if I showed you something?”

These are the types of questions people in certain professions may expect. The nurse one is even worded quite politely as people don’t necessary ask, they just show them their problem area… This can happen at dinner parties, social gatherings, through social media, random phone calls etc. etc.

I have friends in different professions, and they have told me it is unbelievable how people from the past pop up and expect help or even free guidance due to old time sakes when it suits them.

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This is something I didn’t expect to come with my education. I don’t know why but I just had never given it a thought.

I had interactions with an institution the other day that I have to communicate with quite a lot.

Their general communications are poor. There is a lot they want to achieve but they are definitely not meeting their objectives as they bombard people with messages. Through emails, texts and apps. One day I received 4 emails, 2 texts and messages through the app (it’s not an isolated thing but reoccurring, this just happened on the day I decided to actually count their messages). These different types of communications were not to get one really important message across but many different messages, some rather important, others not important at all.

What this institution has achieved with its invasive communication attempts is that people (including myself) don’t read their messages and therefore, sometimes miss important information.

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As I had a meeting with one of the managers of this institution the other day, I couldn’t help myself and pointed out the fact I was studying communications and as far as I was concerned, they were well  off mark in their attempts to reach their audience.

He was very interested and asked what I meant. I pointed out that for an example they had been raising money the other day (which I didn’t know) and then a week later they were still raising money and mentioned that NOTHING had been raised so far as no one had responded. I explained to him that was simply because they were drowning out their own voice.

He told me he liked what I was telling him and asked me what I would advise him. All of a sudden, I found myself on the spot. I realised I was being asked to come up with a quick solution to something I knew one should apply certain methods to and put thorough thought into. I told him that was something that required some thinking and that objectives needed to be clarified etc. He kept pushing me for a solution so I told him my first step would definitely be to reduce the amount of information they were sending out. Try to keep it in their weekly newsletter UNLESS it was something pressing. However, I pointed out he needed to inform the people on the receiving end so that they would actually read the newsletter and realise that was where most things were to be found from then on.

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He then told me about other people he wanted to reach and that he needed help to do so and what my advice would be in that regards.

I was gobsmacked. All of a sudden, I was the nurse and the lawyer I never imagined I would become. Being asked for professional advice on the spot. As if people go through years of university to be able to apply quick fixes to people’s problems.

I told him I couldn’t advise him more there and then as for a problem like that one needed to make a stakeholder map and have a clear idea of the objectives for each stakeholder group. I probably should have also told him that consultation like that should also cost money. However, I wouldn’t know what to charge, plus I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that yet as I feel like I need more experience to be able to justify a cheque for my advice.

He asked me if I could do graphics and whether I might want a role within the institution. A voluntary role, a prestige one, but I have the feeling he wants me in that role for easy access to answers to some of the questions he asked me while I had this short meeting with him (that was completely unrelated to this topic!).

Woman superhero cartoon character. Wonder woman with cape of superman. Confident business lady focused on success. Flat beautiful female super hero.

I told him I would finish my masters first and then bring a human being into this world. After that we could talk.

This was a wakeup call for me. Of course, we help out close friends and family to a certain extent. However, we shouldn’t give away our work and we should not expect others to do so. Neither should we expect that people that have gone through universities are walking encyclopedias of their trades and can therefore sort out any problem related to their profession on the spot in matter of minutes.

If your sister is a hairdresser pay her a little for cutting your hair and your mate that is an electrician doesn’t feed his family with a drink at the pub later. People should be respected and valued for their expertise and the work behind it should not be taken for granted.

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Surrounded by sales!

Selling things, tangible and intangible is something I am good at. However, I keep it a bit quiet as I do not want to be a sales person, per se. Don’t get me wrong I like working in sales, some of the sales jobs I have done, I have in fact loved! I love helping people get what they want, have a conversation with someone I would never have talked to if it wasn’t for the fact that I had this product/service to discuss with them in the first place.

I have done sales in stores, at hotels and in telemarketing. Out of these three types the hotel was the one I liked the most. There is a thrill in helping people organise their dream holiday, for an example book them on helicopters and enquire about a dogsledding tour.

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Source here

My all-time favourite sales is not on that list though! When I moved back to Iceland from the Middle East at the end of 2014, I had no flat, no job but two kids I had to shelter, feed etc. I have a great friend that let us stay in her small, one bedroom flat, which she already shared with her 3-year-old son. Quickly I sorted out a flat. As I had sorted that out and of course promised the lovely landlord I would always pay on time etc. I had to find a job to be able to do so.

I applied for a few jobs. Got a few offers and a few turndowns. One of the jobs was the least reliable and I knew very little about what it entailed but it had some pull I couldn’t resist.

It involved selling spaces on a website, an information website. In Iceland we have a big database called ja.is where one can go online or call their number and get addresses and phone numbers of the people and companies in Iceland. One can also enquire about opening hours etc. Ja.is has been on the market for a long time, alone. The company I got hired to work for wanted to challenge that company. Come in as start-up, as a competitor. So that is what I did. I booked meetings with CEO’s, marketing people etc. all over Reykjavík and sold them spaces on our site as well as “search words” and banners.

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Source here

When I started the girl that was supposed to train me refused to do so. Said she was too shy. She was always the one with the highest sales figures and I believe she wanted to keep it that way. Therefore, my boss told me that I seem to have “balls” and asked whether I was okay with jumping right in and figure it out on the go. My salary was result based so I wanted to get going and said yes.

There I was, selling something I didn’t completely understand and doing a job that didn’t really resemble anything I’d done before.

I booked my own meetings and as I have a knack for sussing people out, I quickly learned how to “hook” which characters to get then to agree on a meeting. With some I had to be ballsy and witty, others needed information, some I had to be very formal with, others I had speak very calmly to and then there were the ones that didn’t want to know I existed.

I used Thursdays and sometimes parts of Fridays to book meetings, people tend to be happier and more open minded towards the end of the week.

I loved going for these meetings! I got to dress up and get in to a certain role. I would get to meet people in very different businesses all over town. I would talk to a guy that ran his own framing shop/service and then go straight to a meeting with a marketing person from a big law firm.

The fact I was always one of the highest sales people made it even more fun!

Achievement

So….now I’ve told you how much I love sales and have written passionately about it at the same time as I tell you I try not to share this information with other people and I tell you I do not want to have a career in sales.

Well that’s what I thought! Even though, I have done this job and many different versions of it, until recently, I failed to see how broadly it can be applied!

Corporate Snakes and Ladders

First off, we had a game of Corporate Snakes and Ladders   at a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management. Casilda Malagon and Stephen Welch introduced the game to us and let us have a go. It was very interesting and in a way I found it frightening as I didn’t score as high as I would have wanted. They also took the time to sit down with us when we had our seminar sessions and talks about the comms industry and did their very best to answer any question that was thrown at them.

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They also shared a little about leaders with us and how they influence people successfully and it was there I saw how relevant the sales person is. Amongst the influencing styles they mentioned were:

  • Connect: When I worked for that Start-up, we would often use this, when it was the right audience. We were taking on the giants and needed support from companies in Iceland. Everybody would win if there was competition.
  • Inform: I had to use this one a lot and to be honest I use it on myself (and my family members…what a hoot I must be to live with!). Here you hit them with data and facts, might use three-fold reasoning, price, traffic on site etc.
  • Picture: Using imagination and connecting on an emotional level, I believe I mixed this one with the connect method. We hardly had anything to show the people we got meetings with as we were just starting the company, we were asking them to buy space on a website we told them we believed (and we convinced them so did they) would be big.
  • Exit: Step aside and have a think. Has to be followed up. Most meetings ended on this note. People had to think and maybe talk to more people at the company. I would always make sure to do follow up calls and even follow up meetings, sometimes with other members of staff. (Just as a fun fact, the company is still running and in a competing position with ja.is)

(You can read all about the Recipe for Success here)

I connected with the other steps as well but on a different note and in different situations. However, this part of their talk taught me how valuable it has been to have done sales, especially when it comes to communications as one really needs to adapt to their audience and make sure to listen and to be able to meet their needs!

Selling the vision of me

When this dawned upon me I started noticing other things where my sales skills came in handy. To be honest I don’t know where I would be today if I couldn’t sell. If I couldn’t sell my case and most importantly, couldn’t sell MYSELF!

Selling self

Okay, not in a dirty way!

However, I have come to believe that my skills in selling has got me pretty far. For an example I got accepted to do the equivalences of A-level after a phone call with the admission person at the school I went to. The thing was, I was missing quite a few important credits, which were required to get in. I spoke to this person for a while. I told her WHY I wanted to study, HOW I was going to do it and WHY it shouldn’t matter that I hadn’t finished everything. In the middle of the phone call she said: ”Congratulations, you have been excepted to Keilir!” I was over the moon!!

Last year I contacted her and thanked her for the chance she gave me and told her that since then I had finished a BA and that I was planning on going to the UK to do a master’s degree. She was over the moon on my behalf but at the same time she told me that she used to have a system where she would let in one “wild card” and I had been it. I must have done a pretty good work in selling myself as a person to have achieved that! (unless she just wanted to get off the phone!)

As I wrote this blog entry I realised I also sold myself as a person when I got that landlord to bet on me with the flat. He knew I didn’t have a job yet. He had many other applicants (there is a shortage in housing in Reykjavík and just while I had a look so did 3 other applicants). He never had to regret it as I always paid on time and returned the flat spotless, but he didn’t know that beforehand, all he had was my word and my story!

Ice to Eskimos

Last weekend I was reminded I haven’t lost my selling skills as I went to Mothercare to look for a buggy/pram to fit my 20-month-old in and the one we are expecting. I had read a lot online and watched videos and I had my eyes on a certain brand. I just wanted to see it, feel it and drive it around a little. When we got there we were greeted by a lovely sales lady. She has 10 kids of her own! She said she had originally had her eyes on the same one but ended up going for another one. She showed me the other one and told me all the benefits of it. I then took her back to the one I had my eye on and explained what the benefits of it were and why a few things might seem like a downside to it but why they really weren’t. Once we had talked for a little while she told me I had convinced her and she now wanted the same as me and was regretting her decisions! I laughed to myself as I had basically sold the sales person the idea of her own product!

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Me as a product

These days I am thinking a lot about what happens ones I finish my studies and my maternity leave. As I have said before this pregnancy wasn’t planned and threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I started telling myself I had made myself so unemployable with all these kids and two of them under the age of three (Very unfair thing to go through, especially as men very rarely have to think this way, but that’s material for a whole other blog on its own!).

Once I realised what kind of a conversation I was having with myself I stopped and though “No Heiða, you must be able to use this to your advantage!”

  • First off: You are done! There is no danger in hiring you and you going on 4 maternity leaves, been there done that!
  • Secondly: You have a proven track record that shows it takes a little more than children, pregnancies, work, school, miscarriages etc. etc. for you to drop a ball! You can juggle it all and that’s one of your strongest assets!
  • Third: You have support from your fiancé who actually realises it’s a 50/50 thing (which I know from past experience is not a given!). You also have a live-in babysitter, so you should be covered!
  • Fourth: You are clever, fun and quick and adapt very easily. Not everyone has that.

Yep, that’s me selling myself to myself! I know the time will come when I have to sell myself to a future employer and I will. I will do it well as lately I have gone over my strengths every once in a while, and I have quite a few. I am not perfect, don’t get me wrong! I don’t try to tell myself that or anyone else, but I believe I will be a good asset in the working environment and I am convinced I can make a future employer believe that as well!

So, lets change the beginning of this post! I love sales, I am good at sales and I am willing to share it with the world as selling is an important skill in so many situations in our lives!

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A week of Ethics and personal growth

This week has been a blast for me.

First of we covered one of my favourite topics in our communication class: Ethics!

One of the things we spoke about when things may be legal but may not seem ethical or may simply be neither.

It made me think of all the different dilemmas and all the different ways companies may dress up their decisions.

For an example back home, we have a big global manufacturing company. It’s situated in a small town where there wasn’t much happening. It came to Iceland as things like electricity is cheap there.

This factory really brightened the place up, young people started moving back home, people that weren’t from the area also decided to move there. The place was appealing to people as housing was cheap and all of a sudden there was a company there that needed educated people (engineers, HR, management, accounting etc.) and welcomed uneducated people to work in the factory. The employees would have a great opportunity to work their way up by working hard and even doing courses the factory provided.

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In no time this small town grew at a speed no one had seen for decades. A small shopping mall was built, there was a bar there and all sorts of companies and services wanted to be located there.

It all sounds rosy, doesn’t it? Well then there is the other side. The company doesn’t pay all the taxes it should in Iceland as it uses a loophole in the Icelandic laws to avoid to do so.

In class we were told that when we were facing an ethical dilemma, we should start off by doing a stakeholder map. In this case I find it a little troublesome as the stakeholders are many and affected in different way.

For an example the local people where the factory is are stakeholders and they can be divided into many groups: employees, spouses of employees, people that service the factory in one way or another, teachers (teaching all the children that now live in the area), people in companies that service this town that has grown so vastly etc.

The company uses the tactic of pointing at all these people and justify their acts on the grounds they are providing these people with jobs either directly or indirectly, some are even getting an education due to the company etc.

Then there are other stakeholders like competitors, who actually pay their taxes. Then there is the Icelandic public, as this factory is big on Icelandic scale, one can assume the Icelandic system would benefit massively by getting the share it should. If it would one could argue it could mean better service, roads, healthcare or whatever that money would go into. Some people even say that electricity cost goes up when a big player like this comes into the picture. That affects businesses and the general public.

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When I started thinking about this factories approach and it’s justifications I assumed they were using the “Common Good Approach” which means they are basing their decisions on what best serves the community as a whole, but there was something that was bothering me about that as a reasoning. Sure, they are serving the interest of the community they are in, but what about the Icelandic community, as a whole? The notes I took while I sat in the class read: “What is the community?”, “What is the community as a WHOLE?”.

After going over this in my head and by using the tools we were given in class it showed me one can dress things up in different ways. Which might support the theory of “Spin doctors”. This particular company focuses on the good it does in the community it is located in and addresses the tax thing as little as possible. Their communications and justifications all revolve around what they ARE doing and avoiding talking about what they ARE NOT doing.

Club7 : Being brave

This week I took a big step out of my comfort zone.

Masters students on my course organised an event which resembles a TED Talk. 8 speakers, 7 minutes each. It’s the second year this event has been held and this year’s theme was Be Brave. I submitted a two minute video as an application for a spot as a speaker. To my delight (and huge amount of stress) I got selected.

Therefor, last night, I stood in a big room and told them about the challenges I have faced (some of them) and how I gathered the strength and guts to follow my dreams and make the best life I could for me and my kids.

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I thought everyone could see how much I was shivering. I was sure I looked like a branch in a storm but as I have reviewed the video my fiancée recorded and spoken to quite a few people that were there I know it wasn’t visible.

As I finished, I felt so relieved that my part was over with but I also felt really proud of myself. I didn’t just talk in front of a big audience, I talked about something very personal.

But that is a part of my journey, to get to tell my story, with my words, from where I am standing as, unfortunately, I know there are people out there that are telling my story in a way that serves them and degrades me. I have finally found my voice and I am not going to hide anymore. At the same time, I have no need to put other people down in this process, as that does not make me any better than them.

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IABC event

As the Club7 wasn’t enough, I also applied for a spot in a committee that is planning an IABC event in Leeds in June.

I got the honour of being selected as Head of Logistics and Committee Secretary.

It’s a huge role and at the same time such a great opportunity. I can not wait to dive into the work that comes along with this task and meet the people that will work with us and the people that will attend the event itself.

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Seize the moment

As I told my brother I had been given the role in the IABC committee he told me he was really proud of me and happy to see I was using the time while I am at university to do more than just study.

That’s just the thing, when I decided to come to the UK to attend a university, I decided to make the most of it. I decided I would grab any opportunity to grow, as a future Communication practitioner and as a person and that’s just what I have done.

I entered a PRstudent blog competition, I have spoken at Club7 and I am now in a committee that is planning an IABC event. I have also made friends from all over the world. I have imposed Icelandic food on staff and students at the university. My kids are getting to do things I could not offer them in Iceland. Me and my fiancée are able to enjoy more time together than before.

It’s not like there hasn’t been ups and downs, as this is life, not a fairy-tale, but the ups and the positives outweigh the downs by far!

If you are a student I encourage you to use the time while you are at uni to grab every opportunity and ENJOY the journey!

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Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

When studies hit home

I am afraid of flying… well I am VERY afraid of flying. I still travel but it’s a struggle. I do not fly within Iceland as I do not like to fly in small airplanes where you can feel every “bump”. I used to take anxiety pills before flying but nowadays I try to breath through the scare and do a bit of mediation. Which can be difficult if there is a lot of turbulence. Green meadows or the ocean might not be the places you want to picture yourself at as that’s precisely where you don’t want to end up in that particular moment!

When it comes to news about plane crashes and other flight related incidents, I try to avoid reading the news as it will only empower my fear. As someone said, ignorance is a bliss! Articles and studies on safety in air do not help me overcome my fear. People telling me statistics and information on safety while flying don’t help either, as if there is anyone who knows these things it’s the person that is afraid of flying, as that person has tried to know as much as possible to calm her fears.

I once had a rescue team member telling me that people at the back of a plane are most likely to survive a plane crash. From then on I always tried to get a seat at the back. Later on, I was told by a pilot that sitting at the back ensures that you will feel the most turbulence and in the case of a plane crash most people on the plane are almost certain to die. It made horrible sense. After that I have always asked to get a seat as far in front of the plane as possible as it’s the turbulence that stirs up my fears and panic.

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In the last week it has been hard to avoid news about plain crashes as Boeing’s 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia. The second plane of that type to go down within 5 months of each other.

As I couldn’t avoid the headlines and the news I looked at the case with the eyes of a communication student and it was a big ,,aha” moment for me. I could connect so many theories and methods to the news. As horrible and sad as the news are, it is interesting to look at the case from that perspective.

First off, I started thinking about all the stakeholders involved, and oh my! There are so many! Boeing, airlines (that fly those planes and the ones that don’t), Boeings competitors, the families of the passengers, the UN (and other employers of passengers), regulators, the media, Boeing’s staff, airline’s staff, shareholders, the public, people that are afraid of flying and the list goes on.

When it comes to the stakeholders it was also interesting to see how their stakes changed with the blink of an eye. Just by voicing an opinion or by actions, players that might have been considered quite neutral became high power, high interest players.

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Boeing took it’s time when it came to action. However, certain airlines took the leap and decided to ground their 737 Max 8 planes while the accident was under investigation. By doing so other airlines were in a way pushed to respond in the same way. Other airlines didn’t react until their stocks started plummeting and then there were the ones that waited for regulators to step in and put bans/restrictions into action.

As we were taught about single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities at the beginning of the week as well I was all ears (as I am in communication classes, I just love them!). We were taught that the single-loop action entailed a short-term action where the immediate event is managed. In the single loop people are secured. The double-loop however is an action where a company changes it behaviour in order to avoid this type of a crisis in the future. To achieve that they find the root of the crisis and take proactive steps to make sure there isn’t more damage to reputation. We were taught that the best practice is to incorporate both single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities in a crisis.

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Watching Boeing gave me the feeling they wanted to skip the first step as they didn’t seem to see the importance of grounding their own planes while airlines took it upon themselves to do so. It was very interesting as I was learning this to be able to put it in perspective to a real-life crisis that was ongoing before and after this lecture.

Like it wasn’t enough to be able to relate the communication lectures to the Boeing crisis I could also do so in a Brand Management and Corporate Identity seminar. We were given random types of companies and told to come up with values for them. My group got allocated an “airline”. My first thought was safety.

Me and the professor debated for a little while whether that is something that was a given for an airline or not. I, being afraid of flying, told him it was incredibly important to me to know that was one of the values and that it would give me a larger sense of safety to fly with an airline that would emphasise on that as a value.

I would have loved to tackle a communication problem for Boeing, an airline or another stakeholder this week. I guess I did in my mind anyway.

It is a great feeling though when you can relate your studies to something that is going on out in the great big world (even though in this case, the event was very tragic). Boeing’s problems are just a fraction of where I, as a communication student can do so as I’ve seen through my studies and the media, communications are relevant in every aspect and I am yet to find a situation where it is not.

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Dissertation distress

I am at a point in my studies where I have to consider what my final dissertation should be about.

When I did my undergrads it was fairly simple. I had the motivation of wanting to see if all the voices around me were right. Are PR practitioners unethical? What kind of ethical framework do they work by etc. I have covered this topic before. I conducted this research by collecting secondary data and theory regarding ethics and ethics in PR. I also interviewed four PR practitioners in Iceland.

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Now I have to decide what to write about as my final dissertation in my masters.

As I mentioned in my last blog I have just started the communication part of my studies. I find it very interesting but I feel like I need more before I make up my mind on a specific topic for the dissertation.

I sat a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management last week where the topic was Performance, Behaviour and Reputation. It advocated the employees being brand ambassadors and touched on how to encourage them to support and strengthen the corporate reputation.

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This caught my attention. Having been someone at the bottom of the pyramid for years, being uneducated, on minimum wages, I have often wondered why the people higher up the ladder don’t value and see the potentials and wealth in their employees on the floor.

Unfortunately, the mentality in many companies back home is “if you don’t like it, find something else to do”. Everyone at the bottom is replaceable, which to me seems short-sighted and counterproductive in a company that is trying to create revenue and a good reputation. People talk and people talk about how it is to work in certain places. In a country like Iceland word travels even faster than elsewhere.

I did a course in HR in my undergrad and in that course we were told about the worth of employees and how much training can cost, the process of hiring new people etc. We were also told about the assets each employer brings with time spent within the company. The insight people gain etc.

This is something I think managers at different levels sometimes fail to see. They fail to value the knowledge the people on the floor bring by working with customers, using all the processes put in place etc. When someone works with customers all day that person gets to hear what they want, what information they need, what they are satisfied with and what they are unhappy about.

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So, in this class last week we were told about how to encourage employers to express themselves and how communications should flow both up and down. People should feel comfortable about expressing themselves, feel valued and listened to.

I am a fairly straight forward person and I use to do that. I used to express ideas, I used to talk about how processes might be made more efficient and what could be done better for employees, also with regards to customers. I would also talk about what was positive and try to make people smile and feel embraced at work. As a person on the floor I soon discovered this was not well received. I got the feeling the people higher up than me were thinking: “What the hell does she know?” or even “How dare she say that/suggest that?”. It drained all ambitions out of me and in the end, at these different places I worked at I just did my job. Nothing less, nothing more. I saw this happening to so many talented people that I came across while working in these jobs.

Sadly, if ideas from myself or other people on the floor were actually listened to, they would result in someone at managerial level getting all the praise, without us even getting a pat on the back let alone something more.

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The weird thing about all this is that it was not like there weren’t any communication processes in place. There were almost always thick HR booklets on how to do this and that and they would cover how happy one should be at work, how communications within the company should be and that people were encouraged to express themselves. All well and good. On paper.

However, in practice it didn’t seem to work. Out of all the places I have worked at I believe employees opinions and voices were truly valued at two places.

Due to all this it came to my mind whether that could be something to cover in my dissertation. As I said there are processes in place but for some reason they seem to just be there, not actually practiced. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to talk to someone at a managerial level and quiz them about the communication processes within the company, ask about satisfaction with the processes etc. and then get to talk to other employees at different levels and get their opinion and understanding of the same. Once that would be done I would see if there is a gap in the communication plan/process etc.

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However, as one of my professors pointed out, it might be difficult to get managers to agree on me conducting such a research within their company, unless, maybe, I would do a project rather than a dissertation. Still it would be very sensitive information.

So, I guess I am back at the drawing board. Giving that I am only into my fourth week of this semester and the fact I have already come across one thing that triggered interest gives me hope there will be more.

All I know is I want to do interviews rather than big questionnaires and it HAS TO BE interesting as then the writing will come easy, as it is fun, something I will enjoy writing about.

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Studying PR abroad

The reason I am doing my masters in the UK is that there is a total lack of masters studies in Iceland when it comes to Public Relations. As a matter of fact, I was in the first group that graduated in the field at a bachelor level.

When looking into people working in communications in Iceland what you notice is that the practitioners either got their education from abroad, or which is very often the case; used to work in media.

My undergraduate degree consisted of a lot of politics and philosophy. We also did some creative writing, some media courses and ethics and laws regarding that field.

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Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

We did one course in public relations which was taught by a guy that has been working in the field for many years. We had the options of doing some economics and marketing as well and I did a little bit of both. Therefore, even though I scored a very high average for my bachelors I didn’t feel like I knew enough about public relations and communications. The students I studied with talked to the dean in our university about these concerns and he said we were still equipped with so much knowledge about other things that it would amount to a good PR practitioner as one would have to have a diverse knowledge about society (the politics courses) and be able to build up a good argument (I guess the philosophy came in strong here). He made a decent argument himself, but I was sure I could get a deeper understanding and be able to learn more about the tools PR practitioners use. I was sure I should be able to gather enough knowledge in the field to feel comfortable about diving into the profession of communication. At that point I must admit I did not feel like that. I spoke to the tutor that advised me on my dissertation and told him how I felt. I told him that early on in my studies I honesty felt like I was about to conquer the world, but as I was getting close to the end I felt like I knew so little. There was so much more out there. He smiled and told me not to worry. He said that was a confirmation off how much I had actually learned. The way I understood him it meant I had learned to be humble and realised there is always more one can learn.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last semester at Leeds University we have mostly been focusing on marketing courses as my degree is a masters in “Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations”. As the communications and public relations part of it was the biggest attraction for me, I must admit I am really looking forward to this semester.

The future

In Iceland we do not tend to have internships or graduate jobs. It’s each to their own and sometimes who you know seems to help. I do not know people that could pull me into a nice, convenient job so I know I’ll have to make it on my own and believe that my character and knowledge will get me to where I need to/want to be.

Many of my course mates at school are talking about graduate jobs. I do not see that as an option for me. I have obviously worked for many years. I started working at the age of 16 (part time at that age) and have worked since then (apart from the few years I took off when I had my 2 older kids). Most often I did two jobs as one simply wouldn’t cover the bills. Most of these jobs were service jobs and jobs at kindergartens. I believe that experience should help me when in comes to my future career as once you have worked in service you have dealt with people from all classes and with all sorts of needs and preferences. Even the kindergarten job and being a mum must have prepared me as it involves a LOT of communication and at times clever negotiations. One has to be resourceful and tailor messages according to the audience!

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The other and maybe more obvious reason why I cannot really picture myself doing a graduate job is the fact I simply can’t afford it! I have a family of five, soon to be six, and the main reason I went through university at this (st)age in my life was to be able to leave the struggle behind, along with having to do two jobs and being treated like a doormat, as I wasn’t high enough in the chain.

We are hoping to stay in Leeds as we like it here and we can have a better standard of living here than in Iceland. According to my teacher in Iceland practitioners in Public Relations get a very decent pay, however, my fiancée will always be “a foreigner” in Iceland. He is from the UK and he does not have an education. However, he has years of experience which doesn’t seem to get him anywhere back home. While we lived in Iceland, he did long night shifts in service jobs where the pay far from covered the bills, it took student loans and me doing two part time jobs to be able to get by. On top of that we had to share housing with other people as rent is really expensive in Iceland. You do what you need to do but we both agree that giving our age and family size we like it things as they are now, just us, living together as a family. Over here he has a good job he likes and that actually pays the bills.

So, what initially was a temporary move to a foreign country to study something I couldn’t master back home might become a more permanent arrangement.

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Desk doctors

Communication is always important and has a big impact on how we view a company, whether it is through their promotion or direct communication with someone from the company/organisation. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like training in communications seems to be lacking. Companies sometimes seem to forget that people on the phone or at a desk are often the first impressions one gets of a company.

This is a topic that could be discussed back and forth and different examples could be given. However, to explain what I mean I am going to focus on communication in the health care system, as I feel like that is a place where people should, more than anywhere, be trained in basic human communication. They should be trained to treat everyone equal and show sympathy when needed.

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When it comes to doctors I have discovered they vary when it comes to the communication part. Understandably, as they are human just like you and me. However, they often have to tackle difficult problems and meet people at stages in their lives that they probably wished they never had to come across.

I have had some great doctors that really went beyond what is expected of them. Two of which gave me their private numbers as I lived in small villages where one should only need the help of doctors between 8 and 4. As they knew I had things going on that might bother me outside of office hours they actually offered me their mobile numbers and told me to contact them directly if that was the case.

When I had just become a single mum of my two older kids I also experienced the most amazing good deed. I don’t think it was because he is a doctor, I think it is just because he is a nice person that cares for others. I had just gotten settled in mine and the kids first flat as a family of three. I didn’t have a job as I was still on a very low budget maternity leave (at this point my daughter was 3 years old and my son was only 7 months) and I was quite lost in life. I had seen my doctor to talk, to get an outlet for my emotions and feelings. He listened and was trying to figure out ways with me to get me back to school so I could make a decent life for myself and the kids. One night I was in my cosy little flat and my kids were asleep and the phone rang. This wasn’t unusual as most of my social interactions were  by phone as one can get quite isolated when they are parents of young kids and lack the net of people around them to babysit every once in a while, etc. What was unusual, however, was that I didn’t recognise the number. I answered the phone and on the other end a voice said:

“Heiða?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Hi, this is your doctor X (I am not going to put his name in here, to respect his privacy).”

“Oh? Hi!”

“This phone call is a little unusual and you are probably wondering why I am calling…”

“Yeah…” I answered quite confused.

“Well the thing is me and my wife bought a lot of meat to process straight from the farm. We have been spending this afternoon cutting it down and packaging it. Some for us and some for our kids.”

“Okay?”

“Well there’s way too much! My wife suggested that it would be nice if we knew anyone in need that some of this would be helpful to, I instantly thought of you. Don’t worry though!! I didn’t disclose your name.”

“Oh, wow!”

“Yes, so I was wondering if you might want some minced beef an if so, how you’d like the proportions to be?”

When you are a single mum with no extra cash to spend you can not afford to say no to such a nice gesture so I ran and had a look in my freezer to look at the proportions sizes I got at the supermarket and said to him: “I would love that, thank you so much! Maybe around 500 gr. in a bag?”

“It might be 400-500 gr. I hope that’s okay?”

I couldn’t help but laughing and told him I could live with that.

Later that night he showed up wit 5 kilos of minced beef! I took it from his hands with a lump in my throat! He sorted out 10 evening dinners for me and my children and probably a little more as we would make loads out of the 500 gr. proportions and then be able to have left overs the night after. I thought it was so amazing that someone had had me in mind like that and whenever I have been in the position to help others I have tried to do so as I know how much it can mean for the person on the receiving side of it, even though it may seem small to me. Pay it forward kind of a thing.

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I’ve also had really funny encounters with doctors. One has to understand that Iceland is a VERY small country with the population of around 350000 and the chances of a person you meet in the street knowing someone you know are huge!

Once I had to go for a check-up at the gynaecologist. He turned out to be the doctor that delivered me when my mum gave birth to me. While he had his head between my legs taking a swab he said, just like it was the most normal thing in this position: “You look just like your mum!” I wasn’t sure what exactly he was talking about!

Another time I went to another gynaecologist. I was prepared to have a swab taken. Stretched out on the bench, legs in the appropriate handles and all. He then opens a cupboard above his head. He closes it again and opens the one next to it. The same happens and he went through a few cupboards and as he opened more of them I noticed he was getting a bit stressed. He then smiled awkwardly and said: “I am SO, SO sorry! This has NEVER happened before but I seem to have run out of the sticks I use to take the swabs with… BUT I do have a box of them in my car. If you would only be so kind to wait, I’ll just run out and get them!”

“Right…okay..” It wasn’t like I was going to leave with out having what I came for. However, we were on the 5th floor and this would take him a little while. Being in Iceland, in a rush he put a scarf and coat on and popped out the door, 2 seconds later his head popped back in and he said with an awkward smile: “You just try to be comfortable while I run out!” Any woman that has lied on one of these benches knows there is nothing comfortable about them!    

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Unfortunately, I have also had some bad experience with doctors. When I miscarried for the first time I was 22 years old. I was at home and all of a sudden I started bleeding. I got really worried and didn’t know what to do, still I hoped maybe it wasn’t all that bad and I was reading to much into it. I called the doctor on call in my village and grumpily he said: “It’s simple! You’re are miscarrying, it’s gone, all done! There is nothing we can do!”

With that he hung up. I felt horrible. These news were devastating and I felt so disregarded as I would have thought he wanted to see me and check up on me. It was dinner time and I got the feeling I interrupted him while having his evening meal. Half an hour later he called back and was a little more sympathetic and actually asked me questions and explained the procedures if this was the case. Once I got over the biggest shock, I imagined his wife had heard him and told him off for talking to a woman in this position the way he did. That probably wasn’t the case though, he must have realised afterwards that he’d been a bit hasty. And I do take my hat off to him for actually calling back and kind of making amends.

Another time I miscarried and was sent with an airplane to a hospital to be monitored. The morning after a gynaecologist examined me. He brought a student with him and didn’t ask if it was okay with me that he was present and I didn’t say anything, I probably would have said yes, but one should ask. He then examined me and spoke “doctor” to his student, pointed at the screen and never said a word to me. The two of them then disappeared behind a curtain where they had a computer and they kept “talking doctor”. After a few minutes I had worked up the courage to ask: “Can I put my clothes back on?” The answer was a short, annoyed yes and then they kept talking amongst themselves. For a while I stood there like I didn’t belong and felt like I shouldn’t be there. However, I ended up asking “I am sorry… Is it gone? Have I miscarried?” This specialist sneered back: “Yes! That is if you were ever pregnant!”. With that I left.

Having doctors that talk to people in situations like this, communicating like that is horrible. Afterwards I felt like I didn’t only have to deal with the shock and sorrow of miscarrying but also this treatment. To be treated like a second-class citizen.

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Photo by burak kostak on Pexels.com

In England I have come across what I would class as very unprofessional behaviour. Not from the doctors themselves but the first person one has to go through before getting to the doctor. The receptionists. Desk doctors as I have started referring to them as.

In December, when I discovered I was pregnant I looked on NHS’s website to see what the procedures are here, as I have never been pregnant in the UK before. It said if you have discovered you are pregnant you should contact your local clinic and get an appointment with a midwife or a GP. Which I decided to do, especially with my history, I knew I wanted it on record in case of worst-case scenario. Therefore, I called my local clinic and asked for an appointment. They have appointment slots every day which they only fill in on that day. So, you are supposed to call in the morning and get allocated an appointment later that same morning. I told the lady on the phone I needed one of these walk-in appointments (this is something they have just started and came instead of the walk-in hours, to avoid people coming in and having to wait for hours). She told me they didn’t have walk-ins. I tried to explain I needed one of these same-day appointments and she told me they only had appointments next week. After going back and forth explaining to her what I was talking about she said: “Oh you are talking about (insert the official name of the appointments)”. I told her that was correct. She then asked me what the problem was, which I am not used to as in Iceland it’s the doctors business not a receptionists. I told her I had just discovered that I was pregnant and as the NHS website stated I wanted to see a GP. She told me that had nothing to do with the GP and that I needed to see a midwife but only if I was around 10 weeks pregnant. I then explained to her that first off I wasn’t sure how far on I was and then I told her I had had 7 miscarriages and needed the support and assurance of a doctor. “I don’t know what  he’s supposed to do for you! But I’ll book you in any way!”. I felt like she had been rude and couldn’t believe her last snappy answer as I had just shared with her my history and explained that I was very nervous. There was no sympathy, just cynical remarks.

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I told the doctor about the answers and comments I had received. She apologised and couldn’t believed how I had been spoken to. She said the reasons for my visit were none of the receptions business and if I wanted to see a doctor, I should get to see a doctor no matter what it was for. She then told me she would send a request for me to see a gynaecologist at the hospital so I could be monitored. I should also book an appointment at the reception for a meeting with my community midwife. When I got to the reception the “lovely” receptionist from the phone was there. I told her I needed to book an appointment with a midwife. Very loudly (so loudly that everyone in the waiting room knew exactly why I was there) she asked me how far along I was. I told her I wasn’t sure but was about to see a specialist to get that clarified as I didn’t know. Loudly, again, she said: “You don’t know!?!” I felt really embarrassed and like I had failed in filling out my sexual encounter diary to make sure to have exact dates and records. Again, I told her I was sorry but I didn’t. She told me the only appointment she had was at the beginning of February and I accepted that. Again, she stressed that the midwifes REALLY wanted to be sure of how far along women were when they saw them. I just looked at her awkwardly and said: “Well, I don’t know.” She booked the appointment and murmured: “Well you should be around the correct time by then anyway…” I wondered how on earth she knew more than me!

After this I waited for a letter which would tell me when I was to come into the hospital to see a gynaecologist. A week later my letter arrived but my appointment wasn’t till January so I called the hospital. When I got through to a receptionist, they told me I was just seeing a midwife for a normal check-up. I explained that wasn’t correct. That I was going to see a community midwife but needed to see a specialist at the hospital due to my history. She didn’t budge. After a while she transferred the phone to another person and I got the same thing. I ended up crying out of frustration and simply told her I was scared and I felt like no one was listening. Finally, I got transferred to a receptionist at the pre-natal care. This person had been filled in on why I was calling and once she got on the phone she asked what she could do for me. I started crying loudly and told her all I needed was to see a specialist and that was what I believed my doctor had requested but for some reason I was being told I would only get to see a midwife and that wouldn’t happen until January. As I was very emotional (and a “little”) dramatic by this point I told her I was doubting it all though and I felt like I didn’t understand anything and maybe it was because I was nothing more than a foreigner. She calmed me down and had me breathing in and out before assisting me.

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She booked me in, told me I’d see a midwife who probably would have a specialist do a scan on me the same day.

Once we arrived, I spoke to yet another receptionist. She told me to pee in a cup. I told her I believed I wasn’t supposed to as I might be going for a scan as I wasn’t sure about my dates and I knew a scan so early on require a full bladder. She hissed at me and told me I wasn’t booked in for a scan and therefore there wouldn’t be any scan that day and I should basically do as I was told. Quickly I sensed the fact she was not going to budge so, upset, I took the glass and went to the bathroom. When I returned my fiancée told me he had tried to talk to her but there was no way to get her to listen. For the first time in my life my blood pressure was measured quite high and I know it was only due to upset. Once I finally saw the midwife I felt better. She was caring and understanding. She understood my worries and as the specialist she normally would have me see was gone for the day, she wanted to book me in with him later but offered to have another doctor have a quick look then and there just to set my mind at ease.

This doctor was very cold. To begin with he saw the bubble the fetus should be in but couldn’t detect a fetus. The midwife held my hand and comforted me as tears ran down my face in silence. She asked him to do a more thoroughly examination. I had to remove my clothes and he did. He could detect a fetus this time but couldn’t confirm there was a heartbeat and told me that his file would therefore say there was a fetus but that there was uncertainty about vital signs. More tears ran down my face and he left. I apologised to the midwife for the crying and she asked me please not to apologise. Told me communications weren’t his strongest point which was why she was there, to translate his words into human interactions. Both she and my fiancée said they believed they saw a flickering and we would know for sure in a few days.

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As my readers know when I went back there was a heartbeat and we are now in our 10th week.

After this I have been treated very well but I am sure that there are notes on their system about communications with me. It has been frustrating and hard to deal with health care employees that treat you like any other number. That even make you feel like you are wasting their time. I know we all have bad days, but if you cannot mask them and your job is to deal with real people with real emotions maybe you should be doing something else.

These receptionists were my first impressions of the English health care system when it comes to pregnancy and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. I might have listened and not pushed for what I needed. If I would have I would have missed the amazing service I have had after getting passed these gatekeepers. I would have had weeks of wondering whether everything was going okay or not and I would still be waiting for the confirmation on it.

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Having to face the fact I can’t keep all the balls in the air at the same time

In the midst of my exams I have learned that I have to come to terms with not being able to do everything up to the standards that I would like.

Running a busy home with 3 children and the 4th “in the oven”, doing full masters studies, being a fiancé, friend and a family member, blogging, doing an online course in leadership etc. can be a handful.

Therefore, for the last 3 weeks I’ve had to prioritise. My main focus at the moment is on my exams.

Current status: one down, two to go.

Being pregnant also requires me to listen to my body when it demands rest as apparently I produce very important hormones for the baby when I sleep (the pregnancy did throw in a bit of a curveball when it came to plans this year).

Any spare time I spend with my awesome family and to let off steam I call friends and close relatives.

I’m used to pushing my limits but with all the talk about people, often young people, having breakdowns and burning out due to stress and pressure in society it has made me think. Made me realise that even though I am pushing myself and want success in life I might not achieve it at the speed I’ve been driving at.

Therefore, my blog has to take a little hit this week and next week. I’d rather write inspirational posts, interesting posts or informative posts when I’m inspired and energised myself. When I feel the urge to sit down and truly share something with my readers. I do not want to write just for the sake of it as I think it shines through when I don’t do it wholeheartedly and I don’t want to blog while battling a nagging feeling of guilt, knowing I could be spending the time revising for my exams.

My last exam is on Thursday a week from now. I expect to return after that with a head full of ideas and loads of material to write about.

There is a strength in prioritising and knowing ones own limitations.

2018 is gone but not forgotten

Happy New Year! I am going to start this year with an overview of 2018, which was a year of big changes for me with new challenges.

Finished one school and started another

In February I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications. It was a HUGE step for me as my path through the school system had been longwinded. At many points in my life I thought I might not get an education at all, that my ship had sailed, as I hadn’t had the opportunity to finish school at the same phase as many of my friends and peers.

I managed to prove myself wrong and finished my degree in 2 and a half years, as we did summer semesters as well, and I did it with a great mark as well!

On the night of my graduation I threw a big party where two of my best friends and one of my brothers were hosts and made sure to take the piss out of me and guaranteed a good time for all my guests. Another brother took photos at the party and played the guitar and even wrote a song to lyrics that my fiancé put together and they exclusively debuted it for us all. After the party I walked two houses down from the pub where it was held and slept, uninterrupted, in a hotel for the night (this was a big perk as my daughter was only about six months old and hardly ever slept throughout the night).

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A proud graduate

In September I started a new university in pursuit of a master’s degree. I am still studying at Leeds University Business School and hopefully will receive my degree in Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations by the end of this year.

My studies are challenging at times and I think the main reason for that is both that I am not studying in my native language and secondly because I do have to manage it around running a family of five. Now, for example, I am preparing for exams and it’s proven quite difficult to manage that around the holidays. A house full of flue, the fact my fiancé is now back at work and my au pair still being in Iceland after visiting her family over the holidays are all contributory factors. It’s impossible to sit down and listen to lectures or get sucked into a case study with an active 18-month-old demanding time and attention.

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My lovely school in Leeds

There can be never enough travelling!

I went to a global conference with a friend from school in March. The conference is called LEAP summit and is aimed at entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow.

My previous university sent us an email where we were informed about it and told we could apply for free tickets. This I did. Unexpectedly I got a ticket! I couldn’t bear the thought of going alone so I contacted a girl from my university. She is one that is not only someone I believe will be one of “tomorrows leaders” but already has made an impact. She had served as the youngest member of parliament in Iceland until recently and has done amazing things in her work, especially for women and young people. When she appeared in interviews her appearance was always immaculate and polished.

She’s adventurous so she applied as well and got a ticket. It dawned on me, I was going somewhere without my spouse and children! As much as I love them, it was long needed!

We planned the trip, booked flights to Zagreb and found a place in the city centre to stay.

I loved Zagreb and really hope I can revisit one day as we only stayed for a long weekend. The conference itself was inspiring and very educational. I highly recommend it to anyone in the need of some inspiration, who wants to meet young vibrant people on their way up in life or/and want to learn a thing or two about life and some business skills from world-class speakers.

However, me and my travel buddy found ourselves a little too old for the raves they threw at evenings etc. so we ventured into the city. We ate AMAZING food at ridiculously good prices, got top-notch service everywhere we went. We chatted to locals at bars, some that seemed quite upscale and then some that made us feel like we might want to make sure we never lost sight of each other. No matter what the place looked like though, the people we met were all nice, polite and talkative. We walked around the city centre a little as well and peeked into a museum where we both almost pissed ourselves. It was called “Museum of Torture”. It was horrible but educational at the same time. We agreed that the human species can be monstrous and it is scary to know that people have gone to such lengths to think up ways to harm each other. It was very dark in there and had scary music playing in the background, so we rushed a little through it as we felt genuinely afraid in there.

kirkja zagreb
A typical tourist picture from Zagreb. I didn’t want to bore you with all the food pictures I took!

The host of our flat was nice to the core. She messaged us before we arrived, showed us the flat, answered all of our questions and even sent us an email the day after with a list of restaurants we might be interested in. She was very helpful and friendly.

The biggest “travelling venture” would have to be the family’s big move to England. In June we relocated to Leeds so I could continue with my education. We love it here and as I have covered before I find the people here friendly and we all have a sense of community where we live. I meet the women from the neighbourhood for drinks or to let the kids play and my fiancé goes out with the blokes that live around here to watch football and have a pint of beer. While in Reykjavík I didn’t even know the people next door to me. I want to travel around Yorkshire more and hopefully the new year will bring us a bigger car so we can do so. At the moment we have a very small car and I would prefer everyone to be comfortable and be able to take our au pair on day trips with us as well. Therefore, we definitely need more than five seats. We had a great summer here and Icelanders even came over to try to catch some sun as there was a lack of it back home. Who would have thought it! People visiting England with the purpose of catching some rays!

sun in leeds
Catching some of the sun this summer!

People around me, mostly other international students, have complained about the weather this winter. I must say I have loved it! I am dependant on public transportation to and from school and I do not feel like I can complain! My vision of England was rain, rain and rain! So, the few days it has rained I have thought “There you go, that’s what I expected…” but it never lasts many days in a row. Maybe I am wrong and maybe its because I am from Iceland but I feel like this winter (so far) has been mild and quite gentle to the bus catching student that I am.

Since I moved here, I have travelled back to Iceland once. The whole family went over at the beginning of November, as it was my fathers 70th birthday and he decided to throw a big party. The kids were sent to relatives and friends and I, my fiancé and my father-in-law went to a huge birthday party. I did a little speech in honour of my dad and then we drank and danced the night away. I was very pleased with my trip over as we only stayed for three nights and my father-in- law had never been to Iceland but he still managed to see the northern lights. It took some battering on his bedroom door and yelling encouragement to get him out of bed. When he emerged, he was wearing his boxer shorts and a furry hat in the freezing cold. We stayed in one of the summer houses my dad rents out to tourists and managed to relax in the hot tub twice. The only downside to the trip was that it was very short and I couldn’t meet a lot of the people I would have liked to have seen.

pottur
The lovely hot tub, just before we went in with a glass of white in hand

Illnesses and injuries

Weird category but fresh in the mind at the moment, as me and my two girls saluted the new year with a very hostile flue! I call it “the English flue”, as I don’t get sick often but man, this one knocked me right off my feet! I was in bed (on the couch to be accurate) for almost two weeks! My youngest one got hit twice and had quite high fever. She seems to be making this a yearly thing as she had RS virus during New Years Eve last year! My oldest had to cancel a trip to her dad as she was too poorly to travel. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my fiancé as he waited us on hand and foot. He made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed. At the same time, he made sure that anyone that was not ill, like my son, were also taken care of and had something to do and got to get out of the house.

I caught another foreign flue in the year of 2018, as my last one and a half day in Zagreb I wasn’t feeling right. Once I got home, I got even worse. That was “the Croatian flue”. Again, my fiancé was a star. I had such high temperature that he had to change the bed regularly so it wouldn’t start resembling a very unappetising, punctured waterbed! He brought me water and tablets to bed and tried feeding me but I do not believe I was very cooperative patient.

flue

In October I got food poisoning and that was a horrible experience. The only thing I laugh about, now, not then, is the phone call we had with some medical staff here in the UK. My lovely and very worried fiancé called some emergency service due to my condition. After a little while the person on the phone demanded to talk to me rather than him. I answered what felt like 100 questions and was told that I would receive a phone call soon from another member of staff. About 15 minutes later the phone rang. My fiancé tried to take it upon him to talk to the health specialist but again they wanted to talk to me. I was asked a lot of the same questions as before. As the person on the phone went through the information, she had from the previous phone call, it dawned on me a lot of the answers the first person had taken down he had answered incorrectly, even though I had given him the correct answers. Anyway, close to the end of our conversation, which took about 10-15 minutes, I was asked whether I could talk!?! Very surprised I asked: “Excuse me?” the person said: “Are you capable of expressing yourself verbally?”. For a moment I thought about saying nothing….. I also thought about asking what it was exactly that I had been doing for the last 10 minutes. Even though I can be a little sarcastic I decided to be polite and just answered “Yes” while I shook my head and rolled my eyes towards my fiancé.

Apart from my youngest catching the occasional flue (which is normal while developing an immune system) the rest of the family has been healthy. However, my fiancé took a tumble down the stairs in our house, with our daughter in his arms! In some immaculate way he managed to save her from any harm. He on the other hand, had cuts on his arms and a grace on his shin. He also fractured some ribs and therefore had to stay home from work for a week.

My brother gets amused and annoyed when it comes to the UK and all the health and safety procedures. He lived in the UK for two years and just couldn’t wrap his head around how scrutinising the health and safety topic is in this country. When he visited in September, he made a lot of fun of all the health and safety courses my fiancé had to do due to his new job. Therefore, when I told him about my fiancés accident his only reply was: “WHAT!!! Has he not done a course in “how to fall down stairs safely”?”

health and safety
Might be an idea to put one of these warning signs at the top of our stairs to prevent falling

All and all

When I look over the year 2018, I can truly say it was mostly good and I went through a lot of personal growth.

I have amazing net of people around me. We got great visitors over. Due to modern technology I have not been homesick yet as I can see my friends and family through a screen whenever I want. I have met great people through my new university and in my neighbourhood.

I have challenged myself personally and professionally.

I am in the process of learning that people visit me to see me, not to inspect my mess. I am also in the process of learning to let go and prioritise when it comes to school, home, family, friends etc. and am almost comfortable with placing the mess in our house at the bottom of the list at the moment so I can enjoy all the other things!

I learned I can write in English as I started this blog, where I surprised myself with two things, firstly, how well it’s going and secondly, how personal it became. It has a life of its own and that is quite therapeutic.

I learned that even though I cut out people that harm me and/or only bring negativity into my life I am not becoming the parent that rejected me.

Through #metoo I learned a lot of the behaviour I had received when I was younger was not okay and for the first time in my life, I am able to see how I was done wrong and why some of these incidents were wrong. For that I am grateful, as if it doesn’t have a name its hard to put a finger on it and work through it.

metooprimary

We said goodbye to my mother-in-law, who passed away, in a beautiful ceremony early this summer.

I am grateful for my loving and supportive family. I have the most amazing kids and my fiancé is one of a kind. I wish I could give him a portion of all the support and encouragement he oozes over me on daily basis.

We recently discovered that I am pregnant and for the ones wondering, I still am. We have another scan tomorrow and are being closely monitored due to my history.

I am grateful I have lived another year. I am grateful for the lessons I went through. I am grateful for the people that are on this journey with me.

Now I look forward to new lessons, a new year and new milestones! Hopefully 2019 will bring me a baby, a degree, joy, love and some travelling.

(I also desperately hope it brings me a job at the end of the summer).

Again, a VERY happy new year to you all!

photo of fireworks
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