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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”?”
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.
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).
Do I ever wonder why I am here and whether I am good enough? Whether it will all be worth it in the end and wonder if it will be the investment I told myself it would be?
Yes, yes, yes and yes!
I can be a master of self-doubt and criticism. My plan, however, is to become a Master in Corporate Communication, Marketing and Public Relations. Whenever I am in self-doubt I remind myself why I am here, how I got here and where I am going.
The why part is easy. I became a mum at the age of 23, I had no education, I had been stuck in dead end jobs that didn’t even cover the bills and I had ambitions and believed life held more for me than this. When I became a mum I also felt this huge wave of responsibility hit me. I could do more, I had to do more. I had to show my little girl how beautiful the world was, live life to the fullest and be a good role model for her.
At the age of 25 however I still didn’t have an education, no flashy nor well paid job BUT I did have one more child and worries as I was a single mum of two and stuck in a rut.
In panic mode I called an aunt of mine, older and wiser. She told me to get back to school. She said she knew that was what I wanted to do and that no matter how well paid the job would be if one had this urge to study it would always be there nagging away in the background. She also pointed out that while studying I could get student loans and they would cover anything me and the kids would need. To a single mum of two in desperation and loads of bills to pay that sounded like a great plan.
So that’s what I did! I completed the Icelandic equivalent of A levels in a year (it should take 3-4 years), as by then I was already a mature student!
As I graduated with a very high average I took the only rational step and enrolled into law studies! My only advise here is, don’t do something because it seems rational, do it because you have a passion! As my heart was not in it and I didn’t enjoy it I left university about a month later. I still had to pay the tuition fees and told myself I wasn’t cut out to study at a prestige institution like a university.
At that point I took a break, got married and moved to the Middle East where I lived for about 10 months.
When I returned I was not only a single mum of two but a divorcé! Just that word made me cringe and I always felt the need to justify it. I had nowhere to live nor a job. Well done Heiða!
Quickly I sorted out a nice little flat in central Reykjavík and got a sales job which I knew nothing about and was not sure I had the confidence for. My then boyfriend (now fiancé) thought the world of me and believed in me more than anyone ever had in my life. He knew sales and told me the do’s and don’ts. I LOVED that job! I loved walking into different businesses every day and talking to different people. For the first time I woke up and looked forward to going to work. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay the bills. Therefore, I took a job in a store where I stacked the shelves and sold cleaning products and stationary. I worked long days and had no passion for the job whatsoever.
When I browsed through Facebook I kept getting this ad on my feed, staring me in the eye, poking my subconscious and daring me to click on it. Facebooks algorithm found me! It was an advert from a university. It was an expensive privately-run university. It was a BA in Media and Public Relations. For a long time I resisted the urge to click on the link, I had tried university, it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t good enough and when I would (not if) quit I would still have to pay high amounts of school fees and God knew I couldn’t afford that!
I didn’t share these thoughts with anyone. Eventually though, the algorithm got the best of me, I clicked the advert and read about this degree. It sounded wonderful! It sounded like something I would actually enjoy! I might be able to get an education and a job I actually like and live up to those dreams and goals I set up with when I first became a mum.
I called my boyfriend and told him about this crazy idea of mine. As before he believed in me and when I mentioned the fact we would be even worse off debt wise if I couldn’t do it he wouldn’t hear any off it. He told me I was brilliant and could do anything I wanted. We would make this work.
I enrolled and did my bachelors through distance learning.
The next two and a half year flew by. They were incredibly challenging, difficult, hectic, sleepless, tiring and manic. I had to plan every day carefully, so the kids would get to where they needed to be and that there would be someone to take them there, feed them, get them to sleep etc. as both me and my boyfriend had full time jobs. I worked shifts, 12 hours a day approximately 4 days a week and he worked night shifts every other week. I also had to plan when to study. I also had to make allowance for going to the school every 6 weeks for lectures and seminars over a period of 3-4 days as my school was in the countryside. Sometimes it worked out fine, sometimes I simply had to take the kids with me. I changed jobs two times and added a second job on during my last term. I miscarried 4 times. We moved houses two times. During my last term of course work I was finally pregnant (heavily), doing two jobs and studying full time. When I look back I am not sure how I did it. But having great support goes a long way. Being organised, passionate and stubborn gets you the rest.
Once that term had finished I gave birth to my third child. Six weeks later I was doing an internship at a production company and writing my dissertation.
When I was approaching the end of my studies I realized I knew loads of different theories, but I didn’t know how to apply them. I didn’t feel the confidence I had imagined I would feel after all this reading and studying. Therefore, I decided to do further studies.
I am from Iceland. The group I graduated with was the first one with a PR education from an Icelandic university. Therefore, I knew I would have to look outside my home country to chase my passion and my dreams. I did loads of research and applied to two universities in the UK. I got into both of them and today I am a student of Leeds University.
I believe that once I have finished my degree here I can achieve anything. I will be able to live those dreams I had as a 23 year old mum. I will be a good role model to my children, I will have a job that pays the bills (and hopefully then some), I will be able to manage my time more than I could in my previous jobs and I will be waking up in the morning (or if it’s up to me around lunch time) and going to a job I enjoy and am passionate about! We spend too much time of our lives at work not to enjoy what we are doing!
This path has not been easy, it has not been straight, but I firmly believe it will be worth it!
And in a way it already has been as I have made friends for a lifetime, I have pushed myself beyond my limits (quite a few times), I already have an education that no one can take away from me, I have learnt a lot about myself, I have gone out of my comfort zone many times and I have gained life experience that is impossible to put a price tag on.