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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Blogging: Investment? Diversion? Maybe both?

Why am I blogging? Why do I take the time and sit down each week and share the things I write on this platform?

Well, I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and one of my teachers posted a thing on Facebook about a blog competition for PR students in the UK. I looked at this post and thought to myself “That might be fun!”. As I talked about last week I have always enjoyed writing, however, as I have also talked about before I am the queen of self-doubt and therefore I started telling myself I would probably not have enough to talk about and that little old me had no business entering a COMPETITION, let alone one where I had to write in English! Therefore, I put it aside but kept wondering.

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A few weeks later I asked my teacher to send me the details about the competition again, so I could have a better look at it. Somewhere I had read that having a blog as a future PR practitioner would be like being a designer and having a folder with his/her work in it, it could be my portfolio. That sounded less scary, I wasn’t doing it to win but to practice and make a portfolio (one that became a lot more personal than I realised it would be when I started).

When I looked at the details about the competition, I saw a post from Orlagh, who won last year. She described how she did it and it was quite inspiring. I decided to enter. Just for myself of course. No one would notice. I would practice. I could always delete it all later anyway. If, to my surprise, it would be any good at the end I would have a decent portfolio.

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The search for content

My biggest worry was concerning the content. I was sure I would run out of things to write about. To my surprise things kept coming to me, sometimes while having a conversation with people, sometimes while sitting on the bus in peace and quiet, often when my head hit the pillow at night and even sometimes while cooking for my family. Each time an idea popped up I pulled out my phone and made notes, a few sentences or words I could revisit when the time came to sit down again and write a new post. I keep adding to the notes, but only once have I had to look to them for material.

Most of the time something is pending and takes over and rather than looking at my notes. I think about it for a while, I let it brew. When I did group assignments while doing my bachelors I often worked with a friend I got to know at the university. The two of us would then add people to our team as needed for each assignment. After meeting up with a group I would go silent for a little while, for  a few days I wouldn’t say much to the group. When other group members would ask my friend what was going on with me and whether we shouldn’t start putting thing on paper he would always tell them to stay calm and not to misjudge my brewing time. He knew how I worked. I would then have articulated my thoughts and would sit down and write like the wind (if the wind could write that is!).

My first blog post for the competition was about myself. I was so new at this that I wasn’t even sure how to use the PRstudent hashtag to make sure the post would find its way into the competition. Therefore, I emailed the editor at PR Place and told him I had entered. He had seen my blog before he saw my email and encouraged me to keep going.

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Since then I have blogged about myself and things I believe can either come in handy for other people, help, or inspire them. I have also written about PR. My blog took on a life of its own. All of a sudden, I was sharing a lot more about myself than I had planned to but the thing is, when I entered, I decided to be authentic and true to myself as if I would try to be someone else it would come across fake and at some point I would be bound to contradict “my-alter-web-ego”.

How it spreads

Once I started posting I had to post it on Twitter, a media I am not used to using, but as soon as I did that I was sharing it with anyone following the PRstudent hashtag.

Then I thought to myself, if this is my “portfolio” I should probably share it on LinkedIn. So I did.

I haven’t shared it on Facebook yet. There are two main reasons for that. One, I am curious to see how big of a crowd I can reach without it being my friends and family. Two, I like being “unknown”, to simply be me and not someone I feel like I should be as we all have certain roles when it comes to the people around us.

With these few actions I have had more reactions to my blog than I would have imagined. For an established blogger my numbers are far from impressive but for someone that started with no one knowing who I was and thinking I would be talking to myself I am quite impressed with myself!

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Ok, these numbers are not huge, I know! But they are all I need, for now anyway. I am being noticed and people from countries all over the world are stumbling onto my blog. I know the PRstudent hashtag has a lot to do with that. That is great! It is a great way to get known and to build a network.

Since I started blogging, I have been approached by Richard Bailey, the editor of PR Place, who asked me to come to Leeds Beckett University and speak to his PR students. Once I got there he asked me about personal branding and blogging in general. It was so much fun! And I learned so much by doing this. Can you imagine, I didn’t even realise until put on the spot in front of these students that that was exactly what I am doing?! As I am a fairly quick thinker, I could still inform them about me and my personal branding!

I emailed the girl that did the talk I blogged about earlier. I told her that she had inspired me to write and therefore I wanted to let her know there was a blog out there partly about her. I also admitted to having stolen a picture on the internet to link to the post and that I hoped that was alright. She emailed me back. She liked my post and said, she in return thought I was inspiring and that my story needed to be heard and asked if she could share my post on her media. I was overwhelmed. She’s a big influencer. I knew as soon as she had shared it as the number of visitors on my blog spiked, and I had not just released a new post.

I have followers on Twitter I didn’t have before I started blogging (I now feel a bit of pressure to become more active on Twitter) and I have professionals looking at my LinkedIn profile.

All of this amazes and brings me joy.

What about the ROI?

Richard Bailey challenged the PRstudents in the competition to look at data and told us to connect with our inner geek (my inner geek loves words but makes little sense with numbers).

I still took his advice and looked at the analytics on my Twitter account:

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Pretty impressive right? As I was almost none-existent on Twitter before the competition it is probably not a surprise, but it still looks good!

But having said that I have to admit I had to google the term ROI while I worked on this challenge. If there is anyone out there as ignorant as me it means: “Return On Investment” and Wikipedia explains it as following: “it is a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources. A high ROI means the investment’s gains favourably to its cost”. So, if I understand it correctly it basically boils down to whether what you are doing is actually worth it. Regardless of data and numbers my personal answer is YES!

The reason is simple and came to me while having a conversation with a fellow student at Leeds University. She told me she didn’t understand how I had time to do it all. Study, run a family, host visitors regularly from Iceland AND blog. I hadn’t really given it a thought but as I spoke to her, I realised how much it gives me back. I told her it was not about BEING ABLE to manage, it HELPED me manage. With all the things I have to do and think about each day, these 2 – 3 hours I take every week to sit down, alone, maybe a glass of rosé by my side and a few candles are my meditation. They bring me back to myself in all the clutter I manage every day, week and month of the year. I enjoy writing. It is my me-time. I have always meant to write more but never given myself the time to do it, always used the excuse “I will do it when things calm down”.

When you lead a busy life, when things are hectic there is never more of a need than to sit down and meditate. I am a very impatient person, so the typical way of meditating doesn’t really agree with me as I start wondering how far into my 10 minutes of breathing in and out I am, but this I CAN do. This is how I bring myself together and channel myself. Being a part of the PRstudent competition gives me the framework and discipline to actually do that, follow through and take the time to sit down.

So, all in all, my numbers are up, I am being noticed, I am making a network but last and not least I am getting rewarded by the satisfaction of doing something I enjoy and helps me focus.

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