It has been a busy few weeks in Libbyland. Last week I was on the front page of the Huffington Post and on Monday an article by me went up on the Guardian student website.
Let me start from the beginning and with the Huffington Post. Recently I have been involved with a national campaign to end unpaid internships, and a campaign at my university (University of the Arts London) branded 'The Devil Pays Nada'. I have done seven unpaid internships and have used my student loan to support myself whilst working for free. This year, however, I am starting my final year at university, which also means the final year of my student loan. I will soon no longer be able to afford to work for free, and I don't think that I should have to.
Last week I went to my university's fresher's fair to man the 'Devil Pays Nada' stand and talk to students about the campaign. Unpaid work experience is something that pretty much everyone at my university will either have done or be expected to do. Within a few hours I had spoken to hundreds of students and as a team we had 700 names signed up to the campaign by the end of the day.
Although the campaign is something I believe in, I had been unsure about how public to be about my involvement. It is probably obvious why I was anxious: I want to get a job so didn't want to cut off opportunities for myself. I also feel very lucky to have had the experiences that I have had on my internships; I didn't want to seem ungrateful. But working for free is still something that I believe is wrong and cuts off opportunities for so many people.
I eventually decided that my hesitations were the exact reasons why I should speak out, and publicly. I want to be a journalist and for me one of the main purposes of journalism is to say the things that aren't being said. I may not want to be a political journalist or a war correspondent but I still think that with any form of broadcasting it still comes with a certain amount of responsibility. I want to use my voice in the best way that I can, so why was I not prepared to practice what I preach and speak out about an issue that directly affects me?
I wrote 'I Want to be a Journalist, But I Can't Afford to Work for Free' and pitched it to the Huffington Post. It went live on the site and made it to their front page last week. I now have a regular blogger's page where I will be able to post more articles in the future.
In the meantime I had also pitched an article to the Guardian student site which went up on the website yesterday. The article is very different in subject matter to my Huff Post piece, but similar in its aim. I wanted to speak openly about my experiences of university and to discuss whether students are always honest about 'the best days of our lives'. A few years ago I posted about my experiences applying to the London College of Fashion and have since then received a large number of emails from prospective students asking for advice about the LCF application process. I am always more than happy to respond, but sometimes feel somewhat dishonest when I do.
Since I wrote my post about applying to LCF, a lot has changed. The reality is that university has not been the experience that I had dreamt of. At the end of my first year I was actually very close to dropping out. I didn't really talk about the problems that I had encountered because coming to university was a decision I had made, and a decision I had been so sure of. I didn't want to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else, that I had found my time there difficult.
This is my final year at LCF and I thought it was time to be honest about my time here. The reality is, although it has been incredibly difficult at times, if I was given the chance to do it all again I would still make the same decisions. For a long time I worried whether coming to university had been the right decision. I seriously considered changing courses. But now I have come to realise that it was my attitude, not my course, that I needed to change. The troubles I encountered at university have made me more independent, have opened my mind to different opportunities and have made me the person I am today.
Read my articles following the links below:
Through writing these articles I have learnt more about the way I want to use my voice in the future. But I have also learnt another valuable lesson (even if it is one I hadn't necessarily signed up to): how to deal with internet hate.
Overall I have been incredibly happy with the responses to my Huffington Post article. Firstly I never expected it to make it onto the front page. Then I was touched by the support from my coursemates, friends, family, lecturers and other interns like me. But as soon as it went online the inevitable 'haters' came out of the woodwork too.
One main criticism was that I wrote an article about unpaid internships on a website that does not pay me for my work. I can understand this point of view but I still think it is missing the point. I think of my blog on the Huffington Post in a similar way to this blog: I own the copyright to my work and don't get paid. But equally I was writing about a campaign so just want to spread the word of the campaign in any way possible. My mum summed it up well: "How do you think the suffragettes got the vote? By voting? No. Sometimes you have to do the things you would rather not in order to be heard."
On both articles there have also been the few hurtful comments thrown in for good measure. It is so easy to post an anonymous comment that this is an issue that anyone posting online content will no doubt be familiar with. Anyone can log onto a computer and tap away some words and not think that the person they are sending them to is a real, normal person who will read them and feel so hurt that they sit and eat a fish finger sandwich whilst feeling utterly miserable, until their friends and family tell them not to worry and they eventually cheer up again. (I speak from personal experience).
I am only human so of course I read hurtful comments and take them personally. But this experience has also taught me that internet hate is just part of being a modern journalist, it is part of the internet and it is not something to carry with you into the real world. I want to be a writer and I value constructive criticism, but at the end of the day I write because it is something I want to do, so feeling confident in what I have written myself should be the most important thing. And as much as I want this to be my career, it is still just a job. As long as my mum and my friends are proud of me and think I'm fab, then that is all that really matters.
And as they say: 'haters gonna hate'. And there's not much you can do about it, except not let it wipe the smile off your face.