The C Word (or; third year fear)

My supervisor used the C word the other day. Sat politely in his office, having a chat about how our respective summers had been, he brazenly cracked out possibly the most offensive word he could have summoned.

No, not that one. God, what’s wrong with you? This is respectable company we’re talking about- he’s an academic. You disgust me. I meant Career.

He wanted to know what I planned on doing after university. And it’s a fair question- I wouldn’t mind knowing myself. But that’s exactly the problem; I haven’t the foggiest. While everyone else has drawn up meticulous life plans- I’m still floundering around in a corner of the internet quietly wondering whether I can justify a new leather jacket to the Natwest overdraft people, and stacking my ever increasing pile of charity shop books onto my to-read list.

I have friends making the deadline for grad-scheme applications, friends comfortably setting up businesses and idly considering how much they’re going to pay themselves, and friends lining up contacts for post-university networking. I don’t know when you all started deciding what you wanted to do with your lives, but it would have been polite for one of you to give me a nudge, or to have at least told me to get out of bed. I mean really.

Me not knowing what to do with myself is hardly ground-breaking, but it’s starting to get kinda important. I can pretty much rule out engineering, Japanese translating and piloting. I would suck at those jobs. So that narrows it down a bit, which is a nice start. Further than this though, I’m falling short of ideas. Suggestions welcome (seriously).

What I think I’ll do, unless I unearth some unmissable opportunity, is take myself off one one of those gap-yahs I’ve been pining after for the last three years. Is that cheating? I don’t care. If I structure it properly, I can build myself up a little stock of life experiences- and I might even be a little closer to knowing what I’d love to be doing at the end of it all. Filling a year with travel, lots of work experience, internships and more writing seems my best bet. I don’t have to be tied to a place, I can satiate my itchy feet and (more importantly) I can buy myself some time before the real world hits.


How to say "love"

The quickest route to work from my new house happens to go through the most famous street in York. As gorgeous as Shambles is, it has now become the street I hate the most. All the quaint cobbles, curling buildings and flashes of York’s 800 year history no longer remedy the fact that The Shambles is rammed with tourists.

The only time this street’s been empty

Tourists were sent from hell to remind us just how angry we can be made by other people. They find the most awkward places to stand to ensure they’re firmly in your way, they stop suddenly causing you to slam full pelt into the back of their head, and they sulk if you dare walk in front of their camera. In a word, they’re arseholes.

Now. I may be being slightly hypocritical. When I’m tourist-ing, I seem to forget all usual human social conventions. So I can sympathise with the millions of people milling around on The Shambles, innocently pissing off the locals. I’m one of them when I’m in their hometown, after all.

Despite this- the hoard on The Shambles still house a special number one slot on the “People I Hate Most” list. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rush to get to my shift. Maybe it’s because some of them are just so categorically stupid. Probably it’s because I have anger issues. Whatever. The point is, this wonderful, beautiful little corner of York has been ruined for me.

One of the ways I deal with these demons sporting backpacks when I’m rushing amongst them, is to use my inherent Northern charm. Once, this meant telling a guy insistent on not letting me pass to move out of the way, pretty please; but with my Mancunian accent, this polite instruction may have come across a touch more colourfully. Usually though, I’m in much less of a surging rage, and will instead twist through the crowds with a quick “sorry, love”.

“Love” is a funny term. It has complex rules governing its usage- something I assumed everyone knew  naturally. Apparently not. Perhaps it’s something inbuilt into Northerners, like always having a carrier bag on you in case you have to pop to ALDI. So I thought I’d clarify for the rest of you:

You can call the bus driver love, but you can’t call your boss love. You can call someone older than you love, but only if they seem the type to use the term themselves. You can’t call someone just a little younger than you love, but you can if they’re quite a bit younger. There’s no point calling posh people love. Don’t call someone in a lower position than you love if you don’t want to come off as patronising. If you call your mam love, brace yourself for a slap.

When a tourist in work called me love the other day, I was really offended. I was in an inferior role- his waitress- and he was quite clearly younger than me. I couldn’t help but feel like he was patronising me on purpose. It undermined how polite I’d been, and definitely reinforced that he saw me as someone serving him, not just someone doing a job.

Obviously, my offence was a lot more to do with the guy’s tone when he spoke to me, and the general sneering expression, but the fact that he used the word love to patronise surprised me. To me, it’s a term of endearment. It’s there to show that you care about the person (to some extent, I’m not sure the guy in McDonalds is genuinely fussed whether I enjoy my Happy Meal or not), and to make something more personable. The guy that accidentally bumps into you and curtly apologises might not mean it; and the guy that bumps into you and says “ah, sorry love” might not either, but I’d be more inclined to believe him.

Love is a pretty important term to me. It’s a quick way of showing affection, and it’s a handy extra for making something more polite. When you’re barging through a swarm of people armed with maps and SLRs, it’s my go-to tool for showing that us Northerners are friendly, but could you get out of my bloody way please. If this snooty guy is abusing the term- my term- then I need to make people more aware of how it’s supposed to be used. Consider this blog Lesson One.


The working student (Yorker Archives)

As part of this startling independence you suddenly face upon arrival at university (“you mean I have to do my OWN laundry?”), a pitiful student loan and whatever spends you can convince your parents to donate won’t ever seem quite enough to fund your debauchery or even your pesky food habit. And the realistic way of dealing with this is a part-time job. While Hannah Allies thinks it’s a bit of a waste of time, I’m here to make the case for working students.

Pulling pints so you can afford your own ©Rama
Don’t kid yourself that the time you’re earning real life minimum wage would be otherwise spent hard at work in the library. Especially in first year, all spare time suddenly becomes nap time, or time spent pointlessly Facebook stalking people you’ve only the loosest connection to. It’s certainly not spent rereading your lecture notes. You may as well put it to good use.
Working a part time job really will help your future prospects. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. While you’re probably not planning on becoming a professional shelf-stacker or barman after University, it’s important to know how work environments work first hand. This means knowing how time-keeping works (if they say you start at one, turn up at five to), how to deal with idiot customers (“no sir, I can’t give you a fifty per cent discount…”) and how to handle a crisis (Table Twelve don’t have their desserts yet and the kitchen’s just set on fire).Transferable skills, right there.
No matter how fabulous your essays in first year were, nor how your were an avid member of Fish and Chip Soc, no employer is going to care about your CV unless you can prove you’re willing and able to graft. Graft hard. Cleaning tables or changing beer barrels might not be the most fun things in the world, but it shows you know the real meaning of elbow grease. Employers lap that stuff up.
While work may eat into your social calender at some times- don’t let this put you off. Weekends are pretty uneventful in York, so putting in a few hours at a shop or cafe in town will keep you busy without dragging you away from too many college matches or student nights. Plus, you’ve got a Christmas work-do to look forward to now.
Equally, it provides a handy excuse for those invites you’d rather not accept. Oh, you’re all dressing up in bin bags for a night out? I’d love to, obviously, but I have work the next morning, and if I went in smelling like Mansion I’d probably get fired. Works a charm.
The main, and most obvious benefit of working is the wage. God knows you’ll be needing some form of income; those library fines aren’t going to pay themselves.
It can be tough sometimes, but just think of the money. When you’re scrubbing someone else’s vomit from the loo, when you’re rearranging bras on a mannequin, when you’re just clocking off at midnight. YOU ARE GETTING PAID. It might not be the most exciting wage, but it’ll be worth it when all of your friends are eating plain pasta for the third day in a row and you can afford take away pizza. Think of the glamour.
First published here, and later featuredon Ones To Watch Media here.

University, what do you expect?

I’ve begun the countdown to my final year at University. York starts ridiculously late, so while everyone else is over Freshers and Freshers’ Flu, we’re still twiddling our thumbs and waiting for our loans to appear.

I’m really struggling to believe I’m already two thirds of the way through my uni life. TWO THIRDS. If my degree was a cake (and I wish it was), then I’d be seriously close to full up by now.

The first slice, sorry, year, was a weird one for me. Probably the most uncharacteristic year of my life, the early months were funded by a massive mood courtesy of a crap break-up. I got vaguely involved in university life, mostly in the form of frequenting York’s nightlife (let us never mention Pub Golf 2011), and learning the perils of leaving food unlabelled in a fridge shared between seventeen people. I had a lot of fun, and learnt a thing or two about linguistics, which was useful.

My “Mandarin” essay/impression

Disappointed with how much of a mardarse I’d been in the first term, and how unproductive I’d been (short of stealing straws in anger at high drinks prices and the occasional kitchen cleaning rage), I swore I’d throw myself into second year. So I enrolled in two evening language classes, got a job waitressing, started this blog, got an editorial role with The Yorker, promised myself I’d finally get travelling, spend less time pining for home, and swore off boys.

My plan was successful. Though I bombed one of the language classes (fuck you, Mandarin), and dropped a full plate of linguini on a customer (didn’t get fired, woo!), otherwise I did pretty well. I was a lot happier overall, saw some wonderful places and made some cracking memories.

So if I’ve been improving year on year at this university lark, by my calculations, this one should be my best. So what am I expecting from third (& final) year?

Well. If the third-years in the library are anything to go by; I’ll be sat with a pen glued to my hand, pale because the enormous piles of books surrounding me are blocking out sunlight, and angrily scowling at anyone that even thinks of making any audible sound. I’ll be jealously stalking all my fresher/second-year friends online. I’ll be wishing I had a hangover, because that would mean I’d gone out and had fun the night before, rather than trying to recreate a social life by trying to befriend the takeaway delivery guy in between essays. “I remember hangovers.” I’ll say. “Hangovers used to be so great.”

I can smell the panic already. But rather than stirring myself into a tizz just yet, I’m going make myself another little promise. If all the essays get too much, and if a First appears just as likely as gaining a guest appearance on Coronation Street, I’m going to take a step back. If that’s an early night, a spooning session with my best friend, or a Friday night lost to word-count-woe fuelled tequila shots, then so be it. My degree is important to me, but so is my sanity, and I’m not going to give either up for the others sake.