42 for a year: why doing a placement was the best decision I’ve ever made

6:30am on Saturday morning. Head in agony, I have no idea why I feel so sick. Then I remember, a feeling I haven’t felt so intensely in an embarrassingly (for my age) long time. Hung over. I’m 21 and go to the University of Leeds, so how on earth was this feeling so alien to me? Why was my first thought when I remembered the night before: ‘I’m too old for this’?

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a middle aged woman inside, but this year I feel I truly embodied a 42-year-old. Doing a placement year was the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s probably aged me by about 20 years.

I’ve treated this year as a sort of taster of adult life – I mean real, married with kids, adult life. I’m lucky my hours are flexible but most days I leave the house at 6:15am and get home at 6pm. My boyfriend and I live quite far apart, which means my little Citroen C1, Charlie, has been a bit of a home-from-home for me throughout the year. I’ve driven almost 30,000 miles in the year, and have the M1 – M69 – M6 route down to muscle memory. It’s been hard living out of a suitcase pretty much all of the time, and I can’t wait to have a proper base back at uni.

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30,000 miles, a new exhaust, new break pipes, new hubcaps and a new washer later. Charlie, you’ve been expensive, but thanks for all the miles x

The biggest difference between uni and full time work, which I now take completely for granted, is coming home from work and not having to do essays, course reading etc. The minute you leave the building that’s it for another day and your time is yours to do what you want with. It’s going to be bloody hard to go back to a degree which requires reading about 302048 million books a month.

Placement tutor: “List some things you’ve got out of your placement.”

Me: “Confidence, responsibility, a boyfriend…”

I have made a conscious effort to do things with my new-found free time to make the most of it before going back to uni, so it’s been a very busy year. First it was my half marathon, then I tried a jewellery class, which quickly ended when I got myself a boyfriend!* I’ve been so lucky to meet someone on my placement, and we’ve experienced so much together this year that university would previously have prevented us from.

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Legend

But what is a blessing is also a curse. Working full days means you have to find time to do other adult things, like go to the bank, the hairdressers, even reply to texts! Anyone that knows me also knows that if I don’t reply to your text in three minutes, I won’t reply for three hours, three days, three months. I’ve got even worse at this this year because I physically don’t have the time or the will to stare at my phone after a day staring at the computer. My first message to people is often “crap sorry forgot to reply”, and there’s a lot of “you’re back from your year abroad already? I thought you still had another six months left…”. I now totally understand how adults can go months or even years without catching up with close friends. I don’t think you can judge people on that, everyone has their own commitments and if yours don’t match up with someone else’s, you might miss each other for a while. Life is a balancing act.

One of the most successful things about this year has been the improvement in my mental health. Anxiety has made uni tough for me, but this year I simply have not had time to crash. Obviously, there have been a few (to say the least) lows, but I can say I’ve never felt so strong. Another adult step I took was buying a proper pill case (how thrilling does life get??) and wow it’s the best investment I’ve ever made. At uni I can miss a lecture if I don’t feel like going, but you can’t be like that in full time work. I’ve learnt to take responsibility for taking my medication, and stop pretending it’s ok to forget it.

I’m definitely ready to get back to being a student but I’m nervous because full time work has become normality for me. Also how on earth did I ever life without a proper salary each month?! I chose not to strictly save this year, and though I’m glad because it’s given me so many experiences, along with way too many new clothes, I’m now dreading the prospect of a student budget.

With two weeks left of my placement, I’m feeling so many emotions. Sad, excited, nervous. I’ve learnt so much in the last year and have gone from having no idea what I want to do, to knowing I want to go into PR and communications. I can not wait to get back to student life, and weirdly, some more of these hangovers!

Can’t wait to see you, Leeds.

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Top tips to securing a placement (from someone who applied for 50…):

  1. Don’t restrict yourself to one industry. If you’re looking for something in PR and are interested in fashion, don’t only apply for fashion brands. It’s likely you’ll get extremely similar experience in another industry that can be applied to fashion!
  2. Always get interview feedback. If you’ve had an unsuccessful interview, ask them where they felt it went wrong and how you can improve. This will help you do better next time!
  3. Don’t restrict yourself to one location. When I started applying, I was only looking at jobs in London. This restricted my choices so much, and it’s often the London brands that don’t pay – extremely logical for the most expensive city. You’ll probably find something just as good looking else where, and London will always be there.

 

 

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