Hello there, aspiring journos! I’m a final year student currently pursuing an undergrad degree in Journalism and Media at Middlesex University Dubai. I’m also madly passionate about the field of Journalism. There’s just something about writing and producing new and excitng content every single day that just gets me going. Interviewing strangers and having to film in a room full of people may be nerve wracking, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
That being said, here’s what I’ve learnt in the two years I’ve spent at J-School (apparently people call it that?!).
1. There is a lot to write
Think 800+ word articles every week, for several weeks. This was the life my class of 17 students lived during the first semester. Whether it was a torture technique or our professors just wanted us to be good is still unclear – though I’d like to believe the latter. You’ll be asked to jump out of class, interview people around campus and write up a piece all in two hours, or you could be sent to an event and asked to bring in a feature article for class next week. The possibilities were really just endless for us. For our final submission in second year, we had to submit around 4,300 words. Mind you, that was the most amount of words anyone had to submit in second year across all the programmes at uni, but we survived, and so will you!
Regardless, shoutout to Mr Mark for being super supportive and a great critic for our work during first year.
2. There’s more to the field than just being a good writer
Writing may be at the core of journalism, but there are a lot more skills you’re going to need to make you standout. Since mine is a journalism and Media degree, the ‘media’ part is as exciting as it is a nuisance (sometimes hehe). InDesign, Photoshop and Premiere Pro will be three of the many softwares you’ll get to learn. A DSLR along with video and lapel mic will come in handy many times during the course of your programme. I got to record an entire event for my journalism module and later interview one of the attendees plus have shot 3 short films for my media production module. As hectic as it’s going to be, you won’t regret any of it.
Apart from softwares, there have been so many online services that I got to use like Canva, Slack and Wix - on which I had to make a digital magazine as a final assignment for my journalism module.
3. Networking is SO important
You’re an average journalist, but you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who could get you an internship at the publication of your dreams. Get to know people, those who come for guest lectures, those your professors keep referring to, those you meet at events. There will probably come a day you’re going to need help either for an academic article or one you have to write at your job, where you’ll be depending on your contacts for an interview. You contact list will be your everything.
For this, shoutout to Mr Steve for literally handing over his entire contact list, you go sir!
4. Your summer break will be anything but relaxing
Your multimedia skills won’t get you much if you don’t have any practical experience by the time you graduate and are looking for a permanent job. Start getting experience early. You school magazine, your university newspaper – your work experience won’t take anything from you, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! When I got done with my first year at uni, I had zero actual work experience, all I did have was experience at events like Comic Con and Dubai Modest Fashion Week as a student journalist.
Somehow, I landed an internship at a greatttt media company and it was easily the best first internship experience I could’ve gotten. I wrote local news, about events, listicles, sponsored posts, and even long-form researched pieces. I was even given the freedom to write on topics that I was interested in - all of which were insanely appreciated by my bosses. So yay!
This year I got an even greater opportunity to work with ITP Media Group, mainly writing for Ahlan! and Cosmopolitan ME.
As much as I’d like to spend my days at home sleeping and not having to report to work by 9am, it gives me an immense amount of joy knowing I’m working hard to achieve all my dreams.
Coming back, your internships, the skills you learn at work and the contacts you make there are really going to set things right for you. It’s going to teach you things you’d never learn within the four walls of your classroom.
5. Social Media will become your BFF
As a media student in today’s age, it’s not surprising that you have to be on top of every social media platform. The world is becoming more and more digital as we speak, so knowing the A-Z of social media is taking you places.
Being the teenager I was (I’m 20 now, sigh), I only really knew what I needed to know as a user of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Only after my first internship did I realise there was SO much more to these apps as a producer of content. I found out about Tweetdeck, about the whole business manager section of Facebook, how important insights are on Instagram – it’s a mad world out there, fellas. But as long as you’re on the grind and willing to learn more, you’re going to continue benefitting from it.
Also, imagine knowing how to write AND being able to handle your company’s social media content, you’re going to be on fiyaah!
6. Don’t let people tell you what to do
Ignore the naysayers, you are your own boss. People will tell you that you’re making a huge mistake, that journalism doesn’t have a future and that writing isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’ve got to believe in yourself and keep on working towards your goals. A super close friend I had (emphasis on had) would frequently tell me how journalism wouldn’t really do anything for me. But hey, my professors have given me great remarks, I’ve landed two incredible internships, have made some strong contacts and have more on my CV than she could’ve thought.
Nobody really gets to question your decisions so don’t let what the h8ers affect you.
To conclude, I've enjoyed every single bit of being a journalism student. Every hour I've spent past 12am on my laptop trying to perfect my article has been worth it. It's been a great experience for me and it's going to be great for you too. Good luck!