How to prepare for university

Hello! Welcome to this blog by me, Ryan. I wanted to use this space to talk about my experiences with various topics. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘what makes you so special’. Well to be entirely honest, the answer is Nothing. But if my experience ends up helping just one person who reads then that makes me a happy person. 

So I wanted this blog to help with preparation as something someone can come back to whenever they need. Preparing for University is such a big deal so it doesn’t have to be rushed; unless of course you’re the sort of person who loves a near impossible challenge the day before (Hi, I’m that sort of person). I’m going to run through how I planned to go to university and what you might need. We’ll take a look at physical things you might need, but also how to prepare yourself mentally for university. The advice I have to give is very much based on my limited experience, but I hope it can help some other people.

A simple way of planning the physical items is like pretending you’re going abroad for a few months (after the year we’ve had everyone needs it) but you don’t know what country you’re going to, so you can’t just take a whole suitcase of swimwear, you’ll need to balance your clothing for the wonderfully random British climate. For a lot of people, you’ll be taking your things in one car to university. So as much as a car full of clothes and not much else, would be sufficient for some people, it is not the best approach to living away. Just like a holiday, you’ll need your typical bathroom items, and even some cooking/kitchen items to take along with you. Unlike a luxury hotel however, you need to bring your own duvet, sheets and blankets which I made the silly mistake of not doing the first time. If you’ve forgotten anything along the way you can always get anything you missed anyway, at nearby Tesco (or wherever your shop of choice is). So I’ve spoken about all your essential items being so important, but equally important are your luxury items. What do you want to take that makes your life happier or easier? For me, it was my laptop and my camera and for you guys it may be completely different. The idea for me was to make the dorm rooms seem less like prison cells, and more like a bedroom by adding posters, tapestry, basically if blu-tack keeps it up, you can have whatever you want on your walls (and I’d fully recommend it). 

I’ve spoken about the physical items that you need to take with you to university but just as important as that, is your mental preparation for a completely new experience. Before going to uni, a lot of people haven’t been away from home for any length of time. Some people may struggle being away from home and some people may be okay with it, everyone is completely different. Creating some sort of method of communication between yourself and your family before going to uni can be amazing, whether that be creating some family group chats or even just setting a time each week to call your family in advance, it will all help to relieve that initial homesickness. University is going to be an unusual experience, especially for the first few weeks, meeting so many new people with new habits and schedules. The thing that worked for me was being positive about everything I possibly could (which I understand is much easier said than done). But if you get excited about the things you could achieve and accomplish, things could be amazing. On a slightly more realistic note however, people have very different experiences with mental health at university. As I spoke about in my last post; a lot of universities have mental health support and there is a handy website to know what your one will have (I’ll link it below like last time). Knowing what support is at your chosen university can very much help you if you’re ever in the situation that you might need it.

Before moving to university I had a little head start on some of the people I was going to meet. After being accepted onto the course, the head lecturer created a facebook group which we would use to communicate to the lecturers to ask any questions. Through that, someone had the brilliant idea to add everyone into a messenger group without the lecturers so we could get to know one another. Seeing as my confidence at the time was next to non-existent, it was a great way to speak to like-minded people that I would get to know, without having to start a conversation of my own. At Staffordshire University (and potentially other unis), there was a freshers group on social media for my intake, which meant it was easy to see all the new people and connect with whoever I wanted. If so far, there is no way of communicating with potential friends then don’t worry, making friends is so easy whilst at university and can really be done within freshers week if you would prefer that to see people in person to make your new friends.

My final piece of advice is to GET EXCITED. University is such an amazing experience and it’s made better if you think of everything positive that you can get from it. For a lot of people this is their one shot at university and the uni lifestyle so MAKE IT COUNT. The friends that you can along the way, the life experience and the snazzy degree you get at the end is something to be proud of and an amazing thing to work towards and be excited about. – Student Space , Support services provided by university. 

So you’re thinking about going to uni…

Hello! Welcome to this blog by me, Ryan. I wanted to use this space to talk about my experiences with various topics. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘what makes you so special’. Well to be entirely honest, the answer is Nothing. But if my experience ends up helping just one person who reads then that makes me a happy person. 

(Introduction) The topic for this one is University, as someone who recently graduated after three years of (BA) Media Production at Staffordshire University. I feel my experience could be very important to some people who read this. I know that my experience doesn’t reflect that of other people’s experience but it could help people along the way. The very first thing most people think about when someone rambles on about university is the nightlife. For me personally, it was a great way to meet new people at different venues over the campus owned purely by the students union; which for anyone who doesn’t know, means that it is run by a group of elected students with student experience and wellbeing being first priority. Alternatively, if nights out aren’t your thing there are so many societies that cater to almost every hobby, sport and interest where yourself and like-minded individuals create friendships and make memories.

(Making Friends) So regarding friendships, the most common question about people moving to university is how to meet new people. In my experience the way to make friends is to say ‘Yes’ to new things and new experiences. I don’t mean neglecting your moral compass just to fit in. I mean say ‘Yes’ to joining new societies, meeting new people and doing activities outside of your comfort zone. Freshers week is the easiest way for this to happen because it can be like a taster week for new societies, sports and experiences for everyone in your intake. For me personally, I was a very vanilla person before I went to university and joining societies and meeting new people allowed me to boost my confidence and spice up my life a bit. Getting out of your comfort zone can be quite a hard thing to do for a lot of people especially when there are so many new things going on so freshers week might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re living in student halls or group accommodation, the people in your flat can make great friends; alternatively, if you can’t stand your flatmates, people on your course may be easier to get along with. From my experience, I managed to make friends with flatmates and coursemates but more so from working at one of the campus bars within the students union. 

(Working at uni) For a lot of people at university, the maintenance loan might not cover rent, food and course related items so I personally believe that getting a job whilst at university helps buy essential things and may even pay for some new hobbies. Whilst I was at Staffordshire University, I worked at a bar called The Ember Lounge as part of the students union and I can whole-heartedly say it was one of the best jobs I have worked so far. The other staff members were all like-minded students; which meant that the work rota was arranged purely around what hours you weren’t in lectures or studying. The customers were other students (with the occasional parent or lecturer coming in) which meant there were very few ‘can I speak to the manager’ types that everyone despises. Virtually every uni in England has a Students Union with some sort of student jobs available if you want a little bit of extra money in your pocket. 

(Mental Health – my experience, where to go, what university can do to help) My years at university wasn’t all fun and games however; over my third year the pressure of various things in my life got a bit too much. I started to do the classic Me thing to do and push people I cared about away. Although I’ll spare the in-depth details of the matter I was in a situation that kept getting worse; skipping important meetings, avoiding doing coursework. For anyone who might ever find themself in a situation like this, at university or otherwise it is always best to speak to someone whether it be your friends, managers or lecturers, most people can offer you support. For me, I chose to speak to Student Wellbeing which are a great team situated on campus. They were sort of like therapists but less ‘how did that make you feel’ and more ‘this is what we can do to help’, in which case they helped me to extend my main deadline or even apply to resit my year if I felt like I would have needed more time. As far as I know with my limited knowledge, most universities in England and Wales offer some sort of Mental Health support for their students. I will add a very helpful link at the end of the blog that allows you to search what support your current or desired university has available. 

(Course – Media, lecturers, facilities) As amazingly boring as it sounds for most people, Media (Film) Production was actually quite a good course. But it wasn’t the lecturers or curriculum that made it for me, it was the experience with other people on the course and my passion for everything film related. My degree, although it doesn’t sound too hard, just filming things with friends. It actually involved a lot of planning and meeting with lecturers to make sure what we were creating was actually something good. The lecturers had experience in the industry whether it be working for a production company or having their own, so they knew what they were talking about (as much as we didn’t like to admit, especially you Colin). The other students on my course were great though and the group I tried to stay with ended up being some good friends. Of course they were like-minded students with film interests, but they created a good energy and enthusiasm to go to lectures. Staffordshire University has a lot of the facilities available for all students not just those in film degrees. The ‘media center’ had a variety of expensive top of the line equipment that could be hired out, along with computers with essential programs alternatively the library was open 24/7 for all students to access pretty much every needed program.

(Overall why university helped me – helps for future jobs, friends that last a lifetime) 

One of the things I get asked a lot about my experience is whether the student loans are worth it. My answer is, YES. The experience of university for a lot of people creates a lot of lasting memories, whether it is people you will speak to for the rest of your life or experience with dealing with certain situations, not to mention the degree you get as a little bonus. No matter what degree you choose to do, there will be some sort of benefit to it. Whether that be getting your dream job or using it to get any other job available. A lot of places will see any sort of degree as a bonus because of the effort you put into achieving your goals. For me, university allowed me to grow my confidence, myself and my ability to actually become an adult which I never thought was possible. I sincerely hope that this article can help some people and good luck to everyone reading in achieving what you set out for. – Student Space , Support services provided by university. 

A moments silence

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.” For the Fallen – Laurence Binyon, September 1914

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, we as a country fall silent and still as we reflect and think of those who gave their lives for our freedom today. Not just for the First World War, from which came the symbol of the poppy, but for all who sacrificed themselves during times of war. The year 2020 marks 101 years since the first two minute silence that was asked of us by King George V a year after the end of the First World War so that “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”. And whilst glorifying the dead isn’t for everyone and understandably so, it is important that we remember, hence Remembrance Sunday.

A well known example of commemorating the remembrance is The Unknown Soldier. On the eleventh of November, 1920, an unknown English soldier who was killed on the battlefield during the First World War was buried at Westminster Abbey, with an unknown French soldier who died in similar circumstances being buried at the Arc de Triomphe at the same time, making both graves the first commemorations of unknown soldiers during World War One.

The idea of this was originally thought of in 1916, by the Reverend David Railton, who was serving as an Army Chaplain on The Western Front at the time. He once saw a grave that was marked out by a rough cross, upon which was etched in pencil “An Unknown British Soldier”. Touched by this, four years later, he proposed an idea to the Dean of Westminster in the form of a letter; a random soldier from the battlefields in France be picked and to be buried “amongst the kings” to represent the hundreds of thousands who died for king and country. This was strongly supported by the Dean and David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of the time.

Arrangements got underway and were overseen by Lord Curzon of Kedleston, who in committee prepared the location and the service. Various battlefields were searched for suitable remains to exhume, and on the night of the seventh of November, they were brought to the chapel at Saint-Pol-sur-Tenoise, near Arras, France. The bodies were received by  Reverend George Kendall OBE. Brigadier L.J. Wyatt and Lieutenant Colonel E.A.S. Gell of the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries, who went into the chapel alone. The bodies were then placed into four plain coffins, each with the Union Flag draped over it and the officers not knowing what specific battle the bodies came from. Tasked with choosing, Brigadier Wyatt closed his eyes and placed his hand on a coffin; The Unknown Soldier. The remaining bodies were taken away by Kendall for reburying and an overnight stay awaited the coffin, ready for its journey.

The following afternoon, under guard and escorted by Kendall, it travelled from the church to the castle within the ancient citadel of Boulogne with troops lining the route it took. The castle library was appropriately decked out for the occasion, being transformed into a chapelle ardante and company from the French 8th Infantry Regiment of whom were recently awarded the Légion d’Honneur stood in an overnight vigil. Two undertakers entered the library the next morning and the coffin was placed in a casket made from the oak timbers of trees from Hampton Court Palace and banded with iron. Affixed to the top was a medieval crusader’s sword that was chosen personally by King George V and came from the Royal Collection, this was also surmounted by an iron shield bearing the inscription “A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and Country”.

The identity of this soldier remains still unknown to this day, which I personally see to be rather fitting. Not simply because of the name, but what it represents; that it could really be anyone. A father, a brother, a son, a best friend; there was that hope that the unknown soldier was known by them, a hope that many people had, that it was someone close to them. And it is this idea that truly embodies the unknown soldier – it could be anyone and through that, it represents everyone.

Unfortunately, for many soldiers, the battle didn’t end when they left the fields and into the comfort of home again; an unknown condition was wreaking havoc with up to 20,000 soldiers by the end of the war suffering from symptoms such as blindness, deafness, being mute and even paralysis. Doctors were baffled as to what this could be; there were no physical symptoms, so surely they must be fit and healthy. In the body, yes. In the mind, not so much. It wasn’t until 1917 when Medical Officer Charles Myers coined the term ‘shell shock’ or what we now know to be PTSD. And even then, it was thought to be physical as opposed to mental, with it initially being thought to be brought about by soldiers being exposed to exploding shells whilst in the trenches.Unsurprisingly, the horrors of war and what they had gone through changed soldiers considerably, however mental health was not treated the same way back then. Nowadays, there’s doctors, therapists, support groups, medication, you name it. Back in the twentieth century though and it was a different story entirely, with it generally being seen as emotional weakness or cowardice and many soldiers were wrongly charged of insubordination, cowardice and desertion; a crime that was punishable by death.  I understand that this may be hard to believe and read, but this was at a time where men were expected to be, well, men. Emotions and mental health were not given the sympathy and understanding like in today’s modern world, it was very much ‘stiff upper lip’ and getting on with the task at hand, even if that meant being sent back into battle; clearly anything but ideal. According to an article from the BBC, many of these victims came from the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest and bloodiest battles from the war, with an estimation of 16,000 men, though it is thought by military experts to be much higher. By 1916, over 40% of casualties reported were struck with the condition and the year before saw a shortage of hospital beds due to the rising numbers. Something had to be done. County lunatic asylums and disused spas were quickly taken over and converted into hospitals to treat those with war neurosis and mental diseases and by 1918, there were over 20 of these hospitals in the UK.

Arguably, the most revolutionary of these hospitals was Newton Abbott’s Seale Hayne hospital in Devon, and this was thanks to the work of one man; Arthur Hurst, an army major who brushed away any controversy and opposition he faced with a miracle treatment that cured 90% of cases in just one session. He made the only film in existence that showcased his methods and how victims were treated in Britain, one of which was Percy Meek, a soldier almost driven mad due to a massive bombardment along the Western Front. Before being guided under Hurst’s wing, Meek was a shell of his former self; regressing to a baby like state and sitting in a wheelchair. Gradually, he recovered, gaining the physical abilities he had lost and eventually returning to normality.

Whilst we have come on in leaps and bounds with understanding and treating mental health in the past hundred years, there unfortunately is still a stigma attached, particularly with the military. People forget that whilst it’s more inclusive than ever, the military is still very much a man’s world and unfortunately, society has dictated that men should behave and act a certain way in order to fit in. Men don’t show emotion, they don’t cry, don’t show weakness, they have to be tough all the time. I do have my own opinion on this but it would literally be a page full of expletives and the higher power that is Rachel states I have to make this ‘user friendly’ if I want any chance of this appearing online. I will say this though; military or not, we are all human. And we as humans do struggle, and that’s okay. Admitting you’re struggling is a big thing, believe me, I know, I’ve been there. You’re not going to be judged for it, I can promise you, this is not how it was a hundred years ago. I understand we still have a long way to go, but if it wasn’t for these soldiers, we wouldn’t even have a future to plan.

Be good, be nice, behave and be kind,


Project Coordinator – Gabby


Hi, I’m Gabby the project coordinator. I’m the person that you will see when you access The Network for support!


I started in late August 2018, but I volunteered for The Network before that


I really felt the value and importance in what it does. So many young people feel lost after leaving school or a job and it’s hard to figure out how to get on the right path. I wanted to get involved and help other people who may have felt that way at some point.


Most of my role involves working directly with the people who come into our office. If you’re a young person accessing our service, you’ll be meeting with me! Delivery is my favourite part of the job role and I love supporting young people to take the next steps and get where they want to be.

I also do a whole load of the admin, running and organising projects, drafting new project ideas, working alongside other organisations, running workshops and so much more! As we grow, I’ve noticed that my job role evolves and changes and I’m so excited to see where it takes us!


Carl Rogers (father of person centred therapy and An All Around Good Human)
Irvin Yalom (famous psychotherapist who writes really great books)
George RR Martin (I need to know how the Song of Ice and Fire series ends, and also just chatting to him would be so amazing because he’s such a gifted writer)
Terry Pratchett (One of my favourite authors. His books never fail to cheer me up and make me laugh. Every time you read it you notice new quips)
Keanu Reeves (because who wouldn’t want to meet Keanu Reeves?!)

Project Co-ordinator for Careersnet – Jess

Meet Jess

Hi, I’m Jess! I’m the Youth Project Coordinator at The Network for CareerNet, currently providing one to one support for young people both online and (socially distancing) face to face appointments. 


I’m brand new to the Network! I started in October 2020, however I have worked with the lovely team at The Network over the last year and I’m very excited to now be part of the team! 


I decided to join The Network because I love what they stand for and the way they offer creative and innovative support for young people in Lincoln. There are so many different routes and opportunities out there for young people and I wanted to be part of a support service that works one to one with individuals to help build confidence and discover the right path for them! 


My main roles involves working with young people on a one to one basis to support them with employability skills and taking the next steps towards employment through volunteering, work experience placements and training. I also work with the girls on The Network team to plan projects, run workshops, and work closely with other youth organisations and employers in the city 😊 I’ve only been here a short time but I can already see how exciting and varied my role is going to be!

  1. Beyoncé – she brings EVERYTHING to the party! 
  2. Fearne Cotton- Her books are wonderful, I love her positive wellbeing vibes and real talk 
  3. Giovanna Fletcher- She always keeping motherhood real and I love it!
  4. Dawn French- who wouldn’t want an evening with Dawn French?
  5. My Husband (he’s not famous but he is my main man and a damn good cook)

Adapting the application and interview process to be more inclusive

We understand that the recruitment process can be costly and time consuming. We also understand that the local businesses and organisations try their best to be inclusive with the applicants.

From working with young people in Lincoln and other charities/organisations, as well as businesses, we have noticed a few trends within some businesses recruitment process that could do with updating and tweaking. For this reason, we wanted to share a few top tips and best practice that we have seen in our time from local businesses, charities and organisations who are putting their potential and current workers at the forefront of everything they do to ensure that they feel safe and secure in the workplace.


Application process

  1. Take a moment to consider, is a driving licence really essential to the job role or just something that might be handy? For many young people they can’t afford to learn to drive until they get a job and end up stuck in a catch 22 of not being able to get a job suited to their amazing skills and training because they don’t have a driving licence, but can’t get a driving licence until they get a better paying job. It’s maybe something especially relevant to review at the moment, because the pandemic has proven that we can do a lot more things remotely than we first thought, so are you missing out on some amazing employees just because you’ve put “Driving licence” in your job description?
  2. Does your job application work well with a screen reader? If someone is visually impaired or severely dyslexic, they may use certain screen reader technologies to help them read your job application/job description. Some formats aren’t very friendly with these technologies (as wonderful as they are). It may be worth checking whether your current format is as accessible as possible.
  3. Are you letting your candidates know about the Access To Work Fund? A fund to support people who may need Reasonable Adjustments at a cost to access the work place at no cost to the employer, or the employee! Not every employee knows about it (we know a lot of our young people don’t) and might be afraid to ask for a reasonable adjustment, in case you can’t afford it but this scheme levels that playing field and ensures that you can retain talent at no extra cost to yourself:
  4. Normalise Pronouns. Are you actively asking about pronouns before interview/during the job application? This could make all the difference for some people in terms of feeling accepted and comfortable applying to your job and coming to interview! By asking, you signal that you understand and accept people of all gender identities and remove the worries that someone non-gender conforming might feel throughout the application process. There can be a lot of anxiety around entering an interview and not knowing if that person in front of you is going to be respectful of who you are. You, the employer, may know that you’re lovely and would never discriminate but just remember that the person you’re interviewing doesn’t know that and may have experienced some horrifying discrimination in the past. By taking those 10 seconds to ask about pronouns, you could change everything for someone.

Interview process

  1. Is a standard, formal interview format the best way to recruit for your job role? I mean, no one likes interviews but for some people they are especially intimidating, for example people who experience social anxiety, or some people with ASD might find it especially inaccessible but it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be amazing at the job! Have you considered switching to work trials instead, to get a more accurate read on your candidates ability to actually do a job?

An interview just means they’re good at talking the talk, as I’m sure many of us have seen. It doesn’t guarantee that they can actually walk the walk, plus you could missing out on brilliant talent just because they don’t interview well, and at the end of the day no one wants that.

2. Are you sending out the details of the interview ahead of the interview? This helps to minimise anxiety and uncertainty. Simply sending the interviewee details of the date, time, location (with a map), dress code and things to prepare/ bring with them, will help the candidates to feel at ease and bring the correct documents with them.

In the workplace

  1. Ask the individual what kind of reasonable adjustments they might need. Have a list together to go through the sorts of things that count as reasonable adjustments in case they aren’t sure what these are. Did you know: Access to Work have a fund for reasonable adjustments. This could be funded travel to work, screen readers, etc. You can find out more here.
  2. Ask the individual how they would like to receive feedback. Some people like the blunt truth, whilst other people like praise sandwiches, some prefer to have frequent reviews. This helps you to quickly assess how to motivate them whilst encouraging them to learn.
  3. Ask them what they look like on a good day at work and what a bad day looks like. This will help you to notice when they are having a wobbly day and help them to feel supported in the workplace. It will also help you to know what to do to support them. Remember to ask how they like support. Some people might like a quiet word to check in, others might like to be left alone.
  4. Get your workforce to put their pronouns into the footer of their email. This helps people to feel safe and confident in identifying themselves. This also helps people to avoid conversations around pronouns with colleagues, which can sometimes be intense!

We also know that we do not have all the answers and sometimes get it wrong, so please do get in touch if you have some best practice that you can share with us for us to share with our readers. Please email

We’re going through changes

Big Mouth said it, Bowie said it, we’re all going through changes and whilst time may change people, we can’t trace time. Yes, today’s topic is all about change and rightfully so given all that has happened in the world as well as within myself. Being autistic, change is somewhat of a bugbear of mine – I do not like it. You don’t know the plan, everything is in upheaval and your routine is changed entirely, which in itself opens up a whole new can of worms as the uncertainty creates anxiety, which turns into panic/depression and before I know it, I’m in meltdown mode and end up sleeping it off; thus throwing that day’s plans out the window and leaves me feeling no better off. That is why I rely on my bubble of comfort.

Bubble of comfort? I hear you question. What in the h-e double hockey sticks is that? It’s simple; everyone has their own bubble; an invisible one at that, but still a bubble. The personal bubble protects us from negative energy, harm and general stresses and anxiety. This can be made up of anything; friends, family, whatever you find comfort in. What’s great about it is that it’s entirely portable and can be picked and mixed up. So for me, if change does occur or I’m feeling stressed or upset, I rely on my teddies, as they’re part of my bubble. If however, I do not have access to them, I’ll find something  familiar to distract me, typically in the form of a women’s magazine and talking in a group chat I’m part of.

Whilst change isn’t for me, I still recognise its value and how important it can be. Take Pokemon for example; that is all about change. Yes, you can just keep on adding xp to your Magikarp, but if you do that all the time, then granted, you have a strong Magikarp, but at the end of the day, it’s still Magikarp, a Pokemon that’s notorious for being a bit, well…lame.  Its evolution on the other hand, Gyrados, is one of the meanest and coolest mothers in the Alolan region. Note the term ‘evolution’ and think about the comparisons with change. At the end of the day, it’s just a fancier way of saying it, but the metaphorical ideas are still there; without change and evolving, we’re just going to be stuck with Magikarp instead of Gyrados. And whilst that’s fine and if it works for you, great, but bear in mind that it may not work for everyone, myself included.

The time of year can also be attributed to change and how it can go about with it. I’m not talking seven minutes to two in the afternoon on the ninth of September 2020 exactly, but who knows. I’m more on about the season and month itself. Think about it; September is very much an evolutionary month. Students are going back to school, many for  the first time, shops are confusing us with both Halloween and Christmas stuff making us realise just how far into the year we are and the weather is both warm and cool at the same time, making it too warm for coats but too chilly for shorts and shirts. It’s an odd time to say the least. Yet saying that, it’s also exciting. Yes, the shops are way too confusing at the moment, but it reminds me that Christmas and Halloween aren’t too far off, which means my favourite time of year isn’t either. Schools are back open, albeit with a lot of adjustments, meaning we’re back on the road to normality (types the author as meet up restrictions are tightened again). As for the weather, it’s England, we’re notorious for having it be slightly off. But look on the brightside! At least Starbucks will soon have their iconic pumpkin spice lattes back. Despite there being changes, take joy and comfort in the constants; the weird unease of being both Christmas and Halloween, the relief of it finally being jumper weather, fireworks, the fact it’s getting darker more early again. This year may have changed everyone and everything, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

Be good, be nice, be kind, behave,

Charlotte J

Thinking about going to university?

Written by a recent graduate, Charlotte

Ah, university, it can be the best time of your life, it can be the worst time of your life, but there’s no doubting that whatever the outcome, it’s unforgettable. It’s usually this time of year that college students up and down the country are tweaking their UCAS statements to ensure they get into the university of their dreams, eager to get as far or close as possible from home. But, what if you’re not ready for university? How do you even know? Will you ever know? Is the meaning of life really forty two? Well, read on and you’ll find out as I attempt to answer these questions and more.

As I mentioned previously, university is unforgettable. Where else can you gain a degree whilst pulling an all nighter in the library fuelled by energy drinks and a four pack of crunchies? Fortunately unlike the olden times, university isn’t as elitist as it once was and whilst there are some exceptions such as Oxford, Cambridge and Eton (the really fancy ones) you have just as much a chance as any for getting into the one you want. “But Charlotte!” I hear you cry “I don’t know if I want to do university!” Okay, cool. Again, like the olden times, university isn’t the be all end all it once was. Yes, it does help to have a degree, but this is 2020 we’re in, there’s other options besides a degree. Apprenticeships, volunteering, starting from the bottom and working to the top, the entire world is your oyster! You don’t have to have a degree to get where you want to, the path isn’t completely linear; there’s diversions, distractions and even times where the road cuts off completely. So what do you do? Find a different path until you get back on to your original one. It may take several tries, you may still be on your path, you may be dealing with roadworks that prevent you going any further. All of those are okay and valid and honestly, are part of the journey. If it was that easy, then surely the payoff wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding?

For those that have decided university is for them, good for you as well! Having been to university myself, I would like to take it upon myself to impart some wisdom in the hope that someone out there would take this advice to heart or at the very least, try it out and see what they think.

And with the world being more uncertain than ever, more universities are looking at online teaching for the upcoming year. Whilst this makes it accessible to everyone, unfortunately it’s not for everyone.  If you prefer an active learning environment such as myself, then you may decide on a different approach. If you’re not like me and can cope absolutely fine in a non learning environment, then look at your options. At the end of the day, no one else is doing the learning but yourself, so do what is best for you.

Not one person’s experience is the same and again as I’ve reiterated before, that’s okay. Just because you’re staying home and commuting to classes every day to save money on accommodation works for you, doesn’t mean it will work for others. I mean, in an ideal situation, I would have moved out of student accommodation and found somewhere of my own with friends for second and third year. But I didn’t. Seeing how I’m autistic and therefore classed as disabled, I was able to stay in on campus accommodation all three years. Do I wish that wasn’t the case and I could have done my own thing? Absolutely. Do I regret it? No. It made things easier for me and because I knew what to expect (a big thing for autistic folks) it was comforting and made my experience less stressful.

Tips for university

I would say the most important tip, and I cannot stress this enough, is research. Research the course, research the best uni, research that uni, research the time it gets there, how much in travel fees, the qualifications you’ll need, accommodation, amenities, everything. Without research, you know nothing, and you end up convincing your mum to spend fifty quid for a B&B whilst she fully knows well the area, only for you to see it for yourself and ask can we turn back, feeling incredibly guilty for getting her to fork out that amount of money and getting stuck in traffic and torrential rain on the way back. True story, actually. I’m not naming names, but yeah, should have done me research more.

You want independence from your parents but still miss the comforts of home? You’re not the only one. When considering universities, I knew this would be a problem. I’m not the most careful of people and I will generally miss home at some point, meaning that inevitably, I’d either go back or mum and dad would be meeting me at the local hospital after I, I dunno, sliced my leg open on a night out after falling onto glass. Solution? I have two. Students, we get the job done.  I wanted my university to be far away enough from home so that I have that sense of independence and could become my own person, but at the same time, have it be close enough or easily accessible so that should something happen, it’s easy to come back home. I ended up going to Edge Hill University which whilst pretty far, is super easy to get to. Follow the roads up to Leeds, turn left and then onto the M62 for the last 100 miles. Also, give university a chance.  My mum said to me before I went away that the least I could do is try. If by Christmas I still wasn’t happy, then I could come back home. And you know what? I did and I enjoyed it. Granted there were ups and downs and times where all I wanted was to go back home and enjoy a nice hot bath, but I stuck it out, found my people with the rugby team and by the time I went back for Christmas, I found out how boring home actually is. Don’t let first impressions make up your uni experience. It’s tough and can get lonely, but you’re not the only one and you’ll be okay.

The social life at university is one shrouded in myth and legend, one of horror and fantasy. Making night long friends in the toilets, losing half your outfit in the student union, anything can happen; even more so if you ever take part in the infamous sports socials on a Wednesday night. Chugging as much cheap booze in as little time as possible, being subjected to humiliating rituals and punishments, they’re not for the faint of heart. If you do find yourself at a sports social, have fun, drinking is optional but encouraged and whatever is said, goes. Also if you do have a lecture the next morning, I’d suggest not drinking or go light on the beers. Trust me, I know. *Shudders at the flashbacks*

That said, university social life isn’t all about drinking only to wake up in a bush the next morning with a broken phone and two quid to your name and forgotten memories, no, no! There’s also the infamous fresher’s fair where all the societies group round in a blatant attempt to lure you in with their promises of fun and also let’s face it, the free lollipops and bags of Haribo. Don’t kid yourself, you know that’s the only reason you go along to these things. It’s like Halloween but without the pumpkins. The beauty of such societies is that literally no matter how niche your interest, there’s bound to be a society for it or at the very least likeminded individuals who are willing to meet up for two hours a week to discuss Hungarian goat yodelling techniques. If you find enough people, then you can even set up your own society! Pretty sure you just need to convince the student union that it’s a good idea, but don’t quote me on that; it’s been a few years since I stepped into a university environment and the ol’ noggin ain’t what it used to be.

Depending on where you go, accommodation at university can be hit or miss. Fortunately, mine was generally nice although I will admit to getting a wee bit sick of showers come third year. And yet the lesser blocks had baths? Come on, what’s up with that? Back to the point. Accommodation is also a major factor to consider during your time. Generally the first years are prioritised for on campus living; the uni doesn’t want them scarred for life so it only makes sense. And any that are left over are for those that may need it (such as myself) or even third years, which is something my university did after building new accommodation for us. And this may sound strange, but I found this genuinely helped; make friends with the cleaners. Even if it’s just knowing their name and giving a friendly hello in the mornings. Cleaners are known for getting shtick around campus, but if it wasn’t for them, then the floor from the night before would remain forever sticky and the tables wouldn’t be cleaned. Cleaners do a lot and whilst yes, I don’t understand how they complain of places being messy when it’s their job, it still helps to make it easier for them. Who knows? Maybe the ‘annoying cleaning lady’ won’t have such a bad reputation if you go out of your way slightly for her. Just sayin’ 😉

Finally, just have fun and make the most of it. I’m not saying it’ll be the incredible life experience everyone makes it out to be, if anything I found it quite overrated myself, but that doesn’t automatically not make it worth it. I found my people, got a degree and a knee injury that will no doubt come back to haunt me in my later years out of it. I had fun, had regrets and even had my heart broken on more than one occasion (don’t dump through phone, folks. Try and avoid it if you can). What you put in is what you get out and it can be anything you make it to be; more so even! Be yourself, relax and remember; there’s no pressure. You got this.

This is Charlotte writing for The Network, signing out. Peace and good vibes!

GDPR statement

The Network Data and Privacy Protection Policy: January 2019

Last reviewed: March 2020

Data and Privacy Protection Policy


This privacy notice explains the types of personal information we may collect about you when you interact with us. It also explains how we’ll store and handle that information, and keep it safe.

We know there’s a lot of detail here, but we want to make sure you are fully informed about your rights, and how The Network, Lincoln, uses your personal information (data) across all of our services.

We hope the following sections will answer any questions you have, but if not please do get in let us know.

We will need to update this privacy notice from time to time. We will notify regular clients of any significant changes, but you’re welcome to check it whenever you wish.

Who we are

The Network is a Lincoln charity aimed at helping young people achieve their potential and access the support they need. Advice, guidance and support is available to help with employment, training, volunteering, apprenticeships, and other issues that act as a barrier to achievement.

The Network works through one to one support and where needed, ‘signposting’ young people to relevant agencies and organisations. We work with over 60 partners in Lincoln, getting information and opportunities ready to help you decide what you would like to do. Once referred to a partner organisation, we then keep in touch to ensure you are getting on OK.

To find out more about us, you can go to our website:

Or find us on twitter or Instagram go to: @networklincoln. For Facebook it’s: @thenetworklincoln

To keep it simple, “we” and “us” mean The Network and its various projects/services.

Why we hold your data 

The law on data protection sets out a number of different reasons for which an organisation may collect and process your personal data.  These are called ‘lawful bases’. 

The lawful bases we rely on are:


In certain circumstances, we need your personal data to comply with contractual obligations.

For example if you are applying for a paid job or are a volunteer with us

Public task

In certain circumstances we need to process your personal data to perform a task carried out in the public interest, or on behalf of a public authority.

For example, gathering information required for monitoring by our funders, or gathering details of NEETs for Lincolnshire County Council based on our Data Sharing Agreement

Legal obligation

Where the law requires us to, we need to collect and process your data.  

For example, as an employer we have a legal obligation to disclose employee salary details to HMRC.

Legitimate interests

In certain situations, we need your data to deliver our services in a way which might reasonably be expected and which takes into consideration your rights and interests.

For this basis, we need to tell you about the purposes that are part of our ‘legitimate interests’. These purposes include:

  • Providing high quality information, advice, guidance and learning services
  • Ensuring our services and support are tailored to your needs
  • Sharing your data with third parties as appropriate (for example referring you to one of our partners or helping you to gain a work experience placement)
  • Involving volunteers in our work
  • Being accountable to third parties such as our funders, donors, supporters and regulatory bodies
  • Fulfilling our charitable purposes and benefiting wider society
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of what we do
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Managing risks and protecting the wellbeing and safety of everyone who comes into contact with us
  • Ensuring the efficient administration and operation of our services, including keeping information accurate and up to date

What type of data do we collect?

Personal data means any information relating to an identifiable person.  The following table outlines the kind of personal data we may collect in the course of our services.

Items in bold are ‘special category data’ or criminal conviction data – we will need your explicit consent to collect and process this information unless another condition* for processing applies. In some cases this information may be required as

  All enquirers, staff, volunteers, customers, partner organisations and other service users    Name and contact details (usually email address and telephone numbers, and a postal address where necessary along with the nature of the enquiry and any relevant information)  
In addition to the above:
  Staff and volunteers working for us  Work  history, skills and experience, criminal record check – only for specific roles, training records, availability, emergency contact details, relevant health information, equality monitoring data such as ethnicity, gender, age, performance and (for staff) payroll information.  
Clients using The Network for information, advice, guidance and support in getting into work, training or educationRequired: skills, interests and experience, work and education history,   Optional: equality monitoring data such as ethnicity, gender, age. (You may tick “prefer not to say”) You may choose to give us other information such as health conditions, a copy of your CV, potential barriers or criminal convictions in the course of an appointment. We will only share this information with another organisation if you give your explicit consent or another condition* applies.  
16-17 yr old NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) or outside of mainstream education/employment etc.Required: signed permission, name, date of birth, contact details, relevant information in terms of employment/education/training outcomes This is an opt-in option which will be discussed in the meeting. It’s part of our “Information Sharing Agreement” with Lincolnshire County Council to help monitor and track the progress of young people not in mainstream education whilst also providing relevant support if needed. You may access the agreement and relevant documents at any time to see how Lincolnshire County Council handles your data and to read their full purposes and legal bases.  
People booking on to training/eventsDietary needs, access needs/adaptations, payment information where necessary and contact details where needed  
Clients receiving continued support  Depending on the nature of the support, data may include: Your CV (new and/or old), records of work done with you, information on barriers or concerns, support services used, welfare benefits, equality monitoring data, personal achievements / challenges, health, wellbeing and social care information, criminal record information, family and lifestyle information, carer / support worker contact details,  age, work experience, education, training and volunteering history.  
Partner organisations  Signed partnership agreement, organisation name, best points of contact, names of relevant staff members to be contacted in regards to client referrals, upcoming events and training. A chosen Key point of contact will have the choice to opt in to their work contact details being shared with other members of the partnership agreement in the interest of smooth collaborative working. This may be different to the authorized signatory of the agreement

*There are specific conditions for processing special category data and criminal offence data defined in UK law.

When do we collect your personal data?

  • When you enquire about any of our services, for example by phone, email, in person, at an event, via social media/direct message or online registration.  Online registration could be via an approved third party or other processor, such as Eventbrite. Phone calls may come through a work mobile or a VOIP app such as Horizon if distance working.
  • When you visit The Network to find out more about our services and to access our information, advice and guidance in regards to work, education and training. 
  • When you apply to work for us, either paid or as a volunteer
  • When you fill in forms (paper or online) to register for a service or event.
  • When you use our information services, for example registering to receive our newsletters, attending a networking event or meeting with our project staff or volunteers.
  • When you choose to tell us about personal information specific to you which helps us tailor our services to meet your needs.
  • When you provide us with information that enables us to work with your organisation
  • When you take part in research, evaluation or surveys in connection with our services.
  • When you have been referred to us by another organisation, for example the Job Centre Plus, local organisations and charities, our partners, social service etc.  In this case we will contact you directly as soon as possible and explain who we are and what we do. We will also explain how we will use your information if you choose to use our services.
  • When we record and pass on your details (with permission) to Lincolnshire County Council’s Post 16 team to assist with tracking young people not in mainstream education. This is both for data monitoring/statistics and to help provide the correct network of support to the young person if needed
  • Our website uses cookies to track visitor progress through the site. This is to assist your navigation of our website whilst you are using it, and does not store any identifiable data about you personally.
  • When distance working we may use video chat software to provide our service. This may again involve data being processed by a third party software and their separate GDPR procedures.
  • During a safeguarding concern we may record and pass your details onto the local authority responsible for safeguarding or potentially emergency services in an emergency situation.

How your data is used/stored

Your data is used to provide you with services that you have requested. It helps us to respond to your queries and communicate with you more effectively. 

It is sometimes necessary for your data to be shared with third parties as part of providing you with an efficient, high quality service, or for external monitoring of our services. Some examples of where your data will be shared with other organisations include:

  • When we refer you to partner organisations to access the specific support that they provide, with your permission. It will then be stored according to their policies and procedures
  • When you come to us to find out about local services, work experience, volunteering etc. we can pass your details directly to the organisations you are interested in if you would like us to. 
  • When you ask us to help you find community activities or support services and to pass your details on
  • When you register for certain services, your data may be processed by an approved third party service or app, for example:
    • Registering for our events via a third party booking service (Eventbrite)
    • Signing up to receive one of our newsletters, which are created and distributed using Mailchimp.
  • When we are required to share information with project funders, partners or evaluators to ensure we are properly monitored and our services are meeting expected standards. It will then be stored according to their policies and procedures
  • When we share your information in regards to our Information Sharing Agreement with Lincolnshire County Council, it will then be stored according to their policies and procedures
  • When distance working we may use video chat software to provide our service. This may again involve data being processed by a third party software and their separate GDPR procedures.
  • During a safeguarding concern we may pass your details onto the local authority responsible for safeguarding or potentially emergency services in an emergency situation.

We take steps to ensure that any digital service providers we use are secure, GDPR compliant and operating in line with UK data protection laws.

We will never sell your data to anyone.

Your data will be stored on secure, password protected servers and may also be kept in paper or electronic filing systems. 

Paper-based filing systems are kept in locked cabinets in secure buildings with restricted access to offices.  Electronic filing systems are kept on a secure, password-protected server, and only accessible to authorised personnel in line with their duties and responsibilities.

Databases may be ‘cloud-based’ and managed by third party processors. We take steps to ensure that any providers of such services that we use are appropriately secure, encrypted and compliant with GDPR and UK data protection laws.

How long will we keep your personal data?

We will only keep your personal data for as long as necessary – the length of time will vary depending on the reason you gave us your data in the first place.  Some examples are given in the table below.

We have archiving systems appropriate to each project or service to ensure any data kept is the minimum required to fulfil contractual, legal or safeguarding obligations.  We have regular systems in place for deletion of electronic data and shredding of paper records.

PurposeLength of time kept
Using The Network to enquire about our servicesPersonal data is kept for no more than 2 years after the last contact we had with if you have fully engaged with our services. After an initial enquiry, if no reasonable or relevant contact can be made with you we will delete it after 3 months. If you re-contact us, your data will be collected again at the time.
Newsletters/bulletin mailing list  For as long as you want to receive the bulletins. You can unsubscribe or change your details at any time by clicking on the link in each bulletin
Using The Network for our services in regards to information, advice, guidance and supportPersonal data will be kept for the minimum length of time specified by our funding bodies, except: Where there is no specified time period, personal data within our records will be kept for no more than 2 years after the last contact we had with you.Where we are working with adults at risk or children/young people. Keeping detailed records is fundamental to good safeguarding practice, so in these cases, project data will be securely archived for the lifetime of project participants.    
Staff and volunteer personnel recordsWe keep a list of names and dates of service as part of our organisational archive.  All other data as part of personnel records will be deleted/shredded within 5 years of your leaving date, except: Financial records are kept for 7 years  References we provide for you are kept for 10 years from your leaving date.

Your rights

Right to be informed

This privacy notice informs you about how The Network will use, store and handle your personal information. We will review it regularly.

Please contact our office via the website, email, phone or in person to make a request in accordance with your rights as explained below.  We may ask you to verify your identity, to ensure that no unauthorised person can access or alter your data.

Contact details for our office is on the website:

Or you can phone us directly at:

01522 245002

We will deal with all requests in line with guidance supplied by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Right of access

You can ask to see the personal data we hold about you. 

Right to rectification

You have the right to have inaccurate personal data changed, or completed if it is incomplete.

Right to erasure

You have the right to have your personal data erased in certain circumstances. This right may not apply if there is a legitimate overriding reason why the data should be kept.

Right to restrict processing

You have the right to limit the way we use your personal data if you have a particular reason for wanting the restriction. This will usually be for a limited period of time whilst any issues are resolved.

Right to data portability

This right applies only to personal data provided in specific circumstances and relates mainly to automated processing where you have given your data to a company, for example as a customer of an online banking service.

Right to object

You have the right to object to

  • Processing based on legitimate interests or the performance of a task in the public interest
  • Direct marketing
  • Processing for the purpose of scientific/historical research and statistics

You must have an objection on grounds relating to your particular situation, ie not just a general objection.  We will stop processing your data unless there are compelling legitimate grounds which override individual rights/interests or if the processing is for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.

Rights relating to automated decision making / profiling

At present, our data processing does not involve automated decision-making or automated profiling.  We will update our privacy information and notify people affected if this changes.

Questions about this privacy information

If you have any questions about this privacy notice, please contact the Chief Executive in writing or by e-mail.

For more information about your rights, or if you believe that we are processing your personal data in any way that is inconsistent with the law or are not satisfied with responses to any query you raise with us, you may contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) telephone helpline on 0303 123 1113 or via the ICO website at