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.

https://studentspace.org.uk/find-support – 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,

Charlotte