All entries for Monday 22 September 2008

September 22, 2008

Back To School

“Two shirts for the price of one but you don’t want to go…”

No I’m not dead.

I warn you now this entry is somewhat self-indulgent and is mostly my answer to all my friends that have asked how the course is going or want to know what I’m up to. If you don’t know me and come here for the biting bit and reviews of TV shows and sweets you can probably skip this.

As some may be aware I’ve moved back to Leamington and am now doing a one-year long NCTJ accredited journalism course at Warwickshire college.
It’s a strange place. Mostly the college offers, well, typical college courses – both GNVQs and HNDs and stuff. The journalism course is one of the few independent ‘adult’ learning courses that they run, so for a start we’re surrounded on all sides by 17 year-olds, which for 24 year-old me is a bit strange (and some of you can shut the fuck up right now…).

Going in the first day was extremely strange, we were stood outside the room and apparently it was full of rubbish so there was a whole bunch of cleaners working on getting rid of it, including some guy with a local accent patronisingly ordering a Korean-looking guy to take the stuff out on a trolley, then bring the trolley back, “take this then bring back, okay” he replied in broken English and I felt like I was in some sort of semi-racist and badly conceived sitcom.

Then finally allowed in, a bunch of us all sat around at desks facing the front, no-one talking, waiting for everyone to arrive. It really did feel like the first day at school. And school is what the whole thing feels like in many ways. It’s a full-time course, 9.15am – 4.15pm Mon-Thurs, and a work placement on Fridays though we seem to finish early quite often. Certainly far from the 20-scattered-about-hours a week of university lectures. Though having physically paid my own tuition fees there’s a certain empowerment about it – although the three teachers keep tabs on you at the end of the day it’s down to you to make the most of it. If you don’t hand in work it’s just your own money you’re wasting. There’s no guarantee of a pass at the end of it. So while being structurally similar to school it feels a little freer.

There’s 14 of us on the course, which makes a nice change from 200+ at Computer Science lectures and it’s split around 50/50 male/female and a similar split between those doing it post-degree and those coming at it right out of A-levels or college. At 24 I appear to be the oldest of the group, though only by a year or so. Also I appear to be far from the least confident of the bunch which was somewhat surprising, giving journalists tend to end up being somewhat extroverted and stand-up aside I’m not.

The course itself is split into 4 modules. Shorthand is the worst. It’s not bad, the teacher is decent and the theory behind it at the moment is fairly interesting – it’s very much like learning a programming language. Just without recursive loops. Or any sort of loops. Well other than the loop you draw to represent an F. It seems mostly logical so far too, but once all the theory is in our heads I have a feeling it’ll get very boring: now we’re going to do this, but faster. Apparently we’re targeted at being able to do 100 WPM (you only need to 60 WPM to pass) and I’m not exactly optimistic I’ll get that far given that, as anyone who’s seen my handwriting will attest, I lack the dexterity in my fingers to keep anything readable at that speed. But we’ll see. Maybe I should start learning piano again too, that might help… There’s also a load of shorthand homework (in addition to the 7 hours or so a week of teaching) which is a somewhat unpleasant surprise.

Newswriting is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s quite strange, I got criticised (nicely) today for being too bland and direct and not conversational or sensational enough. Which appears to be me over-compensating for the fact that my normal writing style is my blogging style which is far too conversational for a news piece. So I seem to be slipping into the bland fact-based uni dissertation style which is pretty much my only other one I have any experience with. Hopefully I’ll find a good compromise somewhere down the line.

The other two modules are mostly inter-changeable. Law and Public Affairs. They’re very fact-based and pretty interesting since I like that sort of thing. I finally found out why some MPs refer to some others as “My Honourable Friend” and some as “My Right Honourable Friend” the other day which has been bugging me for literally years.

It’s hard work. It sort of seems manageable at the moment as I don’t have a work placement yet so get three-day weekends, once that changes it’s going to get tough I imagine, but we’ll see. Passing and getting the qualification should be simple enough anyway, hopefully I’ll edge into the higher echelons of marks at some point though…

So that’s that. I have some sort of internet access at the moment and will be throwing some stuff up over the next few weeks. Still hoping to do another podcast at some point but as soon as I get settled-in Anna will start on her course which I think is even more intensive than mine so unless half-terms/reading weeks interact it’ll probably be close to Christmas time. Thanks to everyone that listened to it though. Interestingly after we covered the Ben Folds fake album leak in depth on there he came clean about it two days later so clearly we’re rather influential.

Oh and I don’t think I’ve said it on here yet but Anna is also doing the Guardian’s TV column on a Friday which is all sorts of awesome, but I now have to come up with a way to one-up that which will be a challenge! Ahh, friendly competition as a motivator…

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