Studying BA (Hons) Journalism at RGU – Part 1

RGU graduate Clara Maurillon recounts her first two years studying the BA (Hons) Journalism. She discusses moving from France to Aberdeen, settling in at the university and her learning experience.

Applying to study Journalism in Aberdeen

I moved from Nice, in the South of France, to Aberdeen when I was just 17 years-old after obtaining my International Baccalaureate and, consequently, an acceptance letter from RGU. I had known since I was in primary school that I wanted to study journalism at university. When I became fluent in English a couple of years later, I decided I would move to the UK to obtain my degree.

A view of Nice, the sea and ocre italian-style houses, where Journalism graduate Clara is from.
Nice and its colourful coastline

While applying for universities in Scotland, I felt a lot of self-doubt. I was comparing myself to people from my school raised in bilingual households who were also applying abroad. As a result, I began questioning if my English level would be good enough for the journalism course.

Fortunately, all my doubts vanished when I received my offer from RGU, only a few weeks after the application deadline. RGU had been at the top of my list because of its attractive practical modules, modern campus and employability statistics. But the trust that was put in my abilities so early on convinced me that it was meant to be.

Settling in at RGU

Moving to Aberdeen was scary at first, but RGU offered support from day one. Before my classes even started, the School of Creative and Cultural Business organised an icebreaker for newcomers. It was an opportunity to meet classmates and obtain some advice from second, third and fourth-year students. I met Margo there, another journalism student from Spain, who quickly became one of my best friends.

Settling in wasn’t too hard. At the start of the semester, we had a week of induction classes. We learned more about the facilities, societies and sports clubs at RGU and familiarised ourselves with the teaching staff. I met my other Spanish best friend, Natalia, during one of these classes. After only being in Aberdeen for two weeks, I had found two friends for life.

Clara's journalism friends Natalia and Margo in a photobooth.
Natalia, Margo and Clara

The Creative and Cultural Business Society also gave us a presentation during the induction week. They promoted the regular events that they organise to encourage students within the school to socialise. Knowing that I was part of an enthusiastic community of other creatives was the confirmation that RGU was the right place for me to grow both professionally and personally.

I didn’t feel out of place at university as I was surrounded by thousands of other students coming from all around the world. The lecturers encouraged everyone to share their unique knowledge which led me to be able to include my French heritage in some of my assignments. In my design class in first year, I spent hours creating an infographic on cheese using Photoshop. It might seem stereotypical but the process was so much fun that it made it easier to cope with homesickness.

Cheese Infographic

Becoming a journalist through theory

My first two years studying journalism at RGU provided me with the perfect balance of theoretical and practical modules. Theoretical classes like media law or politics deepened my understanding of the importance of journalism in our society. It also helped me become more aware of my rights and duties as a professional in the field. Learning completely new concepts of law was hard work but it also made me feel more in control when facing obstacles and dealing with unexpected scenarios while conducting my reporting work with members of the public.

It was also enriching to have many opportunities to develop my passion for writing. Indeed, it had been the main driving force behind me deciding I wanted to become a journalist. The modules from the journalism course really pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of my writing abilities. Consequently, I became more proficient in using styles and formats I had never practiced before.

Before RGU, my areas of expertise were creative writing, which I was indulging in during my free time, and academic writing, an essential skill to master to obtain good grades in French schools. After my first two years, I was already just as comfortable writing brief news stories of no more than 75 words as writing lengthy articles or voice-overs for TV and radio bulletins.

Discovering strengths with versatile modules

The wide variety of modules opened fields that I would never have considered before and sparked unexpected passions. I studied web design during my second year and instantly loved it. This came as a surprise because I had always told myself I wasn’t good with computers and numbers. Still, I ended up spending most of my free time working on creating a website for my assignment and watching tutorials on YouTube for hours, which felt more like a hobby than a chore. Studying modules going beyond typical journalistic skills helped me move past the assumptions I had about myself and learn valuable skills.

It felt like a surreal experience being able to learn so many new skills in such a short period of time and seeing everyone on the course develop their own unique area of expertise, from sports podcasts to fashion magazines.

Other than discovering new passions, the course also helped me realise what I didn’t like as much, which was beneficial in choosing a career path down the line. Indeed, I quickly figured out that I wasn’t so keen on working with cameras. This came as a revelation after Margo and I dropped and almost broke one while interviewing people around campus. Fortunately, most of our video assignments could be filmed with a smartphone, so I always resorted to this safer option.

Clara lying down on the Aberdeen beach with a camera to practice photography for an assignment.
Practicing photography around Aberdeen for an assigment

Professional and personal development through practice

The focus that is put on practical modules from the first year shaped me into the professional that I wanted to be. It was essentially a more confident, assertive and risk-taking version of myself. One of our first modules required us to work in a team of six people to create a business plan for an imaginary piece of media, and present it in front of a panel of lecturers. As the person with the most experience of presentations in my group, I took on the leadership of the project.

In the past, I would often work in the shadow of my team members and go along with their ideas as I had always been a very shy person. However, this project helped me gain confidence in sharing my ideas and improved my public-speaking anxiety. When we obtained an A and my teammates thanked me for steering the ship, it felt like a great academic and personal achievement.

Other practical modules such as broadcast journalism not only strengthened my communication skills but allowed me to meet many people from diverse backgrounds. Through my interviews with locals, I became more familiar with Aberdeen, its organisations and charities. We were given so much creative freedom for our stories that I had the chance to build a network of amazing people doing great things, which deepened my love for Aberdeen and made me feel right at home.

Johnston Gardens in Aberdeen during automn, with colourfeel trees.
Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen

I accomplished so much in my first two years studying the BA (Hons) Journalism at RGU. I found a new home, new friends and learned a wide variety of new skills. Yet, the best was still to come.

Clara Maurillon

Read part 2 of this story on the RGU Student Blog.

Studying Journalism at RGU

From Spain to Aberdeen

Studying BA (Hons) Media at RGU

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