RGU graduate Clara Maurillon recounts her last two years studying the BA (Hons) Journalism. She discusses her placement experience, writing a research project, enhancing her employability and starting a career.
Read Part 1 on the RGU Student Blog.
The end of a journey
My last two years studying journalism at RGU were the most enriching in terms of professional development. The modules I studied encouraged practical applications of skills learned in the previous years, which benefitted my employability. At the same time, I managed to develop and showcase my academic writing abilities, particularly through my research project.
At the end of the four years, I was considerably more confident than when I started university. This feeling was especially strong when I learned that I received a First-Class Honours for my degree. It felt like a dream come true.
Finding a placement with RGU
In third year, journalism students could choose different learning paths. Some spent 6 months or a year abroad on Erasmus while others studied at RGU both semesters. A fair share of students, including myself, decided to stay in Aberdeen and take part in a 12-week placement.
By that time, I had decided that I would stay in Scotland after graduation and find a job here. That’s why I believed that conducting my placement in Aberdeen would be more beneficial for my career. I knew building a network was important, so I wanted to start with local professionals. Finding a placement wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. RGU gave us the choice between sourcing our own placement company or applying to opportunities that the university was advertising. The opportunities offered were tailored for each course, so each one of them was relevant to my journalism degree.
We also had lectures with staff members from the Employability team. They gave us advice on CV writing, interview preparations, and answered our questions about the placement experience. It was a very reassuring process for me as the team was non-judgemental of students’ different level of professional experience. So, even with a limited work background, they helped me put together a CV based on transferrable skills learned at university and through personal experiences. This made me more confident once it was time to apply for placements.
Journalism placement experience as a Media Coordinator
After only a couple of applications sent, the first interview I attended turned out to be successful. I was hired as a Media Coordinator for a charity called Aberdeen Soup. The main aim of Aberdeen Soup was to organise crowdfunding dinners where local charities would pitch their innovative ideas to foster positive change in the city. As a Media Coordinator, I conducted interviews with spokespeople for charities around Aberdeen as well as previous crowdfunding dinners’ participants. I would then have to write profile articles and publish them on our website.
As the Covid crisis hit, I had to start working from my home and my role changed a bit. My supervisor gave me the responsibility to oversee the social media channels. I was already producing some content before, but the main objective was now to share helpful resources for people in the community who might be struggling.
I absolutely loved my placement. It made me realise that there were plenty of career possibilities available for me, aside from becoming a journalist.
Additionally, it sparked my passion for digital journalism and marketing as well as social media and community management. Doing this placement and broadening my horizons by reading more around the subjects opened a lot of doors for me. For instance, it helped me land a competitive volunteering role as a Social Media Manager with Grampian Regional Equality Council. This in turned helped me enhance my employability as I already had a year of social media experience when I started applying for jobs after graduation.
Following passions and building expertise through engaging modules
The modules in Year 3 and 4 were even more exciting than they had been in the previous years. They didn’t only focus around practical and transferrable skills, but also allowed me to express myself creatively on subjects I was passionate about.
For my digital journalism module, I had to create a niche website and build a social media presence around it. After my placement, I developed a deep interest in local charities and organisations bringing positive change around the city. To help them gain more recognition, I designed a hyperlocal news site focusing on the concept of “positive journalism”. I was regularly sharing their inspiring stories in the form of short news stories, features or social media posts.
This was my favourite academic project, which felt more like a personal adventure than an assignment. I would spend every day looking at news stories about successful fundraisers or launch of innovative projects and organising interviews with local changemakers. This project was also great for my career prospects. It allowed me to add content to my creative portfolio, which I shared with potential employers. I even received positive feedback on it by a Member of Parliament who was hiring for a Communications Officer role!
During my last year, I also had the opportunity to delve into investigative journalism. This had been a dream of mine since I had wanted to be a journalist in primary school. The module was also another occasion to learn transferrable skills while sharing important information about issues I cared about. My friend Margo and I decided to investigate the “hidden” pro-eating disorders communities on TikTok who were evading bans. With this project, I felt like a real journalist. Just like professional reporters, we were uncovering information that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
Starting the research project adventure
In my last year studying for the BA (Hons) Journalism at RGU, I was mostly busy writing my research project. At first, I felt really stressed and thought I would never come up with a good topic or even be able to write anything of value. However, the way the module was organised made the process very smooth and the year ended up flying by. During the first semester, we had many tutorials going over everything we needed to know. From learning how to choose a research topic to conducting a qualitative or quantitative analysis, everything was covered.
In the end, finding a topic to write about came pretty naturally. I knew from the start that I wanted to carry out some research around sexism. However, the research topic needed to be narrow enough to be unique and also had to be related to the field of journalism, so I had to dig deeper. I found the inspiration I needed through an Instagram account I had been following for a while. This account was regularly sharing excerpts from French newspapers misrepresenting violence against women. I decided I wanted to do the same with Scottish newspapers. I also narrowed the subject down by only selecting homicides committed by women’s partners or ex-partners as domestic violence was appearing more frequently in the news during the lockdowns.
Finding a sense of accomplishment
Our assessment for the end of the first semester was to submit a research proposal of 4000 words. This made it easier to carry on with the research project in the second semester as we could include most of our already written material into the final 8000-word paper. I also found the support from my research supervisor extremely helpful. The fortnightly meetings were an opportunity to obtain some advice and ensure that my work was going in the right direction.
I genuinely enjoyed the process of doing research, analysing data and texts, and writing the final paper. Because I chose a subject I felt strongly about, I was extremely committed to my work.
I think many students like me feel scared about writing a research project at the start. But the feeling of accomplishment that comes with handing in such an important piece of work is incomparable.
At the end of the year, this project was my baby, and I felt so proud to share it my friends and family. It was the perfect way to end my four years studying journalism, as it allowed me to contribute something to the industry that I had learned so much about.
Life after RGU
My four years studying journalism at RGU clearly weren’t enough as I am now working as a Digital Content Assistant for the university! I had such an enriching experience studying here that I am more than happy to be able to help other students get the same chance.
Even if I didn’t become a journalist like I wanted to be when I was younger, everything I’ve learned at university helped me decide the career I wanted to build. I am now exactly where I wanted to be after graduating. This wouldn’t have been possible without the skills I learned through practice-based modules, the career opportunities the course gave me and the support and freedom I was given by RGU to express myself.