On Graduate life - one year on

I’m unsure how long it has been since I last blogged; life just gets in the way doesn’t it. With this in mind, I thought it high time I part those heavy curtains of life-stuff and commit a few of my recent ponderings to paper.  It may also be the small fact that it’s been pretty much an entire year since  I finished my course at University, after four long years of dancing, thinking, making; and eighteen even longer years of full time education.

I feel a noted point of reflection is required.

However, after only recently finishing working at the University that I went to, being around campus is not so much a distant memory as a clinging reality that I’ve only just been able to shake off.  It will always mean a great deal to me, but I wanted to expand, go elsewhere and keep those positive memories of student life associated with the campus. Because, let’s face it, a campus environment, with all its throngs of excitable student campaigners, midday bar-cralls, busy student eateries, graduands; shiny and happy faced with the jubilant feeling that you only get directly after you thrust your dissertation into the cold, waiting hands of an administrator (along with your blood, sweat and tears), it’s just not the same for a staff member. Firstly, all students are just SO LOUD. They become annoying; they become the ‘other’ - “surely I wasn’t that immature when I was a student?” Truth is, yes I was, and yes, I still am. But the campus experience is entirely different when your friends, course, and free time have all been removed.

So, you can imagine the emotion stirred inside me when the final years had their dissertation handing in celebrations.  I’m sat at my desk pretending to be busy and suddenly I’m back there, feeling the tingling excitement start in the base of my stomach and the feeling of the year old knots in my shoulders loosen up as my head floats upwards for the first time in what feels like an age… or… maybe that was just the champagne.

Witnessing this turn of the year was like the world asking me ‘so what exactly have you done since this happened to you?’ Seeing the reality of this event; that it occurs year in year out, like clockwork, as the University processes students through their short-lived studentships, made me realise how quickly life goes by outside of the pre-determined structure of institutional education. I feel like I’ve done quite a lot, and I’ve come a long way since my dreary Summer blogs full of unemployed graduate woe. I’m where I wanted to be a year on; it just doesn’t feel like I thought it would.  I’m still learning to slow my life down. Being goal driven can have its virtues, but one must be careful of wishing one’s life away.

So yes, point of reflection noted, mind centred, positivity reinstated. Now… what’s next?...


Arts internships from an insider - my response to labour MP Luciana Berger on her call for arts interns to be paid at least minimum wage

So, I’ve just finished the second year of a physically demanding and mentally challenging dance degree, despite what some might assume, and am pretty darn thrilled to be offered the opportunity to complete a year’s internship at Siobhan Davies Studios; a contemporary dance student’s mecca within the London arts scene. I’m making a sandwich, happily contemplating this fact; when my housemate, a nuclear physics student, comes hurtling into the kitchen and announces he’s just been offered a year’s physics placement in America, with a wage, plus most of his expenses and living costs paid for too. Amidst the mandatory jumping and hugging that friends do to support each other, I’m left feeling somewhat deflated (as you would guess my internship was of the unpaid variety).
That was almost three years ago. Now, my friend is doing a PHD and I’m slowly but thoroughly rinsing all of the available contacts that I built up throughout that year. That precious year, that life-changing year, that without it I’d have left Uni not having a clue what to do and nowhere to beg for casual shifts. It is undeniable that an internship is pretty much essential within the world of arts employment. It’s the old catch 22 – no experience, no chance, but then no chance, no experience. You have the lucky few who can apply for a Jerwood creative bursary from the DCMS, but that’s just about as competitive as a single acorn in a cage of squirrels.
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my placement, and it gave me the best possible chance to get my foot on the crazy-fun-house inspired sliding staircase, I would have felt so much more appreciated if I had been paid like a proper member of staff. And maybe I would have worked harder, maybe I would have taken my job role more seriously. I managed to support myself financially by taking extra shifts on reception, but this then resulted in me sometimes working a full 12 hour day, and mostly 6 or 7 day weeks. This and my (thanks but no thanks) massively reduced student loan. 
I guess maybe I’m one of the lucky ones, managing to get an internship as part of my degree. At least then I had access to a dribble of student loan. But perhaps it’s the actual degree programmes we should be questioning here. If they provided us with a little more knowledge and experience that’s actually relevant to the outside world then perhaps there would be no need for internships.
The sad reality is however, that these poor arts organisations have been cut down to their very stumps of financial stability. What were entry level jobs have now become unpaid internships. But what is the world coming to when companies have had to resort to free labour to keep themselves going? But - they do keep themselves going, because these internships are like gold dust.
It’s very well the government demanding arts organisations pay internships minimum wage, but then maybe the government should stop obliterating the necessary arts funding. It seems strange to me that the government hasn’t considered WHY arts organisations have had to cut their budgets so drastically. This is of course only my personal opinion, but in my experience unpaid internships are like UGG boots within the graduate arts employment scene; horribly popular but undeniably useful.