Freshers Advice #1: Your Lecturers are your best friends

Ok, listen up Fresher, your Lecturers are not your best friends. I had to create a catchy title that would spare you from all the other blog posts written specifically for you at this time of year about clubs to dance the night away in, pubs to get wasted away in, and ways of fitting sex in your timetable (don’t forget to always Consent!).

What I really mean is (coz I know I have to make this fast or I’ll lose you to a club guide) – think of them as you would a useful contact, if not a friend… You’ve got 3 years in an institution full of potential contacts, might as well start on a positive note, right? Right. I don’t usually give advice (you’ll find me rather seeking advice for a game called “life” – anyone know the rules to it?!), but I thought I’d be useful and share what no one bothered to tell me when I started at uni (or maybe they did and I was too busy reading club guides). So here it goes:

#UniDaze Freshers AdviceFirst up, a note to you in the future (as in 3 months from now); give your lecturer a friggin’ break! No they don’t hate you, as in only YOU out of everyone else in the class (but damn, doesn’t it feel that way sometimes, making you question if you remind them of the evil bully from when they where in school?) So yeah, it’s not hate… It’s something I don’t have the answer to because, whoa, what am I – a psychologist?! The best way I got over this feeling for pure “revenge”, is the realisation that I need friends on my side (and if that doesn’t work, just think who’ll be marking your dissertation – smile)! And I don’t mean the friends you can just sit and have a natter with in the canteen. I mean friends you can actually get some real benefits from; the ones who know someone, who knows someone who can hook you up with anything – like a job! Your lecturers have the potential to be your connectors. They are your first point of contacts.

Think about it.

They’ve been in the game for ages (though some still haven’t accepted they’re out of it or that the game has changed, but that’s for another blog post). If you’re studying a subject you hope to have a career in, well, they specialise in it (google your lecturer and I bet you a penny they’ve written some paper or book on the most obscure angle of the subject!), making them essentially your first point of access towards that career. Besides the academic stuff they’ll preach at you, they’re also loaded with other useful info in similar subjects even. Seriously, you’d want to make the most of your lecturers especially when you realise you’ve been robbed in broad day-light by paying £9,000+ for Marmite; you’ll either love your institution or hate it, but there’s no proof that it’s even good for you! However since you’ve started you’re gonna finish right?.. Right (flashbacks aged 9 being forced to finish my Marmite on toast – ugh)!

Now someone with a load of contacts doesn’t just give them out to anyone. A useful contact is like respect – it has to be earned. And ways of earning it from your tutor/lecturer/academic is to show initiative, drive, and frankly, asking goes a long way! Let’s face it it’s not really their job to be hooking you up with work experience with their ex-BBC colleague (with no guarantee you won’t f**k up by not turning up one morning or tuning up – but high!) At least if you’ve shown some initiative from the very beginning (like from the very beginning, not waiting until you need a favour), cut them some slack now and them (even if they are wrong and you are right… Stranger things have happened!), send a friendly email as to why you’re running late (any excuses to do with a cat is outdated); you’ll be more likely to gain access into their good books of contacts)..

So to end my lesson (ha!), Advice #1… Wait, who am I kidding. I don’t give advice. This is the girl who failed uni twice yet still carried on instead of calling it quits to get real experience in the big, wide world! So I’ll start agin. Suggestion #1… Hang on, does that imply there will be a follow-up to #1 because I don’t do those either – what am I, your lecturer?! Ok, I’ll cut to it with some examples from my blogs of how I got lecturers/academics to be my friends contacts acquaintances… Take a picture with me (give a girl some credit!)

Natalie Brett –  Pro Vice-Chancellor of UAL and Head of College, London College of communication (LCC)

dsc_00472
UAL academics and friendsI’ve noticed a huge difference in LCC since Natalie Brett came into the role of Head of College at LCC. Continuously supportive of my projects and initiatives to increase diversity within LCC. CLICK HERE for “Afro-Latino Fiesta“.  For Black British Academics seminar where I first met Natalie Brett and senior academics CLICK HERE.

Aisha Richards – Senior academic lecturer, Co-Chair GEMS (Group for the Equality of Minority Staff and founder of Shades Of Noir

Aisha Richards: centre left

Aisha Richards second left

Shades of NoirI met Aisha Richards almost a year also after hearing about the footprint of activism she does for diversity within UAL including founding Shades of Noir. As ACS President last year, one of my objects was to create opportunities for marginalised students, focusing on black or black ethnic minority students. Aisha invited me to the first Black British Academics seminar founded by herself and Dr Deborah Gabriel . It was here I also met for the first time face to face: Natalie Brett – Pro Vice-Chancellor of UAL and Head of College LCC, Terry Finnigan – Head of Widening Participation at London College of Fashion, Nina Rahel, Tilli Andoh  and Tanicia Payne – staff members of the Equality and Diversity team, and Stephen Reid – Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London.

Tom Hunter – Professor of Photography, LCC

with Tom Hunter in 2014

Last year Tom Hunter’s Life on the Road exhibition launched for Green Week at London College of Communication. I’d been walking past this exhibition almost everyday, rushing past late for my seminars. Then one day I spotted Tom, let him know I admired his work… And of course got a picture to post up on “The EFed Student – Educationally Frustrated Student” blog! CLICK HERE 

Karin Askham – Dean of School of Media, LCC

with Karin Askham
Kai with Karin AskhamI still chuckle when I recall that my first physical introduction to Karin Askham was asking what she studied, after running into her during the Students Union election last year, and she’d told me she’d just read my blog! Here’s a blog post of that awkward but ice-breaker moment! CLICK HERE.

Karin has since been support of my projects including attending an event I organised last year for Black History Month at LCC “Afro-Latino Fiesta” where I spoke about my photographs from Brazil in the “Unspoken Barriers” exhibition. CLICK HERE to see pics and post from the UAL ACS blog.

Simon Hinde – Programme Director for Journalism and Publishing, LCC

with Simon Hinde second left

with Simon Hinde, second left

ExhibitionI remember my first class with Simon Hinde as my tutor. The class on ‘feature writing’ located at the top of LCC’s iconic Tower Block building was distrupted by a fire alarm which helps make it memorable.  In the mist of the manic as everyone gathered at the assembly point outside, I took the opportunity to hand Simon one of my newly printed business cards and said; “I want to be a travel journalist, please check out my blog”! And Simon has since organised a guest seminar on Travel Journalism, as well as supported my events on diversity in the media, including allowing me to organise a guest lecture event for which I invited comedian Kojo to speak on “finding your nicheCLICK HERE. For the ACS welcome event looking at beauty from the perspective of black women, CLICK HERE. So of course I had to nominate Simon Hinde for best Tutor/Lecture at the UAL Teaching Awards organised by SUARTS earlier this year!

This post will be shortly expanded when I highlight two academics from the University of Reading I had the pleasure of meeting (and having drinks with!!) when I travelled up there to support Italian-Ghanaian Filmmaker Fred Kuwornu who give a talk on diversity in European societies. CLICK HERE (and watch this space for the pics)

I can’t end this post without crediting the Students Union for helping evolve me from an Educationally Frustrated student, to… well, just simply being frustrated by the cuts, racism, discrimination and general injustice in society, which fuels my drive try to be an activist for change. So yeah, SUARTS changed my life!.. I’m being dramatic right? Ok, you’re right. SUARTS changed my student life (which kinda has a ripple effect on my life but let’s not give too much credit to the union!) CLICK HERE for the blog post that began the change I wanted to see.

My #1 advice is to enjoy your time at Uni and make the most of the facilities and people available to you (build your portfolio and  build your networks!)… It will go fast! Take that from someone still persevering after 4 years!

Cheers to #UniDaze!

If you’ve read this until the end (and even spotted all those grammatical mistakes yet still powered on) – you are amazing! So reward yourself my leaving your thoughts in the comment box below. Would love to hear from you!

Kai 🙂

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