Archive | May, 2013

Numbers on Your Bank Statement or Letters After Your Name?

15 May

Reality has hit. Five days ago I was rollerblading down the Venice Beach Board Walk with my worldly concerns consisting of whether I was going to have a sandwich or a salad for lunch. I am now sitting at home in front of my laptop, it is overcast (pathetic fallacy), and I am faced with a saturated graduate job market that I have today learnt is in an even worse state than I had first thought.

I’ll put this in context for you: yesterday I was told that the job I had believed I could walk back into post-travelling is not actually available for me. More staff have been taken on and there simply aren’t the financial provisions to cope with another full-timer. This was gutting, but it is reality; very few people can gallivant around the world for four months and happily stroll into their previous job the following Monday morning like nothing but a weekend has passed.

I used yesterday to adapt to the idea and allowed myself to wallow in a touch of self pity, but today my intentions were to be pro-active. Never mind that I am likely to get rejected from 99% of applications (as per), if you don’t try you won’t achieve (etc. etc.). So I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, mentally preparing myself to browse the hundreds of different roles that I might fruitlessly apply for, when I came across a link. The link was to an auction site set up to facilitate the financial biddings for unpaid internships.

Not bids for the latest smart-phone, or for lunch with your favourite celebrity, but for an internship. People are really, truly and seriously offering to pay money (not earn it) to partake in an internship. And only a week-long one at that.

Who are these people, was my first thought. To feel quite frankly disgusted at the companies accepting it, was my second.

As a recent graduate, I am currently enjoying the first time in six (yes SIX) years that I do not have to endure a set of vital exams. First there were GCSEs; “you won’t get in to college without your GCSEs”, they said, “and without college you won’t get a good job”. Next there were A-levels; “you won’t get into a good university without your three As”, they said, “and if you don’t make it into a good university you won’t get a good job”. The final three years were my law degree. “You’ve got to pass the year”, they said, “if you don’t pass the year you can’t complete your degree.”  And guess what! If you don’t complete your degree you won’t get a good job.

If only we knew

If only we knew

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t exchange my degree for anything. But when I recall (genuinely) spending up to twenty hours a day in that cesspit of a library, slowly merging my soul with a statute book, I remember what my motivation was. My motivation was that very set of words: I want to get a good job.

Back in January I was interning at the New Statesman, and I wrote an article on recent statistics that morbidly revealed how most graduate jobs would be reserved for those who had undertaken internships. It is therefore horrifying that these internships are not even being given on merit anymore, but are instead being awarded to those whose families can afford it. I thought the point of education was to work hard and see your efforts rewarded by success in a career. How optimistic; how naïve!

The whole idea just seems totally redundant; for starters I can’t even begin to imagine what Barbara Weiss Architects or Crossbridge Capital LLP are intending to teach this (probable) trust fund beneficiary  in one lone week.  I can’t understand what it would bring to the company, or to the individual. They have not worked for this opportunity, they have paid for it.

As somebody who wants to go into journalism, I have completed numerous internships, all of which have been unpaid. But I have never felt that I have been taken advantage of. I have gained something from them all; from training, to contacts and by-lines. But this is advantage-taking in its most raw form. It is social segregation to an unprecedented extent and it is manipulating the desperate ambition of most who are newly graduated.

I can’t afford to work for free anymore, which means I am already questioning where I should go from here. But if it became the norm for me to pay employers for the pleasure of my company? Well I may as well just give up now.

I am lucky enough to live near London, most people don’t even have that. But my family cannot, and more importantly would not, pay for an opportunity that I should be creating myself.

At this time of year I see students ordering in takeaway meals to the library so they don’t miss out on even twenty minutes of revision. What is it all for? That level of dedication and hard work suddenly seems futile when they are only going to be released into a job market that has become so barren and disheartening.  I know I am not the first person to rant about this, and I certainly won’t be the last. But the fact that some companies are more interested in the numbers on your bank statement than the letters after your name is both ludicrous and demoralising, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

NB: one of the bids currently stands at £400. But if a lack of morals and achievements excites you, then be my guest! Bid away!

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Reasons I Didn’t Need to Worry About Travelling

12 May

Over the past 103 days, 15 weeks and 3.5 months, I have travelled between 4 continents, through 6 countries, approximately 12 cities, more towns than I care to count, and three islands. I have hired 4 vehicles but driven none of them, I have been on 6 boats and I have endured 9 flights (9 of which I have hated). I have hiked, kayaked, swam in lakes, lagoons, creeks and seas, rollerbladed, attempted to dive, snorkelled, pedalo-ed, did yoga, been horse riding, bathed in thermal springs, camped, cable car-ed, river rafted, bush walked, wine tasted, climbed a volcano and almost a glacier. I drank gallons of goon and I got myself a job (for all of 5 weeks). I rode on an elephant, stroked a sedated tiger and almost inhabited the same tree as a wild koala. I saw several dolphins from a distance, watched baby seals play in a waterfall, searched Australia for turtles and eventually found them in a lake in San Francisco (of all places). Much to my disappointment I saw a total of zero sharks. I have repeatedly appreciated my pre-travelling purchases of iPad and inflatable travel pillow, both of which have served me well. I have slept in one boat, two tents and 19 hostels, one of which became our home. I have seen a hell of a lot and learnt lots more. I have missed my family, my boyfriend and my friends. I have almost bankrupted myself. I have done all of this with Lucia. Together we have made countless friends and endless memories. World; you have been amazing.

An Apologetic Re-cap (I have tried to be brief)

7 May

I am a bad person. I haven’t updated this blog in over a month, that’s almost a third of my whole trip. For this I am sorry. But like all bad people with good intentions, I will now overcompensate by spoiling you with multiple entries in my last few days of being away, and that will make everything better.

So here’s a summary:

We’ve travelled the thousands of kilometres that make up Australia’s East coast. We did this through various methods of transport ranging from coaches to planes to a 6-person monster of a motorhome complete with kitchen (of sorts), bathroom (of sorts), dining room (of sorts) and no less than 3 double beds.

We went to Sydney and stayed with my parents’ friends over Easter (gin and steak); we went to Byron Bay and skinny dipped in the rain (cold but liberating); we were far from enamoured with Surfers Paradise where we stayed in a hostel named ‘Backpackers in Paradise’ (ironic or just downright fraudulent); we went to Brisbane and enjoyed a much-needed Sunday roast (it was still raining); we searched for sharks at Fraser Island but only saw dingoes (glorified foxes); we got bored at Rainbow Beach (not small town, just no town); we swam in the lagoon at Airlie Beach (it finally stopped raining); we snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef while sailing the Whitsundays (still no sharks, but a bloody good tan); we witnessed a miracle in Cairns (an almost dead parakeet and one woman’s healing hands) and we croc hunted in Cape Tribulation (but came away empty-handed).

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The infamous motor home.

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The Whitsundays.

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Whitehaven Beach.

Australia was great. It was so great, in fact, that on the night before we left, when we had said goodbye to Laura, Lucia and I sat in our shitty little hire car and cried. I’m not sure exactly what either of us were crying about to be honest, but I am sure that part of it was to do with leaving the country that had become our home for over the past few months.

New Zealand was very different. For starters it was cold. We had travelled from tropical Queensland to Christchurch, where I was somewhat alarmed at the fact that everybody had adorned themselves with ski jackets and scarves, and all I had was a zip up hoody (with a broken zip) from New Look which was purchased approximately 2.5 years ago (it wasn’t warm, is the point). Because we were poor we slept in the airport. We got woken up at 5am by a lairy female security guard in a tie, which wasn’t ideal given that we had also spent the previous night sleeping in Cairns airport, and the entire day in between sat on a sofa at Brisbane airport. I was sick of airports. But we had no choice because we had a campervan to pick up the next day; from the airport.

Unsurprisingly the week to follow contained a lot of driving. Numerous mountains, various lakes and and a hell of a lot of rain. We almost slept in a campsite that was uncomfortably reminiscent of the setting for House of Wax on our first night, but avoided that and opted for a car park instead (classy). We went to Queenstown and ate Fergburgers (I forbid anyone to go to that part of the world and not demolish one), we rode horses through Lord of the Rings country, ate another Fergburger, went on a cruise through the fiords at Milford Sound, and ate a third consecutive Fergburger (I wish I was lying).

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New Zealand looking nice.

We kayaked on Lake Wanaka and crashed our campervan (only minor and we had full insurance so no biggy). We stayed in a caravan park next to a family that were so friendly they invited us into their motorhome to drink wine; I did not want to accept for fear of murder but Lucia already had, and I was comforted by the glass bottle as a potential weapon nearby. The woman scared me when she told us we were ‘brave’ because we should never just stroll into someone’s motor home who we don’t know. My first thought was to agree with her, my second was to worry what she was going to do to us. Luckily no violent act occurred but I still went to bed and woke up screaming with a nightmare about them. We left early the next morning.

We saw baby seals and pods of dolphins in Kaikura. We had our helicopter flight and glacier hike cancelled due to bad weather on a day that is now known as ‘Black Friday’ (my very bad mood) and we have had no refund as of yet. We went to Japanese natural thermal hot pools and I failed to read the sign that informed me my silver jewellery would turn black because of the sulphur. My jewellery turned black, and I was cross, not only initially because I thought it was ruined forever but because of the subsequent dollar they charged to clean each piece.

We got free margaritas in Wellington and read more information on earthquakes than our brains could handle in the Te Papa museum. We climbed a volcano in Auckland and fell asleep on the top of it. It was dormant, so were we (ba dum chhhhhh). We did lots in New Zealand and I enjoyed it all, aside from the irrepressible thought that we were so close, yet so far, from home.

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New Zealand looking nice again.

I survived the twelve hour flight from Auckland to San Francisco with only the aid of double the dose of Valium that my doctor had advised. It worked and I managed to sleep on a plane for the first time in a long while. Now we are in America, but i won’t go in to that just yet because I am suddenly aware that this post is very long and therefore contravening the intentions stated in the title.

Lots of love for now,

Cat xxx