The most surreal day of my life to date (part 1)

It’s quite a strange feeling knowing that the last time you embarked on this journey, the car was packed to the ceiling with belongings, holiday luggage and random antiques that your mother had acquired from the last brocante (she’s extremely talented in bringing dying pieces of furniture back to life, yet we still complain about her decision to drag around her purchases with us). During the 12 hour journey, our knees would often be wedged into our chests (only allowing for shallow breathing) and occasionally a friend, boyfriend or grandmother would be forced to squeeze into this tiny, frustrating space that ran on 4 wheels. I never considered the fact that I would mature to a point where I would deem  this infuriating journey to be one that I realised I was blessed to have even experienced. Today, I make the same journey to Calais with my father (only this time my dad drives from Belgium where he is temporarily working and I drive from Amsterdam were I now live – you could say things have changed). We repeat this journey due to the fact that we are offering some ‘hands on deck’ for the refugee crisis that is currently unfolding in Calais.

The journey

The nerves initiated as soon as I read the destination on the impending road sign and it was then that it all began to feel very present. I had to remind myself that these individuals have no option to turn around and go home, so what makes me think that I should even have the option to consider doing so? Presumably , the sensation of home is now non-existent for these people – it has completely dispersed.

Through social networking, I was able to discover a contact to instruct me on all of the ‘do’s and don’t s’ of visiting the refugee camp. The address, provided by a complete stranger via social networking also, allowed us to drive directly to the warehouse where the donated support was piled two stories high. It’s interesting how in these situations your ability to trust a complete stranger has to be inclined to increase, because at the end of the day, it is this blind trust that allows these organisations to execute their work in the way they do.

It soon became evident that every other number plate in the warehouse car park, displayed a nationality of people that were definitely prolific throughout the organisation of donations – Brits. My father and I timidly approached a group of people clustered together, smoking outside the entrance. They all possessed a look of enthusiasm, combined with a dose of sadness and exhaustion.

As we cautiously entered the warehouse I felt completely overwhelmed and genuinely shocked by the sheer volume of donations that stood before me. In a bit of a satirical way, with the radio gently pumping a bit of spirit in the background and volunteers carting items in and out, the warehouse reminded me of a slightly morbid Santa’s workshop – I’m a regular with inappropriate thoughts, sorry.

Dad and I stood between the two story high iron shelves feeling very overwhelmed, insignificant and in the way. This organisation felt like a tightly run ship and the volunteers knew exactly how to run it. Shortly after, dad and I met a feisty woman, who I’m going to call Lisa. She was a boisterous, yet headstrong  individual who dedicated her time to a group of also headstrong lads – many who had no parental supervision or care.  These boys (who she knew by their first names and various preferences), had either lost their parents through unfortunate death, possible abandonment or broken promise of return. The 5 ft 2, sharp yet distracted woman explained to dad and I that there were specific items that the boys needed – hair gel, deodorant and of course clean pants. Lisa explained that not only were these boys mischievous, but at times they were inconsolable and even dangerous. Lisa went on to explain how some evenings, the lads even ‘tooled up’ and shockingly mugged people – their dedication to survive was obviously evident, yet their ability to blend in and behave in the camp, was not. Thus, something such as hair gel obviously presented a bargaining tool for Lisa. At times, I found it difficult to mentally process the hardship that these kids had experienced being combined with certain elements of normality, such as wanting to smell good or have perfectly coiffed hair. Occasionally, the kids turned their nose up at certain brands of canned food that were handed to them and it was moments like this that gently reminded myself of the fact that they were still just teenage boys – this realisation allowed for the unproductive soppiness to wilt away, making way for some much needed proactive emotion.

After receiving the kind orders, dad and I went to the local Carrefour to purchase the goods. After raising just under 400 euros, it’s safe to say that this went a long way and bought a lot of pants – dad referred to us as the ‘pants people’ from this moment onward. Feeling incredibly determined, we then dumped the goods in the warehouse in the most organised way possible (there are strict orders not to interfere with the organisation of the warehouse, otherwise it becomes extremely chaotic).

Dad and I had initially agreed to perhaps remain in the warehouse as the camp had proved to be a vulnerable and highly sensitive area at times – perhaps we would discuss it together upon arrival. However, after a 3 and a 1/2 hour journey and with some guidance of other volunteers, it only felt right to make a visit to the media labelled ‘jungle’. Plus, the general tone for dad and I entering the refugee camp felt extremely non-chalant which subtly soothed our concerns. So, in response, we bit the bullet and decided to go for it – this is what we came for. No discussion was had, just a simplistic gaze to one another based on instinct.

Prior to entering the refugee camp, another volunteer requested that I wear waterproof trousers to cover my ankles as a sign of respect to those who support particular faiths where this would be thanked. I happily obliged, whilst mentally appreciating the volunteers’ sensitivity for other cultures – as if they didn’t do enough already.

We nervously jumped back in the car and using a vague map, cautiously made our way to the camp. After driving for about 5 minutes, a very subtle slip road forked to the right leading us to something which we could not have mentally prepared for. I gasped in disbelief, encouraging my father to follow my gaze, allowing him to lay his eyes on the enormous refugee camp that sat 10 feet away from us, yet a stone’s throw to the ferry port where endless amounts of holidaymakers  would be travelling happily back and forth – practically pulling the wool over their eyes, until the camp was out of their sight.

At the entrance, the atmosphere was tense as groups of men clustered together, staring out at the roads and the people gawping at them from their cars. Something just didn’t feel right in my gut, so we carried on driving, watching the entrance pass us by. First the pull of the handbrake and then the guilty look across to one another. We both voiced our reasonable concerns, and for a moment it all felt far too real. Our sights gazed around our environment to a police van that sat on the outskirts of the camp – we were both fully aware that this was only as a precaution for the tax paying public living on the outside. They provided an initial facade of safety within the camp, however it soon became clear that their interests were not with the people of the camp as they hid around a blind spot, naive to the goings on around the other side of that corner.

 

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Nicole Farhi

I’m so excited to announce that I have recently gained another internship. This time with a wonderful fashion house known as Nicole Farhi (eeeeeee!!). I will be assisting during the run up to London Fashion Week in the Press Office. Interestingly, this will be my first official admin internship and I am very eager  to be absorbing some incredibly relevant skills. Now, you’d be wrong to assume that this internship fell directly into my lap…

After sending out multiple emails to individual designers who were listed to be participating in London Collections: Men, I received some correspondence from the Nicole Farhi press office. I was invited to work during the Men’s equivalent to fashion week as a backstage dresser. I was absolutely elated. I’d never done something like this before so I was obviously nervous (on top of that I had to deal with the fact that I would be dressing male models 😉 ). Unfortunately, someone decided that this wasn’t my day as I was emailed a couple of days later, announcing that due to over-staffing, I would no longer be needed for the men’s fashion event.  Within 2 days my hope had been completely raised and then absolutely obliterated.  Although the internship wasn’t among the most important skills-wise, I was crushed. Later, I received an email alerting me that I would be placed on a type of ‘reserve list’, if any other events were to come up. I was not holding out hope.

About a week later, I received an email asking if I would be interested in participating in another type of internship! I scanned through the email over and over again, ensuring I had not mis-read anything. I calmly checked my diary and made sure I was able to realistically afford the trip down to London during university term time. I didn’t want to get my hopes up like before, so I approached the situation in a completely different manner. Perhaps the previous rejection was meant to be, as I felt a little more composed. I accepted the internship and could not believe my luck. ‘THANK YOU THANK YOU’ I thought to the Universe! I think that this opportunity will be beneficial, on top of my previous experience, providing me with some relevant skills to work upon in the fashion world.

My internship will be spread over 4 busy days in February prior to LFW, spent in the city of London. I will of course be blogging about my progress over the course of my internship (intending to remain as honest as possible).

As my internships begin to stretch over longer time periods and teach me increasingly valuable lessons (both life lessons and work related lessons), my determination and drive appears to increase after each opportunity is seized. Slowly, this idea of ‘the big bad world’ presents itself as something that is completely within my own control. I am a huge believer that your life choices are in your own hands a vast majority of the time. It’s about making the best of the cards that you have been dealt with.

What it’s really like to be an intern

internFinding An Internship

This summer after my first year at university, I felt a huge surge of pressure from within myself and it dawned upon me that I needed to ‘get something done’. I didn’t want to feel the dreaded disappointment of a wasted summer, so I got searching for internships. I know it’s incredibly frustrating to work for free – trust me I’m a broke student with a maxed out overdraft, It’s the worst feeling not getting paid in exchange for labour!  I thought that if I find an internship revolved around a passion of mine, it may be slightly more bearable.

The Interview
I came across a website known as UK Fashion Intern which posts both paid and unpaid internships, placements and so on, with relevance to the fashion and PR industry. I also had a contact from my sister with regards to a PR internship, so when I also discovered the same internship was being advertised on the UK Fashion Intern site I went for it. I was in France when I received a call from the company, but luckily it went smoothly and I nervously arranged a formal interview for the next week.

Travelling all the way to Hackney where the office was located was a bit nerve wracking for me, so much so that I ended up calling in half and hour early and interrupting a meeting. After I was awkwardly ushered out to a hotel across the road, I sat eagerly waiting. Once I had been beckoned back up to the office I was briefly interviewed. This involved some spontaneous questions and a gentle scrutinisation of my blog. I was incredibly nervous and became aware of my every body movement. After about half an hour, I was informally given the position at the PR company. I would be taking control of the social networking aspect, where I would be posting on Facebook and Twitter on behalf of the company – incredibly nerve wracking. The PR company was very small (there were 2 colleagues in total) but looks were deceiving as they had an impressive client list – Vogue being one.

I visited the offices once a week for about 4 weeks in total and to be honest the in between periods proved very difficult. For the days I wasn’t working I was expected to work from home which sounded do-able. However, between juggling a part time job and other life challenges, I found myself yearning for the free time to complete my set tasks for the company. Every so often myself and the director would get a little lost in translation and between our busy schedules it was difficult to take the time to communicate. Furthermore, without any travel expenses paid my bank balance began to decline.

The Internship

When I was in the office it was a different story. In the morning, I would settle by my little desk (which was sat about 5 foot from the director) and scan the daily news/gossip for any potential tweets I could post for their twitter account – I had to be fully aware of their target audience in order to do so. After drafting some posts I would write a Press Release or two for the company clients. Most of the time I was given the opportunity to practice my writing skills which was brilliant and the fact that my writing was published was an even bigger achievement. I was also able to see how they communicated with prestigious companies, attempting to gain more exposure for their clients. This gave me the chance to trail through amazing blogs and websites in order to spot their clients’ next ‘guest blogger’.

I always got the feel that the company director cared about me through the way she spoke to me and how she dedicated certain tasks for me.

It was definitely more beneficial for me to work for a smaller company as it gave me the chance to experience plenty and become involved with much more important tasks. There was no demands for tea – in fact I was offered tea most days. Nor was my work chased up by a Cruella Deville type character, making me worry every time my name was called. Both of the girls were lovely and were clearly incredibly passionate about their PR company. My opinion on particular events was asked regularly and taken on board. This made me feel a huge respect for the director as I felt like my opinion and work contribution really mattered whenever I was in the office. However, on the days that I tried to work from home this connection slightly weakened.

The only slight downside to working for a smaller company was the fact that the glamour-side of the internship subsided. I was working during one of Britain’s biggest heatwaves in a small office that lacked air conditioning. You can imagine how uncomfortable one day was in the office, however the team suffered with me. The upside to working for a smaller company was the hierarchy. Our opinions mattered and appeared to be treated equally. I felt like working with the company gave me a slight insight into the day-to-day workings of a PR office. Plus it provided me with a little more understanding on how I need to shape my career path and provided me with some basic skills to do so.

I take the negatives as positives because they will enable me to understand what I can improve in my next internship or placement. I think internships are a great way to broaden your cv and really contribute to any work-related experience. I don’t know where my life-plan would be without the lessons that I have already learnt from my experiences.

London Fashion Week Internship

Hi there.

First of all I wanted to say a massive thank you for the blog nominations. I have 3 that are waiting to be posted about- I’ll get to that shortly when i find some time among my schedule! It makes me feel like I’m running down the correct path with blogging when I receive great feedback like a blogger’s award.

I have some more exciting news to announce also…

I have just secured an internship during London Fashion Week 2013 for a PR company!!! I am so excited to be given this opportunity. If I am honest I was petrified when I started thinking about heading up to london this morning to be met by a group of about 20 girls (who turned out to be lovely). So, I text my sister moaning that I wasn’t going to be attending the internship meeting as I was nervous and anxious. I was met by an abrupt phone call ordering me to get out of bed, get dressed and go or I will regret it.

My wise sister came through for me as I swiftly drank a coffee and hopped on the train to london. A quick 10 minute meeting confirmed what I was hoping for!
So when LFW commences on 13th september, I will be working the front and back of house for many various designers who the PR company represent! How exciting. I will get a backstage wristband that will allow me to be virtually anywhere in the venue so it will be very cool! Hopefully, I will get a full picture of the fashion industry through this internship.

I have actually already completed one internship this summer for a PR company called Lingerie PR, and it was great. I learnt SO much in such a short space of time. I learnt an extremely valuable lesson on day one – always wear matching underwear. However, I felt that I needed to progress further and after 4 weeks I was ready to move onto my next internship!

Enter new internship! I do feel slightly unhappy with the amount of money I will be sacrificing. However, experience like this is invaluable and cannot be replaced! My passion is fashion and that’s how it shall remain :).

I can’t wait to begin and I will share some more info from my previous internship shortly!

Take care, Nia Xx

University

my boyfriend’s first blog post take a look!!

oliver salcedo's Blog

I am currently in my second year of university at Coventry, where i’m studying History. I have had a very different experience in my first year compared to my second. I wasn’t 100% on actually going off to Uni initially after completing A levels and still even after my rather unsuccessful gap year came to an end I was not hugely eager to go off to the midlands. I didn’t gain the grades I had hoped for which resulted in me going to my fifth choice of university, which I believe played a part in my negative outlook on Uni from the very start.

I seemed very sceptical in making new friends and by the end of the first year I would say I had 2 close friends (1 of which dropped out after Christmas) and several other acquaintances. I would say I didn’t have enough friends to enjoy Uni…

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I’m finally here!

So I’ve officially entered my new university threshold. I was incredibly anxious and knowing that the rest of the country were going through the exact same thing, didn’t reassure me at all funnily enough. I drove up from Windsor and passed multiple signs that educated me that I was indeed entering ‘The North’ – Is there a scarier sign?

With my items packed high to the roof of the car, the journey began. Surprisingly, I had predicted that travelling up with my sister and dad would be incredibly emotional and distracting. The journey was in fact enjoyable and I’m glad that I spent it with my weird and wonderful family. It did not help my nerves that I had gone out the night before leaving and got incredibly pissed at my own leaving do. Swallowing back bits of my own consumption from the night before, I arrived in Leicester. After miles of traffic on the M1, We were finally here!

I over analysed every single person to enter my building, whilst trying to remain calm and look half decent to anyone that wanted to be my friend in the future. Thanks to the technology of Facebook, I had already ‘met’ most of my flatmates, so this took away an element of anxiety. I threw my bin bags full of clothes into my new room and ventured off with my sister, dad and newly arrived boyfriend. After a scarily brisk dinner at Nandos, ( Where else?), it was time to say goodbye. My sister cried and my dad nodded. Eventually, a few hours later, I was alone.

It was strange because an element of vulnerability kicked in and it occurred to me that I was indeed alone. The girls began chatting and giggling in the hall and I felt the need to join. With thousands of nerves bouncing round between us, the giggling increased. However, after a few nights out together and walks home, it seems like we are finally beginning to settle in. I feel like it is early days and anything could change, however, I’ve spent some time with some more newbies downstairs and it’s nice to say hi to someone or be able to walk to uni with someone you met the night before.

One thing I’ve learnt already: ‘Don’t over analyse people and their actions, you don’t know them yet’.

Hello university!

Hi guys, I hope everyone is happy and healthy. I recently found out that I will be attending university in September. I’ll be studying media and sociology which I am really excited about.

The expenses I don’t even want to get into – Im one of those students that falls into the category of ‘well off’ even though I live by myself! To be honest I’m not even sure that I will be able to afford the whole journey but I will find out when I arrive! I thought it would be quite relevant to document my stages of the university process. So, I’ve applied, I’ve studied and now I’m in. 🙂

I move away in about a month and will be documenting my life covering things such as getting a job and combing this with studying. Furthermore, I’ll talk about the challenges of meeting new people and pretending to like them for a bit. 😉

Is anyone else joining me on this scary journey?
Nia X