Natasha Slee

Hello September, Goodbye Summer. By Natasha Slee.

In just over a month’s time, I will be starting my third and final year of University. By July 2013 I will be a Fashion Journalism graduate: officially a ‘fashion journalist.’  This Summer, in theory my final Summer of freedom from the 9-5, I intended to fully prepare myself for this final push. I planned to finally build my website, build my profile on Journalisted and LinkedIn, as well as make a dent in my dissertation reading list – a little optimistic, huh?

Although I may not have ticked any of those boxes – four lonely dissertation books lie unopened on my desk – I have done lots of other exciting things. Looking back, no wonder my website is still non-existent!

For one, I have worked at both the Olympics and the Paralympics, the importance of which didn’t sink in until I walked through the Athlete’s Village on my very first day and half the Korean team crossed my path. I have been working in the Athlete’s salon, managing a fun and popular photo-booth. I have worked for the photo-booth company Say Fromage for the last year, hosting booths at weddings and birthdays – I’ve heard every first dance song imaginable! The extra money has given a well-needed boost to my London-lashed bank account, and having a job throughout second year (and now third) has helped me find a healthy balance between Uni, work and social life.

I never imagined myself working at the London 2012 Games this time last year, in fact I planned to vacate London for the entire period. Yet, I have loved every minute; even though the language barriers are stressful and the 12 hour days tiring. Although I may not have got tickets for any events, I have met nervously excited athletes, wished them luck on the day of their event, hugged them when they returned with medals, and shed tears the day they left. I have seen far more than any ticket holder ever could.

The elated tears I shed at the Olympics were no preparation for the wave of emotion brought by the Paralympics. The first few days felt mentally exhausting as I spoke with blind young girls, men with burn injuries so severe they had no nose or mouth, and chatty men with no arms. They’re strength, kindness and humility floored me; how could I ever complain of stress or tiredness now? Watching the athletes parade through the stadium during Opening Ceremony I recognized many elated faces. Hot tears rolled down my face with each recognition; they looked so incredibly happy.

By the 4th September I will have finished my last shift at the Paras, a day I am sure will be tinged with sadness. Yet life doesn’t stop once one door closes! As well as earning a wage, I have been interning throughout this Summer at the Youth Media Agency – see, no wonder I didn’t tick anything off my to-do list! The YMA is a young social enterprise setting out to support and aid the growth of Youth Media in the UK. Since the advent of Youtube, and other free online media platforms such as WordPress, the creative output of young people as escalated. Not content with finding their voice silenced in mainstream media, they are  simply writing and broadcasting it themselves.

In July I built and launched the YMA’s Directory of Youth Media. In little over a month I had to familiarize myself with the movers and shakers in this exciting niche industry. By July 24th, the day of the launch, I had nearly 60 radio stations, magazines, newspapers and TV channels on board; each organisation set up and run by under 25s. At the launch evening I introduced the directory to heads from the Youth Sector, as well as the Lottery, UK Facebook, Time Out and the BBC – one scary speech!

Although I haven’t been writing at the YMA I have learnt many important periphery skills, such as PR, events planning, persuasive communication, and the importance of knowing a good WordPress wizard.

As a student there will always be the temptation to look for experience with big name publishing houses and newspapers, hoping for the ‘big break’ AKA the career-changing yet bank-breaking long term internship offer. However, working with smaller companies and start ups will mean you gain experience across the board, getting to know CEO’s and Directors personally – don’t forget, if they’ve worked in the industry long enough, they probably have friends in high places. (The Director at YMA is friends with the Editor of Dazed and Confused = work placement for me in December…)

So what’s next? The Dissertation won’t start itself…

Natasha Slee.

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