Graduation celebration student speech

I was the student speaker at the graduation celebration and reception for BA Journalism students, City University London, on July 21. I’m posting the text of my speech here for the few who couldn’t attend and said they were interested, for other curious parties, and for posterity. Not included below are the few places where I might have gone off script. Warning: hyphens.

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As students on the BA Journalism course, we realise that we are the younger sisters and brothers of the very grand MA journalism students who are completing high-profile courses. Some of them don’t even know we are here despite walking past us in the hallways for months – but we believe we have something special to offer. We are multi-skilled, multi-talented and we know how to make our way in the complicated world of modern journalism.

We have had three years of brilliant learning experiences which have brought us out of our comfort zone – and helped us find out a lot about the media industry and even more about ourselves. Our job now is to go out there into the world and show them who we are and what we can do.

We learned from our tutors. We learned from each other – you really can’t play down the importance of being surrounded by and working with people from all over the world.

And most importantly, we taught ourselves. We all need to sit down and reflect on what we can do and what we want to do. We are not just people who can write shorthand notes, or who can edit in final cut or who can design a newspaper layout. We all have our own methods and reasons for doing things, we all have our own preferences, and unique motivations. We have to realise what these are.

I can’t say I’m there yet. There are plenty of subjects and career paths that interest me and I sometimes struggle to find common ground between them. But I think I realised something very important during this course.

Halfway through my second year I was running out of funds and considered taking a year out to work and save up for my third year. I even considered dropping out if I couldn’t manage that.

Thankfully I found a job and succeeded in avoiding both of those things, but I realised in the process that the most important thing I learned at City from the very first year was that being a journalist is also a state of mind, and not just a set of skills.

I think curiosity is hugely important. Figuring out what questions to ask and to whom doesn’t come just from the training we received here at city, but also from instinct. We should be able to take home what we learned and adapt it to our individual situations in our home countries or wherever we will start work.

A lot of the things we were taught here are UK only skills, like media law or shorthand that we can easily use for English language interviews but would probably struggle to adapt to other languages. As an international group about to enter the world of work in a very globalised field, we need to be able to sort through all the information thrown at us during this course and figure out what is most relevant to us personally.

I came to study journalism here in London from Romania because I grew up thinking very highly of institutions like the BBC and of the standards of British journalism in general. What I found at City lived up to those expectations. The assignments we were given really helped me overcome any reservations I had about approaching people and asking questions or even asking for help.

I may not be a big fan of vox pops, but after three years of having to do them, I have not only much more confidence, but also some good stories to tell. How can you forget a conversation with a complete stranger about the merits of giving someone a toilet seat for Christmas? I am sure you all have at least one story like that.

As a programme representative throughout all three years I am very aware that sometimes not everything went according to plan. The fact that we’re here today stands as evidence. But it’s important not to lose sight of the positives as we end this chapter of our lives.

My first real job was working for Olympic Broadcasting Services, something I never even dreamed of when I started at City. I was encouraged to apply by the staff of the department, and I still can’t believe how amazing that experience was. Of course I was the youngest there and had a lot to learn, but you know what they say – if you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room.

I found that really encouraging and I still feel lucky to this day – lucky that I was in London at the time, and had done some journalism training, and also lucky that I was advised to apply even as a first year student. There is plenty of good advice going around the journalism department if only we are willing to listen or ask for help.

The topic I chose for my dissertation required me to do interviews to gather my data, and the first interview I did was with a senior reporter from a broadsheet with more than 20 years experience in the industry. A few minutes into the conversation I realised he had checked out who I was and what I was doing beyond the email I sent him asking for an interview. I wasn’t quite sure who was interviewing who at times. That half an hour was a sign to me that I needed to up my game and feed my curiosity more.

I think that’s what we all need to do as we leave here. Whichever career path we end up following, as long as we don’t stop asking questions and wanting to learn, we will do well. We have the skills, we just need to stop and really think about what we are doing and what we want to achieve. And also feel proud about what we have done so far.

I hope everyone here has a great summer and I’m really looking forward to catching up with you all in a few years, because I am sure we are going to do some totally awesome things.

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