Q:What was your original plan regarding higher education? A:
I went to a very academic school. Everyone was going off to university so I applied too. I went through the whole UCAS system and eventually secured a place to study at uni. Then I went off on a gap year with all my friends. It was somewhere in the middle of Africa where I realised I was only going to uni because that’s what everyone else was doing and not because I wanted to go. I just knew deep down that it wasn’t the right route for me. I didn’t feel like it would help me in my career and I wasn’t passionate about any of the courses.
I declined my place and when I got back from my gap year started exploring my options. I decided I wanted to be like Samantha Jones from Sex in the City so applied for a PR internship. Turns our Sex in the City isn’t an accurate representation of the PR industry! It was still amazing, so I then came across UNFM and they were able to put me in touch with their PR company. They were looking for a PR apprentice so I applied, I got the job! I did an apprenticeship from the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2015. It was a year long apprenticeship and now I work full time in the PR firm.
Q:What were you going to study? A:
I kept changing between a whole load of different subjects because I just really wasn’t sure. Nothing was jumping out at me. Originally I applied for Spanish and management, then realised I didn’t think that was going to help me in my career at all. Then I applied to do graphic design, and that was what I had a place to study at a range of different unis. I was going to go to the University of Westminster so I could stay in London, but then in my gap year decided it wasn’t for me at all. It wasn’t just because I couldn’t find a subject I liked or because I didn’t want to move too far away from home, I just really couldn’t see myself studying at university.
Q:How did you go about planning your gap year? A:
Gap years were really popular at my school, everyone went off before uni and did a gap year travelling. So we had heard loads of stories about what people had done and I just sort of picked up ideas. I ended up forming a sort of list of what I’d want to do over the years, then when it came to planning it we went to STA which is the student travel agency. They were incredible. They basically offer discount rates for students and people going on gap years, they do a a round the world ticket where you say where you want to go in the world and they make a fight plan for you. I went to 14 different countries in 6 months and it only cost me about three grand for flights. It was amazing – I really recommend them. They organise activities, transport, basically everything. We did organise things ourselves while we were in the countries too, like we met up with friends in Australia and hired a campervan. It was very much planned as-you-go which gave us a lot of freedom.
Q:Would you recommend young people going on gap years? A:
One hundred percent. It gave me the time away from reality to really think about what I wanted to do and decided what path was right for me. Ultimately it saved me thousands of pounds in debt and three years studying something I wasn’t passionate about. If I could do anything again I think my favourite country was Guatemala because it was so untouched. There wasn’t much tourism, and it was gorgeous. Though my favourite experience was definitely Africa. I had never done anything like that before – not many people do Africa in their gap year and I wanted to do something different. I did six weeks camping around national parks amongs elephants and hippos – I have to say I recommend that experience the most.
Q:Did you think about PR before you'd applied to uni, or was it only during your gap year you came across it? A:
It had always appealed to me, I guess I got back and started researching it more when I looked at my options. I really enjoyed my internship in PR so went from there. But really it wasn’t until I got back from my gap year that I fully realised PR was a realistic option. I did my internship was a company called La Book which is a kind of creative events PR company.
Q:How would you say your gap year and internship prepared you for work? A:
It was in about October I did that and then I started my apprenticeship with Salix in November 2013. It all started moving quite quickly once I made up my mind about what I wanted to do. I researched it by looking online and speaking to people who would recommend it. I happened to find the internship on student jobs – it was unpaid or about a month but the experience was more than worth it.
“It taught me it wasn’t going to be easy, it was going to take a bit of trial and error to find out what I wanted to do. It’s really the time away that gives you the opportunity to think about what you want to do – what you’d like and what you wouldn’t”
Q:What was it about working with UNFM and the education side of PR that appealed to you? A:
The fact that I loved what UNFM was doing. I thought it was very relevant. I only came across the website because I was thinking about what was going on in my head. I literally typed in to Google ‘uni is not for me’ and this came up, it was such great straight forward advice and it was run by people in the same position as me which I really admired. I got in touch and they were able to flag up the opportunity that was available. I’m very thankful for them! I’m very passionate about promoting the alternatives to uni because I never got that sort or support from school. By working with UNFM I feel like I can really push these messages out and encourage more young people to consider their options.
Q:Is there anything that you would do differently? A:
I don’t really have any regrets. I possibly could have done a bit more work experience, it might have helped if I knew a bit more about PR before my apprenticeship. It would have helped me to have a bit more knowledge on the industry behind me through more work experience. I would have also encouraged more people to follow the same path as I am if they’re unsure about what to do. Uni just wasn’t for me!
Anouska took everything she learnt from her time in PR into her new career in production. She now works for Mastermind Media as a production manager producing music videos and commercials. She says she wouldn’t have come so far so quickly without the experience of her apprenticeship and thanks UNFM for all the guidance
“By working with UNFM I feel like I can really push these messages out and encourage more young people to consider their options.”