My University/college experience and thoughts on studying BA (Hons) Writing Fashion and Culture at Southampton Solent University.
When I sat down at my laptop this weekend and pondered a wordy topic to write about for the week, my thoughts immediately fluttered over to the topic of University and further education.
I’m often asked about what I studied at Uni, what I do now, how I built up my work experience and about my experiences at Uni in general.
With my sister applying for a degree in architecture and another influx of questions in my emails, here’s my small rundown of it all in the hope it helps at least one person with their decision…
My Experience at Uni
I studied BA (Hons) Writing Fashion and Culture (now BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism) at Southampton Solent University. It’s one of those infamously dubbed ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses and, yes, we’re pretty far down the whole ranks system.
It’s a 3-year degree with no set work experience placements, offering a mixture of practical, academic and group work. I applied for my own (unpaid) work experience and internships during holidays from University, attended 99.9% of my lectures and seminars, and finally graduated in November 2012 with a First Class Honours degree.
The course itself appealed to me because of its diversity: if you’re considering studying the course, it’s worth noting that it isn’t solely a fashion journalism course.
During my time there (between 2009-2012) I gained experience in news journalism, writing for digital multimedia, art history, the history of costume, fashion PR, visual merchandising for retail stores, styling for editorial and body shapes, fashion photography, media law, social media writing, freelancing in fashion, buying and forecasting, blogging, magazine production and design, and much more.
I’ll talk a bit later about why I started my blog, but the course wasn’t to my expectations for the first 3 months! Outside of the course, Southampton was an amazing place to discover a city, grow into myself as a person, venture anew and meet new people. The nightlife is seriously diverse – even if you’re not a bars and clubs person, there are amazing music venues, comedy clubs, museums and more to enjoy.
If you have a car, the New Forest is nearby, as are bowling venues, paintballing destinations, kids zones that allow alcohol (another story for another day…!) and cinemas galore. In the same vein, you WILL make friends who don’t like going out.
Southampton Solent as a Uni has some great clubs and societies, an average Student Union, an on-campus Costa, a well-equipped gym, and pretty decent library facilities too.
Personally I spent my Freshers’ year attempting to go to every bar/club/etc. in the city… and succeeding! I also went to one of the course trips to Paris and indulged in my first ever Paris Fashion Week experience.
My second and third years were spent cuddling up with my kitten, attending one or two blog events in London a week, but also learning hands-on about the industry through my blog and applying it to my work which made a huge difference. I then also met the lovely Corrie who juggled the same things, and overall, University summed up some of the best years of my life.
My advice to you? Make the most of your Fresher freedom, but also get your head down and hunt down your own passion on your course of course.
University and My Blog
I created Daisybutter almost immediately after moving to University. Aside from Fashiontoast, Sea of Shoes, Style Scrapbook and Fashion Pirate, I hadn’t personally read many British fashion blogs. Zoe, Lindy and Fleur were some of the first British bloggers I discovered and their girl-next-door, University student approach to documenting day-to-day life really inspired me.
I mentioned earlier that my degree wasn’t what I’d expected at first. I began regularly blogging here in January 2010 to chronicle style and fashion related things that I didn’t have the chance to at Uni. Fashion blogs and online media just weren’t discussed, and at the time, I was studying news journalism, the history of costume and a multimedia writing module.
Having the freedom to write about Christopher Bailey’s triumphant return to London at LFW, chat to bloggers including Zoe and Milly on Twitter, and find a hidden community pretty much restored my faith in my degree!
My blog has been the one constant as I progressed through my degree and eventually graduated and entered the working world. Now that I look back, it slipped perfectly into my routine because I made it fit.
I started receiving invitations to blog events and press days, which I loosely realised would help me understand more about the fashion industry. Lily invited me as her plus one to the LOOK Show, and from there, I began attending events once a month, once a fortnight, and then once a week. Pretty much as the blogging world grew, my blog grew, and finally, we had to blog at University! It goes to show just how quickly the two worlds develop and become important!
Assignments and projects on the BA (Hons) Writing Fashion and Culture course are quite varied. For me, over the 3 years I submitted news features, topical features, columns, fashion features, business reports, budget plans, short and extended essays, pitches, visual portfolios, written portfolios, mood boards, scrapbooks, a magazine (and so Aesthetic was born!), a blog, a document analysing blogs… and a 10,000 word dissertation.
Alongside that, the degree also requires plenty of group work and presentations. They’re tough but not as hard as you’d expect. And that’s coming from a girl who often freezes when more than two people look at her.
Deadlines on the WFC course fall at the end of each semester which makes things simple and difficult at the same time. I found it incredibly easy to space my time out and plan the workload for my assignments by checking deadlines against timetables and pencilling in dedicated ‘work’ sessions.
Getting Work Experience
Unlike a lot of degrees nowadays, Writing Fashion and Culture isn’t a sandwich course. Sandwich courses or degrees include a year of non-optional work experience in their chosen industry and is a great way to pad out your CV.
The lecturers for my course were all in the industry or had once been in it, hence their expertise and group of contacts. Already studying WFC? Pop in and ask for advice or an email address! I’ve always been told to contact the Commissioning Editor or an Assistant about intern positions and work experience openings.
Today it’s even worth Tweeting them firsthand. I gained experience at titles and companies including more!, InStyle, IFB, Grazia, Eyeko, Style It Light and Style Sample, amongst others. Throughout my time at Uni, I undertook a total of 6 placements, and an extra 2 before landing my first grad job last summer.
As I mentioned, in total I interned for eight companies across the fashion editorial, fashion magazine, social media, marketing, beauty PR and retail fields before getting a job. My first job was a freelance position, where I realised that freelancing was a very enviable position to be in. I now freelance for a number of clients in editorial, copywriting and social media consultancy, with a primary client whom I freelance for in-house everyday.
Daisybutter now takes somewhat of a backseat while I pursue my writing career, although it has honestly grown beyond my wildest expectations and continues to be something I’m very proud and protective of. Currently I’m continuing to freelance across three fields, growing Aesthetic and pushing my blog forward.
My advice for third years and graduands/graduates? Be prepared to work extremely hard and pursue the avenues that you love, even when it gets hard.