Going freelance to get work experience

Here's the thing: I have recently applied for a job with the local weekly paper. And although my interview was apparently really good, and they know me, I've published with them before and could start right away - they took someone else.

Apparently seven years of doing work experience during free time is not enough to get a job when you're a journalism graduate. I spent my Gap Year doing work experience as a journalist and photographer, studied Visual Communication and wrote for a German magazine while I was on the road. During my Gap Year, I really got convinced that writing is what I want to do, and applied for a place on the B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism degree at the University of Central Lancashire while I was working for Cape Town paper Daily Voice.

I have now graduated with upper second class honours. During university breaks, I did work experience at my local daily paper Solinger Tageblatt and was asked by the editor to continue to work for them as a freelance and on commissioned stories whenever I'm in town. Even from England, I continued to write features for their youth page Karl. and have my own, irregular column "Post aus..."

During my third year, I did work experience at Wanderlust magazine in Windsor while writing my dissertation (which by the way was twice as long - 16.000 words - than single honours journalism dissertations) and creating my Final Project, travel magazine Shoestring.

But apparently all that is not enough. Editors want somebody with work experience, but how are you meant to get any more work experience if nobody gives you a job?? I am past unpaid internships. There are bills to pay. And quite honestly, I am done offering my services for free. And the excuse, that it gives you work experience and enhances your portfolio is clearly not of importance if it doesn't get you a job you are more than qualified for.

Which is why I have just gone freelance. I have successfully applied for a job as freelance with suite101.com. I have to write at least 10 articles of between 400 and 600 words every three months and I can write about whatever I like. Finally a chance to actually write about travel.

Life on Cars - The magazine

My other half has just produced a magazine. A car magazine. A magazine about his motoring blog and column Life on Cars. It's a birthday magazine, as his blog went live exactly a year ago, with the blogger-related help and a bit of nudging on my part.

And guess who did half of the photography for this Life on Cars magazine? Yes, yours truly!

Air Passenger Rights

Have you ever been delayed at an airport or your flight got cancelled? If so, this could be of interest!

Usually, when a flight is delayed, most passengers just wait until the plane is ready for boarding. When flights are cancelled, most people try and find the next best flight that suits them. But passengers have rights, even on short delays, which they are not always informed of.

By law, if a passenger asks for the following, airlines have to provide.

- Light Refreshment Vouchers: These should be handed out by airport staff but have to be asked for most of the time. If your flight is delayed and you don't receive vouchers, make sure you keep all the receipts! The same goes for longer stays due to cancellation. Airlines need itemised receipts (no card holder copies for card purchases) and alcohol is not refunded.

- Hotel Accommodation: If you're delayed overnight, or are left stranded somewhere because your flight got cancelled, the airline has to reimburse you for hotel costs incurred. Ask for a detailed receipt that lists all expenses. Some airlines do not reimburse you for pre-paid hotels which you couldn't use because of a cancellation. If you're delayed or your flight is postponed, do not rely solely on the airline to find accommodation. You can go and find your own.

- Phone Calls: Next to the meal vouchers, you should get about € 3.00 per day to call home. Try and use landlines and local numbers. But if you run up bills while being on hold to the airline's customer service, send them a copy of the itemised bill - they have to reimburse you for any calls to the customer service centre, if they cancelled your flight and the calls were a direct result of this.

- Transfers: If you have to stay at a hotel due to a flight delay or cancellation, airport transfer should be reimbursed. Keep hold of all receipts and remember to ask for a receipt if you use a taxi!

One hour of delay is deemed an acceptable time. But if you are delayed more than three or even five hours, you can ask to change your flight to the next available one if travel arrangements don't suit you anymore. If you choose not to travel that day, you can get a credit voucher over the sum of your affected flight. Accepting another flight from your airline should be free of charge. But if you can find an alternative flight (same route) before the one you have been given by your own airline, you can get the costs, or at least the price difference, refunded by your airline. To claim back your alternative costs, provide a booking reference and your boarding passes for easy processing.

The same goes for other alternative travel arrangements such as train. Keep the receipts and you should get at least the difference in price back from your airline. Here as well, you'd have to travel the same route (same origin, same destination, or be in the vicinity of the destination airport when you leave the alternative transport). Transfers to train stations, as well as transfers to pick up your car where you left it will not be refunded.

Always make sure you ask staff about the official reason for the delay. Make a note of it. Then ask the Aviation Authority to confirm the reason for cancellation - these incidents have to be logged. If necessary, double check with the airport concerned or (ie if bad weather is given as reason) the Meteorological Institute.

If the reason is an "extraordinary circumstance", it is deemed outside the airline's control. Reasons can be weather (ie thunderstorms, snow), nature (ie volcano), strike action.

However, there are also "non-extraordinary circumstances" in which the airline is at fault. These are mechanical and technical problems, or crew sickness (especially the captain) when nobody is on standby. If it is confirmed that your delay or cancellation was due to such a circumstance, you are entitled to EU compensation. If the distance between your two airports is less than 1500km, you get €250 per person, per affected flight. Over 1500km, you're in for €400 per person, and flights over 3500km come in at €600 each. It is the law, that you get this compensation if it's the airline's fault you couldn't fly. It's best to check the reason first, but you can always ask for it by mentioning the EU compensation you are entitled to when you contact the airline for a refund. The going policy is: If you are entitled and you don't ask for it, you don't get it.
So if you have been delayed or your trip got cancelled during the summer holidays, or you have friends who will fly soon, show them this site! Some airlines will not inform you of any rights in case of a cancellation. But you will need to know what to ask for, and what receipts are necessary in order to get your extra expenses refunded.
Happy travels!

What's the verdict?

just as I thought I was leaving Carlisle for good, Carlisle tried to lure me back. Well, not the city itself, but Her Majesty's Courts Service. That's right. I've been summoned for Jury Duty at Carlisle Crown Court.

And yes, I did get a slight shock, receiving a letter from court.

The problem is though that I am not eligible to actually be in the jury. Jurors are picked at random from the electoral register, which I am on, if only locally. I can't vote in General Elections. But jurors must also have lived in the UK for 5 years or longer. I have been here slightly less than 3 years now. Besides, I am a German national and that's not going to change anytime soon.S

o I'll fill in the form and send it back - it's a legal requirement - and ask to be excused due to not having lived here long enough. That means though, that should I ever get another summons, I must attend. Unless I'm working for the local media by then, in which case I would almost definitely be in contempt of court...

Graduation Day

Today is the day!! I have just graduated from the University of Central Lancashire (but taught at University of Cumbria) with Upper Second Class Honours in my Bachelor of Arts Travel Journalism degree!!

It feels weird in a way, that it's suddenly all over. Three years of university have finally paid off. This morning we collected our gowns and mortar boards - for everyone not familiar with that term... it's the hat - from Ede and Ravenscroft at the Crown and Mitre Hotel in Carlisle. Once again, I was glad that my degree is validated by Central Lancashire and not Cumbria. While UCLan graduands wear grey and red hoods over the gowns, Cumbria graduands wear grey and a colour best described as neon green and quite hideous.

I went back up to Carlisle yesterday, with my mum, dad, sister and of course my other half. Staying for the last time ever at the house that's been my home for three years - and which my landlord had already rented out again although our contracts hadn't run out yet.

Nonetheless, I had to get up early this morning to get ready and went over to the Crown and Mitre by myself, through the rain. Inside, I met up with fellow Travel Journalism graduand Lauren, got my gown and hat, got my official photos done and then waited for my family and other half to arrive.

After taking a few pics outside infront of the old town hall, all graduands were ushered inside. We had to get in line for the procession to Carlisle Cathedral, and it turned out that Lauren and I were the last graduands from the University of Central Lancashire for the day, and probably also the last to graduate as UCLan students from Cumbria. Fitting also, as we are the first and only two Bachelor of Arts Travel Journalism graduates in all of Europe.

While all the ceremony guests got seated in the cathedral, our gowns were checked, hoods straightened, hats put on tight and straight and the procedure was explained. We then made our way to the cathedral and down the centre aisle towards the altar and stage. What I didn't understand is why they hid us graduands behind the columns in the side aisle. After all, today was supposed to be our day. Helen Hutchinson came by, finding Lauren and me and congratulating us. Then the ceremony started with several addresses and it seemed to last forever until we finally got to go on stage. We had to hand name cards to the dean, then walk up the stairs when our names were called, shake hands with UCLan's vice-chancellor and walk off the stage again, walk around the whole cathedral and sit down. Kind of disappointing, that we did not even get a fake scroll. A graduation ceremony without anything to show off?

After all the degrees were conferred and two honorary fellows appointed, the ceremony was declared over and we followed the academic procession down the main aisle again, and exited the cathedral to applause from guests and all members of the university.

Outside Carlisle Cathedral, our course leader Dr John Luffrum, and tourism lecturer Brian Eaton came to find Lauren and me to congratulate. After all, we're pretty unique as graduating classes go, seeing as there are only the two of us. We're the first to graduate, and for now as far as we know also the last. For three years, it's been our little four person clique when we didn't have lessons at Brampton Road for the journalism modules.

University is over, and somehow we made it! I say hats off to that!!

Upper Second

I still can't really believe it: I finished my B.A. (Hons) Travel Journalism with Upper Second Class Honours!!!! That's right - I got a 2:1!

I think what impressed me most was the 65 I got for my Final Project, travel magazine Shoestring. I'd wanted to create the magazine for years and knew I was likely to be marked down because I took controversial decisions, like bleeding pictures to inside edges and going against British norm (but conforming with German norm!) by using double quotemarks in headlines. To come out with 65 is great!!

My 16.000 word double dissertation "How do travel magazines define their readership and how does their style and content reflect this? An analysis of the travel market" got me 63.

In Newspaper Production, I guess the main module for journalism, I even got 66! But the biggest surprise was Professional Development. For my Guardian-front page styled CV, as well as a work experience report and career goal analysis, my tutor gave me 76!!

I had the overall result of 2:1 confirmed by phone a while ago. However, for no logic reason at all, all the Travel Journalism result letters were lost in the post - twice. So I finally got my result emailed to me. After all, I will graduate on Friday, so knowing individual grades is nice.

Since we didn't get any feedback on any of the modules during the entire third year, this could have gone either way. Especially since I had to improve slightly from Year Two. But I managed it!! This calls for celebration!

Oh uni result where art thou?

My graduation is on 16th July (only two weeks from today) and I still don't know whether I passed or not.

After handing in my last assignment on 13th May, I haven't had anything from uni yet. If I was a single honours journalism student graduating in November I wouldn't be this stressed. But leaving it evidently less than two weeks before graduation to tell students whether they actually passed or not is not fair.

It really reminds me of the start of my third year... I was back at uni, studying in third year for 3 weeks, before they Gold me that i had actually passed second year.

The reason for this graduation result malarky is the University of Cumbria. Although I studied at their Carlisle campuses, my degree has always been run by the University of Central Lancashire. Assessment criteria, assigmemts, rules and regulations all set by UCLan and I have always considered myself a UCLan student. UCLan's exam boards where a while ago and we could have had results then. But apparently UOC decided they wanted to have a look as well, resulting in this massive delay. Why UOC wanted to have a look at degrees clearly validated by UCLan is anyone's guess..

All I can say is that I'm glad I can leave UOC behind me in two weeks and never have to go back. The teachers were great but that uni screwed up too much on my degree.

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