Since leaving university and struggling at every journalism-related endeavor since, I've often contemplated what I've really learnt over the past three years. With every job application that gets ignored (more than the breaths you've inhaled today), I continue to hold an indomitable self-doubt, and a frustrated questioning as to what I've taken away from my degree.
After a year at the University of Cumbria, where any talent I had depleted on a daily basis, I now feel just as much a journalist as I did prior to beginning my degree.
Last week however, and I assure you it will soon be apparent as to how this is relevant, I met an American couple on a two hour train journey. I sat down next to them at a table and, from the corner of my eye, I saw them look up eagerly, smile and keep their heads slightly titled in my direction. I'm sure a body-language expert (is there such a thing?) would decode this to mean that they were desperately bored and looking for someone to talk to after enduring countless decades of marriage, which had lead to having nothing left to talk about. Or something like that.
It had been an eventful journey already, I earlier learnt that my dress had been tucked into my tights for all of Manchester Piccadilly Station to see my bum. I was also willing to converse with these two strangers, in a bid to stop shuddering at flashbacks.
Jane and Bob looked to be somewhere in their sixties, from Oregon, US, visiting relatives in Scotland after a short stop in Amsterdam. (Jane was a Quaker, so I'm sure it was a PG visit). I quickly learnt that Bob was a college geology professor and avid mountain climber. I took in everything they said with a hunger. I now understand how the American education system works, that the US may be getting their own form of national healthcare, and how the death penalty differs in the states it's legal in.
Of course, I could have 'Googled' any of the above, but it was fascinating to have a unique narrative. Geographically and culturally, we were worlds apart. But for two hours we were surrounding the same table (scattered with US and UK coins for comparison purposes) and I took from it all I could.
As I bid farewell to my lovely American friends, I felt satisfied in the knowledge that I had used them to my full advantage. And that my dress was no longer hacked up around my waist. Three years ago, I would've politely smiled at their attempt at conversation, put my headphones on and text someone saying 'some weird American couple just tried to talk to me'.
I may not feel like a adequate journalist, but I now have a greater appreciation for people - and the knowledge that there's a story in everyone. Anyone has the potential to teach me something new, to spark a new blog post, or to help shape my opinion.
I now engage in conversation with anyone willing. I like to think it's because I've learnt the value of humans, and have the ability and hunger to extract interesting things from people. It's as if university opened me up like a flower at the first feel of sunshine. I'm now ready to absorb the world and to learn. Either that or I just that I just have too much time on my hands now.