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Studying and Volunteering: The Perfect Combination

This time last year, I was lucky enough to be working for The Word Forest Organisation as an Environmental Journalist. 

This experience perfectly accompanied my university studies, in much the same way a fine wine compliments a Sunday roast. 

I studied BA (Hons) Journalism at the University of Lincoln and graduated this year with a 2:1, alongside an industry gold-standard Level 3 Diploma in Journalism, awarded by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).  

I was given the opportunity to expand my creative wings and dive into a range of exciting articles and projects with The Word Forest Organisation which allowed me to put into practice what I’d been taught at University, including video and audio editing, writing and interviewing. 

Although at times it was challenging balancing a degree and volunteering for The Word Forest Organisation, the two were in perfect harmony with each other. Both increased my confidence in working to tight deadlines, producing a range of articles on various topics and giving me the priceless experience required when it comes to securing work in the journalism industry. 

What made this experience all the more fabulous was working alongside such a dedicated, hard-working and inspirational team of individuals passionate about saving our beloved environment and spreading the word far and wide.

I suppose I’m fortunate in that I work well individually, but being part of this team was far better; bouncing ideas off others who fully believe in you builds your confidence and creativity when it comes to writing a feature on a topic you have limited knowledge of, or co-producing and creating new, exciting projects designed to raise the charity’s profile. 

Alder catkin

Looking back, my ‘Great British Trees by The Word Forest Organisation’ video series has to be my proudest creation. Whilst the project was daunting and I felt under pressure to deliver what I’d outlined, I took the plunge and threw myself into the unknown. 

A plunge I’m forever thankful to myself for taking. 

Often in life, the only way we can grow (both personally and professionally) is by getting out of our comfort zones, dipping our toes into something new and seeing what it brings. This project fuelled my passion for journalism like a richly caffeinated beverage, and never failed to put a smile on my face because, for the first time in a while, I had confidence in myself. 

Throughout my degree, I’d always found TV Journalism especially challenging because I’m not the most creative when it comes to being in front of or behind a camera; I definitely prefer a Word Document where I can be imaginative and innovative through writing.

However, the trust and belief enlisted in me by the team gave me the nudge I needed to realise that this project was well within my capability. The project tested my creativity, patience, time management and my computer’s memory in every way imaginable but it was so rewarding and is something I’m overwhelmingly proud of. 

I remember heading back into the university newsrooms at the beginning of my final year (shortly after finishing my work experience at the charity) feeling somewhat excited about the upcoming TV workshop because of this project. It gave me the boost I needed and, to this day, that workshop was the most productive one. 

I suppose the moral of this is as follows: throw yourself into the unknown, get out of your comfort zones because the rewards you reap far outweigh any anxieties, fears or doubts you might initially experience. 

I cannot thank the team at The Word Forest Organisation enough for giving me the opportunity to work with them; the experience I’ve gained is invaluable because, without them, I doubt I would’ve been as successful as I have been in my university degree. 

As for me, who knows what exactly the future holds but I know I’m equipped with the necessary skills to deal with the fast-paced nature of the media environment and will do so with a beaming smile on my face. 

Anna Parkinson  

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