Behind #FreeBritney

I was watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary on a weekend two weeks ago and it got me thinking a lot, so I thought I would share some thoughts. In particular, it made me think of how sad a word we live in where people would start to capitalise of a person’s low points in life. For those unaware of the much talked about The New York Times documentary, its release comes at a time when the #FreeBritney movement is in full swing. Although I am aware of the rough purpose of the movement, I wanted to watch the documentary myself to learn about the wider context of how Britney Spears’ conservatorship came to be.

Conservatorships, from my understanding seem to be legally binding arrangements made when a person is deemed unfit to make decisions concerning their own welfare. The parties these arrangements concern are often mentally ill or elderly. Conservatorships cover different areas of a person’s wellbeing, in Britney’s case the documentary explains that her’s means she is no longer in control of her finances or medical care – theses are controlled by other people, which up until recently has mainly been her dad. This is where things get iffy and become quite speculative – we don’t completely know how Britney feels about the arrangement or what her dad’s intentions have been all of these years. However, the documentary does give some indication to these questions so it’s definitely worth a watch.

You want a piece of me?

People spent years taking photos of Britney Spears. But did they ever  actually look? | The Independent

“I’m Miss American Dream since I was seventeen
Don’t matter if I step on the scene
Or sneak away to the Philippines
They still gon’ put pictures of my derriere in the magazine”

– Piece of Me by Britney Spears (2007)

One magazine editor admitted that at the time of Britney’s well documented breakdown, paparazzi photos of her were going for $1 million apiece. Yes, you read that right. Can you imagine? Naturally, this has caused a frenzy over the years with blood thirsty paparazzi seeking to snap Britney in compromising positions. There were disheartening scenes of Britney’s breakdown being the question on a family game show – something I found highly shocking and distasteful.

It’s interesting that we seem to often detach the idea of personhood from celebrities which makes it easy to criticise and cuss them. They often feel so far removed from our lives that their feelings don’t seem to matter too much. We are living in a different time (supposedly) but I don’t think it would take much for this to occur again – another celebrity being hounded and pushed to breaking point by the media. We could shrug and argue that is the way the cookie crumbles but consumers are arguably the most important part of the media machine. Yes, tabloids create the horrendous content but we never fail to eat it up! They rely on us buying magazines and engaging with online content in order to create demand and make money. So, we may play a much larger part than we think in all of this…

Holding On to Hope

What does the future hold for Britney? Well, we don’t know. But I’ve been careful to not use the word ‘downfall’ since the connotations are of a point of no return. Yet, I feel that is far from where she is at the moment – she’s fighting her conservatorship and has a very loyal following behind her as she does. There’s been a recent victory in her legal battle as a professional co-conservator, Bessemer Trust has now been appointed by the courts, meaning Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, no longer has sole control over her estate. Not quite total freedom, but a small victory to celebrate in an on-going war.

How to save a life: My Grey’s Anatomy journey so far

First Impressions

There’s something I love about getting to dig into a show – falling in love with the characters, getting immersed in their drama and making their home town/ hangout spots your second home. Currently, I am watching (for the first time) Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime – which is making for quite an experience. I’ve heard a lot here and there about the show over the years but it started when I was quite young so it’s never really been on my radar as something to watch. I was slightly worried when I first started the show since I found Meredith Grey slightly annoying; someone who seems to be in head a lot, quite indecisive and a wallower in self-pity. However, over time she does seem to mature quite amazingly and become more bearable. Nearly reaching the end of season seven (of 15 available on Prime) so, this is a mid-point review; I may have more or very different thoughts to share by season 15.

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‘Dark and twisty’ Meredith Grey with best friend, Cristina

For most people, this show is how is the main way they were introduced to the Shonda Rhimes (or ‘Shondaland’ as her body of work is often nicknamed) but my main introduction to her work was through the more recent shows, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder – both which I admittedly never completed but was definitely hooked on at one point or the other. They were refreshing watches at the time due to both shows having no-nonsense, gets-things-done Black female leads. With Grey’s the character turnover is quite significant but you do slowly grow to care for newbies to the drama such as Lexie Grey, Teddy, Arizona and some of the Mercy West lot – Avery and April.

Series Development

Often, I’ve wondered how people have remained with the show for so long – this is because I usually tell those I talk to about shows that my rule is that more than five seasons of a show are typically unnecessary. With most shows, after a while you see character development and story arcs get increasingly sloppy and more unbelievable. As mentioned, I’m only on season seven of Grey’s but so far, I would categorise it as one of the exceptions to my hypothesis. I like how the show occasionally has episodes that experiment with formatting – In season 7, they have a musical episode where characters mix songs previously used in the drama with their script. Another episode in the season is in documentary format, as documentary makers come to the hospital to see how staff are doing post-shooting incident in season six.

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One of the series most memorable – and tragic – relationships; Izzie Stevens and Denny Duquette

The Characters

It’s probably fair to say that compared to comedy shows, dramas create a deeper sense of connection with their characters because they can’t constantly hide behind the smoke screen of humour. They’re hit on all sides by life, put in difficult situations (professionally and personally) and are forced to make difficult choices. For example, In Grey’s Callie at one point has to make the difficult decision to split with her girlfriend since they couldn’t agree on whether they wanted children or not. Or Mark Sloan suddenly finding out he has had a grown daughter all these years – and that she’s pregnant. Or Miranda’s marriage breaking down because of the demanding nature of her job meaning she’s spending less time with her husband, which was leaving him dissatisfied…and angry. The list could go on with Grey’s – the only thing that is probably a stretch is that despite all the personal drama, the doctors are able to put their lives on pause and actually do their jobs.

The Secret Life of Doctors

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Hospital bad boy, Alex Karev takes an unexpected liking to paediatrics

Every time I get into a show, I usually tend to wonder what it would be like to be in the same profession as the main character(s). In this case that would mean removing appendixes, fixing dislocated bones or even delivering babies. I honestly, could not imagine myself doing any of it; it may not be entirely in line of the reality of doctors but it does give you a newfound appreciation for their skills and ability to endure gruelling 12-hour shifts. However, it does also make me worry slightly for medical professionals, especially for their physical and mental health. You see in Grey’s that the doctors because of the bonds they often form with patients, the doctors often struggle internally as they’re forced to watch those patients disintegrate – or even die. Additionally, hospitals and clinics are always stretched when it comes to resources and funding which can lead to very difficulty situations and choices that have to be made.

A prayer for frontline workers

I feel it’s only right to end with a small prayer for medical workers currently working on the frontline, in the UK and worldwide. This is undoubtedly a difficult time to be in the profession but they continue to press on and we’re thankful for that.

May God hold you in his loving arms

We know tide waves of hopelessness often threaten to make you stumble

And that calls for help seem to fall on deaf ears.

We pray that despite the overwhelming fear you feel each day

That he comforts you

building you up so you’re filled with strength

Ready to face the next challenge that comes through hospital doors.

For The Love of Blogging

I’ve really come to love blogging. My first post was nearly nine years ago now (shout out to that post) – my style has definitely changed as I’ve matured, evaluated my passions and thought more about the content I prefer to work on. I would describe it kind of like the process of breaking into a new pair of shoes; it starts of uneasy but overtime (depending on the shoes) you wear them all the time, the initial struggle becoming only a distant memory

I have so many blog posts in my drafts; ones that I have started having a giant lightbulb of an idea but never seen through to the end (sadly.) I often wonder what would have become of each incomplete article if I had persevered in my writing. But, at the end of the day the blog post topics that are the easiest to write (i.e. the writing just flows) are the ones I know are meant to be and the ones I will most likely post.

Blog writing is something that has a therapeutic effect. Some people knit or exercise, I will often write a post – sometimes it’s the only way to organise my thoughts or rather expel a negative feeling that has been recently consuming me. One post that comes to mind is this one (and this one) since I remember going through a tough time when writing it; one benefit was that it gave me a newfound appreciation for my blog – this outlet I have to freely express my thoughts.

I remember a friend of mine expressed wanting to start a blog and asked for advice since she didn’t know which direction she wanted to take. I’m honestly no expert but realistically, I would say, goals in life change and therefore so will your blog. For instance, with mine I started it as an eager, ambitious teenager hoping to break into the world of journalism (it wouldn’t be wrong to say I sold myself a lot of dreams!) Now? I guess my blog has taken on a life of its own! I’ve tried to keep my posts, relatable and real; the best way to describe them would be as public notes to myself.

I often lie in limbo between writing when I feel and forcing myself out of discipline to write more frequently. However, I’m wary of the latter option because I don’t want something I love, like writing, to turn into a chore. At the moment it remains a leisurely activity – I don’t proofread my things too heavily or fret over the content and structure as I did for university assignments. This year, I am challenging myself with my content – hoping to get more creative with my posts and write more frequently. Additionally, I want to explore the bloggersphere more and follow more amazing bloggers – something at the moment I am (admittedly) not great at! If that’s you let me know; please comment with what you blog about and one of your best posts that your recommend I read 😊

Why don’t you like me?

I think this dance we do through life for the approval of others is interesting. On the one hand you’re told to stop seeking such approval, all you need is your own validation. But does that really transfer to real world? Honestly, the answer is no. Every now and then in certain situations you’ll find yourself hiding or exaggerating parts of your personality in order to be liked or gain the approval of the people in your company. Job interviews? You hide your insecurities and fact you can easily get overwhelmed. Instead, you exaggerate your intellect and ability to work with others. In that very moment you want to be liked, even admired if you’re lucky.

Relatable? This doesn’t make you superficial, don’t worry. However, is does make my point that to some extent we are all walking shapeshifters; adapting our personalities or perceptions of self to gain likability to various social situations. It’s actually necessary for survival and to achieve life goals we have; without being likable to others, we most noticeably wouldn’t be able to inspire or influence others. Teachers and coaches giving pep talks wouldn’t inspire their pupils or team respectively without the recipients of the talk liking their teacher enough to listen, if not respect the words they’re saying.

I was thinking more about this human longing to be liked, to gain approval from peers as I binged watched the first few seasons of The Office US during the first lockdown. For those familiar with the show. you’ll know that Michael Scott, the show’s regional manager and protagonist yearns to be liked by his colleagues a little too much, despite being their superior. This leads to him often pushing the boundaries of his working relationships with them which makes for uncomfortable yet hilarious viewing. Despite how exaggerated the trait is in Michael, it is a relatable one nonetheless, particularly in this age of social media where everyone is a small business of one – hoping to get more views and more likes on their content.

Love me or Hate me

So, we’ve established that people long to be liked and care more about it than they would admit. Yet, it’s impossible to be liked everywhere by everyone, so how do we reconcile our fantasy with our actual reality; that more often than none, people will strongly dislike you for no (obvious) reason.

Two things should be noted here:

  1. In the face of hatred always remember the people that love you – they’re the ones that see something special in you, and will always be your biggest fans. You realise how rare such people are when you realise how unkind the world can be. Never neglect these people or take their appreciation of you for granted!
  2. Be open and willing to take criticism: Dare I say it; sometimes a person’s disliking of you may have valid roots. I remember being close to a friend at university; we would often have random banter or go to society events together. After a few months had gone by I realised we hadn’t met up in a while and messaged her because I missed her company.‘Hey, we haven’t met up in a while, I hope you’re okay… blah blah’

As we discussed how quiet it had been between us, she admitted honestly ‘you always bail out of things we arrange to do and it’s annoying’. At the time I was obviously a bit annoyed and met that response with a flurry of denial. But looking back, what If she was right and in pointing out my flakiness had highlighted a bad habit I had overlooked?

That last point in particular makes a case for importance of self-reflection – sometimes it can be the key to spotting not so obvious bad habits in us before others do.

Then again, self-reflection can be a double-edged sword sometimes, as I find with myself, if we do it too often, too deeply we may find ourselves annoyed about traits we don’t need to change or can’t change [easily] but feel pressured to do so anyway.

There are no simple solutions to staying out of these mental thought traps (unfortunately.) It is worth reimagining it as a tight rope balance between self-worth and likability. The former shouldn’t depend on the latter, it should be something unshakable at our core. Of course, the reality is much different from this ideal, but there’s no harm in keeping it as something we can aim towards, right?

One Month at a Time

Happy New Year!

2021 comes at a weird time – the current pandemic has officially been going on for more than a year and although vaccines have now been rolled out many people are still uncertain about what the future holds. Can I book holidays? Can I continue to plan my wedding? When will I next see my parents? Many questions like these plague people, with no guarantees of answers being close on the horizon.

Typically, at this time of year we plague our minds and journals with new year’s resolutions – some realistic, some not.  Reading more books. Eating healthier. Learning a new language etc. However. lots of our resolutions (without us realising ,perhaps) rely on a degree of certainty and the ability that provides to future plan. For example, if I want to travel more then it may depend on my ability to afford and easily access my destination of choice.

Of course, I’m not saying resolution making capabilities are no longer there, all I say is if you don’t have as many as last year (i.e. pre-COVID), then that is perfectly fine. It is understandable that even the simple act of resolution making would be drastically changed by COVID-19 (as it has also done so well with EVERYTHING else too.) I think we should not be afraid this year to approach it one month at a time. Like everyone else I was simultaneously a spectator to and participant of many of the crazy events of last year. This year I think the key to sanity and a steady joy for me will be to take things slowly and lower my expectations (ever so slightly.) Maybe I’ll get to eat out for brunch again in the summer with my friends. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, I won’t obsess over the details and allow the unknown probability of such events to eat away at my mind; and neither should you.

I do, of course, understand that this one-month-at-a-time approach is a privilege, after all I don’t have a wedding to plan or baby to have. These kind of life events don’t always make this approach an option for those experiencing them. You have to plan in advance for such things- i.e. mid-wife appoints, furnishing a nursery and general preparation for childbirth and nursing a months old infant. I could go on.

Anyway, regards of your plans and resolutions for this year, I hope it is going well so far and pray it will be an amazing one.

What were some of the New Year resolutions you made for this year?

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I’ve made an Instagram for my blog – follow me at @theartofchatter 😊

The Pursuit of Happiness

It’s funny how your laughter often sounds

Like the language my heart would speak

If with each beat it could scream

I love you.

I hope you had a good Christmas, all! 🙂

Would it really be Christmas season without the obligatory Christmas themed post? I think not, so here we are.

I think it’s really important this holiday season that we allow ourselves to be happy. I read a tweet, recently and the person who posted it said although it was her mum’s birthday all she could think about was the thousands of people who lost a parent to COVID-19 and were celebrating their first Christmas without them. The tweet was a saddening read but one that accurately reflects what most people have probably perceived to be the sentiment for this year, which has undoubtedly been a tough one. With all the loss and anxiety caused by the virus outbreak, it does almost feel quite like quite a distasteful move to allow ourselves to be happy, despite the occasion calling for it.

However, I think we must at least try, even if it just means finding happiness in the small things, whether that be from a random ad jingle, the sound of your knife and you butter your toast or the softness of your pillow as you lie to rest. The way finding happiness looks has been different this year – we’ve had to be more creative to find ways that help us relax, refresh or escape. For example, for me I often love to watch theatre productions or films in the cinema. This year has meant having to adapt; I’ve found pleasure in organising group Facetime calls or going for chilled afternoon walks with my neighbour. (And this is being said by someone who typically dislikes calls and feels no shame in taken the bus one or two stops is needed.)

There is a blessing in every minute we have, perhaps we should invest more of those minutes on being happy. In the moments where feeling happy possible it gladdens the heart and keeps us going which, let’s be honest, we’re going to need as we approach the new year.

What activities have you turned to for happiness this year? I would love to know!

All is Fair in Love, War and death

Cast of the show: in the middle hugging – Dong-baek (right) and her son, Pil-gu (left)

Can someone be your miracle?

This is what the Netflix original K-drama When the Camellia Blooms (2019) tries to answer. Dong-baek is a 30-something year old single mum who runs a bar in the small Korean town of Busan. Although she is super nice and meek, she’s an outcast in the town, stigmatised by her single motherhood and the fact her bar has become a popular hangout spot for all the local women’s husbands. Out of jealousy their assumption is that she must be selling much more than drinks to them to attract them there. Of course, the reality is much simpler than that – the men have looked all around for a viable refuge free from prying female eyes and Camellia – Dong-baek’s bar has slowly become just that.

Her son Pil-gu on the other hand, is anything but meek – he has a vicious bite and has become a very avid protector of his mum who is often not only teased by adults but sometimes gossiped about by his age mates at school. In one amusing scene he shouts at some kids for using his mum’s first name – an indicator that to them she isn’t worthy of respect. However, Pil-gu is slowly getting tired of being his mum’s defender, he’s aware the other kids don’t have to be as protective of their mothers and that he’s perhaps doing too much for what is expected of a child his age. He had his annoying moments (like being insistent on his mum not dating) but if I truly tried to see things from his perspective I could understand the fear behind his behaviour. His mum and him against the world is all he has ever known, so he was understandably worried about a disruption to this dynamic.

When it comes to miracles Dong-baek is very sceptical, after all life has been very hard to her. No matter how hard she works she can’t seem to catch a break or make enough to make ends meet. We learn that she suffers from abandonment and trust issues- these stem from the childhood trauma she has around her mum abandoning her. The drama digs more into this set of events later on towards the end, so the drama is worth a watch until the end.

To make matters worse, Dong-baek is being targeted by a serial killer, nicknamed in the town ‘The Joker’ who has stumped the local police force for several years. There is no common thread between the victims except for notes left at every scene with the same words –  ‘stop being a joke’. She has a few close run-ins with him which mess with her confidence and make her fear for her safety. I think the murder plot line helps to sustain the dramas pace and entertainment. We get to play a mental whodunnit as we try to figure out which character we knew had the most motive and means. All I knew was that it had to be someone local that we’ve been introduced to already as an audience. 

Dong-baek reconnecting with her estranged mum.

Overall, this is a heart-warming story of family, love, friendship and redemption. I cried and I laughed. Although Dong-baek seemed annoyingly coy at first, you do grow to love her; every time you put her in a box she defies expectation and surprises you which is something I really liked. Not only does she toughen up as the program progresses, she learns the true meaning of love and friendship through her relationships with Pil-gu, her mum and her boyfriend, Yong-sik. Dong-baek is played by the actress Kong Hyo-jin who starred in one of my favourite dramas, It’s Okay, That’s Love. To some extent the drama is self aware of k-drama romance cliches – at one point Yong-sik askes Dong-baek if they want travel to an island and she refuses, replying that its likely to lead to the cliche of them missing the last boat and having to share a room together at a random inn. And there is no doubt she is very right – that cliche is all too common.

Other dramas that may be of interest that look more at parenthood; Hi,bye mum, Love and Marriage, Was it Love? and One Spring Day. They’re all available on Netflix.

Trailer for When the Camellia Blooms.

For more Netflix reviews from me you can find some here and here.

Uber Horror stories

I’ve noticed my posts tend to be rather serious and topical so I have decided to do something different and more lighthearted this time around. I mean, we could all use more content like that right now, amirite?

Even today as I write this, I just today experienced a less than satisfactory Uber trip where the driver ended up dropping me around the block from the actual destination. He apologised saying he doesn’t know the area very well and I got out the car and walked it to my brother’s house which was the destination concerned. It can be very annoying when drivers don’t know the local area very well but that’s only one of a host of frustrations when it comes to booking an Uber.

Although many drivers have 4+ stars it’s really not accurate reflection of their service. Many just give high ratings to their drivers because it’s a much longer process to try and explain via the app why you want to mark them down. If their driving was dodgy or dangerous, the car smelt or you were sexually harassed – how do do such situations justice through the vague categories you’re forced to choose via the complaints menu on the app?

I remember getting an Uber from Kings Cross station (North London) one time in the evening. I can’t remember the events of the day, I just remember it had been a long day, I was tired and not willing to battle the public on public transport in order to get home. I ordered an Uber and stood rather awkwardly at the edge of the pavement on a busy junction waiting for it to arrive. I suddenly received a notice saying the car was nearby so I put my attention to detail glasses on and started analysing passing car number plates. Next thing I know the car was darting passed me and driving down an adjoining road which is NOT what I placed as the meeting point. Knowing you only have two minutes to enter the car before the ride is cancelled I called him in an attempt to get him to drive up again and nearer towards me. Maybe 5-7 minutes later I finally get in the car, sweaty and frustrated. It’s a shared Uber so a male stranger is casually spread out in the front passenger seat and gives me an amused stare as I enter. The driver turns to be and says he’s so sorry but I have to exit because my order has been cancelled.

AFTER ALL THAT. I really could not explain the frustration I felt on that day. A fire breathing dragon is an accurate visual image right now if you want to try and imagine the rage and annoyance I was feeling. Once I was standing on the road again outside the station the question is; should I risk more money on another Uber or just finally take public transport (an option that looking slightly more attractive with every second that passes.)

Experience has taught me that every Uber you order comes with risk.

Other negative experiences I’ve had include my Uber being STOLEN by a couple standing nearby who I now suspect were simply pretending to wait for an cab themselves so they could pounce. On the same day another driver I had booked before the stolen ride refused to properly tell me where when I called him which inevitably led to the ride being cancelled. You can bet I requested my money back for BOTH of those rides. Another time we were rather aggressively shouted out by our driver who insisted we get out the car and re-enter so we don’t ruin his new white leather interior. (Which no one told you to get, sir.)

These experiences do make me think more widely about some of the toxic relationships we have with certain brands. Despite bad experiences with them – whether it be with the customer service or product itself we keep going back and why?? I keep saying I will delete the Uber app, because realistically there are many attractive competitors that have arisen and established themselves – Free Now (formerly Kapten), Bolt and Ola for instance. But realistically, the reason why we do continue to engage with such brands is because we’re optimists at heart. With every order or purchase we hope for the best – it’s what we know we deserve – as paying consumers who are loyal and have rights. It’s just unfortunate these brands themselves don’t see us that way.

Three Things I wish I had known before starting University

We’ve reached that point in the year where people have graduated in the summer in a flurry, albeit virtually due to government restrictions. September now marks the month many start university for the first time and others start the application process for university. I write this with these groups in mind as I hope I can relay some wisdom to them in order to help them make the most of their university experience.

  • Mental Health Matters

When I say university can be tough, I mean TOUGH in all caps. Reading can pile up and the occasional pest of essay writers block means writing an assignment is not a simple thing you can add to your to-do list and then quickly tick off. Rather, you have to chip away at it over gruelling hours of intense thought and typing. In the midst of all this it’s definitely easy for your mental health to take a back seat. From personal experience sometimes it seemed like every time I took a break i.e. listened to music, took a nap or decided to read something non-academic I was wasting time which could potentially be used to study. From that comes guilt which deters you from doing such relaxing activities often.

Stress can eat away at you for such reasons so it’s important to attend a university that has the mental health of its students high on the agenda; counselling services, leave of absence policies and available resources or stress reducing activities i.e. sports, Pilates, arts, baking etc are important to things to have on campus, for example. If I had known about this in advance, I would have definitely added mental health services to my list of criteria when choosing a university and I would advise prospective students who are shortlisting universities to do this too.

  • Any Placements available? 

I did a philosophy degree so I didn’t see much universities offering this option and I may be wrong but placements don’t often get offered with humanity degrees like the one I did. They’re unfortunately often only for practical based subjects like STEM degrees. But whilst on the search for my first graduate role I realised what a difference one year of work experience (which is what you get on a placement) could make. It would particularly help when trying to tackle the now very common issue of employers require 1-3 years work experience for entry level roles. Or…employers could just be more realistic with expectations and become more willing to invest and train graduate employees, but I degress…

  • University can be lonely.
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

I think this realisation kicked in more in third year if anything. Particularly if all your friends are studying different courses or live away from you this can cause difficulty in frequently aligning your schedules to meet up. This becomes more of the case during exam season where everyone tends to cut themselves off from people more than usual in order to minimise distractions. It puts you in a weird position where you tend to savour social interactions and become more grateful for them. I remember watching late night dramas or having conversations about philosophy and politics with my flatmates in second year and those are honestly some of my more treasured memories. You go away feeling lighter, feeling happier and feeling closer.

Friends are what help to shape the university experience since its purely not enough to attend and attempt to survive with a ‘I only came here to study mentality’. When they say you get what you put in, this applies well to friendships at uni. Where I met most of my friends is through my course and through random societies – socialising with people within these two groups is the best way to bond with people who have similar interests/passions to you.

That’s it from me! I hope this was helpful; people often tend to romanticise the university experience and although yes, it can be rewarding it definitely has its difficulties too. This shouldn’t put you off but it’s always worth having such knowledge so you dive into the experience well equipped and well informed.