All aboard the NCTJ rollercoaster

By Wendy Oloya, bursary recipient 2010-2011

Two weeks from now I will have completed the fast-track Newspaper Journalism course at News Associates in London. The past five months have been nothing short of an insane rollercoaster ride, and I have felt every emotion under the sun since the course began.

The easiest way to explain it is in a series of stages. The first is what I refer to as the ‘initial excitement’ stage. For the first day, week and even month you are on a natural high; excited to meet new people, intrigued by new subjects and eager to work hard and please the tutors. This euphoria translates from classroom to newsroom, as you begin your Friday placement, arriving with fresh and exciting ideas and dreams of what you hope to achieve there.

Once you’ve passed this stage you’ll enter the ‘settling in’ stage. It’s amazing how fast you go from having trouble remembering people’s names to giving those very same people cheeky nicknames. Then there’s the ‘I don’t know how long I can carry this on for’ stage. I’ll be honest. As much as I am grateful and glad that I embarked on the course, there was a point where I felt as if I was running on empty with nothing more to give. The intensive nature of the course has taken a great physical and emotional toll on me.

Cue the mini shorthand breakdown. It doesn’t discriminate against location, so be prepared for it to take place in the classroom, the toilets or at home. This is not to say that it happens to everyone but for some it will. However, in my case, this hiccup only spurred me on to work harder on shorthand, and it paid off as in week 10 I gained 100wpm and felt a huge sense of achievement.

Then you reach the ‘final countdown’ stage – preparing for the last exams and shedding tears as you say goodbye to your new family. If you decide to embark on an NCTJ-accredited fast-track course, you’ll soon realise how difficult it is to explain the pressures of the course to anyone outside of it so you rely on your new family to laugh with, vent with and to fall back on. Writing this piece has made me realise just how much I am going to miss them all.