High Hopes

By Shan Williams, bursary recipient 2012/13

I remember sitting here 12 months ago, looking through NCTJ courses and telling myself that I was absolutely bonkers for pursuing a pipe-dream.

The reality of the situation was that I was an unemployed mum of two in her thirties, volunteering time with a local paper for work experience. There was no way that I could do the twenty week intensive course because of commitments to my family, and how was I going to fund re-training?

But I burned to be a “proper journalist”. I wanted to write about people, and the amazing things that happened to them. I was itching to write informatively, and felt I had something to say- but who would give me a chance?

Having done my homework on the NCTJ-approved course website, I decided that I’d take a huge gamble and apply for a part-time course at News Associates in Wimbledon. After all, there was no harm in trying.

Part time was ideal for me, but it definitely isn’t for some people. This specific course is extremely intense: a full day on a Saturday and a Monday evening. It allows me to continue freelancing, staff writing for The Dereham Times and, most importantly, bringing up my little ones.

Unlike the twenty week courses or equivalent, where information is bombarded at you daily and you treat study more like a full-time job, part time requires hard work in your own time, which requires a lot of self-control.

A few hours of shorthand daily is required to ensure you don’t forget what you’ve learned in those precious Monday evenings and reading of texts is vital between every lecture.

Grim determination is a requirement, especially when you need to get your portfolio pieces just so. No one will do the work for you.

Yes, after a tough day at work followed by a few hours of family time, it’s hard to get yourself motivated for learning something new.

But it’s all worth it.

Yes, I really miss the long pyjama clad lie ins with the kids on a Saturday putting the world to rights over Coco Pops and coffee, yes I miss weekday evenings slipping into the pages of a good book after they have gone to bed. But it’s all very little sacrifice in pursuit of what was a short year ago, an unachievable dream.

Luckily, I have a very supportive community editor spurring me onward, as well as a great team of experienced journalists at The Dereham Times. Without their advice on courses and funding, contacts and confidence building I doubt that I’d be where I am today.

I find myself thinking of how hopeless things looked 12 months ago, and thanks to the Journalism Diversity fund, I’m doing what I was passionate about in the first place. Now all I need to do is get those exams, and nail the ideal job.

And I have high hopes.