When I left home in September 2018, I vaguely had an idea of what publishing studies involved. I had applied for MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland and MA Publishing at London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London. Factors such as tuition fees and scholarship decided my final choice of university. So, Edinburgh, here I am!
I remember my first day of induction when I reached an hour late to the class, and ever since then have been doomed to reach places late! I was anxious and excited to see that I was the only Asian student in the classroom. Nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting a mixture since most of them from my country (India) tend to go towards engineering, management and medical (it’s filled with Asian students, not guessing).
MSc Publishing course is divided into trimester – three semesters in one full-time academic year. My first semester had modules that introduced me to the world of publishing. The various roles and responsibilities assigned in a publishing house – Editorial, Production, Marketing, Sales, PR, Rights and Contracts. We were evaluated on projects that emphasised on building our technical skills in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop as well as researching on bookshops and publishing houses based in Edinburgh. We had group presentations and discussions that encouraged us to participate and debate on various subjects. It was tough for me; grappling with culture shocks, getting accustomed to cold weather, staying abroad without family or friends, trying to understand the grading system, coping with different methods of learning, and so on. There were too many changes bombarding me all at once for the first four months. It was tough, I won’t lie.
Meanwhile, I volunteered at various events related to book and magazine publishing to build a strong network. I was fortunate to stumble upon opportunities and took up as many positions of volunteering as possible, simply to be visible and get professional exposure. Two months into the course, I also took up a part-time job in hospitality. Not only did it provide me with some pocket money, but it also engraved deep respect for people working in that industry.
After finishing my first semester with decent grades, we then moved on to modules that focussed on our professional development and book/magazine production abilities. The semester also involved doing a compulsory internship at a bookshop, publishing house, library or an event and write a reflective report about the experience. I chose to make a literary magazine for my assessment. The process involved making everything from scratch. Cover design, photographs, making contracts for contributors, taking an interview with a micro-press publishing house, sitting for n number of hours on the desktop and making sure the result is aesthetically pleasing and rich in content. This project enhanced my production and marketing skills. Hand-on experience of working with live projects is something that I did not come across during my previous academic years. I also interned at a bookshop where I was mentored with encouragement, and learned skills like typesetting and proofreading on InDesign, gained retail experience, observed the author-editor relationship and important steps that should be taken in the process of making a book. I was also assigned to organise an event, in turn, to promote the bookshop via various digital platforms. Attending the London Book Fair this year showed me the vast opportunities and competition within the publishing business. Our professors also planned a trip to Glasgow giving us the opportunity to see the printing and production process of renowned organisations. All for the love of books!
Few obstacles that I faced as a student are more personal than professional. When I go to an event or an organisation, I seldom see people from BAME (black, Asian, minority and ethnic) backgrounds, and it does feel intimidating at times. Thankfully, my experience has been very positive. I took the time to develop the confidence of asking for help both professionally and personally and understand it’s okay when things aren’t looking great for you. I have applied for many internship opportunities and have been rejected multiple times. But every time I got rejected, I asked for feedback so I could improve. With time, patience and efforts, I now thankfully have backed up a Campaigns and Sales internship at one of the most renowned publishing houses in Scotland. I now look forward to broadening my network and engage in professional work developing my skills. Funnily, as an aspiring publisher surrounded with books frequently, I barely get time to read them. I call it – the publishers curse!
Other than academics, my experiences as a student have been wonderful. There are times when I terribly feel underachieved, especially when I compare myself with others. But taking time for myself and improving both mentally and emotionally is a part of this journey as well. I have made friends from different countries and have learned so much ever since I have stepped into this place. I have developed new tastes for a variety of food and drinks, engaged myself to be lost in the city, fallen in love with libraries and librarians, run marathons and celebrate every little success with wine! Edinburgh is notorious for its gloomy weather but is astoundingly gorgeous with scenic views and rich culture. Scottish pipes, I can already hear them!
I will soon start my third semester commencing on 21st May 2019. This semester will mainly focus on writing a dissertation which is prerequisite for getting an MSc degree. With three and a half months towards finishing my course, I can’t wait to meet my family and probably go on a solo trip to Europe. Like my father says time and again – always dream big.
There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.Winston Churchill