Following my attempt at entering a writing competition during the Summer I took on board all of your suggestions about how I could improve my writing style and found the help and guidance really useful and very encouraging.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw an article in the Guardian about another competition aimed at students and asking them to share their experiences of their first day at University.


I read the outline :

       “The judges will be looking for blogs that use a crisp, conversational writing style, free from jargon and abstract nouns. We want specific examples of what you experienced on your first day at university, not vague generalisations. We need writers to paint a clear picture that readers can imagine. We are looking for originality and something out of the ordinary. Your article needs to feel meaningful to other students, not simply list one event after the other. A catchy intro and a strong finish are essential. There should be a logic and a flow of ideas throughout the piece. You need to engage personally with the reader in your own voice, and perhaps quote other people too. The reader shouldn’t feel they are reading a lecture.”


I thought to myself, a blog article, I can do that 🙂  So I sat down and after several false starts I came up with what I hoped was an improvement on my last attempt.  I hope that it displays that I have taken on your suggestions and that the piece gives a more personal view of my first day at University.

Here is my entry :

From the minute I opened my eyes in my student attic bedroom I could feel a frisson of excitement racing through me.  Hair styled straight or curly?  Should I wear make-up or go natural? And what should I wear?  Jeans and a casual look or trendy chic? The clothes I picked the night before didn’t seem right that morning.  Can’t wear heels – too big a walk.  Should I pack my heels and wear flats?  All of these important decisions were running through my brain.  I wanted to make the right impression; I had learned that people make their mind up about you within three seconds of meeting you.  Yikes!

Aspirations for that year flooded through my head as I walked decisively, alone, up-hill to college.  I could feel the blood surging through my body as I waited to begin.  I was hoping for a great day full of new challenges.  Up the tall steps I walked, through the main doors, and I immediately felt at home – even though I missed the top step and casually fell with grace into the entrance.  Luckily I smiled as I dove into the room, so my confidence held.

I had packed a wheeled briefcase full of musical scores, wanting to be prepared for any occasion.  Timetable at the ready, I met friends from fresher’s week, and I introduced myself to everyone I met.  The conservatoire foyer had the look and feel of a bustling bazaar bombarding me with mesmerising sounds: consonants, vowels, mouth and tongue clicks, with a wide variety of languages being spoken and musical instruments played.  Hearing a bright brass quartet surprised me, but looking back now I understand that being washed with energetic music is just a regularly daily occurrence, as is walking past symphony orchestra rehearsals.  It’s a wonderful atmosphere.  The underlying smell of the place was of old sheet music and I made obsessive use of the hand sanitising machines as fresher’s flu was doing the rounds.

Lunchtime came quickly.  I’d packed my favourite cold butty: brown buttered bread topped with mature Cheddar cheese and tomato ketchup (-yummy-), a banana and bottled water.  I was just about to tuck in when I heard the most amazing sound coming from behind me.  I turned quickly….

But that is another story…

My first day in my student halls of residence ( Sep 2012 )

Though I did not make the final short-list I enjoyed reliving my first day experience and I hope that I gave you a flavour of life at the RCS.  You can check out the finalists and their entries on the Guardian website.

74 thoughts on “Try, Try again

  1. I love reading your blogs Charlotte,you make them so easy and interesting, they make my day, I laughed out loud when I read the bit about missing the top step and falling through the door, it tickled my sense of humour . Keep up the blogging you are doing a brilliant job.x

    1. Thank you 😉 . The prize was a week’s work experience at The Guardian in London getting to meet Guardian journalists which would have been fabulous. I’d even lined up Matt’s settee to sleep on for the week, so I guess he’ll be relieved 😉

      Best wishes

  2. Your writing brings your world to life for me. I can plainly see those valises full of scores, your trepidation at a new life beginning, your humor at the stumble.

    Your writing style is fascinating to me, Being a Yankee farmboy in New England.
    I’ve never heard the phrase “conservatoire foyer ” used together in a cohesive sentence and imagining them spoken by you in an English accent made me smile. Good job and good luck.

    I think you’d fit right in with the conservatory set in Boston, and that’s a very good thing.
    If you ever perform there, or in NY, or in Montreal, I’ll be there to applaud,

    Waiting for your next chapter.


    1. Hi J, lol 😉 It wasn’t so long ago that I hadn’t heard of a Conservatoire either. I never worry about fitting in I’m a bit of a mimic and when I spend long periods of time in anyone’s company I start taking on their accents. I love the idea of you coming to watch one of my concerts, I might even compose a song about a Yankee farmboy going to his first classical concert to see me.

      Best wishes

    1. That’s very supportive Frances thank you 🙂 my entry was in a completely different style and I didn’t really have the anxiety aspect. I noticed lots of the other candidates were on English courses so the week at the Guardian will really be great for them especially if they want to go into journalism. Although I learnt last week that two composers Schumann and Schubert turned their hand to journalism to critic music.

      Best wishes

  3. Very good. I was there. And the thing was written from the first person point of view. There is only one phrase/sentence where you went to a third person: casually fell with grace. This sounds like you are observing the character falling.

    1. I’m always using the wrong tenses and mixing first/third person writing up but it wouldn’t be me if it was perfect English 🙂 when I fell it was like an out of body experience 😉 lol
      Best wishes

    1. I must improve my biographies and learn to be more concise and decide what is the most important and interesting bits to get over in both short and long programs so anything like this is always good practice.

      Best wishes

  4. Nicely written, you met the guidelines and then some. brought back memories from my own first day at University in Arizona 52 years ago now. The most important part of writing is that it makes you think and see in your mind what you wish to share. For a brief moment you see us reading your words, and when we actually do, we see you writing them. It brings alive the creative mind, the one which you are using to study music. As you stand on stage, these efforts will support you as you sing stories to your audience.

  5. And then!? I want to
    Love your writing, I can see it while I’m reading. I also love it’s not too long a read, but that’s just me being busy with my art… There’s only so many hours in a day. 😉

    1. I love being in University I’m so happy to have the opportunity to go my parents have always wondered what it would have been like so now they live it through my brothers and me.

      Best wishes

  6. Good on you for persevering! I definitely got the sense of excitement mixed with a bit of anxiety of a first day at uni. Good luck with the competition!

  7. Sending good vibes and prayers you win…but if not, It sounds like you’ll have enjoyed the experience and writing practice. Always fun and a bit scary to enter, but then so glad when we do. Enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, I don’t mind that the judges didn’t it was a great exercise which made me smile when I wrote it. I have some wonderful memories and it seems a shame not share some of them 🙂

      Best wishes

  8. Excellent job, Charlotte! I’m sure the judges will be impressed. You painted a lovely picture of your first day. I hope you win. Can’t wait to find out.

    1. Hi Deanie, I didn’t get in the final seven sadly, it was good practise though and challenging to do it in 400 words. You can read the finalists on the link below the last picture though 🙂
      Thank you I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      Best wishes

    1. I think I like Jack’s piece the best from the seven finalists and I have a story about a box of Freddo’s (chocolate shaped frogs) whilst in my student digs so perhaps that’s why lol 🙂

      Best wishes

  9. Charlotte, you ought to write novels! I want to know the “other story” now! I liked your entry much more than any of the finalists–it was creative and personal. I compared it with your earlier writing competition entry, and you have definitely improved. Writing, like singing, is counterintuitively simple. The more relaxed you are and having fun, the more you will be able to do all the “technical” things right. If you just focus on the technicalities, you end up being boring. And your writing and singing are never boring! Congratulations! You won the competition in my mind, anyway!

    1. Hi Krishnan, didn’t make the final seven 😉 I’ve made that a bit more clear now in the post. You can read the finalists work and vote for your favourite at the link above.

      Best wishes

  10. Good piece, keep on trying. Someone should have told you that judges have jaded palates and they are ALL allergic to stories that start with dreams or waking up (don’t ask me why, I guess they must just see too many). NB research shows that successful people have more failures than unsuccessful people (it takes a moment to work that out, but you’ll understand). I fell down some open wood stairs on my first day at Uni. I remember getting up with this weird smile on my face and insisting I was fine as I tried hard not to cry. I had the most almighty bruises on my backside for nearly a fortnight.

    1. Hello Hilary, I didn’t know that about dreams or waking up I’ll remember that now. I understand failing just makes me want to achieve more. I laughed out loud when I read you last piece I’m a complete clutz so I connected with your experience and felt your pain 🙂

      Best wishes

      1. Not a problem at all! Most of my writing is off the top of my head, normally it comes to me and I write it down in full, revise words because I am picky and then put it up online. I have full short stories but I am actually afraid to put it up online because of plagiarism. But, to get my mind racing sometimes I will listen to Explosions In The Sky or God is an Astronaut.

  11. Hi Charlotte,
    Thanks very much for the follow on my blog. It’s a pleasure to have you join the fun.
    You were the guest of honour today in my daily fifteen-minute classical music chill session. Yesterday was Anna Netrebko. You both do a very fine O Mio Babbino Caro. Your inpterpretation felt slightly weightier with emotion, at least that’s how I perceived it.
    Tomorrow I’m all about the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves. I could listen to that for hours. I’m always open to suggestions, too!

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