BA History and Politics - Jessica Frank-Keyes
Years at UEA
Journalist at PA Media
Previous roles include: Membership and Communications Officer at Student Publication Association, and Reporter at Archant.
During her time at UEA, Jessica completed internships with the Sun and the Independent.
She was also a keen writer for Concrete, the UEA student newspaper, which gave her the experience needed to break into the world of journalism. Here, she talks about how her time at UEA helped her to get onto the career path that she wanted.
What first drew you to study at UEA?
When I came to the open day I loved the welcoming atmosphere of the campus and Norwich itself.
The people seemed really friendly, and it became one of my top places that I wanted to go. I ended up staying in Norwich for three years after graduation!
What was your experience of teaching within lectures and seminars on the History and Politics course?
My history and politics lectures were brilliant, although I probably leaned a bit more towards history because I realised that was where my interests were.
I particularly loved a module that I did on the history of human rights. Teachers were always very supportive, and when it came to doing my dissertation I was able to focus on journalism which made everything fit together nicely. I am a deadline-motivated person and my advisor helped me to break the dissertation down into chunks so that I had different deadlines at Christmas and then Easter. I got to focus on a topic and then find different areas of interest within it, so I enjoyed the freedom of that.
Did you get involved in employability opportunities during your time at UEA?
A friend recommended going to the Working with Words careers event which runs every year, and I attended it and found out about different careers opportunities that were running.
I put in an application and I was fortunate enough to get a place on an internship at The Independent, so for two weeks I would travel into London every day and go into the offices, and it was great to see what a national newsroom is like. I got to research and pitch ideas, and it was my first experience of being in a professional environment.
I also did some work with The Sun in the lifestyle section. At first I was in an unpaid position but then later they offered me some paid work, which was really great as a student! We actually used some stories from the PA Media website, which I’m now on the other end of producing in my current job, so it’s interesting to see how it all works.
Were you involved in any societies during your time at UEA?
One of the things I actually looked at when choosing which university to attend was whether they had a student newspaper, and I found that UEA has the Concrete newspaper.
I threw myself into it in first year as a news reporter, and then in my second year I was a news editor, and by third year I was one of two deputy editors. Some of my closest friends now are people that I met working on Concrete. I also joined the History society, and I was able to go on trips to Budapest and Berlin, which was brilliant because I might never have gone to those places otherwise. And of course we did lots of fun socials, so it was a nice way to meet people on the course!
How did the History and Politics course prepare you for a career in journalism?
It was great to study something that I knew would help me to develop my knowledge more generally.
I often spent late nights in the library trying to wrap my head around the reading. Journalism is such a fast-paced career, so it was useful to be studying a course where you need to learn to deal with lots of information at speed.
What was your career pathway like following your graduation from UEA?
I knew that I wanted to be a journalist before I came to UEA, and while I was studying I tried to find opportunities in journalism, especially as graduation began to approach.
I approached the EDP (Eastern Daily Press), which is a local Norfolk newspaper, in order to get work experience, and I was later offered a job there which I began just before graduation.
What is your current career?
I am a journalist for the Real Life Features team at PA Media which is a UK news agency in London, and I’ve mostly been working from home since joining.
My day-to-day work involves looking at exclusive real-life stories which we get sent by people, who we then sometimes sign with and interview. We then publish their stories online on the PA Media platform which is available to other news outlets, and we often see the stories that we publish run in national papers and sometimes on TV.
It’s really rewarding to work on stories highlighting people who are fundraising for medical treatment for their loved ones, or campaigning for research on rare medical conditions. It can be emotional, but it is rewarding to know that you are helping them by publicising their work.
What advice would you give to students who are considering studying History and Politics at UEA?
There are going to be great opportunities to study things that you're interested in, but don’t be afraid to try new things that you don’t know much about because you might find that you end up loving it.
Definitely get involved in as many activities as you can, because there’s so much going on at UEA. Don’t panic if you don’t meet your people and fit in right away, because you’ve got so much time to meet people and it’s such a welcoming place. I’m jealous that I’m not starting again soon!