JUDE BARBACK catches up with JETmag editor Miah Kennett about the realities young people are facing as they transition from school to work, training or higher education.
I can hear the roar of traffic in the background as Miah Kennett answers her telephone. She is dashing home from uni as she takes my call.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “I’m just crossing a really busy road.”
It’s an apt metaphor. Kennett’s life at the moment could be likened to crossing a really busy road. Juggling the pressures of university study with her role as JETmag editor means her days are full and varied.
Kennett is grateful for her flexible work arrangements, but also thinks they reflect the lifestyle of JETmag readers. JET stands for Jobs, Education and Training but it could just as easily stand for Juggling, Enterprise and Tensions or indeed anything that defines the lives of young people striving to balance work, study and play.
“I am the demographic,” says Kennett in reference to the JETmag readership. “I understand exactly who I’m writing for and what I’m writing about.”
The magazine’s newly revamped website and host of young and savvy bloggers and contributors is currently having an impact on young Kiwis making some of the trickier decisions about their lives as they take their first steps post-high school.
“There’s a lot of pressure on young people today,” she says. “Some experience a lot of anxiety.”
Kennett says she thinks student loans and debt weigh particularly heavily on young people’s shoulders. She admits to a “fear of the unknown” when it comes to debt and believes there needs to be more education on the topic for students. She has avoided taking out a student loan so far and is trying to pay her fees as she goes, but not at the expense of missing the opportunities that come with being a student.
Student debt features among the content on JETmag, along with articles ranging from ‘how to get inside information on a job’ to ‘travel vs work vs university’ and even to one on the polarising Pokémon Go app.
A recent blog post entitled ‘My Depresh’ caught the attention of many, with the magazine inundated with requests for reprinting and praise for the bold and honest account of a student’s battle with depression.
“It went crazy,” said Kennett, of the article. “I think it shows how it is now more acceptable to talk openly about mental health.”
Kennett believes the magazine plays a “massive role” in helping people source the information and advice they’re seeking, whether it is dealing with depression or debt, seeking a scholarship or contemplating studying abroad.
“I used to Google questions I had about study, loans, courses and so on and have to scroll through everything for ages. Sites like JETmag.co.nz and Careers New Zealand are great for sorting out the relevant stuff – they essentially do the work for students.”
Q&A: Harry Reid, JETmag contributor
As a regular contributor to JETmag, HARRY REID shares the highs and lows of transitioning from high school to university.
If you had to boil it down to just a few points, what advice would you give someone approaching the transition from school to tertiary education?
Harry Reid (HR): Personally, I think that one of the most important things that one can do at this stage is to make sure that they are pursuing their interests. Subsequently, this might actually mean deciding against attending university for the time being, or it might simply mean deciding on a course that you are genuinely invested in – so long as it’s not a forced decision.
Also, I think that a big part of university is the social opportunity that it provides so making sure that one has a balance of work and play is really important. It’s easy to get caught up on the work side of things, especially in the first few weeks, but taking time to step back and socialise can actually be incredibly therapeutic.
Generally speaking, do you think there is enough support for young people making decisions about their next steps?
HR: I think this varies depending on the services that schools provide in relation to course and careers advice. For instance, my high school was really good in this regard as they recognised that study beyond high school wasn’t for everybody and so they found ways to cater for these students.
However, in general I’ve noticed that attending university after high school has become that of an expectation as opposed to a decision, which is a really unhealthy notion to be enforcing on students that can’t or don’t want to attend university, as they’re left feeling inadequate.
Do you think that sharing your experiences will help others in the same boat?
HR: It’s hard to say for sure, but if there’s a chance that it does then I will keep documenting them. Everyone’s experiences are likely to differ slightly so I aim to provide a broad overview of what mine are like, so that people can slot themselves in accordingly.
Do you think young people are under a lot of stress? In what ways?
HR: By and large, I would have to say yes. Since about year 11 I can recall my peers – me included – being constantly worried about something on the horizon, whether it be assignments, finding a job, and so on. I think most of this stress comes from an uncertainty of what the future will bring as people slowly reach the point of having to be self-sufficient, instead of being able to rely on parents.
Knowing what you do now, if you could give your 15-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
HR: Hmm, I feel like there’s no way of answering this question without sounding relatively cliche, but I think I would stress the fact that a lot changes in three years (as I’m now 18), and for the most part, for the better. In those three years I experienced changes in schooling, friends, opinions and so on – all of which led me to where I am now, which I’m happy about.
What role do sites and forums like JETmag play in helping arm young people with information and advice?
HR: I think that by reading about the experiences of others, these forums have the ability to provide young people with a stronger world view. For instance, reading these experiences provides one with someone else’s perspective and a greater understanding of their own. Therefore, by having such a diverse range of authors on these forums, readers are able to relate to, and perhaps learn from, these various voices.
Do you enjoy contributing to JETmag? Why/why not?
HR: I have definitely enjoyed it so far. I’ve always wanted to have a blogging space and so when this came up it was the perfect opportunity. It’s nice being able to have the chance to address issues on a greater platform than something like having a one-on-one conversation with someone. Also, if it means that someone takes something of value away from one of my pieces then it’s even better.