Carla Francis graduated from the course Communications and Politics in 1999, now Politics BA (Hons) After graduating, Carla worked as a special needs teaching assistant and then embarked on her adventures in Japan and later Australia. We caught up with Carla to hear about her experiences from London Met and how she found her life’s purpose in Japan.
Hi Carla, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your career journey?
I am a published author of two books and also work as a freelance writer. In 2012, I founded a pet-friendly travel website and published the 1st Edition of a pet-friendly guidebook, which is now on its 5th print edition. In November 2021, my travel memoir, The Cat with Three Passports, was released and will soon feature in Reader’s Digest.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Growing up in Sussex I used to watch my aunt, who was a journalist, writing up stories and was intrigued by storytelling and reporting. I just wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in after I left London Met. So I worked at a couple of further education colleges before travelling to Australia and then Japan. Japan was where I discovered ikigai (or your life purpose) where you can turn your passion into a job. For me, that was writing and animals.
What made you come to London Met to do your course?
Having grown up in south east England, I wanted to come to the capital. When I realised how central the University was, I knew it was the right place for me. I loved being able to walk to Tower Hill and around Old Street, and especially Brick Lane. London Met offers a wide range of courses and this is reflected in the type of people who study there.
What did you enjoy about the University?
The opportunity to study at London Met opened up a world of possibilities. I met and studied with people from diverse backgrounds, which made me curious about the world beyond my own. This sparked my interest in travelling to far off places. It is this interest that led me to travel the world and be a resident in Japan for almost four years, write my second book about the experience and become an Australian citizen.
What is your favourite memory of your time at London Met?
Definitely making friends from all over the world would have to be my favourite memory of my time spent at London Met. Also probably the funniest memory was when my friend, Shanie and I, (rather unsuccessfully) ran for SRC (student representative council). Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we had a lot of fun running our controversial campaign slogans!
How has your course at London Met helped you become a published writer?
The course taught me how to be a better writer, especially on the elective Print Journalism module. It also prepared me with academic skills that I have used later in life when I taught at an Australian university. I remember taking the essay writing class and applying some of that knowledge to my students years later.
Did you get to do any practical/work experience as part of your studies?
During my last year at London Metropolitan, I undertook an internship at the United Nations Association in Whitehall, which I remember feeling quite intimidated about at the time. The internship involved writing briefing papers on human rights issues for the Model UN packs and organising hearings on nuclear disarmament. I was the only intern who had come from London Met and felt a little out of my league.
Do you have any advice for graduates starting out in writing?
Take every opportunity to work on and build up your portfolio. When I lived in London, I was surrounded by so many creative people and could have used the opportunity more to learn and network with them. Also, try to see the potential in everything and never think your work is not good enough. Like every skill, you need to hone your craft and you get better with time and most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Never say ‘no’ to any offers to further your creativity no matter how small the opportunity is – you never know where it’s going to lead to and may be the next big thing in your career!
What is it about your work that you enjoy the most?
Connecting with like-minded people and running my own timetable are probably the two things I enjoy most – although it can be difficult to switch off sometimes. I have to remember to schedule in downtime nowadays but I do like the variety. One week might be slow and steady, the next week you are inundated with offers of work or interviews – it never gets boring!
Could you tell us the pros and cons about setting up on your own?
The pros are the large network of online colleagues I have met along the way and the networking opportunities that this brings. However, it can get quite lonely sometimes and it is often difficult to find answers to questions you need when you are working on your own as a freelancer. I always think it would be nice to have someone with experience on hand to ask questions when they arise. Also, I have learnt the importance of setting routines to keep me on track, and try as much as possible to stick to a daily schedule to avoid overworking!