Meet Luke Wolstenholme, Founder and Creator of The Naked Studentpodcast. An audio platform highlighting concerns, dilemmas and united experiences within the student, graduate community. With the recent pandemic, the platform has gained significant traction amongst students, school leavers and young minds in the graduate community; who now more than ever, understand and share the perilous struggles of being an ambitious youth in a depressing world.
Luke Wolstenholme is a 23-year-old master’s student, now studying Broadcast Journalism at City University, London. He previously studied History at the University of Edinburgh, and since graduating, spent a few months working for an education-based start-up. In this time, he was searching to find ways to engage with students and schools. Podcasting was not on his radar because newsflash, Luke, founder of a now extremely successful podcast, had never listened to a podcast in his life!
“It’s weird how you just stumble across something…working for this start-up, we we’re trying to find ways to engage with the schools and students that we work with. Podcasting seemed like a popular thing, something to try. But I’d never listened to a podcast before leaving university. I stumbled across it…and I thought these are sick, how the hell have I not found these before, would have helped me so much at uni with my degree — listening to something and being able to flesh out ideas.”
At 23, Luke reflects the creativity and dynamism within our Generation. His talents in broadcasting and his work on the podcast made him a desirable candidate for his master’s course. Luke’s passion for his discipline is what lead him to develop and persevere beyond every set-back he has gone through. In conversations, he opens up about the loss of his mother, the challenges he faced during his studies and the recent difficulties the pandemic has brought to his life.
“When you can match [the concept] of being good at something and actually enjoying it, that’s when you have to consider if you want to do it long term.”
Sometimes your ability to do something is simply measured by the enjoyment you have towards it. The passion for ‘doing’ is what gets results and leads you onto new paths. When Luke started the podcast, under his own direction and away from the requirements of his start-up, he began to make it his own, and take a more journalist approach.
“There’s so much more to Journalism; interesting conversations…interesting ideas and interesting topics to get people thinking. So, when I started doing TNS as my own thing…I decided to turn it into a more journalist approach. I never considered being a journalist and now I wish I found it sooner.”
In this experience, Luke learnt a lot about himself and his practice. Learning to combine his interests for broadcast journalism with a community space of open and engaging dialogues that people want to hear. The podcasting world removes the mediatized jargon found in many traditional outlets. The word ‘naked’ serves to convey this degree of transparency that Luke has with his listeners.
“…I [include] informative episodes such as our series on Racism — that’s very informative, a journalist endeavor. But I mix that in with really deep [and intimate] episodes. That’s the idea of the naked student: bearing all, having conversations…revealing yourself…ideas and issues that everyone has to go through.”
This approach is quite new, it’s an order that has no linear narrative. No two episodes are the same: some will leave you feeling emotional and stimulated, i.e. topics on racism and LGBTQ+ discrimination, and others will leave you dying of laughter as you compare tragic but intimate university mishaps. These are qualities that challenge the formality of traditional broadcasting. Luke has cultivated and captured the human experience of his own and those of his peers, reflecting the rollercoasters of life. No two days are the same, so why should we talk of them as if they are?
In his response, he covers the notable fluctuation in severity, but highlights that this is part of life. Some episodes will be hard to listen too, ‘no one wants to listen to death for half an hour, but this is what we all go through at some point in life…’
A lot can be learnt from this style of communication. If we live these experiences, witness them, then we should be able to converse and normalize discussions around them. If we don’t discuss our difficulties, or our experiences, we cannot learn from them. And it’s safe to say there are many ‘lessons learnt’ from The Naked Student Podcast.
It’s fascinating; in this topic of ‘seriousness’, we as young people are rarely taken seriously. We go through issues and difficulties but yet in wider social circles, we are never recognized for our ability to handle substance.
“…there are thousands, [if not] millions, of students and hardly any of them are taken seriously or brought into the conversations. [There] are policies affecting millions of people [students], and [students] have to be an important voice in any decision being made…”
Saving the political rants for another day, everything that Luke is doing has re-imagined how we see the world, and how the world sees us. Young people can handle serious affairs because they experience them just like everyone else.
“The reason I do [this] is because I know that I’m helping people…I love hearing from people who get in touch [to say] I listened to this, this helped me think about things in a different way, or this inspired me to do this…”
Many will be familiar with the folktale: the emperor’s new clothes? For those who aren’t, let me give a brief backstory. As the story goes, the emperor was deceived by two swindlers who offered to dress him in luxury clothing that would be invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. Throughout the making process, many officials including the emperor himself could not actually see the fabric, but equally avoided pointing this out from fear of coming across stupid. Fast forward and the suit is now complete and given to the emperor to wear at a townhall appearance. The townsfolk appease the pretense that this clothing is of luxury and unseen to their common eyes. Only later, when a young boy mentions that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ do they realize the con that has taken place. But to everyone’s surprise, the emperor, with his head high, continues to walk through the crowd. Prouder than ever…
This is a story of many hidden meanings, but to students and graduates it carries many connotations. Students across the country, around the world, can relate to the experiences of the emperor; a cloak of hubris to disguise the realities of student life and the arduous ‘adult’ world.
“I don’t know about you, but things changed [for me] when I [turned] 18. I had to deal with real-world issues. There was this change… everything is great, I’m having fun, nothing bad can ever happen, and then things change and you’re like oh wow…”
In parallel to the story, every student will turn 18, potentially leaving home for the first time, dressed in a uniform of ‘hand-holding’ from teachers, educators, parents and, or relatives. We wore clothing that covered how raw the world can be. Luke, I, and many others in our generation know the loneliness and isolation that comes with being an adult, but we keep it hidden for the sake of not appearing weak. Now, the childhood cloak is withering away, and we struggle to grasp an accessible form of conduct that has similar ease.
“Being an adult is tough, being at uni is tough. You will have a lot of awkward encounters [with people who are] probably feeling as lonely and isolated as you.”
We all walk into this new stage of adulthood wearing ‘clothing’ that is far from reality. Only now, in instances such as TNS, do we finally breathe some fresh air: accepting the fact that life is a challenge, but the challenge is what keeps us motivated for the next adventure. Experiences, good or bad, build character. Having character leads to success.
So, yes, moral of the story: entering the student space, becoming an adult, is like walking down the street with no clothes on. However, and not to sound too cringy, we’re all naked students (no pun intended) who just have to hold our heads high and prosper through, prouder than ever.
Distractions come in interesting and unexpected ways. Distractions in every sense of the word, deter us from an impending realization we are too, either positively or negatively, overwhelmed to face. Part of being an adult is recognizing when a distraction is taking place, accepting that at some point things will end and we have to face the music.
“After my mother passed, I distracted myself for a year and a half. [It was partly] going out a lot, [partly] going on my phone a lot. Anything to [avoid] thinking. But then I decided to [think] more and I started to cry more…I was beginning to take it on board. [And] now [I can say] it has made me a much better and more positive person.”
“It also came from my friend Sam, and people who are reading this, need to check out the episode: Live life so that when death comes it can take nothing away. Best episode we’ve ever done — we had thatconversation. He [Sam] passed away [earlier this year] from Ewing Sarcoma; it’s terminal, it’s a really difficult one. That was a struggle for all of us, but his mindset… Anyone else: you can’t even fathom it, you’re just depressed; why is this happening to me. But he was like: nah, what will this solve? It doesn’t change anything. Embrace it. He rammed that point home for me: feel bad feelings. We hate feeling bad feelings. Anything but feeling bad. But it is really important to understand, it makes you more empathic. It’s important that people take that on board: the power of distraction.”
For Luke, the podcast was a good distraction. It channeled his energy into a medium that allowed him to positively focus on a passion he enjoyed. He was very clear to emphasis that his pleasure from this role stemmed from the creative freedom it harbored. Going back to earlier discussions on learning to work and working to learn, when we do something, we’re both good at and enjoy, we know we’re on the right path. Your enjoyment to something maintains your motivation, keeps you going forward, and if you’re good at it then the success is bound to happen.
“Having real conversations help us process things, believe in [ourselves] that little bit more. Or be able to deal with the bad stuff so that [we] can push forward. I feel like bad things hold us back more than we realize… [If we] can figure out a way to bring the best of ourselves well then…”
The same applies to the wider graduate experience. Many of us are encouraged, or rather, socially compelled to work for big corporate organizations; the big four. However, we end up becoming a cog in the machine, a species at the bottom of the food chain. That’s not to say this is always the bad route. But for some, or at least for many, our experience, our skills, our expertise, our offerings to the working world are far more dynamic than this linear process of career progression.
“A lot of my friends have struggled with the transition of having these big ideas [after leaving university] and then you’re just there doing nothing. But really, if you want to have some sort of creative freedom, have a look around at smaller firms. They might give you more to do. A lot of people need that…”
The podcast was a welcomed distraction that has helped him through the conversations he has had with people, but more importantly it has shown how far his capabilities can go when given the creative freedom to outline his role.
“This is a start to my next project. I want my next project to be a similar vibe to what I have now, but I want to take it up a notch. Obviously, I do everything by myself now. I’d love to have a podcast blog with a team of people… I want to take this as far as I can.”
“I get bored of watching the news all the time, it’s all manufactured…This is why I wonna do my own thing when I’m older. I don’t want to work for an organization that needs refining. These sort of [organic] conversations are important, people learn so much. Isn’t that what journalism is about. Journalism is about shining a light on important but different topics.”
When asked for some advice for fellow journalists and broadcasters, he had this to say:
“Be adaptable…but never suppress your personality”
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