Do you like to read? We hope so – unis are kinda big on reading. We’re also big on helping you to settle in to your new life once you arrive here. So it seems fitting that we’ve signed up to The Big Read, a shared reading scheme in which all our first year undergraduates receive a supa-special Edge Hill edition of this year’s Big Read title – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachael Joyce – before starting here.

The aim is to make you – our new students – feel welcome, providing a common talking point for undergraduates as they find their feet, and a link between you and the wider university community. You can love it or hate it, but the important thing is that you’re talking to your fellow freshers about it.

This is the second year we’ve been involved in the scheme. 1st Year Creative Writing student Rebecca Holderness received last year’s book, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and here she tells us how it kickstarted a year of exciting opportunities.

As a first-year student at Edge Hill, the Student Opportunity Fund has made it possible for me to have multiple career-enhancing experiences. I’ve had two trips to London to work for The Big Read project and taken part in the Language Steps programme at university. These opportunities have presented me with the opportunity to develop myself as an individual, so I can stand out more when I graduate and step into the world of work.

Even if you achieve the best degree at university, if you have very little to write about on your CV it doesn’t show that you are a well-rounded individual with experience in much more than your course. Sometimes, as a student, you feel as if all you do is study for the degree you’re enrolled on; it’s wonderful when you have the chance to become involved in something very different which will enhance your overall university experience. I’ve had such an experience since I was given the job of ‘Big Read shortlisting assistant’ this year, made possible by the Student Opportunity Fund.

Gail Honeyman visited the University in January 2019.
Copyright Brian Sayle Photography

In March and April, I travelled down to London to help shortlist the book for the 2019 Big Read. Edge Hill’s success last year with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman has led to us becoming involved in choosing this year’s novel. The ‘Big Read’ project is a shared reading scheme established by Alison Baverstock in 2015. It was originally set up to give new students something in common despite their various backgrounds and life experiences. Activities arranged around the themes and ideas of the book were used to bring students together and encourage conversation. Gradually, the project has expanded to include other universities such as Edge Hill and Wolverhampton.

I’m studying Creative Writing, so becoming involved working with books, helping to select the right one for a specific audience is very relevant to my studies. The selection panel, held at Kingston University, was where I assisted in narrowing down the six shortlisted books to a final novel. As it was held in a similar, but less formal way, to meetings that take place in the publishing industry, I’ve had an insight into something that could be a potential future career.

Additionally, I’ve had opportunities on the university grounds because of the Student Opportunity Fund: last semester I was granted French lessons, and this semester I’ve been learning Italian. Both of these classes have been funded by Edge Hill and mean that, not only can I pursue my love of languages alongside my course, but I can also show to a future employer that I’m an individual with unique strengths and skills, not just a degree.

It’s great to have been able to take a glimpse behind the scenes of The Big Read as a shortlisting assistant and to learn new languages on the university campus. I’m sure that these experiences will stay with me, and on my CV, for a long time to come.