How to Handle the Summer Break

I’m not writing this post to make you feel as though your summer break must be used to complete 2 internships, 2 months of traveling, a stint of volunteering and to learn a new skill. All whilst attending all of the hottest festivals and keeping an enviable Instagram presence. Your summer is yours and there is no wrong way to use it.

However, the summer break at university is a unique period of ‘time off’ you will likely never experience again in your life. So, the purpose of this blog post is simply to encourage you to do whatever you like with your summer – just do it with intention and awareness.

If you don’t work or only work a few hours each week and will be moving home for summer, you may be faced with a mountain of options. Do one, do them all, or do none. That’s fine. Your summer will only feel wasted if you do something you didn’t want to do. If you want to sleep in until noon, binge watch Netflix and enjoy a slower pace of life…that’s fine. If that makes you feel good, go for it.

If that doesn’t make you feel good, and you’re keen to protect your mental wellbeing as a result of that, then you could set some small, achievable goals for the summer and replace each one as you complete it. For example, you may want to be able to run 5 miles, or want to save up £500, or learn to sew your own clothes. You might want to travel to visit 3 friends in 3 different cities or sign up to volunteer in a local charity shop or children’s summer club.

You might, like me, be a mature student and have to work a lot through the summer each year. Fear not – I still take on board my own advice listed above! I set a few small goals, book in plenty of overtime so that I can enjoy a more relaxed budget for the summer months and also make sure to plan in plenty of fun things that would normally be difficult to manage when trying to work, study AND attend university. I also try to think ahead to how I can make semester 1 easier for myself when I return to university. For me, this means booking any time off work that I might need to accommodate assignments, arranging a weekend away somewhere nice before Christmas to unwind, and, most importantly, saving up some money whilst I can work more to ease the financial pressure when I go back to university in the autumn.

There is no wrong way to use your summer break, as long as what you do is making you feel happy then that is fine. Don’t let the carefully edited highlights that you see on your peers’ social media platforms get to you!

Sam xo

A Fund for Student Opportunities

If you follow my blog posts here on Inside Edge, you know that I’m currently in the United States of America, on a sandwich placement at the Morton Arboretum. I was fortunate when arranging up this work placement that Edge Hill University had just set up its Student Opportunity Fund (SOF) – a fund that students can apply for to help them make the most of career enhancing opportunities. The fund’s goal is to make sure that no student at EHU passes up a potentially life-changing experience because of the financial burden it might impose.

When I was in the midst of applying for my placement as a Research Affiliate at the Morton Arboretum, I realised quickly that costs would add up. An updated passport, a visa, flights and insurance would quickly put a hefty dent in my finances, leaving my maintenance loan severely lacking for the year abroad. Thankfully, my personal tutor, Paul Ashton, and the Money Advice Team (for whom I was working for at the time as a Money Buddy) informed me about the Student Opportunity Fund and that I could potentially be successful in acquiring additional funding.

Any student on an undergraduate or PGCE course attending EHU can apply for the fund, which will supply them with up to £2000 to support the proposed activity. The projects can be near or far, large or small, requiring the maximum amount available or a portion. Applications could cover travel and accommodation expenses, for example, for unpaid work experience or volunteering; interviews or assessments not covered by the employer; or conferences, festivals, or events where you’re showcasing your work. The fund could also cover costs of developing and making creative material.

Many students have already made use of this amazing fund to enable them to experience some wonderful opportunities that improve both their transferable and career-focused skills:

Applications are judged by a panel and must be submitted over ten working days before the panel convenes. For this academic year, 2017-2018, the remaining dates of convention are:

  • Friday 13th April 2018
  • Thursday 3rd May 2018
  • Wednesday 6th June 2018

Improving Your CV at EHU

As I’m sure you’ve been told many times before, your CV is an important document, and making sure it is well fleshed out is part of what makes a good CV. Any volunteering or part time work will show commitment, as well as any skills you’ve picked up along the way. These could be specialised (relating to your job, like for instance, waiting tables) or generalised (things such as teamwork and responsibility). In any case, you should have numerous opportunities to further bolster your CV throughout your time at Edge Hill University.

The Careers Centre on campus, currently located in the Student Information Centre (SIC), can provide assistance in acquiring a part-time job in the surrounding areas whilst at university, through the use of lists of availabilities; insight into the best places and websites to check for openings; and interview tips. Additionally, they can also help with finding volunteer work. For example, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust have a centre called the Martin Mere Wetland Centre that accepts volunteers to assist with various aspects of their conservation work, from helping in the visitor centre to maintaining the grounds.

To make sure you get some basic help with CVs and future prospects, someone from the Careers Centre comes into a lecture once or twice a year, to provide that vital information. Then you can, of course, book an appointment with a Careers Advisers for a one to one, more personal, conversation about where your future is headed.

Accompanying the campus Careers Centre, there is the careers centre website. The website has many features, from “ask a question” where you can get feedback on your CV, amongst other things, to the lists of resources and opportunities – some of which are at Edge Hill themselves.

There are numerous opportunities at Edge Hill for part time work, I myself have worked for both the Money Advice Team and the Student Recruitment Team, as well as being part of the Student Casual Bank. Then there is also the chance to work on open days, applicant visit days, and giving campus tours to prospective students throughout the year.

In short, Edge Hill provides many ways to better yourself and have that show on your CV, whilst providing you with the tools to make sure your career is heading in the direction that you want it to.


How to fill the rest of your summer

So, exams are drawing to a close. Results day is in August. You’re terrified about your grades and getting into university and need something to take your mind off the calendar for the next few months. So what can you do?

  • Get a summer job. We’ve spoken a lot about budgeting and student finance, but being able to get some money under your belt before you start in September will benefit you massively. Of course, getting a summer job will also help you gain and develop lots of transferable skills.
  • Leading on from gaining transferable skills… volunteering is another great way to spend the summer. Although you won’t be earning any money, you will benefit a lot from working with a charity or organisation. They’re brilliant for getting references in the future, and it’s also a nice feeling to know you’ve been helping someone out!
  • Start reading books in your chosen field. This may sound super geeky, but getting a head start can really help you later in the year when it comes to writing assignments.
  • Get a hobby! It doesn’t have to be something expensive, it might simply be that you take up running. This can be a great way of making friends when you start at university, as there’s usually a society at most universities for most things, so it gives you a great place to start!
  • Spend time with people you care about. This sounds very dramatic, and after all, you are going to be coming back home – it’s not as if you’re moving out forever! However, whilst at university, it’s likely that you won’t get to spend as much time with people as you do now, and it may be that you miss out on some of the big events you’ve been used to being involved with, such as birthdays. This may be parents and grandparents, or friends that you know are planning to be the other side of the country to you come September.

Whatever you do with your summer, make sure to make the most of it and enjoy it whilst you can!

Until next time!

Opportunities I’ve had this year

Being a Student Ambassador

In a post a few weeks ago, I talked about becoming and being a Student Guide. I’ve been a Student Guide for both of my years at uni and has been a big part of my experience, so I thought it deserved it’s own post. However, I also thought I’d talk a little bit about being a Student Ambassador too.

You have to be a Student Guide to become a Student Ambassador. You are also required to have an interview and write an application, that are completely separate to the Student Guide training and, as such, you also attend an extra day of training. As a Student Ambassador, we are paid a little more, to reflect the extra work we carry out, and the level of professionalism required of us. As a Student Guide, you will often be on shift on campus with one of the managers, who will guide you through the day. As a Student Ambassador, you are usually with only one other ambassador (this could be more or less, depending on the event) and are required to travel. This may be 15 minutes down the road, or it may require you to catch a plane; it really varies.

Student Ambassadors carry out very similar jobs to Student Guides, just off-campus. Obviously away from campus, you cannot give a tour, but you may be expected to give a talk or workshop. You may also be required to work on a stand, giving and receiving information to and from potential applications.

I love being an ambassador, as it means I get to speak to so many different people!

Being a Digital Leader

In January, after my trip to Bett (British Educational Training and Technology Show) in London, I spoke briefly about being a Digital Leader. It’s been a while, but I thought I’d expand upon what being a Digital Leader means to you and me.

So, I don’t know if any other courses have people like us, but the #DLEHU team (check us out on twitter) is specific to the Primary Education degree. We are a team of 12, all from different year groups, and we are guided by Senior Lecturer Sarah Wright, in order to make the best possible impact we can.

Our main goal this year has been to encourage lecturers to get more involved with our discussions on twitter; use different types of technology (and avoid powerpoint as much as possible). We still have more progress to make, but I’m more than confident for next year. I can’t tell you too much about our future plans right now, but we have a really exciting year ahead, that I know I’m looking forwards to.

Being a Student Representative

Now, I’ve used the umbrella term ‘Student Rep,’ because I was not only Group Representative this year, but also Year Group Representative. Think of the Group Reps like your School Councillor, who collect information from you to feedback during a meeting. This is similar to how we work, although instead of feeding back to a meeting, the Group Rep will send their feedback forms to the two Year Group Reps, who will then take it to a meeting, usually with the Year Head and some other members of the faculty. I’ve also had the pleasure to attend a Programmes Board meeting, which helped me to see what was happening to our feedback, and the changes that were being made as a result.

I hope that has given you some insight into some of the roles you may have the opportunity to take on at university. Until next time!

How to get ahead in Primary Education

As I have spoken about previously, Primary Education is a course that can be seriously underestimated. It is one of the most popular courses at Edge Hill with a cohort of around 300 students per year, meaning that it is important to get ahead wherever possible. The course is demanding but there a few things you can do to help you reduce stress and get as much of your experience as possible.

Before you even consider choosing a Primary Education or Education based degree it is important to get as much experience as possible working or volunteering with children. Some people can volunteer in one class and absolutely love it and base their career on this experience and then find themselves shocked when faced with different circumstances in different schools. Having this range of experiences allows you to see teaching from all angles and make an informed decision. As well as this if you do decide to pursue teaching the experience is excellent to boost your CV as teaching jobs often prioritise teachers who have experience in different local authorities. The more experience you can gain the better, as being in school with children is the best place to learn. It is important to get experience before you begin a course but also to consider maintaining this experience during your course. Between your placements the time you spend out of school can be considerable and you can quickly find yourself feeling a little rusty when it comes to returning to the classroom.

Once you begin the course organisation is key. I would highly recommend investing in a good planner or diary. When you are at school and college you get used to teachers telling you things multiple times or having letters given out to remind you. Once you are at university a lecturer could say something once and you will be expected to remember this and action it. This is not the case for everything but I feel it is better to record dates, to do lists and important events in an organised manner to save a last minute panic when you realise that you may have forgotten. As well as a diary I would also suggest buying folders and wallets, as a teacher you can never have too many and knowing where exactly that one piece of paper you need is will save you time and stress in the future.

As part of your organisation an important thing to consider are the dates of your assignments and the time you have between hand-ins. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to get your library books well in advance even if you are not reading them at that moment in time. As the Primary Education cohort is so large the library can often be overwhelmed around assignment times. To overcome this plan out when assignments are due, look at the content and get your books as soon as possible. This saves you going to the library a week before the assignment and seeing a dreaded empty shelf. Once you have the books keep renewing them so you have them when you are ready to use them. Another thing to consider is that if you are living in halls or with other people who study Primary Education share books as much as possible, it means that you’re accessing two or three times as many books as you would be if you were sourcing on your own. As well as this I have wasted many hours walking up and down the library looking for books without really knowing what I am looking for. Using the library service online allows you to search for books based on release, content and type and shows you how many are available and where they are in the library. Through searching online you can spend a few minutes noting down the location and simply going to the library to pick them up saving you time.

Lastly take as many professional development opportunities as possible. As a trainee you are able to join as many unions as you wish in order to get a feel for what they offer and how they can support you as you begin your career. These unions often provide training days or lectures that are available for free to trainees. The content varies from subjects such as safeguarding to special educational needs. In addition to what the unions offer the university also has many opportunities for students to expand their experience through things such as TEL, science under the stars and volunteering to support clubs.

Overall as a Primary Education student one of the most important things to remember is to stay organised and stay calm. The sooner you can do something the better and I would recommend taking on what you can but never do more than you are capable, don’t let your academic side suffer as a result of trying to boost you experiences or CV.

To work or not to work?

Following on from Emma’s blog about saving money and budgeting during university, a great way to help with finances and give you a little extra money is to look at getting a part-time job. Not only is this a great opportunity to earn money but also help to boost your CV and help you stand out from the crowd in future job applications.

The University is excellent in advertising jobs for students in Ormskirk and around the Liverpool area. The best place to start when looking for jobs is the Edge Hill Works twitter page that provides constant updates on local job opportunities as well as advice when applying or looking for work. If you are a student at Edge Hill there are also a range of student jobs that can be applied for. These are varied and include things such as student assistants who live in halls and provide advice and guidance to first year students, admissions advocates who are there to answer questions on applicant and interview days and jobs showing your accommodation on open days. The jobs offered at the University are in my opinion are better if you are living on campus as they are closer and they are also more flexible to your university timetable with many being on an ‘as and when’ basis. It is important when getting a part-time job you consider the commitment you are making. It is probably best to wait until you are a few weeks into your timetable to decide what would be manageable alongside your university workload as you don’t want to be in a position where you take on too much and begin to struggle or fall behind.

During my time at University I have tried many of the jobs offered for students. Due to their flexibility I was able to commit to 2 or 3 jobs and work when I needed to. As well as being beneficial in giving me that little bit of extra money to spend, going through the application and interview process keeps those professional skills fresh and increases confidence for the future.

Before applying for a job though it is important that you have an up to date CV that will allow you to increase your potential and show off to your future employer. At Edge Hill there is a lot of opportunity to develop your CV and the careers centre run workshops to help you understand how to make it outstanding. As well as this they also run a service where you can send in your CV to be checked. This can help if you are applying for jobs and don’t feel as though you are getting anywhere, they may be able to identify areas of weakness in your CV or covering letter.

There are some basic tips and advice for creating a quality CV here:

As well as part-time work, volunteering can also be a great opportunity to develop confidence and add to professional development. Some courses such as teaching require experience and volunteering is often one of the only ways to secure this. Volunteering is often easy to find in the local area as people are often grateful for your interest and dedication. If you have little previous work experience and this is a barrier to getting a job volunteering can provide you with the experience required to help you progress. As well as opportunities in the local area there are so many volunteering opportunities abroad that can be very rewarding. Companies such as Camp America, Camp Thailand and Camps International offer schemes that allow for students to travel abroad to work. These companies frequently come to the university to try and recruit students and are often very popular. Often though if you research a place that you are interested in visiting you will find many opportunities for volunteering and can begin to plan your own travel. If you are doing this though I’d strongly advise checking the legitimacy of the work and any requirements for working in another country. One of the benefits to going with a company is that these factors are sorted out for you as part of a package.

To help in finding opportunities such as those mentioned above the university runs a career fair where you can find out and speak to the people behind the companies. The job fair gives you inspiration and can really open doors to your future by introducing you to things you may never have thought to apply for.


The Benefits of Volunteering

Hey everyone!

Hope you are all having another good week, and enjoying the break from college. As much as I’ve been missing uni lately it’s been nice to have a little time away to recharge and get ready for second year.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned some good ways of staying productive over the summer. One of those ways was volunteering. This week I’m going to focus on that a little bit more.

For the past few weeks I’ve been volunteering at the PDSA shop near where I live, which hasn’t only kept me from going insane with boredom but has helped me make new friends, make a positive difference and gain some new experience.

Thankfully my CV isn’t entirely blank, but having a few extra skills to put on there never does any harm.

According to some surveys 73% of employers would hire someone who has volunteering experience over an individual without.

That’s because volunteering shows you have motivation and determination to work for a cause that means a lot to you, and it’s surprising how many skills you can pick up along the way.

Volunteering with a local charity shop can give you retail experience, shows you are able to work in a team, gives you good cash handling skills and allows you to interact with a diverse range of customers. Who wouldn’t want to be able to gain all that experience for a few hours volunteering each week?
And if volunteering in retail isn’t something that appeals to you there are a number of other ways you can get involved and help your community.

From spending a few hours each month with an elderly person and helping them with daily activities to volunteering to help out at festivals or races taking place near you, the opportunities are almost endless.

My favourite thing about volunteering though is the fact that you can fit it into your schedule, no matter what that schedule is.

Even during term time at uni you will probably have a few hours to spare, and volunteering during those few hours gives you the chance to do something you enjoy, gain valuable skills and stop mindlessly watching Netflix.

I’d really recommend volunteering to everyone, so if it’s not something you’ve looked into before then I suggest you give it a go!

I intend to carry on my volunteering when I return to uni, and who knows, maybe I’ll see some of you then!

Quote for the day: “We help because that is who we truly are.” -Joseph Rain

Have another amazing week!

Until next time 🙂

I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need…

Where would you get a part time job in Ormskirk?

Well, there’s loads. For starters EHU displays all their current vacancies on the student information section on Blackboard (the university portal) and on the main website when you log in with your student ID. Some of these positions could be helping students on moving in days or being a student guide on open days. It’s easy money and doesn’t affect your study timetable, so why not?

You then have job opportunities in Ormskirk, with local pubs and food establishments constantly needing staff. Christmas jobs in supermarkets are common, as well as branded shops like New Look hiring over the festive period.

If you’re willing to use some of your wages up on transport then there is a wider scope of jobs in Liverpool (25 minutes away on the train). I have friends who managed to get Christmas temp jobs easily (and some have been kept on and made permanent staff). Likewise to Liverpool, Southport is 20 minutes away on the bus and can also provide more jobs.

Another option is volunteering. I know for students money can be very tight and the thought of waking up early on a Saturday is bad enough, let alone without getting paid… but if you haven’t got a lot of experience on your CV it’s a good way to get some. It’s also nice to give back to your local community, gain some self esteem and it keeps you busy on boring weekends. You wouldn’t need to travel to Liverpool or Southport, as Ormskirk has plenty of charity shops- which are constantly looking for help- some of which are YMCA, Cancer Research and Barnardos.

Until next time…

People Skills

My final term as a volunteer is nearing the end as I have to move out from Ormskirk and back home soon, and while it has been extremely helpful to work in the Poverty Alleviation arena, I can’t help but realise that my people skills aren’t exactly where I would like them to be… I don’t think it’s because of the occasional slow work days where not a lot happens, but more because the people around me just seem to have more confidence than me when discussing, well, anything really.

This post details my thoughts on People Skills (being approachable and treating others as approachable) and how I am to improve my own by the end of the year as that’s when my application for postgraduate study will go through.

Myself (2nd from the right) and my colleagues from my other job. We’re required to communicate with visitors most of the time, hence I use a friendly and strait to the point approach to my work.

My time at volunteering has opened my eyes to the various ways of communicating to others, from the teaching staff, the social workers and the clients. I have noticed the every one has their own style, and usually I can summarise the individual styles in one word such as “cheeky”, “energetic”, “subtle” etc. While I appreciate the styles have their advantages, I observe to see what the effects of those styles are within the different contexts and environments, and see which ones I want to apply to my own practice should my postgraduate study land me a job in Education (teaching is acting).

I already have an idea of what style to maybe use should I end up working in Higher Education, but in terms of general adult education (which is my target area to work in), I draw inspiration from an approach that one of my supervisors at the firm I volunteer at uses, which is energetic and positive which really helps everyone in the classroom including me. I wouldn’t say my potential style is “energetic”, but rather “dramatic”, as I want to convey positivity but seriousness as well because my target area is within the niche of poverty alleviation.

So now that I have my style to be an umbrella approach for whatever I do in the field, now comes the barrier of confidence. I can talk to people and do presentations etc., but what I want to improve on now is how open I am as right now I can get as far as saying facts comfortably (“yes”, “no”, “hello”, “thank you”), but I would like to go further to communicating light opinions (not hard critiques) more comfortably (“it’s due to”, “I think”, “I can relate to that because”), since I find that it’s a great way to build mutual trust more effectively.

I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal out of a small thing, but I really want my people skills to be the best they can be and my volunteering job and my other job (as a promotions assistant) are great platforms to practice talking to strangers. I want to remain competitive in the work world, as there is no such thing as job security. Hopefully I can be more people ready in time for my postgraduate studies…