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EnglishPart of Humanities

Catherine Mitchell BA English, 2014

Network Director, Student Hubs

Catherine Mitchell's Photo

Carving out my own ‘identity’ within my studies - working out what really fired me up and then using that to shape my course was very formative, and definitely enabled by some brilliantly supportive staff.

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?
A combination of reasons. I was attracted to the structure of the course and the modules that were available. I also got a really good sense when visiting - I think this came from the campus style, the welcome I received, and the fact that it was so green! I had also heard really good feedback from friends who were already studying at Southampton. When I visited on the offer day, I got to go and eat dinner with my friend in her halls and to meet others studying there, which was a really nice way to get a better feel for the place.

What were your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences)?
Carving out my own ‘identity’ within my studies - working out what really fired me up and then using that to shape my course was very formative, and definitely enabled by some brilliantly supportive staff.

Getting loads of experience in volunteering also totally shaped my experience, my social network and my subsequent career! I had so much fun getting exposure to different types of role and causes through RAG (student fundraising), and then this development and engagement with social action was deepened by getting involved with the Southampton Hub - it introduced me to people I’m still friends and colleagues with, and has equipped me with a whole range of tools, skills and confidence to go on and carve out some sort of impact, post-University.

What did you enjoy most about your course?
Dipping my toes into particular interest areas - like creative writing and children’s literature - as well as being able to bring an interest in social issues into my work, e.g. through dissertation writing.

What have been the highlights of your career to date?
I’ve worked both locally and nationally at the charity where I currently work, but one consistent highlight has been seeing colleagues and the student volunteers that we support come into their own, and truly thrive through their work or volunteering - seeing others realise the benefits that I got from getting involved myself, and find ways to create real impact in their local community.

That said, I have probably been the most delighted and motivated from seeing our work in Southampton grow so hugely - there has always been a lot of demand from students to tackle social issues, and to see the charity’s partnership with the University help enable this demand to be met through high quality and impactful opportunities - which is also in response to matched need and demand from the community - has been so fantastic.

How did your time at Southampton help you to grow as a person and help you get to where you are now?
It toughened me up and gave me confidence! I learnt how to manage really high workloads and to take ownership for the impact that I wanted to have post-university. It also helped me to figure out some of the bits of my life that give me satisfaction (and energy and motivation to do my job) - things like running and music, that I definitely found ways to bring into my life in Southampton.

What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?
Go about your university career with compassion and an open mind. We talk a lot about growth mindsets a in our organisation, and how it’s important to champion learning in all directions and from everyone around you. You don’t always have to learn from a conventional teacher! It’s also important to remember that we’re never the finished product - university will give you so much beyond your degree, from resilience to purpose to new hobbies. Try something new whenever you can!

What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector?
Start with getting experience where you can - it’s not always easy, and it can be tricky to balance it with other commitments (e.g. part-time work), but there are lots of organisations out there who will have a variety of ways for you to get involved. Have a look at sites like charityjob.co.uk to see what roles are out there, and what experience might be relevant - but don’t forget that smaller organisations might not always have the budget to advertise on those sorts of sites. There are so many cool and impactful small charities and social enterprises, so do some Googling and find them on Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Make sure you’re engaging with the issues that organisations are tackling, too - find ways to learn more about them and how charity and social enterprise can play a role in an impactful and responsible way.

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