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Nicole Whitwham BA English with a minor in Education

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Hi I am Nicole Whitwham studying BA English with a minor in Education.

I went to an open day at the university and was even more persuaded to attend here. The breadth and diversity of the modules offered is more difficult to come by in other universities and it really allows students to tailor their undergraduate experience to suit individual interests.

 

What made you choose to come and study at Southampton?

I lived in Southampton already and wanted to attend a university that was close. I went to an open day at the university and was even more persuaded to attend here. The breadth and diversity of the modules offered is more difficult to come by in other universities and it really allows students to tailor their undergraduate experience to suit individual interests. The flexibility of the degree programme is another selling point; students are allowed to undertake a minor in a wide variety of disciplines. Studying English alongside education is not often allowed as a combination in other universities, which is strange as both disciplines are useful to one another, particularly if one is considering entering the teaching profession.

Studying at Southampton has continually kept me interested by allowing variety into my programme; I never feel bored or ‘stuck’ by doing the same thing. As a result, students are able to develop a more varied and diverse skill set.

What were you anxious about before coming to Southampton?

How did Southampton help you settle in and help you belong? I chose to live at home during my degree so I was slightly anxious about feeling left out and I expected to have more difficulty in making friends as a result. During the first part of Freshers’ week, I did experience this difficulty as many of the events were tailored to people living in halls and I did not know about the events tailored towards people who were not living in university accommodation. However, I attended the bunfight (societies fair) and then found it very easy to meet likeminded people. It is actually very easy to make friends at the university; it is a fairly big university and thus accommodates a diverse range of individuals.

Being a slightly older student was also a concern. However, this worry was quickly diminished by meeting people through the mature students’ society. In fact, I have made a diverse range of friends at the university and get on equally well with the younger and older students. No one certainly sets you out to be ‘different’ merely from being a few years older.

As I had not been in education for a few years, I felt slightly apprehensive about going back into it. Luckily, I had a fantastic Personal Academic Tutor who was able to talk me through any worries I had about this and to reassure me. Whilst the first semester certainly proved to be a challenge, it has been invaluable in helping me to settle into my degree. From my own experience, the rest of my degree was more manageable as opposed to more difficult after the initial period of getting to grips with my degree.

What is it like studying here?

The lecturers are very supportive. The always organise consultation times when an assignment is coming up and make themselves available during office hours or 1-1 appointments with students if required by the student. I have generally found the lecturers to be very helpful and giving with their time. Lecturers are also prompt and very helpful with replying to emails and feedback on essays is usually very detailed. The lecturers are certainly enthusiastic to assist students and ultimately help them to improve.

The campus feels like a very safe environment. It has everything you need: cafes, eateries, libraries, study spaces, shops, and so on. Yet, it is not overwhelming large and you are able to quickly find your way around campus. The Avenue (Humanities) campus is also only a short walk away from the main (Highfield) campus.

The numerous societies and volunteering opportunities within the Students’ Union is also a feature quite exclusive to the university. Such a range is seldom offered at other universities. Students can therefore explore a wide range of interests and meet likeminded people from the many societies the university has to offer.

How do you rate study facilities at the University, such as the Library?

Hartley library is huge and has everything one really needs in it. There are so many books and journals for all disciplines and numerous study spaces and computers to use. They also have assistive technology spaces which cater for students with disabilities. This library also includes a fairly extensive DVD library with facilities to watch said films within the library. There are also spacious cafes around the university where one can work or relax with friends.

Avenue Campus also houses a smaller library which is useful for humanities students. The range of DVDs available for students undergoing film modules is particularly useful. The collection even rivals that of Hartley library and, again, there are facilities within the library that enable students to watch the films there and then. I have been able to make good use of this during my time at university.

The Jubilee Sports centre is well known to be of good value and include a lot within it.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

My highlights would be working towards my dissertation which feels especially surreal as it does not seem as though much time has passed since the beginning of my degree! It feels empowering to have picked up a wealth of subject knowledge throughout the degree, for it to finally culminate in an independent end project. It is exciting to obtain a developed sense of control and to delve into something that is of particular interest to me.

I have also been able to get involved in numerous opportunities. During the first and second year, I worked with SchoolsPlus (Southampton Hubs) where I was the Inspiration Coordinator. I obtained funding through O2 Think Big community projects and set up activity days in local primary schools to encourage an enthusiasm for learning. Working with the ethos of trying to reduce the effects of educational disadvantage, I stove to make the days fun and engaging and, above all, inspire a sense of confidence and ownership of learning. The students were always engaged and lively and it was lovely to present certificates at the end of the day where everyone left on a good note. I felt like I was taking a vital step towards our goal of working against educational disadvantage and it felt very rewarding.

My Creative Writing in Schools module this semester allows me to go into schools again and teach students English, this time in a secondary school setting. This is an exciting opportunity and will allow me to further develop my skills.

What other activities have you taken advantage of while at University?

I have had the opportunity to mentor new first years during the first semester of their degree programme in addition to other volunteer advice work affiliated with the university. The training for this was useful and both experiences mutually helped me to develop skills for each other.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

I am definitely enjoying the variation as discussed previously. I enjoy studying a different range of texts such as novels, poetry, film, television, drama and theoretical non-fiction texts. There is also much variation within my minor subject which often allows to pick any topic of interest that is relevant to the module and base my assignment on it. Therefore, I enjoy this independent aspect of learning and gaining a sense of control and freedom over my work.

Do you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area?

My minor in Education is highly enjoyable and has developed my understanding of pedagogical and societal issues pertaining to education. Studying Education alongside English would be highly beneficial if I choose to teach at some point in the future. I am certain that I either wish to work in an educational setting or with young people, therefore my minor in Education is invaluable for my future plans.

What networking, employment and work experience opportunities have you undertaken and how have they enhanced your undergraduate experience?

During my degree, I have worked as a Learning Support Assist at a local further education college. This involved supporting learners with additional needs, either in a classroom or 1-1 setting. Within my time at this college, I have undertaken many additional duties such as invigilating exams, acting as a reader for exams, assisting with enrolling students onto courses and working as a bursary advisor. I also recruited volunteers at the college but setting up a stand for this college at a local employability fair. At a local Freshers’ Fayre, I have also helped to run a stall about the effects of ‘lad culture’ at university. Such experiences have really enhanced my undergraduate experience by providing me a range of vital employability skills that will be invaluable to me upon graduation. My role as a Learning Support Assistant has also been very useful for my Education minor. I have drawn on my experiences of working in education to write assignments and my minor in Education has also given me a more developed understanding of further education colleges and issues affecting students. My degree course and work experience have therefore mutually shaped each other.

I am also currently working as a Youth Support Worker in a youth club for 10-19-year-olds with additional needs. This involves supporting young people in a social setting and activity context as opposed to an academic context. This experience is teaching me even more about young people and various additional needs. This line of work is closely related to what I wish to pursue upon graduation.

Do you have any idea of what you would like to do in the future?

During the course of my degree, I have definitely decided that I would like to work with young people. I would like to pursue an advisory role, either in an academic, pastoral or perhaps a careers advisory context. I am considering working in a higher education environment, or a college or school.

 

 

 

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