Student stories

What do current Humanities students and recent graduates have to say about the Professional Experience they gained at Exeter?

Sarah Kearsey, Change Agents project manager

MA Translation (2017)

Sarah studied MA Translation in 2016/17 and managed a Change Agents project during her studies.

Find out more about Change Agents.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity that you took part in?

I managed a Change Agents project in which I organised the MA Translation Alumni Round Table Event. The aim of the event was to provide current students with an opportunity to gain advice from and network with professionals who had previously taken the course, in order to highlight how their studies are linked to the professional world.

I worked both with Cathy King, Student Engagement and Education Development GBP for the College of Humanities, and Professor Michelle Bolduc, the Director of MA Translation, to organise the event. I contacted alumni, booked catering and refreshments, organised the running of the event and corresponded with the alumni in the run-up to and following the event. I also delegated several tasks such as planning introductory questions and shared leading the event with two other students who volunteered to help. I also asked the students attending the event to complete a questionnaire to gain an insight as to how useful it was for them, and how it has impacted their career plans.

What skills have you gained from this opportunity and how have you used them in your studies and work?

I have improved my leadership skills, which is definitely something I can highlight to future potential employers. I also developed my time management and organisational skills, as I managed to fit in planning the event around my studies and other deadlines. These are transferable skills which will be highly useful in the future.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience? 

Reading the feedback from the students was particularly rewarding as they all found the event beneficial.

Barnabas Balint, Change Agents project manager

BA History (2019)

Barnabas is studying BA History and managed a Change Agents project during his first year at Exeter.

Find out more about Change Agents.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity that you took part in?

As a Change Agents project, I organised an academic conference for students to explore issues surrounding the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Darfur. The conference was attended by students from schools from across Devon and from the University.

Students heard from holocaust survivor Ernest Simon about his own personal experiences, after which they took part in small group seminars with expert academics from the University of Exeter. These seminars put into context Ernest’s experiences and delved deeper into the historical, moral and theological issues concerned. In this setting, students of varying ages and backgrounds were able to discuss the issues at hand in an academic environment, bringing different perspectives and enriching their understanding. Students also had the opportunity to view drawings made by Darfuri refugee children of their experiences fleeing persecution. Following this, students were invited to make a pledge on a pledge board, reflecting on what they had learned, and what they themselves could do. In the days after the conference, attendees reflected on the value of the conference.

In feedback they highlighted its importance in enriching the students’ academic experiences and in boosting awareness of these issues. Teachers also stressed the benefits of students engaging with the university – learning in a university setting, alongside university students and tutors. Through such horror come stories of hope – how life can go on by forgiving, but never forgetting. A most valuable and stimulating occasion. Really useful for boosting understanding and awareness around the school. Extra activities like this make a real difference to a school and help inspire students.

What skills have you gained from this opportunity and how have you used them in your studies and work?

The nature of this Change Agents project means that I have developed a wide variety of skills. Principally, my academic, communication and management skills have been enhanced by this project. Through working with tutors to develop a coherent conference, discussing topics so that sessions complimented each other, I have developed my academic abilities and understanding of academic work. This conference required communication with several different groups of people. I have therefore developed my communication skills, learning how to tailor correspondence to different audiences.

I have worked with a range of university staff to organise the logistics of the conference, which has given me a useful insight into how the university works as an organization. In the course of organizing the conference, I managed relations with several key stakeholders, including the survivor speaker, Holocaust Memorial Day TrustHolocaust Educational Trust, local schools, university students, Devon County Council and the History Student-Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) at the University. The effective management of this project has therefore significantly tested and developed my organizational skills. I am pleased with my work, as feedback from a school teacher stated that they were ‘very impressed with the industry and efficiency in getting the day together’.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience? 

I am extremely proud of all the students from across Devon who attended. The students were all very mature and engaged really well with the challenging topic at hand. Speaking to them on the day, and reading the pledges they made, confirmed that it was a truly worthwhile experience, one that all have learned from and been inspired to work for a safer, better future.

Sophie Wood, BA History student and Public History placement student

BA History (2019)

Sophie is studying BA History at the Penryn Campus and took the Public History module during her first year.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity that you took part in?

Through the Public History module I completed a volunteer placement at a chosen site that dealt with both history and the public. I chose to volunteer at the Innerpeffray Library, the oldest free public lending library in Scotland. As a volunteer at the library I shadowed and eventually led tours around the library's collection of historical books and also helped to retrieve books for visitors and for exhibits. I was also incredibly privileged to be able to create my own exhibit for a local centenary commemoration called Crieff Remembers. This involved researching specific soldiers who had visited the library while it was still lending, and finding the books they had borrowed and read. My exhibition was also later turned into a blog post for Innerpeffray Library.

What skills have you gained from this opportunity and how have you used them in your studies and work?

Through this opportunity I gained skills in handling centuries old books, in people skills by leading tours and answering visitor questions, and in research. I also gained curatorial experience in creating and researching an exhibit. The research skills I gained are particularly useful for my studies, as research is an intrinsic part of essay writing.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience? 

The most rewarding aspect of my experience was being trusted to put together the exhibit, as well as being able to work around, handle and appreciate the collection of books and the hard work that goes into working in a historical environment that deals with the public and presents history to the public.

Victoria Sanders, BA English student and Humanities in the Workplace placement student

BA English (2018)

Victoria is studying BA English and took the Humanities in the Workplace module during her second year.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity that you took part in?

Humanities in the Workplace is available as a 15 or 30 credit module. I took the 15 credit option in conjunction with the Making a Career in Publishing module. We had a one hour seminar every fortnight, in which we discussed larger issues surrounding the professional workplace, issues such as the gender pay gap, the influence on technology, zero hour contracts. As well as this, we had to undertake at least forty hours of work experience, and carry out a 10 minute presentation in Term 3, relating the placement to one of the topics covered.

What skills have you gained from this opportunity and how have you used them in your studies and work?

English, and other Humanities subjects, can sometimes feel disconnected from professional industries, but the Humanities in the Workplace module helped to connect my studies with future career opportunities and made me see my course in a different light. I felt that I had an improved understanding of the wider issues surrounding the workplace, which gave me a greater confidence when approaching job applications. The seminars gave me the enthusiasm to seek out work experience, and during the term I found three placements.

As I am interested in a career in publishing, I undertook a work placement with a publishing house in Cambridge, relating it to the theme of technology, and how the mode of publication has evolved over time to utilise digital outlets in the form of ebooks. Without a goal and deadline, it is easy to put off an application and never get round to doing it; the module definitely gave me an added incentive to find work experience.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience? 

I feel I have a greater awareness of the wider issues surrounding the work place, which has given me greater confidence when approaching job applications. It pushed me into finding work experience placements, which have greatly boosted my CV and enhanced my prospects. Although my course is very much academic-based, rather than practically based, the module has helped to connect my course with the professional job market.  

Grace-Emmanuelle Kabeya, BA English student and Making a Career in Publishing student

BA English and Management (2017)

Grace-Emmanuelle is studying BA English and Management and took the Making a Career in Publishing module during her final year.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity that you took part in?

This module gave me the opportunity to study different sectors which fall under the 'publishing' umbrella. Trade and academic publishing were both discussed in an in depth manner. The weekly tutorials were enlightening and perfect for an aspiring publisher. They gave a clearer view into the industry and especially how to enter it. The subjects discussed in each seminar were always very interesting and I really appreciated being able to have one-on-one conversations with both Richard Willis (Managing Director of Swales and Willis and Impress Books) and Isabel Moros (the module's convenor).

What skills have you gained from this opportunity and how have you used them in your studies and work?

I have learned how to not limit myself to only one type of publishing. I am also well-equipped with a foundational knowledge that I am using in my current internship for a literary agency. This module gave me confidence to continue on my publishing journey. I know more about design, editorial and production than I did before.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience? 

Learning from the module leaders who were always supportive and kind. They were the best teachers to learn from and I appreciate their guidance and support.

Tyler Mills, BA History graduate and Education Catalyst Project Coordinator GBP

BA History (2016)

Tyler graduated with a BA History degree in 2016 and now works as an intern on the University's Graduate Business Partner (GBP) scheme.

How did your time at Exeter help you to get where you are now? 

During your time at University, you’re always thinking about the next deadline. When is it due? How much planning is needed? Do I have other deadlines overlapping? Although it is great for time management skills, you often forget that your degree won’t last forever – you’re focused on the next assessment. It’s difficult to remember that you have to plan ahead, and think about your future in stages.

From the beginning of my time at University, I was offered a structured timeline of how to make the most of my degree, and how to articulate the skills and experiences I gained. I’ve been following my plan for the future I want, and without the confidence, analytical skills, teamwork, and the opportunities offered by the University, I wouldn’t be where I am now – following my plan, and gaining the skills and experience I need to get into the career I want. 

What is a typical day in your current role like? 

The current role I have as an Education Catalyst Project Coordinator, part of the Education Catalyst Project Team. This role is quite dynamic in its daily routine, and working on an organic group project means that priorities and tasks change as the project develops. Throughout the project, I have been liaising with Module Convenors, Directors of Education, Education Business Partners, and other members of the University staff, analysing modules and programmes in relation to the University’s Education Strategy, and delivering forums, focus groups and presentations to communicate the data, we as a team, have collected. 

What skills do you feel you have developed throughout your internship? 

One of the strongest skills I feel I have developed throughout this process is communication, in all its forms. Liaising effectively with academics, staff and students requires a broad range of written and oral communication skills, such as giving presentations to briefly outline large amounts of information, delivering interactive forums to promote debate and discussion, conducting immersive and open focus groups, and writing comprehensive overviews and summaries of large amounts of data and information. To do all of this also requires confidence. Throwing yourself into the work can build up your confidence and really demonstrate how many skills you’ve developed throughout your time at University, and how these can be applied to all aspects of daily work. 

If you could offer one piece of advice to current students thinking about professional experience, what would you say?

My one piece of advice would to make the most of every chance you have, and put yourself out there. It’s cliché, but you don’t realise how many opportunities you had, and may have passed up, just by doing the norm – doing your assessments, and then waiting for the next one. It’s not easy, but if you motivate yourself to try new things, to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll have so much more to talk about when it comes to applications, interviews, and even just deciding a career path.