Category Archives: Undergraduate study

Calling all finalists – it’s time to put your future first!

I have some simple questions for you.

Are you ready for life after university?   

Do you know what work you want to do?

Are you ready to compete for those jobs?         

Did you answer “no” to one or more of these

questions?

If so, it’s your last chance to prepare for the workplace over the coming months with help and support from the Careers Service.

We are open throughout the summer months, so you can speak with our experts and get information and advice on what might be the right path for you.

Plus we are running an exclusive finalist workshop in June to help you understand what might be the right career for you, and the steps you need to take to get to it! Spaces are limited for these, so reserve a spot today through mycareer.

If you already have a good idea about what you want to do, then we are currently advertising hundreds of immediate start vacancies on our website, posted by organisations hoping to recruit a Bristol graduate.

If you think you need a bit of extra help competing for the jobs you are going to be applying for, you can come and get feedback on your job applications and ask us about how to answer those tricky interview questions.

The Careers Service is your vital link to life after university, so don’t put it off any longer – come and see us to find out how we can help you today!

Planning your year abroad

Spain

When asked about the reasons for choosing their course, most modern language students would mention the opportunity to spend a year outside the cold and dreary UK. After a few minutes of hearing how lucky they are to have the chance to spend 6 months in sunny Barcelona or chic Paris (insert regional stereotypes here) the modern languages student will inevitably be asked the dreaded question: ‘So, what are you planning to do in your time abroad?’ Panic!

As much as the average linguist romanticises and boasts about their year abroad, many of us do not have any concrete plans for our time abroad until about a third of the way through second-year. By that point we are only a few weeks away from filling in forms whereby we commit ourselves to work or study in Europe or further afield. Compulsory attendance at the Year Abroad Meeting in mid-June is not (just) to stop us enjoying our summer (or rather the UK’s woeful attempt at summer); the main reason for it is to get us thinking about what we want to do on our year abroad.

Where to go – Financial implications

The first important step is to decide where you want to live. If you choose to work in Europe, either through a British Council Teaching Assistantship or an individually sourced placement; or to study at a partner institution in Europe, you will be eligible for an Erasmus grant and will receive a fee waiver.

For those venturing outside Europe or to a non-partner institution within Europe, you will not receive any of these benefits. Whilst partial funding may still be available, for example through the Abbey-Santander Scholarship for Latin America, this reduced financial support is an important factor to consider when making your decision. The year abroad is an invaluable experience and, for many, one that will not be repeated. However, it will not be your only chance to go abroad.

Some places are far more expensive to live in than others, so you need to decide if you are willing to take on this financial burden. As much as you might want to spend the year in Paris or Rio, this might not be the most financially suitable option at this time. Yes, you have your normal student finance entitlements, but not everyone is willing to take out a loan for a fourth year. Furthermore, depending on where and how you choose to spend your year, you could end up with a decent amount of savings by the time you return for your final year.

What to do – Study or work?

The next important decision to make is whether you want to work or study. I cannot stress enough how vital this decision is in determining how your year plays out.

The main advantages of studying are the support you get from the host institution in settling in and finding accommodation etc., the opportunity to live and study with other young people, and the fact that the exams you take (normally) don’t count towards your degree. When choosing where to study, you should bear in mind the differences in the higher education system as the levels of support provided to students can vary. Similarly, course choice is important. You should choose a course that interests you, but you should also think of which course would be most beneficial to your language learning. Depending on your learning style, you might benefit more from smaller class sizes (more interaction with other students) or classes which require regular essays or written work submission. On the other hand, being a student often requires more effort on your part to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your destination as it is easy to fall into the trap of just socialising with other Anglophones or non-native speakers.

This leads me to the main advantage of working. You will most likely spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, working and speaking in Russian, Portuguese, Italian etc. This is the best way to ensure that your language skills improve, which is, after all, the main purpose of the year abroad. At the same time, working abroad requires a lot of independent research and you are solely responsible for finding and securing your placements. If you are able to do this successfully, this evidence of maturity and self-sufficiency is very attractive for future employers.

Don’t panic!

Whilst making these decisions might seem a daunting task, they have to be made, so try to keep a cool head when doing so. Think ahead. Talk to careers advisers, personal tutors and students who have already been on their year abroad. The better prepared you are, the more you will get out of this fantastic year which, for many of you, will be the best year of your life.

Rosemary Amadi, BA French & Portuguese

Image: © Tim Riley 2014

I think I’m on the wrong degree course!

change course

The Careers Service sees many students in this particular situation every term, and an appointment with one of our careers advisers can help you to think about your career options with a change of subject, as well as the potential consequences of leaving your degree programme altogether.  Here is some advice for three of the most common dilemmas we help with related to this area.

I like this university but I want to change my degree subject

This is potentially trickier than you might think.  Being admitted onto one programme of study doesn’t mean that you can simply swap to another.  Each school or department carries out its own recruitment and has different numbers of places available on each course.  There may not be a place available for you to switch from Chemistry to Biology, for example, just because you are already a student in a particular university.

To clarify your options, find out who the admissions tutor is for the course to which you want to transfer; this information is usually found on the website for each school or department.  Ask if they have any available places and if they are willing to consider your case based on your existing academic performance and career plans.  Do bear in mind that if you are performing poorly in your academic work in your current subject, it may be a challenge to convince another department that you should be admitted to their programme.

If you want to make a radical subject change, such as moving from Mathematics to History of Art, a careers adviser will be able to help you consider your career options and any long-term implications. Do be aware that about two thirds of graduate recruiters don’t mind which subject your degree is in (unless you want to be something like an engineer or doctor!) as long as you have the right transferable skills and some work experience to offer.

I want to do the same subject but I don’t like it here!

As above, you need to contact the admissions tutor for the course in which you are interested at the university you want to move to and see which options are available to you.  Will you be able to transfer credits or will you have to repeat a year and maybe take some additional units?  Remember that degree courses in the same subject can be structured and taught very differently between institutions, so take the time to check and make sure that you are making the right choice this time.

If you need to repeat a year and this involves taking time out from study, then obtaining work experience could be a valuable addition to your CV and potentially make you more employable than if you hadn’t spent some time in the workplace.

I don’t know if I want to be at university at all

It could also be the case that being at university right now just isn’t working for you.   It’s perfectly okay to change your mind if you feel that you have made the wrong decision to start a degree.  You could go out and work for a while and then return to education later, if you like, although your funding opportunities may be affected by how long you suspend your studies. We have copies of the AGCAS publication Changing or Leaving Your Course at the Careers Service, for advice on these practicalities.  A careers adviser can help you to decide which route is best for you at the present time.  You will also need to speak to your Faculty Office and Student Funding about how to withdraw from your programme and what implications there are for your fees and loans.

Bear in mind too, that many people have successful careers without being graduates.  A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners are self-starters who are good at marketing their skills and services.  Some of the larger corporations involved in graduate recruitment also now offer training schemes post A-Level for those who don’t want to go on to university for whatever reason, so it’s really worth looking for alternative routes into a career you would love.  The path may not be straightforward and progress may be slower, but your career will ultimately be based on how well you do a particular job and not on a degree classification, so you will eventually be on a level playing field with graduates in the same industry.

Whatever your dilemma, it won’t be anything we haven’t heard before, so do come into the Careers Service and ask if you can talk to someone about your options or start by looking at the advice on our web site on changing or leaving your course.

Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser

Image:http://www.itworld.com