What have you done in addition to your degree to enhance your employability and what do you feel you’ve gained from this?
During my second year at Queen’s I applied for the Study USA programme ran by the British Council and was lucky enough to be accepted and placed at Arcadia University in Glenside Pennsylvania. Throughout the year I studied Business, allowing diversification from my straight law degree at Queen’s. I also got involved in various aspects of college life; joining the “field” hockey team, undertaking a work-study position in the international office, becoming a member of the Students for the Advancement of Business Administration society and helping on a number of volunteer projects including recycling at a “Philadelphia Phillies” game.
My eyes were open to the vast differences between US college life and life at Queen’s and I was able to participate in so many new life experiences. The Study USA experience was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of, it opened up so many doors and opportunities that I would not have discovered had I been at home in Northern Ireland. To think that as many of my peers were graduating I spent a year out of my comfort zone and was able to see the world in an entirely different light, not as a tourist but actually living elsewhere and developing a life there. The experience has given me a much broader outlook on life and what I wish to achieve throughout my personal life and career. The year was much more challenging than I ever imagined but looking back I appreciate the toughness because I believe it has shaped who I have become as an individual.
In addition to studying, I had the privilege of spending my summer post Arcadia interning with the British Council, located in the British Embassy in Washington DC. This experience was extremely worthwhile, having an internship is key in graduate recruitment and international internships viewed as even better. I was given the opportunity to work in a new exciting city and gain real experience within an office environment. I helped to plan events taking place in the embassy, attend fascinating speakers including the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and discover how the embassy and the British Council works on behalf of the United Kingdom overseas.
During August 2014 I had the privilege of travelling to Shanghai alongside 75 other UK students to be a participant on the Study China programme. The Study China programme is a distinctive three week programme designed to provide knowledge and insight into Chinese culture and society. The programme is managed by the University of Manchester and funded by the department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Through interaction with Chinese students, academic staff and local families, the programme offers an exploration into how the Chinese people live offering an introduction to the real China. I undertook the programme at East China Normal University and it included Mandarin lessons, an academic module, culture classes and a visit to a local family.
I undertook the Study China programme in the summer before my final year of undergraduate studies. Throughout the summer I found myself having a daily debate in my head about what my future holds and what I plan to do post university. Having the opportunity to go to China allowed me to explore a new and fascinating country. I realised there was so much more of the world to see and that there is so many opportunities out there. Having the chance to study abroad in a culture so diverse from our own really helped me to build confidence. Although I am an experienced traveller, it was challenging in China knowing how few people spoke English and how reliant you were on yourself.
China gave me a wonderful global experience and confidence, which in no doubt will be extremely beneficial for me in the future. The job market is extremely competitive and as a new graduate you need something to help you stand out from the crowd. I have no doubt the Study China programme will help me to do so.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s
I have used a variety of the service on offer by Careers, Employability and Skills. The information sessions for particular programmes are always very useful to attend and talk directly to past students who have participated. During my first year at Queen’s I used the services to help me build up my CV and how to tweak it depending on the circumstances it was being used for.
Any advice for other Queen's students?
Get involved, in anything and everything. No matter how scary or intimidating an opportunity seems always take it In you stride. Be confident and if at first opportunities don’t seem to go your way, keep trying and doors will open.