Abbie Shannon

English - Contemporary Literature MA

View the course
  • Year of study: Final year (in 2021/22)
  • Length of course: BA and MA combined is four years

Your University Journey

Why did you decide to study at the University of Northampton?

I had always heard very good things about the English course at the University of Northampton, but it took me three years after finishing my A levels to gain the confidence to go. I was in a predicament because I wasn’t overjoyed by my grades at school. I had no clue what subject I wanted to specialise in, let alone what job I wanted, and was too embarrassed by my own capabilities. I shied away from the idea of answering questions wrong in a seminar and making a fool of myself or working in teams and believing I would be dead weight for the other, more deserving, students there.

Bad jobs and desperation persuaded me to go to university. How silly I felt when University was nothing like how I imagined it would be! I adored my course, my fellow students, and tutors. I didn’t feel like a shadow in the seminars – every person has their chance to speak, but only if they want to. My biggest regret was not going to university sooner, and letting my own anxiety hold me back. I even graduated with a First and went on to do an MA! This situation was a massive learning experience for me – you have to grab life by the horns and go for it!

What are your career goals/aspirations?

For a long time, I’ve been oscillating between becoming a journalist or an academic librarian, but I’ve just applied for a job in the latter. There are many job opportunities available after doing an English course. It became a bit of an inside joke between me and the other students on my course because we would always get asked “So, do you want to become a teacher?” Teaching is always a possibility for my future, but English gives you such a wide range of skills, so teaching definitely isn’t the only option out there.

How do you think your studies will help your career or personal development when you graduate?

I critically engage with subjects a lot more than I used to. It’s a learnt skill to be able to combat problems, find solutions, and to reflexively analyse your own previously established ideas to see if there are better alternative options. Language proficiency enables a person to have much more authority behind what they say. Their ideas are much more respected, and I found that this gave me much more confidence in myself. I’ve been much happier in myself since doing my English BA course and that will certainly come across in interviews.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree do you feel will be most useful in your future career?

Being able to write and communicate efficiently are essential skills. Communication is vital for businesses to function, and to build relationships with others. I’ve also become trained to write much faster, and at a higher level, than I could before. When I first started my BA, I would sit in front of my assignment and for a very long time I would scrutinise the best way to communicate my thoughts in a sentence. Now I have much more confidence with my writing, which is partially due to my broadened vocabulary, and I can get work done much faster.

Does your course offer a placement?


Do you do any extra-curricular activities at UON?

Yes, I was a Student Advocate for all three years of my English BA.

How do you think these extra-curricular activities will enhance your career prospects?

I always wanted to go into university knowing that, with whatever grade I graduated with, I tried my hardest. That’s why I signed up to be a Student Advocate, and I know that when people read my CV, they will see that I didn’t go to university to do the minimal work.

Are you currently involved in any community or volunteering projects?

Outside of university, I volunteer for a local library, and I’ve been appointed as their Head of Media. I want to become an academic librarian, so I do some additional work on top of my studies to give myself an edge above my competitors. However, I prioritise my study time first before anything.

Your advice

What advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?
  • Keep a regular eye out for scholarships. You don’t want to miss out on potential free money!
  • Buy your books in advance. The second hand books on Amazon rarely come with scribbles in, even when they claim that they might have scribbles in.
  • Don’t work more than 15 hours a week. Your social life or studies will suffer.
  • Apply for a place, even if you think you’re not good enough. Don’t put yourself down before someone else has had the chance to put you down.
How would you summarise your UON experience?

The end of my university adventure feels like a dream I’ve woken up from and wish I could return to.