Emma Cowley

Sociology BA (Hons)

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  • Year of Study: Third year (in 2021/22)
  • Length of course: Three years

Your University Journey

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

After a tough and unhappy experience at another university, I decided to apply to UON for a fresh start. Although initially this decision was mostly based around the appeal of being able to live at home with my family whilst studying, it quickly became clear that studying at Northampton was the right choice for me. Before applying, the module choices and curriculum for the second and third years sounded particularly fascinating. Upon actually completing these modules and being in my final year, I can confirm that the course material delivered within the lectures did not disappoint. Most importantly though, the support offered by the lecturers in the Sociology team is excellent and, as a result, my experience here has been much more positive.

What are your career goals/aspirations?

Following my undergraduate degree, I plan to next complete a Master’s in Sociology. Unfortunately, the University of Northampton does not currently offer a MA course in Sociology, so I’m having to pursue this elsewhere, though I’m certain that my undergraduate course has equipped me with the valuable academic skills I will need in order to thrive at postgraduate level and beyond. In terms of career goals, I think I would also like to aim to attain a PhD and enter the fields of either lecturing in Sociology, or social research.

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

In terms of career development, the smaller-scale research project we had to complete within our second year, in addition to the research we conducted this year for our dissertation, has inspired me to aim for a career in academia. It also confirmed my enjoyment of the research process, which I felt well-equipped for after such a thorough and engaging Research Methods module in our second year. Within these projects, we honed our skills of collaboration, as we were encouraged to consistently discuss our ideas or progress with our peers, and the large amounts of freedom we were given in being able to choose our own research topics allowed us to approach the process creatively.

I can see how far I’ve come in terms of personal development when I consider how much I used to struggle with my confidence, particularly in terms of speaking in front of groups of people. Before my university experience, I had never had the courage to do this, but over the past couple of years I’ve had plenty of practice, support and encouragement from my lecturers. Now I have the ability to deliver presentations and contribute within discussions despite my anxiety, which is something I never thought I would be able to do.

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

For my future career, I do feel that the knowledge of research methods acquired in my second year, in addition to the research skills we were able to put into practice during research-based assignments, will be particularly valuable. One of the assignments we were given during our second year for the Research Methods module involved conducting both a quantitative and qualitative (thematic) analysis of two different sets of data, which was especially helpful in building an understanding of how to carry out these types of analysis as a new skill. My capabilities when it comes to academic writing have also made great improvements since beginning my course, which will be useful when having to complete future project write-ups.

In one sentence, what advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?

The most important piece of advice I have is to proactively access the support (both personal and academic) you are offered throughout your undergraduate degree, with the knowledge that the Sociology team at UON is especially excellent in providing this.

In ten words, or less how would you summarise your UON experience?

A much happier and more engaging experience than anywhere else.