Rachel Bott

Your University Experience

Why did you choose your course at UON?

UON is the closest university to my home and this was one of the most important factors when considering attending uni as I am a busy mum to two children. It also offered the course I was interested in with opportunities local to me.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most and why?

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the course and I found the lecturers to be especially welcoming and helpful, they always had time to talk and guide when needed. The placements were hugely beneficial as this provided us with the experience required to understand the theory we were discussing within lectures.

There was a small group of mature students on the course and we made friends for life as a result of being together for the three years. We were able to assist and support each other through the difficult times and without them, I feel sure I wouldn’t have completed the course.

The educational trips were an additional bonus, providing another level of understanding and information to what we were discussing in lectures. We went to visit a prison and had lunch with the prisoners, we went to the Houses of Parliament and sat in the gallery watching the debates, and there were also opportunities to go abroad such as Brussels, Atlanta and Sweden. These trips were hugely beneficial to the additional learning for the course and the lecturers accompanying us shared their knowledge and understanding, as well as challenging our own.

Placement Experience

Did you complete a placement year or module as part of your course?

Yes, I was fortunate to have three placements during my time at University, one per year.

My first-year placement was at The Lowdown Youth Counselling Service, where I was a Shift Support Worker and Youth leader.

My second year was at Kingsthorpe Children’s Centre, working with the Family Support Workers. I helped run groups, spent time with the families, attended refuges and assisted with paperwork and case files.

My third-year placement was at the Gateway School, working with the Home/School Partnership Co-ordinator. I worked with both the students and their families, carrying out home visits, assisting with completing paperwork, carrying out feedback questionnaires, assisting within the classroom and working with the teachers.

What were the benefits of doing a placement year?

The placements provided me with additional experience and knowledge to help me make decisions about the roles that I may wish to take up in the future. Being able to work with professionals who have knowledge and experience in their field of expertise was extremely helpful in enhancing my learning and provided me with good networking opportunities. It also helped to give me a taste of the sort of roles which I enjoyed, but also work out what I didn’t enjoy.

What employability skills did you develop during your placement?

The relevance of partnership working, resilience, empathy, working to deadlines, working under pressure and being the voice of those that you are representing.

How do you think the placement helped you to gain employment after graduating?

I was able to refer to the placements when writing my CV and within interviews, specifically mentioning opportunities I was provided with and the roles undertaken. It was hugely beneficial to be able to discuss the placements and the contacts I had made as a result of this. Being a mature student, I already had experience of the work environment, but the placements definitely assisted me in moving into a different field and building my new career.

Do you have any tips on applying for placements? What can students do to help them get one?

Don’t rule out any options, even those you don’t fancy. Sell yourself to the organisation, spend time learning about them and tell them what you can bring to them and what you would like to learn from them.

What advice would you give to students about to begin a placement year?

Be open to everything – sometimes the placements that you don’t think you will enjoy, turn out to be the most beneficial. Be open to new opportunities, give it your everything and embrace new challenges.

Your university to career journey

How do you think your studies have helped your career or personal development?

I definitely would not be where I am today without my studies at the University of Northampton. Coming to University as a mature student has allowed me to learn new skills and enter a new career. My previous employment had been within HR and Law and therefore studying Childhood and Youth Studies was a completely different field for me. I’ve since been really fortunate with my roles and I don’t believe that I would have been successful in my job applications without the course.

Describe your career progression so far, and any plans you have for the future. Are there any particular hurdles you may face?

Since leaving university, my roles have included working as a Learning Support Assistant at a Special Educational School, a Project Co-ordinator and then an Operational Manager at a small charity supporting those impacted by substance misuse, where I am now Centre Director. There have obviously been knock backs and hurdles along the way, but the successes far outweigh these.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree are most useful in your current role?

There’s been so much that’s helped me throughout my time at university, but the final year was definitely the most beneficial, especially the business and management module which assisted me in my senior management roles.

Extra-curricular activities

Are you currently involved in any community or volunteering projects?

As well as working as the Centre Director at the Doddridge Centre, I’m also a member of the committee for an organisation called Q Space, which is an LGBQT+ support organisation working throughout Northamptonshire.

Your advice

What advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?

Just give everything a go, take every opportunity and embrace it. Being a mature student shouldn’t hold you back from any opportunities.

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

Life changing, challenging, positive, emotional, proud, hard work, enjoyable.