Welcome to our student-written blog series dedicated to supporting and empowering disabled students to progress and succeed at university.
Here, Kyle Mather, a student from the University of Creative Arts (UCA), shares his experiences, insights, and practical tips on making the most of your personal development while at university.
University comes at a critically important period of life for most people. It’s aimed at students to bridge the gap between their childhood and their future within the adult world, which can be a daunting but exciting time of your life. With the aid of friendship groups and other social circles, plus the academic support that the institution can provide, universities can help you become the person you want to be, both personally and professionally.
- Careers Advisors
The largest and most well-known support group for personal development comes from the Careers Advice team.
The university’s Careers team will give you the skills to build up a CV, help with internships and applications, and offer information but also provide you with the knowledge of where you could find the information for yourself. The offer may vary at each uni, but here are a few examples.
- At UCA (University for the Creative Arts), where I’m currently studying, they’ve set up pop-up shops to provide us with the ability to market, advertise and sell our works in a real commercial environment.
- The University of Kent offers meetings with employability coaches, to help provide insight and advice on what students can do post-graduation. As Dominique, a student from the University of Kent, said, “Speaking to an employability coach has helped me get a clearer idea of what I want to do in the future”.
- Canterbury Christchurch University offers opportunities for students to get additional qualifications thought the IT team, which allows students to upskill themselves.
- At the University of Greenwich, as part of the Careers and Employability service, they have the Greenwich Employability Passport. This is a service that rewards students with points to motivate them to take part in events and activities that support personal development.
The key message is not to leave it until you are about to leave uni, you can take part in these activities all the way through.
Many students find paid work to help fund their time at university, and there are a bunch of ways to support yourself financially.
The areas around universities often build themselves around the more student side of things – not only in social activities but also in providing frequent job openings, and flexible hours to allow you to study and work.
The university itself will also provide similar opportunities, opening positions in its own bar and cafe staff as graduating students leave and new students arrive. At all universities, you will find student ambassadors. These are students hired and paid by the university to provide tours and advice for open days but also to deliver talks and provide workshops to schools. Sometimes they even allow you to write a blog post like this one! Whilst providing an income they also provide you with useful and transferable skills, such as public speaking, organisation, confidence, leadership and writing skills.
There are a huge number of volunteering opportunities out there in the world and even just in the local area around the university, you’d be hard-pressed to not find one. Most city/county councils allow you to search for specific opportunities like KentVolunteers.org.uk. You may also look for a specific charity or non-profit and offer your time to them.
There are many within the university itself such as;
– Student Course Representative
– Peer Mentor
– Student Officer
– Committee Member
The Students’ Union may also offer events that they may require extra hands for like Freshers’ fairs. These allow you to develop your professional skills, get to know people, and make connections.
University is a great time to learn, change and grow in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s a large commitment and sometimes we can feel stressed about maintaining our studies in tandem with our personal lives. which is why an important part of personal development is to learn about yourself and the kind of support you need.
As stated earlier, universities are designed to give you the opportunities you need before leaving, but that doesn’t only mean careers, work and volunteering. There are also other support services. Where you can access this support varies, from libraries to student well-being centres. To name just a few opportunities, this could include;
- Autism, Addiction or Specialist Support at the University of Kent
- STAART, including social support and workshops on thriving at uni from the University of Greenwich
- Campus Buddy Scheme and Peer Mentoring at the University for the Creative Arts
- Student Mediation Service a Cost of Living Hub at Canterbury Christ Church University
And a whole host more!
Your Students’ Union is another place you can access for support whilst seemingly a part of the university and providing a number of social events, they’re actually a separate group from the university and can offer people to speak to confidentially, without any obligation to the university to let them know what’s going on.
Having a strong and positive social group as well can be critical, making connections not only for work but for fun, knowing who you enjoy being around and knowing that you can lean on them for support as well as systems within the university structure.
It seems almost too easy to say, but the most important part of personal development is you the person. Making sure you are healthy, happy and safe.