In my first blog, I mentioned that it is possible for mature students to “join in” and actively participate in university life. Despite balancing my studies, family commitments and other responsibilities, I have still managed to get involved in other non-academic activities. In this blog, I will share my top 5 extracurricular experiences thus far. Please excuse my smugness, but I am pretty proud of the range self-led extracurricular experiences I successfully completed and continue to participate in, alongside my social work degree. These experiences include personal development opportunities such as communication, team working, self-awareness, and engagement with the University community.
1. The York Award
In my first year, I was successful in achieving The York Award which is a formal award of the University. Gaining the York Award demonstrates to employers that you have been proactive whilst at University, developing as a student and future employee. It is a great addition to my CV, helping me to pull together everything I have done to show how I have developed as a student and future social worker. I also completed an ‘Introduction To Counselling Skills Course’ run by the University and which counted towards the York Award. The skills and knowledge I gained on the counselling skills course were both relevant and transferable and I continue to use these skills in both my personal and professional life. The York Award helped me to evidence, focus, and reflect on my personal and academic experiences and achievements during my first year. It is an excellent opportunity for positive engagement, future planning and personal development at the University of York. I am now looking to build on this achievement by applying for the York Award Gold later this year.
2. Mature Students Buddying Scheme
As a mature student I attended events on campus during ‘Welcome Week’ and throughout the academic year. The Mature Students’ Induction Day and the Welcome Lunch were both great opportunities to meet fellow mature students, socialise and get to know about other aspects of university life.
Last year, the University of York piloted a mature student buddying scheme which offered all new mature students living off campus the opportunity to sign up for a buddy. I volunteered to be a buddy, as this was an excellent opportunity for me to provide a friendly face to new mature students and positively contribute to the student community. Having completed my first year as a non-resident mature student, I can empathise with the experience of new students and point them in the direction of the various sources of information and/or support if required. My role as a buddy varies from explaining where a certain room is on campus; reassuring students that balancing family life and university is possible; or advising students where to get the best cup of coffee in town!
3. The Intercultural Competency Programme (ICCP)
As a student social worker an understanding of intercultural competency is essential. The ICCP gave me a head start in cultural awareness by challenging stereotypes and increasing my knowledge of human rights and multiculturalism both in theory and practice. Encouraging these conversations is central to the ICCP, and social work practice. The ICCP consists of a mix of both workshops and events which highlight all facets of culture from race to sexuality. The workshops discussed diversity within York itself as well as a broader spectrum, allowing me to explore both my multiculturalism and that of those around me. The programme is flexible allowing me the option to choose which workshops and events I want to attend. On completion of the ICCP I will receive a certificate and attend a have the opportunity to attend a graduation dinner. I found the programme to be an invaluable opportunity for personal development and a great addition to my CV.
4. University Marketing Ambassador
I was thrilled when my department afforded me the opportunity to become a University Marketing Ambassador for this academic term. The blog you are currently reading is called Student Voices and gives university marketing ambassadors like me, the opportunity to write about our experiences at York. I enjoy writing and fit in my blogging in my spare time. Blogging has helped me develop my writing and communication skills whilst contributing to the university community. Again, another great opportunity to do something “extra” whilst learning about myself and helping others.
5. University Interview Days
I currently participate in social work interview days question and answer sessions where I get to meet and speak to prospective students about aspects of the social work course and the university life at York. I understand how stressful interview day can be for some prospective students and aim to alleviate their anxieties by providing a friendly face, engaging and answering their questions taking into account my own experiences as a student at York.
As you can see from the list above, it is possible for mature students to get involved and positively contribute to university life. My extra-curricular experiences thus far, have encouraged me to write reflectively about my achievements, evaluate my transferable skill set and consider my future employability. I have also had the added bonus of meeting great people, making lasting memories and adding value to my CV by being part of these great student-led activities at York!
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