Originally from Dundee, Jo was 30 years of age when she embarked on the Events Management degree at QMU. She had spent a decade working in the care industry and came to a stage in her life when she needed a new challenge. She returned to college to study an HND and performed well academically. She realised that she was capable of more than she’d originally thought, and with the encouragement of college staff, she progressed as a direct entry student, securing at place on the 3rd year of the BA (Hons) Events Management at QMU.
She immersed herself in university life and made great connections with staff and students whilst on the degree programme. She is now employed by QMU as a Project Officer for the Graduate Apprenticeships Programme, which involves her promoting graduate apprenticeship opportunities to businesses and securing graduate apprenticeship students for the BA (Hons) Business Management.
Why did you choose QMU and this particular degree course?
One of the main appeals of QMU was the fact it is very small in comparison to other universities, I felt that I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by the scale of a university if I chose somewhere that was small and compact. As someone who had experience in the dance industry and someone who had attended many events over my years, I felt that events management was a course that would be relevant to experiences I had already gained.
Did you face any particular challenges in your educational journey before coming to QMU? Please elaborate on your previous experiences?
During the stage of my final submissions at college I went through a challenging time in my life when I was severely assaulted by someone. In order secure my place at QMU, I had to achieve a B grade. The time required to recover from the ordeal, set me back weeks, and I had to get additional support from college to ensure that I achieved the required grade. It was a very unsettling time, as there was the potential that I would lose my place at uni. However, I asked for help from college, and the staff pulled out all the stops, assisting me in every possible way. Their support helped me secure my university place.
How did you feel about coming to QMU?
I was very nervous as I was moving away from my hometown and everything I was comfortable with. Also as someone who hadn’t been in education for almost 10 years, I was feeling very daunted about studying at university level.
How did you settle into university life? What support networks/initiatives were in place to help you get to grips with university level education and general student life?
I embraced every aspect of uni life, getting involved in any way I could. Firstly, I took on the role of class rep, and the following year, I become rep assistant. I attended various social events at the Students’ Union, offering my time to help and support different events. My involvement with the SU, encouraged me to create my own social event, which then developed and grew in size as I progressed through university.
I received two awards for my achievements, due to my work with the Students’ Union - ‘Rising Star of the Year’ in my first year, and Outstanding Student Engagement in my final year. Throughout my time at uni I was a student ambassador and, in my final year, I became a reslife assistant – the latter involving me in working directly with students living on campus, ensuring they felt involved in student life and engaging them in social events to build their support networks . My initial experience as a direct entrant from college then equipped me to assist with the Direct Entry Induction for new college students the following year.
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh?
It’s the Scottish capital and I felt Edinburgh had a lot to offer someone in the events industry.
What were the most useful/helpful services which you used at QMU?
The Effective Learning Service was a fantastic asset to my learning experience. As someone who hadn’t been in education for a long time, the staff really helped me make sense of how to put essays, reports etc together. I was helped a lot by the academic staff, in relation to asking for additional feedback after results were released. This meant I was clearly able to understand where I needed to make improvements. I also used the Students’ Union a lot, particularly for general chats on how I was feeling.
Living Away from Home
Where did you live whilst studying?
I lived in student halls for the two years that I was at uni and it was the best decision I ever made. It meant I was able to experience all aspects of student life. Working a reslife assistant in my final year was a great way for me to build relationships with other students. As with any shared living though, there were challenges at times, however, as mature students we were able to talk out our differences and make it the best experience that we could.
Life in Edinburgh
What was the best experience you had in Edinburgh? Are there any hidden ‘gems’ you’d like to share?
As an events management graduate the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is definitely the best part of living in Scotland’s capital. Make sure you plan a day or two at the festival. Venture down Leith as there are some hidden gems in the form of cafes and bars (without paying city centre prices).
What was the most interesting part of the course?
Getting the opportunity to take on volunteering positions ie Universities of Scotland Events Conference. Understanding that event management isn’t just about staging events, it is about understanding your audiences.
What were the course challenges and what do you consider to be your successes?
Report writing is something I have always found more difficult, particularly essay writing. Even simple grammatical and literate methods of writing had to be explained to me in more detail. I believe that by improving my overall approach to writing has been a massive success for me and I take great pride in how I write things now.
Can you share what opportunities you had to develop practical skills relating to your course eg placements/internships/work experience?
I was the type of student that didn’t say no to anything. If I was asked to volunteer at various things, I would if time allowed it. I embraced every role I was lucky enough to have. I have also been a student that actively looks for opportunities. For example The List magazine is something I found out about by myself and this has now led on to me doing paid work for them. It’s important that students build their practical experiences.
Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
100% do it. You won’t regret it. It’s fun, it’s current and it’s creative.
Did you undertake any paid/voluntary work and if so, how did you juggle the demands of this with study/family life etc?
As a full-time student who worked and volunteered it was important I was able to juggle demands. However, I wasn’t scared to say no to volunteering if I felt it would over complicate my schedule. It was important that I prioritised my workload effectively to ensure that I was gaining experiences, but always that I was academically achieving.
Did you take part in activities that added to your experience and helped to improve your CV and job readiness?
I became a coach for the dance society and also created my own event, which ran monthly at the Students’ Union. This was an event that grew over my time at uni.
Tell us what happened immediately after you graduated and what are you doing now?
I made the decision to go back into my care work while I spent time looking at jobs online. I applied for around 10 jobs, jobs that I could see myself doing for the next five years, however was unsuccessful. This included various jobs within the University. After spending around a year looking and applying I then discovered a QMU job as a Project Officer in the Business School, this seemed liked the ideal job for me as I felt I would bring a lot back into the University. I’m really enjoying being back at QMU and the challenge of taking on this new temporary role to help develop the Graduate Apprenticeship Programme.
Would you consider further study?
"The Effective Learning Service was a fantastic asset to my learning experience. As someone who hadn’t been in education for a long time, the staff really helped me make sense of how to put essays, reports etc together. I was helped a lot by the academic staff, in relation to asking for additional feedback after results were released. This meant I was clearly able to understand where I needed to make improvements."
[Published in 2018]