Sarah Howsam is a 4th year student on the BA (Hons) Events Management degree. She was keen to find a small university in Scotland with a welcoming and supportive atmosphere that suited her personality and learning style. QMU’s size and approachable staff means that students don’t get lost in the crowd – so after a visit to the QMU open day, she knew she had found her fit.

Sarah has a passion for volunteering and her experience of working with the charitable sector in Malawi has fuelled her ambitions to set up her own not-for-profit fundraising organisation to support key projects in underdeveloped countries. She loved her events management degree, particularly the opportunity to gain hands-on experience staging her own live events. She’s found the financial aspect of university challenging so was delighted to be successful in winning one of six Lord Forte Scholarships awarded to QMU in 2018. The award of £2,500 has helped to ease some of the financial pressure associated with university life and allowed her to focus on her important final year of study.

Sarah tells us more about her experience of QMU and her plans for the future.

Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.

I am a typical English girl who is very passionate about doing something in my life that allows me to ‘give back’ to the wider community and society at large. A large part of my life is dedicated to a school in Malawi that I volunteered at for a year, from August 2012 until 2013. Since then, I have gone back to Malawi twice, and plan to do so again this year. I normally spend a week or two at the school to assist with classes and extracurricular activities. I spend a lot of time before each visit fundraising for financial support for the school, and the surrounding village of Bolera, to provide basic necessities such as maize, clothing, and school supplies to help support the school children and the locals as much as I can. My year in Malawi is the reason I came to university to study events management. My experience has helped fuel my ambition to set up my own not-for-profit organisation. My aim is to create fundraising and educational events to further my support for projects in underdeveloped countries, such as the school in Malawi.

What attracted you to this course and why did you choose QMU?

One of my partners in Malawi is from Edinburgh and she told me about the course at Queen Margaret. I’d never wanted to go to a large university, and she told me that it was a smaller institution outside the city. Whilst in Malawi, I contacted the university regarding entry requirements. I then completed an additional college course when I arrived back in the UK, applied to the Events Management course for the following academic year, and decided that QMU was the best suited university for my learning style and preferences!

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

I’d lived in Nottingham all my life and knew that I did not want to go to a university in a major city. Although I received four other offers, including an unconditional from Birmingham University, the culture shock I experienced coming back to the ‘real world’- coupled with the independence I’d gain whilst being away, meant that attending a university in England wasn’t something I wanted. Looking at all of the options, I decided studying in Edinburgh would be a better fit.  

Living Away from Home

If you are living in halls what’s the best part?

In first year, I lived in halls and I loved it. Being so far away from home meant that I was pretty much alone so being in halls, surrounded by such a huge mix of people, made me feel comfortable really quickly. The best part about living in halls is its close proximity to the uni. The student accommodation is right next to the main campus, so if you have a free period, or you’ve left something you needed for class, it’s so quick and convenient to go back to your flat.

If you are living in student residences or in a flat what are the top three items that you packed that you wouldn’t be without?

Three items that I’ve bought back to university each year are my big cushion, my doc martins and a piece of art my friend made me before I moved to Malawi.

Life in Edinburgh – what’s the best experience you’ve had so far in Edinburgh? Are there any hidden ‘gems’ you’d like to share?

My favourite hidden gem is The Devil’s Advocate, which is a little cocktail bar just off the Royal Mile.  It makes you forget you’re even in Edinburgh and makes you feel as if you’re having a night off from being a student! My other favourite is going onto the roof of the National Museum of Scotland – you can see the whole city.

The Course

Did you attend an open day? If so was there any aspect of the University which helped you make up your mind about choosing QMU? 

Queen Margaret was the only university that I attended an open day for because I was instantly sold as soon as I arrive! The thing that caught my attention the most was the open-plan structure of the building and the natural light that passes through. On top of that, the Events Management degree talk was a deal maker for me; the staff members were all so welcoming and seemed really approachable and friendly. These aspects, combined with the wealth of opportunities that are offered to you over the course of the degree, made it clear that this was the university for me. 

What’s been the highlight of the course so far? What have you learnt, or which particular activity has been the most interesting?

My highlight of the course was being able to produce our own event in second year. By the end of it, it feels like you’ve dedicated your life to this one event. You can feel a little lost when it’s finished - when you have time for yourself again - BUT it is the most rewarding part of the course, especially if you manage to raise money for a particular charity or cause.

And, obviously, the Lord Forte Foundation Scholarship has been a blessing! Being a student is quite financially draining - especially in your last couple of years as you are buckling down to get your degree and may not have the time to maintain a job. Being offered the chance to apply for this scholarship was an amazing opportunity that I fortunately won. The scholarship of £2,500 is helping me with general living costs such as bills and food. However, I am hoping to keep some aside for my next trip back to Malawi and to kick start my website to recruit more volunteers and donations for the school and the surrounding village.

Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

Get involved! Don’t be shy. Be the person to talk in class and ask questions! Oh, and do the readings - sometimes the text might seem to go on forever but it’s all beneficial.

Any future plans after graduation?

After university, I will be going back to Malawi for a few months to help with the school. In addition, I hope to (finally) set up a website that provides information and donation/sponsorship options, so more people can help and get involved; then go into partnership with another charity that focuses on the village and the local people. Industry wise, I hope to go into the third sector and work in charities and/or non-profit organisations to gain enough experience to have my own charity-fundraising organisation.

Life as a student at QMU

Are you a member of a QMU club, society or group? If so, what was the reason behind your choice and what do you enjoy most about it?

I have not been involved in a society, but I have been a class rep throughout the four years of my degree and that has allowed me to really get involved with solving any particular issues raised within my class. Although it sounds a little boring, it’s actually been really insightful and allowed me to develop skills that can be harnessed elsewhere in my professional life.

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR LECTURERS! Don’t be a cool kid and sit at the back of the class. I did that during first and second year and it didn’t help me at all. The last two years of my degree I’ve asked the stupid questions, I’ve emailed almost every lecturer for help and I’ve met up with most of them to go through my work with me and resolve any issues that I’ve had – it’s all paid off! If you make the effort with them, they’ll make the effort with you. I’ve pulled my grades up from a third to a first within the last two years. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Step into QMU with the BA (Hons) Events Management

https://www.qmu.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduate-study/2018-undergraduate-courses-folder/baba-hons-events-management/

"The Lord Forte Foundation Scholarship has been a blessing! Being a student is quite financially draining - especially in your last couple of years as you are buckling down to get your degree and may not have the time to maintain a job. Being offered the chance to apply for this scholarship was an amazing opportunity that I fortunately won. The scholarship of £2,500 is helping me with general living costs such as bills and food. However, I am hoping to keep some aside for my next trip back to Malawi and to kick start my website to recruit more volunteers and donations for the school and the surrounding village."
Sarah Howsam

Published 2017 - 2018