Student Name: Ylenia Saitta
Course: BA (Hons) Media
Year of graduation: 2019
Ylenia knew that she wanted to study media, film and television abroad once she had finished high school. After deciding on Scotland, she enrolled on the BA (Hons) Media* course at Queen Margaret University (QMU) in 2015. She graduated four years later and is now putting the creative skills she acquired on the course to good use in her new role with a London based consultancy.
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
Soon after graduating from high school in Italy, I moved to London and went to college to get my English language certifications. I was still very much set on going to university and knew that studying abroad was undoubtedly for me.
After some thorough research, I found out that as an EU citizen, I could study affordably in Scotland: land of castles, knights, kings and queens, fairy tales and Harry Potter! I was immediately drawn to it as I knew I wanted to study media, film and television. QMU was also the only institution that ticked all three boxes for me: location, community, and the subjects that I wanted to study.
By studying at QMU, I could pursue a BA (Hons) in Media at a smaller university, while still living in Edinburgh. I have absolutely no regrets! I genuinely believe that your student experience is what you make it. I enjoyed my course - particularly the topics, the perspectives it has given me, and the knowledge I can now apply in a professional context.
What did you enjoy most about your course?
I believe the best parts about my course were the lecturers and some strategic modules. A special thank you should go (in no particular order) to Dr Martin Zeller-Jacques, Dr Jill Marshall, Dr Robert Munro, Graham Drysdale, Walid Salhab and Ann Turner. I found them to be incredibly passionate about what they teach and always keen to engage with students - they helped us to think critically about the topics and concepts discussed in each lecture. QMU is a small University, and because of that, lecturers can provide a more personal experience to their students. They were always keen to listen, answer questions and keep us on track.
The best modules for me, career-wise, have been 'Working in the Media’ and 'Media Production’. These helped me to develop my technical skills and create content for my portfolio while studying full-time and working part-time for four years. It was a real game-changer for me! Not only for my portfolio, but also for gaining hands-on experience of working with real external clients and within diverse teams, improving team working skills and dealing with clients both logistically and creatively.
What challenges did you face with the course and/or university life? How did you overcome them?
The academic system back home is, understandably, quite different from how it is in the UK. At first, I felt that I didn’t have much experience with what was being asked of me academically. However, with time, feedback and regular assignments - my academic writing skills eventually reached new highs - and I could really see the difference from my first essays.
Enhancing student learning and personal development
Did you join any schemes/initiatives/internships to enhance your learning and development?
In my third year, I successfully applied for the Saltire Internship Programme with Entrepreneurial Scotland, which was worth all the hard work. Entrepreneurial Scotland is a charity providing fully funded internship opportunities to students in their third year at Scottish Universities. They aim to inspire, develop and connect leaders across both Scotland and the world to create the most entrepreneurial society possible.
I worked hard and landed a fantastic internship with Boat Rocker Media in Toronto. This gave me a whole new perspective on the media field and was vital to improving my skills in a different working environment, in another country and with fantastic people. Also, with the rest of the 2018 cohort, I joined a network of students, leaders and others that share the same entrepreneurial mindset, ambitions and drive.
I’m now a proud Saltire Scholar (2018) and Programme Ambassador.
What University services did you use to support you through your academic journey, and how did they help you?
I definitely could not have made it without the outstanding support of Colin Duffus, Career Advisor within QMU’s Employability Centre. He provided continuous feedback and support throughout the whole process. He knows precisely the right way for you to tailor your CV, develop your interview skills, and prepare in general for standing the best possible chance of getting that first job after graduation!
"By studying at QMU, I could pursue a BA (Hons) in Media at a smaller university, while still living in Edinburgh. I have absolutely no regrets!"
Life as a Student at QMU
What's your 'top tip' for making the most of being a student?
Enjoy it as much as you can! Make friends within your course and outside of it. Join a sports club or society if you fancy it and explore Edinburgh and Scotland as much as you can. These four years will be what you make of them. It is essential to have fun and build relationships, but also to study as hard as possible and get that all-important work experience. It's going to be tremendous and stressful at the same time, but I felt like my experience was worth it and would wish that for everyone else as well.
Also, remember that if, for whatever reason, you are struggling, the University and Student’s Union can provide support. If you choose to go to university, be aware that there are means for you to have a successful and smooth experience. Especially at QMU.
Can you tell us about your life post-graduation (your career path, notable achievements, etc.)?
I graduated from the BA (Hons) Media course in July 2019, and that same month I joined the Admissions team at QMU as a Temporary Conversion and Outreach Assistant. I worked on clearing processes and outreach activities, which helped me cement my administrative and organisational skills. I also got to see what the University was like behind the scenes.
A couple of months later, the Saltire Internship Programme Team advertised a role with Interactive Workshops (IW) in their monthly scholar newsletter. IW is an agile consulting agency based in London, who create learning and development programmes for a diverse range of clients across the globe. They have also hosted Saltire Interns before, so I knew we were going to be on the same page. I applied, and after a lengthy - but exciting - interview process, I was offered a role within the IW Design Studio, which I happily accepted.
This job taught me that working hard, being yourself and learning how to showcase your abilities are the most important aspects to succeed. You can achieve goals and come across paths you had not considered before, which makes it all more exciting.
Anything else you’d like to share about life at QMU or as a graduate?
If you are worried about where your course will take you after graduation, I would suggest keeping your focus on developing a wide range of skills. If you seek out internships that can help improve these skills while allowing you to discover new ones, you'll be ready for pretty much anything that comes your way. Don't be afraid to follow a path that you had not pre-established either - careers change and your interests will as well.
As a graduate, and now a young professional, I've learnt to keep applying for as many roles as possible. However, do some research to make sure that you would enjoy working at each company first.
Finally, try not to worry too much. Surround yourself with people who can give you perspective, especially when the perfect job doesn't come around as soon as you had expected. You'll eventually get what you want if you keep seeking it.
*The BA (Hons) Media course has been replaced by BA (Hons) Media and Communications
[Published October 2019]