by Hannah Mead, Make Happen collaborative outreach officer
As the first person to go to university in my family, I was completely in the dark about what university would really be like.
I studied BA in History at the University of Essex for three years and then decided to stay on for an additional year and complete my MA in History. But it wasn’t until I completed my time at university that I fully realised the benefits of attending.
For one, I was totally surprised by how easy it was to make friends with people from different backgrounds, including international students, who I am still friends and in contact with today. The History department was completely supportive during my time as a student, and both academic and support teams were top class when it came to providing me with advice and guidance, this included reviewing essay plans, talking through feedback on an essay or simply being a friendly face during a period of anxiety.
Looking back, I made some incredible memories. These include being part of, and working for, the Students’ Union bar on campus, volunteering as a Peer Mentor for the History department, as well as the on-campus charity, Nightline.
Not only did I leave with two degrees, I also left the University of Essex with a pool of experience that I was able to add to my CV and the knowledge that I wanted to follow a career that involved supporting students.
These experiences, and the skills that I gained whilst taking my degrees, I showcased to employers when applying for my first graduate roles. I secured my first role as a skills officer at Essex County Council, working with secondary school students and developing their understanding around STEM. I then secured a position working for Make Happen as a collaborative outreach officer, where I now get to work with and aspire students every day about the benefits of higher education.
My advice to any student who’s unsure about applying to university is to attend Open Days! Universities advertise their scheduled Open Days on their website and via their social media platforms.
Also, don’t follow your friends if their route is the one that you don’t want to follow – it can be daunting thinking about living away from home and attending a university that your friends haven’t chosen, but you’ll make friends and you’ll leave university wishing that you could go back!