Firstly, I cannot believe how fast the last four years have gone and today I found out my degree classification… It feels like yesterday that I arrived in Sheffield and whilst I am excited to graduate, I will be sad to leave. As cliché as it may sound, I have absolutely loved my time at Sheffield studying LLB Law (with Spanish Law) and the opportunities that I’ve had have really shaped who I am today.
Whilst I’ve had too many great experiences to list, these are my top 10 experiences through the form of opportunities offered by the University, in no particular order are:
1. Fully funded trip to Nicaragua teaching English
Having never been outside of the EU by myself, I was over the moon in first year to be selected as team leader to take a group of students representing the university to a partner university in Nicaragua to teach English over the summer. For several weeks, we exchanged culture and taught English to Nicaraguan students. Afterwards, I went backpacking in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. From translating English to Spanish at a hospital to giving speaking on Nicaraguan radio, the stories from that summer have been something that makes my CV stand out. An amazing bonus was then being awarded a Sheffield Alumni Volunteering Scholarship that covered the whole cost of the trip!
2. Mooting opportunities
Before university, I was absolutely petrified of public speaking and would have never imagined that I would become involved with mooting (oral presentation of a legal issue in a mock court). However, in first year, I applied on whim for the Bar Society’s Internal mooting competition and in fourth year I chose mooting as a module counting towards my degree and even represented the university in the prestigious University of Oxford’s International Intellectual Property Mooting competition. Whether it’s mooting or it’s a completely different activity like tightrope walking, you never know what you might end up enjoying. The “Give it a Go” programme at Sheffield is particularly great to try new things!
3. Year Abroad
Whilst I couldn’t afford a gap year before I started my degree, I was always adamant that I wanted to experience living abroad. Having the year abroad as part of my degree was therefore perfect as I was still able to receive my usual loans/grants from the government but experience life abroad in Salamanca (Spain)! Whilst it was difficult, I loved getting to know Spanish culture and I feel that the extra year really let me become more confident and independent (as well giving me an extra year to decide what to do upon graduating). It also gave me the opportunity to run my first half-marathon, and by doing some tactical shifting of exams and living in a cheap city, I also managed to squeeze in month trips to Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea!
4. Fully funded GLOSS Trip to the Creative Commons Summit in Toronto
My year abroad also introduced me to the world of intellectual property law and when the GLOSS team announced that they were going to the Creative Commons, I knew that I really wanted to go. I was really lucky to be picked for the team (see one of my previous posts for my tips on the application) and I absolutely loved my time there. It gave me an unique insight into copyright law in practice, gave me the opportunity to have my policy brief work published and gave me inspiration to what I wanted to after graduation! I also saw my first Bluejays game (I’m told this is big in the Canadian world).
5. Student Ambassador Work
For the past four years, one if the greatest highlights has been working within different departments of the university as a student ambassador. This role has been perfect for me as it combines my interest in supporting current students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds with their path to university and to financially support myself through my degree. Being a quiz mistress to a hall full of international students, to being on a panel answering questions from sixth form students and giving tours of the university in the snow will definitely be memories that last! Having been an ambassador for the four years, one of the most rewarding parts has been seeing students grow in confidence and progress from sixth form to starting their degree at Sheffield! If you’re interested in joining the team, information is available on different faculty websites. (I’ve also written another blog on why you might want to be part of the Orientation Team!)
6. Pro-bono work
As a law student, one of the key buzzwords when I joined university was “pro-bono”. After volunteering at my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau during sixth form, I was keen to continue at university. True to my word, I quickly became involved with the Miscarriages of Justice Review Centre and within weeks of starting university, I was already working with a team assisting and individual who claimed wrongful conviction of murder. Whilst it make take years to qualify as a lawyer (or an engineer or a doctor), you can still be helpful somewhere! Check out the university volunteering portal for inspiration.
7. Fully funded GLOSS International Summer School on the Greek Refugee Crisis
In the spirit of fully getting the most out of my time at university (and my tuition fees worth), I was really excited to be part of a team selected for an international summer school in Greece. Not only was it my first taster of debating with other students from around the world, but we also volunteered at a Greek refugee camp – a truly eye opening and different experience!
8. Societies and Committee work
After the SU being nominated as the best SU for the 10th year running, it comes as no surprise that the societies here are popular and offer a great choice of activities. Having enjoyed everything from badminton to Spanish debating, I decided to run for committee and have since been on committees. Working with other committee members on organising a variety of activities has been both challenging yet rewarding. Being on committee lets you meet other people from all year groups and really puts you in a great position to steer the society and events offered in new directions!
Whilst being part of societies was fun, I also took the opportunity in my second year of university to co-found the student-led project “SheffMarket” which sourced and sold local fresh produce each week on the SU concourse. As a law student interested in commercial law, the project was really eye-opening in how a business functions and “SheffMarket” really pushed me out of my comfort zone as I took charge of the sales analysis and creative design of the logo and other marketing materials. This has been an amazing experience to talk about at interviews and has also been really fun. If you have a passion and the project doesn’t exist yet, why not take the plunge and start it?
From the “City Connections” programme and “Internationalisation of the Legalisation Project” to mock interviews and networking events, opportunities like these are always sent to your uni email inbox. Don’t ignore them! There may be loads of them, but it’s super useful to sift through them to detect the best opportunities. With the job market becoming increasingly difficult to enter, every mock interview or partner that you meet at a networking dinner may help. These events don’t only prepare you for what to expect when applying to jobs, but a connection you make in first year may just be the one that makes all the difference later on!
This leads me to my general point… you never know until you try! This has probably been one of my most important lessons from university. There will always be people who are better than you. But opportunities rarely come served up on a silver platter to you. Instead, no matter how unlikely you may think it is that you will be picked for an opportunity, the only thing that is certain is that if you don’t apply, you won’t get picked. Then, as you get picked for one experience, that then boosts your CV and then the next opportunity becomes closer to your grasp and so on!