When deciding to go to university there are always those niggling (and slightly stressful) thoughts at the back of your mind: ‘am I choosing the right degree? Will this help me to get the right job? How am I going to compete with all the cleverer people around me?!’. First of all, you should really tell those voices to pipe down and second of all, your degree is not the be all and end all and it is actually the other ways you fill your time at uni that really count.
“the Nottingham Advantage Award which is supported and recognised by employers, appears on your degree transcript and is absolutely free”
Nottingham is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to participate in the Nottingham Advantage Award, which is supported and recognised by employers, appears on your degree transcript and is absolutely free (unless you decide to take language classes). It may seem like an alien concept to you right now, but I’m hoping that by the end of this article you will see more clearly what it’s all about, how you can get involved and what you can get out of the scheme.
That all sounds great, but how do you actually achieve the award? In order to gain the award, you have to complete 30 credits across your time at uni, which can be made up of modules worth either 10 or 20 credits. You can do a maximum of 20 credits per year but to be honest, alongside your degree and societies and sport and “socialising” you wouldn’t want to do any more than that!
The Nottingham Advantage Award has been established by the University so students can develop skills which are seen by employers as particularly valuable. These cover many bases such as mentoring, entrepreneurship, cultural awareness, volunteering and general career skills. So, not only do you improve your work ethic, gain experience and develop your character through taking part, you come out the other side of it with an award and a celebration event (because who doesn’t like to party) recognising your ongoing commitment.
“If you log in to Workspace you can browse the 150+ modules available”
The modules you can choose range from subject-based to employer-led, enterprise to community-based and even study abroad. If you log in to Workspace you can browse the 150+ modules available and look at the teaching timetables to find ones that will fit into your life. You also have the choice between online modules and those which involve regular meetings, training sessions or external volunteering, so you can do a combination or stick to what works for you.
Having already completed 20 credits of the award, I can tell you from experience that it is a truly valuable enterprise. I started my first module, ‘Your University Journey – New Starters’, before I arrived at university, not really knowing what the award was but wanting to get involved anyway. Despite finding parts of it rather dry, it was a good induction to university life and gave me many useful tips for improving work ethic, organisation and even note-taking and revision techniques.
This year I’m going to be completing my last module which is Peer Mentoring. I think this is a great one to choose if you love meeting new people and generally have a mother-hen-style outlook on life, as you get to share all your knowledge of Nottingham and Fresher’s (the good, the bad and the ugly) whilst giving new students a support network to help them settle in and grow to love this uni as much as you do.
“I was not prepared for being sworn at and having chairs thrown at me, but helping the students improve their English and having those tiny moments of success made it all so worthwhile”
Although online modules are somewhat easier to complete, I then decided I’d rather do a seminar and volunteering-based module so applied to Literacy Volunteers. This was advertised by my English course, as it involved going to a local secondary school to volunteer as an English teaching assistant and, as I am interested in the possibility of a teaching career, seemed to be perfect for me.
8:30am starts every Thursday were a bit of a struggle and I was not prepared for being sworn at and having chairs thrown at me, but helping the students improve their English and having those tiny moments of success made it all so worthwhile that I actually miss going there, despite not knowing if I’d make it out alive. It certainly sparked a love of teaching in me and the seminars were useful in providing teaching materials and techniques. There were many benefits of the module, especially in terms of building my confidence, patience and inter-personal skills. I know that I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for the Nottingham Advantage Award.
But don’t just take my word for it, get involved with the Nottingham Advantage Award, apply for some modules and see what it can do for you.
To find out more about NAA visit https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/careers/students/advantageaward/index.aspx
Featured image courtesy of WalrusWaltz via Flickr. Image license found here.
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