How my placement at UWE has been a transformational year

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Jennifer Yau, Law with Criminology Student shares her experience of undertaking a placement year within the UWE Careers and Enterprise Department

Whilst looking to undertake a placement year, I never thought to look at internal roles within the university. I was surprised to find that the Careers and Enterprise Department had recently started recruiting placement students. But it turns out, this is the position that you should really want – to acquire all the skills you learn, the flexibility to embark on your own projects and genuinely transform yourself into a confident individual. 

I loved my placement year- everything was well balanced whilst I was working simultaneously on two teams – Study Abroad and Placement Management. The teams were very supportive and were accommodating, giving me the freedom to carry out my own projects and collaborate with others- such as promotional and marketing ideas. I was able to develop my employability skills; for instance, enterprise and digital competency whilst creating Sway workbooks, website updates and blogs. It was great to work on a team which was friendly and very inclusive- even though we were temporary staff, I had set daily goals; for example, carrying out reporting and sending data to the marketing team on Thursday. 

Through my own initiative, I got involved with the “Mentorship” and “Reading Buddies” programmes run by UWE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity team for the charity Ablaze. The mentorship program included developing workshops and learning materials to support students from 12-15 years old in local schools, helping them to understand their options and keep engaged with school and allowed me to work collaboratively with colleagues from other departments at UWE. I mentored for the first time ever – this was an incredible experience in helping young adults open their eyes to a wide range of careers and skills available. One highlight was running the “minute meditation” and the silent wave in the room as the students genuinely concentrated. The other program focussed on one-to-one reading support to primary school children, helping to achieve Bristol’s ambition of ensuring that all children can read fluently by age 11. This was also a first for me, it felt great to support pupils and help them improve their confidence and ability to converse with someone out of their normal social circle. Their experience deeply resonated with me as I come from a Chinese household where English was rarely spoken and it felt great to give back by helping a child to develop their reading and speaking skills. 

I have really improved my transferrable skills and I am really ecstatic to have improved my communication skills especially proactively speaking in public whilst running the stand at “Meet the employers fair” and “Placement Week”. I had the freedom to attend the wide range of learning and development courses where I also made further connections with wider UWE staff network- this has been amazing! The team were very trusting, especially Frances and Rachel where I was the lead point for the marketing of Placements’ Week, the “Covid-19” student comms also the Study Abroad resources project- these projects all helped me diversify and improve my skills- from tech to communication. 

This placement year has helped me transform into a more confident and enterprising individual, mostly I enjoyed helping my peers embarking on their own careers in search for placements through coordinating weekly drop-ins and answering questions consistently for hours at the “Meet the Employers Fair”. 

Many students have embarked on a placement year within UWE in a range of departments and now the Library, Careers and Inclusivity service. I felt honoured to be one of the first placement students within the Careers and Enterprise department and special thanks to my team for always being wonderfully helpful and flexible.  

For anyone looking for a placement opportunity, these are extraordinary transition points in your life – you transform into a more productive and resilient individual. This is a year to not only gain professional experience but also an opportunity to network and to get involved. Remember to take the initiative and get the most from your placement year! 

My journey with UWE Equity Mentoring

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Mamadou Sow, Politics and International Relations student shares his experience of getting a BAME mentor and how it led to a dream internship

Through UWE Equity, I had the opportunity to be mentored by the Policy Advisor for the Mayor of Bristol, who provided me with a great deal of insight into how the mayoral office in Bristol functions and helped me to secure a placement with the International team.  

The International team promote Bristol throughout the world and liaise particularly with twinned cities, such as Hannover and Bordeaux.  This resulted in great opportunities to be involved in meetings within and outside the Mayor’s office where real issues were being discussed and decisions made.  I also had the opportunity to shadow the Mayor several times – particularly during his meetings with the UNHCR Ambassador and during visits to deprived areas.  The team allowed me to contribute as well -  I conducted research into events in Bristol and twinned cities to help with the promotional effort. 

The placement allowed me to develop, both as a professional and an individual. I now have a strong understanding of international relations and have developed an aptitude for research. I have found that I learn well in a business environment and am quick to understand new subjects.  I also discovered areas of weakness, such as my knowledge of how local government is involved internationally.  Another aspect I was unfamiliar with was the difference between academic and corporate styles of written communication.  I worked hard to correct these weaknesses and build on my strengths.

Apart from the opportunity to see real work in action, the primary benefit of a mentoring and placement programme is the acquisition of skills that are applied in that real environment, rather than those learned in just an academic environment.  Now the placement has ended, I can see how I have gained truly practical real career skills that are rarely considered, like the appropriate distribution of resources, how to manage my time effectively, project management and how to adapt my approach by shadowing others. I have also strengthened my language skills, adapting to use both English and French when collecting data from various sites. This technical skill will benefit me greatly in future work within international relations, as will the other transferrable skills I acquired.

When I first met with my mentor, I explained my career goals of entering international diplomacy and ultimately run for the presidency of my home country (Guinea).  I further explained that I had only started speaking English – as a third language – three years ago.  He was impressed by this and my ambitions.  Clearly, he had a strong idea of what would help me on this path because the placement has substantially increased my awareness of this dimension of politics, has granted me extraordinary opportunities to witness and to participate in these efforts whilst continuing to improve my language skills.  I have gained new contacts as well – people who are happy to support my continued development and will be useful in my career ahead. Overall, the placement really highlighted the value of good leadership.  Seeing how the Mayor and the councillors dealt with issues has made me even more certain of my career aims. 

The Kickstarter to my Career in Illustration

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Tomoko Nishida undertook an internship for Ying Adviser (Linkelite) as a Creative Marketing Intern.

The UWE International Talent Scheme has been a great opportunity for me. It was formative in kickstarting my career as a professional illustrator. My tasks were realistic and achievable, and I was able to make a real difference to the company. I learned how to conduct business in the UK, and developed marketable skills.

Pale pink Chinese lanterns in the background with the outlines of two pandas in the foreground, with the title Ying Advisers

I was placed at Ying Adviser, a start-up consultancy. Ying Adviser provides information about China and its culture, to businesses wishing to expand their presence in China. Prior to my assignment, their online presence was under-developed.

My brief as a Creative Marketing Intern was to help develop an online brand to their specification. The brand would demonstrate their business’s understanding of China. 

Following a successful video interview: the supervisor and I arranged to meet in a cafe to discuss the placement. She was one of the company’s two directors, and told me the story of their company. We were interested in each other’s culture, and so I was excited to draw Chinese illustrations for use on their website. My working hours were flexible: I would work 3 days per week, for 4 weeks. 

I characterised the company’s directors as pandas. I worked on the general idea of pandas having fun, and provided a range of sketches. I had a lot of freedom to decide what to make and how to make it. The brief specified that I would work in red and greyscale watercolour, to evoke a traditional Chinese style. 

Tomoko talking to other students at the Celebrating UWE Talent Awards

The use of humour was the core theme of the illustration. For example: pandas being fried in woks, or riding paper planes or hugging one another. I had to develop techniques for Chinese watercolour in a short time.  Adding elements of Chinese calligraphy helped me to give my illustrations an authentic feel. I tried to depict humour and a sense of momentum by using strong brush strokes. Combining these new techniques broadened my perspective of painting and brushwork.  

This work experience gave me an opportunity to develop Photoshop skills, which directly improves employability. I have gained confidence in using Photoshop in a professional way. 

Once a week, I would work with my supervisor at her house. The rest of the time, I worked from home. This developed my self-management – a skill essential for any illustrator. I would write a daily report on what work I’d produced, and what my plans were for the next shift. The directors emailed me regular and useful feedback. 

I recognise that I would benefit from pursuing experience in a creative team, to complete my professional profile. It is important to learn from a teacher or fellow professional. 

The creative techniques and organisational skills that I honed during this internship, are already proving useful for my 3rd year personal project, and I have confidence that they will help me toward my dream of illustrating children’s books professionally.


The International Talent Internship Scheme provides you with a paid short-term work opportunity over the summer. Internships are a great way to experience the professional workplace and develop your skills.  

If you would like to find out more about International Talent Internships, then do get in touch on InternationalTalent@uwe.ac.uk.

Learning Science Ltd

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Ryan Cornwell, Biomedical Sciences at UWE Bristol, reflects on his internship for Learning Science Ltd as a Learning Resource Development Intern.

My work varied from Beta testing learning science resources, to reading and expanding my knowledge on scientific techniques and even creating my own learning science resource that will be seen in multiple universities across England. 

This is one of the best things I could have done to support my degree. I was met with interesting and varied work daily with the added benefit that no two days were the same. Work was never overwhelming as I had a solid support network provided by my work colleagues. I can’t recommend Learning science enough and the same for the internship scheme.

“We have gained hugely from having a student on the team who can provide real insight into learning needs and challenges.” Ryan’s manager found his knowledge and support invaluable. Following his internship, Ryan has been asked to continue working for Learning Science on an adhoc basis.  

You can read more about Ryan’s experience on the Learning Science Blog


Taking part in the UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 

The UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 2020 has now launched and is a brilliant way to gain work experience for your CV and earn some money over the Summer. This year internship opportunities will be offered online. For more details visit the Internships website

What Happens After Graduation?

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Opus Talent Solutions share their insights on how to get your first graduate role

You’re finally a graduate. You’ve completed your studies and, as someone’s bound to tell you, the world’s your oyster. Yet oysters can be tricky to get into, even if you’ve done your research and come to the table prepared. 

Finding your first graduate role can be challenging. Whether you have a highly specific career path in mind, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the options available, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost at this stage. 

Fortunately, once you find your feet, the prospect of searching for your first ‘proper job’ will quickly become a lot less intimidating. Ultimately, you need to play to your strengths, be proactive in your search, and be prepared to acknowledge and challenge your weaknesses. 

Focus on what makes you uniquely suitable for the role in question – don’t be afraid to talk yourself up!

Your degree will form a huge part of your CV, so it’s important to highlight the key elements of your studies that will showcase your skills, particularly those that may not be immediately apparent.  For example, a mathematics degree may demonstrate your ability to handle complex problems with abstract reasoning, while pharmacology might imply attention to detail and a methodical approach. 

You probably have a limited work history, likely in unrelated areas to your studies, but if you can write a few lines that show development in each role, i.e. “I learnt how to X, Y and Z, and took on extra responsibility for 1, 2, 3”, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the competition. 

Honesty about your ability and achievements demonstrates that you’re capable, forthright, and confident in your strengths; all attractive attributes as far as employers are concerned. 

From my experience of talking to thousands of grads, I’d say 90% of them never once visited their university careers office… why?! 

Trained professionals are sat, waiting for someone to knock on the door, so they’ll be super keen to impart their wisdom and point you in the right direction. Make the most of them while you still can!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toggle-on “open to new opportunities” on your LinkedIn account. You can find this under the privacy tab of your account settings. To make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Seek out your ideal opportunities and directly approach organisations – even if they’re not currently advertising for graduates. 

Critically, you should not expect a graduate role to simply fall into your lap. No matter how talented you are, employers also want to know that you are passionate, driven, and independent. Show your initiative by actively pursuing internships and placements.

Your ideal role may not exist at the time you go looking for it. However, this does not mean you can’t create it. By taking control of your search, and being open to a range of options, you give yourself a far greater chance of getting your foot in the door. 

Then you can begin to accrue industry experience, build trust with your employer, and crucially begin to carve out a niche within the organisation. Over time, this may enable you to develop your role into one that is more in line with your ambitions, or use it as a stepping stone to the next stage of your career. 

The confidence, professionalism and sense of achievement you feel after completing a placement is incredible. It gave me an insight into opportunities and inspired me to reach my highest potential.
Eleanor Jayne Elizabeth, OPUS placement student.

The fundamental thing to remember is to tailor your communications to each individual company, showing you’ve done your homework, have a clear understanding of their business, and are serious about making a good impression. 

Foster Connections 

Not every application can be a success. However, every attempt is a learning experience, and a chance to add to your professional network on LinkedIn. 

For example, if you’re turned down due to a lack of available opportunities, or your role is only temporary, encourage these connections to get in touch if something suitable comes up in the future. Similarly, you might ask them to recommend you should they hear of someone else looking for a graduate with your skillset. 

Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot

Remember, this is just the first stage of your career, so don’t lose hope if the perfect role doesn’t immediately materialise. In the meantime, everything you do will increase your experience, enabling you to develop new skills and expand your portfolio.   A varied background demonstrates your versatility, and willingness to adapt. Plus, you may even discover a new calling along the way. 


Why not check out the international graduate scheme offered by Opus Talent Solutions? The two-year intensive training program provides opportunities in London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney.