Hello and welcome to a new series! Yes, another one. If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember I interviewed a lot of students on various placements around this time last year. Now that they’re all back at university and almost ready to face the big, bad world of life after graduation, I thought it a good idea to check back in with them.
This series is going to re-visit the past interviewees and see how they’re getting on, their thoughts on final year, plans for the future and what they make of the Diss.
What I’m most hoping for is that they’re all as clueless as I am when it comes to plans for the future – but that may not be the case. So stay tuned for further interviews with all of the final years and in the mean time, you can check out their placement interviews here.
My tenth interviewee to talk about #FinalYearFear is Emma McCann who who spent her placement year working for PwC in Belfast and secured a grad job long before I had even starting thinking about graduation. Emma is one of those people that always knows what she’s doing, where she’s going and what’s coming next (as well as always having about ten holidays booked to look forward to – right now she’s in Amsterdam).
Emma has just finished her final year of the Information Technologies course at the University of Ulster, Derry campus and spoke to me about her final year a few weeks ago.
Orlagh: Hey gal, how are things with you? How are you finding final year at the minute?
Emma: Right now, things are very hectic; uni is coming to a close very soon and the pressure is definitely on to meet all my deadlines! Things are also beginning to become very real, after four years of midnight coding sessions, numerous cups of coffee and takeaways and also a lot of great memories, my university experience is coming to an end and the real ‘adult’ world is approaching.
Personally, final year is going smoother than I thought it might but then, never say never. I’m doing my best to keep on top of all my work and trying not to procrastinate too much (though, this may be incorrect according to anyone who has me on social media).
Have you noticed much of a difference between final year and your first two years at uni? Is there a lot more pressure and work to do?
Emma: I knew going into final year that it was going to be different than the first two years, but I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the change. While I have one less module than the first two years, I do have a big final year project which is on a totally different scale to anything I’ve ever done.
As a computing student, I’m not used to writing reports so writing a 30+ page report has had its difficulties. There has been a lot more stress and pressure and the deadlines can be quite tight, especially when they clash with your other modules and there has been a lot less going out as I just don’t have the time.
How have you found transitioning back to university life after placement?
Emma: I’m not going to lie, going back to university life after placement was something that I found really difficult. I had spent a year getting into this routine of working 9-5 every day, chilling in the evenings and then enjoying my weekends, but that was all out the window once uni started back.
Even though I only have classes two days per week, between the workload and my part time job, there never seems to be enough time. Going back to being in an education setting was tough going but it doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and once you do, it’s like you never left.
Now that you’ve experienced life in the corporate world, are you excited to go back or sad to leave university behind?
Emma: I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I can’t wait to get back into the working world (and neither can my bank account) and I’m excited for the experiences that are waiting for me. On the other hand, I’ve spent three years of my life making some of the most amazing memories in uni and I will definitely be sad to leave, but after 18 years in education I’m ready to leave that behind and try something new.
Have you had to write a dissertation this year? How’s that going?
Emma: Yes. As a computing student, our set-up was a little different. We had to come up with an idea and actually develop and create it and then our ‘dissertation’ was the documentation to support this, so this is things like gathering requirements, design of the application etc. Thankfully mine is going pretty well and I have my application developed and the report needs some finalising and it will be ready to go.
Do you think you could have approached it better? What would be your advice to students going to write one next year?
The best advice is to start early. I began thinking about my idea while I was still on placement and I think this helped when it came to getting the idea off the ground. For us, we had to have our idea/topic submitted in the first week of being back, so by having my idea already in my head, this kept the pressure off and meant it gave me time to make sure the idea was actually feasible.
Another piece of advice would be if you have a project supervisor, make sure you have weekly or biweekly meetings with them. Their advice can be really helpful at times and it helps to get a second opinion on your work.
THE FUTURE AWAITS
What are your plans for the future? Have you secured a job/grad scheme? Are you planning to travel? Masters?
Emma: I have secured a graduate job with AllState in their Belfast office, which I’m due to start in September. Before that though, I have a few trips planned to relax after the stresses of final year. My plan is to only work for a year/year and a half to get my foot in the door, then head to Australia to do some travelling.
How did you find the application process for the grad scheme?
Emma: The process was very similar to that of placement applications, in fact, it was basically the same. Depending on the company, it was either send an application form or send your CV, then it was either a video interview or assessment centre and then the next stage was a face-to-face interview.
I started looking around October time and think I had secured my job by November. Most of the jobs I applied for were advertised on the university’s career site.
There were a few reasons for deciding to go straight into work, one was that I knew I wouldn’t be going to Australia until 2021 and I didn’t like the thought of working full-time in my current retail job. So I thought if I get a graduate job, I can work full-time for a year, gather some experience for my CV and also have money for Australia.
Where do you see yourself in 12 months time? What do you hope to have achieved by then and where would you like to be?
Emma: In 12 months’ time, I hope to have successfully graduated and began working with AllState. I will have been with AllState for eight months by that time and I hope to have gained useful experience in the industry. I also hope to have booked a few more holidays of course and starting the planning for Australia.
What’s the number one highlight of your entire university experience and why?
Emma: My biggest highlight has to be the people I’ve met. I have made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. They’ve helped me to make so many memories that I know wouldn’t have been possible without them.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to after graduating?
Emma: More money in my bank account! On a serious note though, I’m looking forward to the new experiences that going back into the world of work will bring me. I know it’s going to be challenging going from education to full-time work again but I’m ready for what my path has in store for me.