365 Presidential Days
Name: Reema Quessou
Course: BSc Business and Management
Placement Position: President 2017/18
Location: Aston Students’ Union, Birmingham, UK
Aye blog post number 2! It’s all about post placement, final year and the somewhat magical road ahead.
I’ve come to the conclusion that even though placement definitely finished me, I miss it all. The colleagues that are now friends, my desk and even the tough times when I wanted to quit. That feeling of nothing to do for a few days was weird, but I wish I made the most of it! I was never told enough but now looking back, I wish I relaxed so much more because once final year arrives, it’s tough. If you thought second year or third year was hard, this is by far the most intense year. Your degree is worth 75%, applying for graduate schemes if you want to and making the most of your last year at University is not simple – for anyone. If they say it’s easy or fine, they are lying.
So, lesson number one is relax, go on weekend trips, spoil yourself and do whatever makes you happy because it’ll come and go quickly.
But what a great British summer we had! The World Cup and Love Island both in full swing, my days (and I’m pretty sure those of most of the Aston population) consisted of waking up and sunbathing on campus or in back gardens, pub garden visits and rinsing bottles of sun lotion. Alas, all good things come to an end and rightly, so did my placement year.
I think no amount of planning, speaking to older friends, etc. can mentally and physically prepare you for final year. It’s something you have to experience and like the placement year, it’s a routine you fall back into. I found it hard to adjust to timetabled lectures and seminars alongside daily learning so, when you’re facing it, try and think of the best ways of how you studied in previous years. Due to my placement, I learnt to manage my time better and organise the hectic final year, so I was able to fit in everything I needed to do. It also helped me in my Business and Management degree since most of modules had content that was implanted in my brain for use throughout my Presidency post. This meant I had real life examples I could relate back to, which helped me understand content and information better. It’s all about finding your feet, so take time out in between days to de-stress! Your degree might be hard but do the reading, go back over lecture content until you understand it all and not just for the sake of doing it. This year I received an 84% in one of my essays and it was at this point I realised that the essay itself was not difficult but attending everything, extra studying and reading really helped!
Grad jobs! As a final year student, you’re not alone in the journey of applying for them and it’s not that big of a deal. YOU CAN APPLY FOR A NORMAL FULL TIME JOB TOO! Explore the world, take a gap year, find yourself and what you want to do. A graduate scheme isn’t for everyone and that is normal. If you are applying for these schemes, it’s similar to placement searches and (like before) keep applying. Everybody gets rejected, but these schemes will be worth it in the end when you’ve secured one. If you don’t find something straightaway, the main things are not to give up and keep believing in yourself. After surviving University, you can get through this too and it takes time to find your career path or future job. Additionally, please stop comparing yourself to your friends/colleagues; everyone has different paths and it’s such a toxic trait. It’s something I have learnt and been advised by my boyfriend, family and close friends, and it’s something I will always remember.
Another thing about applying for grad schemes; if you get accepted onto one, you still need to have achieved the grade at the end of final year and passed your degree. Otherwise there will have been no point applying in the first place!
My plan for the future is still somewhat unknown and a mystery to even me! I’ve been applying for grad schemes and jobs for months, completed probably 2,347 online tests and a few interviews but…zilch. I started applying in October and I am still here, so my next plan is (after February/March) to start applying for full time jobs and look into other things. Final year finishes in May for everyone and throughout the start of the year I have been relaxing, looking after my mental and physical health but also enjoying my last few months at Aston with friends, colleagues and family. I can say that I cannot wait to get a job and start working. Wherever and whatever I do, studying is something I want to complete asap but I know once I have graduated and my university chapter comes to an end, I will miss it all. You are part of this Aston family too and it’s something that you’ll never be able to do again! Enjoy your placement/work abroad and be ready to face the final chapter of your student life. Time doesn’t stop, and for those reading this I wish you all the best for your remaining time at Aston.
Placement. Did I finesse it or did it finesse me?
As a BSc Business and Management student, a placement was compulsory. Lesson number one, if you’re reading this and have not been reminded already, start searching and applying now! It may seem too early but you’ll thank the heavens (and hopefully me too) when you have one. Something to note, don’t worry about all the rejections – every student receives them. If they say they haven’t, they’re a bloody liar…believe me! Second lesson, even if you don’t know what area/career you want to branch into, do a placement that you’re interested in or want to, you’ll thank yourself later!
The intention on applying to be Aston Students’ Union President was personal; I had experienced this and I knew I wasn’t alone. The larger clubs and societies had become powerful and there was a huge culture focused on irresponsible drinking, leaving the raw talent and passion for the sports and hobbies disoriented. This was the stigma I wanted to break.
Whoever invented coffee became my saviour. Without it I probably would have not made it through the world of 9am meetings, conferences and everyday life at work to be honest. Gradually weeks became easier to get up to, I came to understand office routines and the presidential responsibilities were such that the months flew by. Third lesson – this year will fly by, so cherish the good times and don’t forget to have as much fun as you can!
My placement role was different than anyone else’s because I was over-seeing a charity. Hence this blog doesn’t focus on the Presidential aspect but what I gained and learnt from working in a business. You really learn how to survive and work in the real world, sugar-coating doesn’t exist and you are doing jobs or taking on responsibilities that will affect the company you work for either positively or negatively. You work full time and, although you may still look like a student (my height was not an advantage), you are treated like an adult. The real world is scary but that’s life and this is why the year prepares you well.
Placement matched my expectations; it taught me lessons for the future, and also about myself. At times, I clashed with colleagues – there were conflicting opinions and we disagreed…but that’s human nature. Respecting each other’s cultures, understanding ways of working, and bonding with the office atmosphere was necessary but these issues would always be resolved immediately. Always ask if you’re ensure, and take the time to know colleagues on a personal level not just workplace. They’ll appreciate it instead of talking about the same shitty work issues.
Everyone knew at the Union that I had bonded with the Marketing Department; it felt like I had known them for years. In time, when you’ve made friends, you’ll start enjoying the job (even if you don’t like particular responsibilities) because you’ve got people that’ll help you get through it. When something had me down, I’d migrate to the third floor office and have tears from laughing all day with them. I dressed up as the girl from The Ring for a Halloween prank, had endless nerf gun fights, attended balls and events, even planned a final night for hundreds of final years with no previous experience. This department was the foundation of my successful Birmingham campaign, which was videos of affordable days out for students.
Memes were created, bloopers were included, and my inner child had the best fun. Importantly, students and staff loved the videos every time. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
Completing my placement feels great and despite all the struggles and hard times, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve found out things about myself, found a possible career path, made incredible friends, and the amount of skills and knowledge I’ve picked up I didn’t even know was possible. Sure at the start the routine slapped me in the face, weekends became hard to adjust my personal life to and I had a love-hate feeling about it…but now, it’s done. Don’t forget to enjoy your year and make the most of it! I’ve got that one more thing on my CV – real life experience, and that’s more valuable than having perfect attendance, exam results and a great placement year…because they don’t exist.
I’m not perfect after this placement and neither will you be either, but nobody is. There’s always going to be someone better or smarter than you but stay true to yourself, expand your horizons, do the best you can and make the most of your placement year because you can’t repeat it.
Final year is something I am desperately waiting for, not just because of the all-nighters, skipping lectures (I live life on the edge you see) and Netflix binging days, but making memories in my final University year. After this, goodbye pasta diet and hello to the world of adulting where I’ll be mostly spending my money on alcohol, furniture and workwear!