Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?
I originally applied to Birmingham due to its proximity to home. With a train station on campus I have been able to go home with ease, with only an hour’s travel time from door to door. As I attended the applicant visit day I became more and more motivated to put Birmingham as my firm choice, as I really enjoyed speaking to the staff and students on the day. I was especially impressed on the day by Dr Tim Jackson, who had skilfully managed to withstand my auntie’s tough grilling and leave her satisfied that the course was as good as they had claimed!
What are your fondest memories of the University?
My fondest memories of University: now that’s a tough question. Over the course of my degree I partook in as many opportunities as I could, from societies, trips, careers events and fairs. As a result, I’ve certainly done more things that I could ever have dreamed of, amassing many great memories over my degree. My fondest memories would probably be from my years working on the student paper. It was an interesting experience, meeting people from other degrees with different interests and interacting with them, as together we created articles to go online or in print. My favourite thing to do was to relax in the office and chat to everyone as they worked on articles or their print pages for the upcoming edition. As Editor of the gaming section I was able to go to many exhibitions, create imaginative page designs and interact with a band of like-minded individuals, who together formed a team to cover all the latest gaming news.
How did you grow as a person by coming to University?
I think over the course of my degree I became more confident and doubted myself less. Often when you’re at school it’s difficult to find like-minded people and you might sometimes feel like a minority. However at university it just felt like I was surrounded by people just like me; plenty of people who enjoyed many of the same things I did, complete with societies for us to do the things we loved to talk about. From the Computer Video Games Society which sets up consoles every week for us to all play together, to the Film Society who screen old classics in a lecture theatre in the Education Building. Everyone felt welcome at university and so did I; coming out of my shell to become my best self, someone who others could to turn to for advice, or someone who could be relied on to lead projects or a section of the newspaper and a team of writers. I won’t lie and say I’m now a super hero with a degree, far from it. I still get stage fright when I present but presenting in front of others no longer reduces me into a stuttering mess who struggles to read her own notes. These days I’ve been known to make flashcards like a TV host!
What did you think of the learning experience within the University?
I think my education and the skills I learnt over the course of my degree prepared me quite well for my post-degree career choices. I found that learning the foundations of a programming language in the first year set me up to be able to learn many other languages rapidly, while each language has different syntaxes and capabilities they will all fundamentally have the same concepts. While we only learnt C in first year, I have gone on to learn another half a dozen programming languages, picking them up rapidly since I learn the basics in my first year.
What inspired you most during your time as a student?
Throughout my degree I leapt at any opportunity to speak to employers, to get an idea of what awaited me on the other side of my degree, and to get an insight into the things I could be working on in the future. I found the careers fairs we held in the Great Hall the most inspirational. Not only were they a great source of free pens, highlighters, tote bags and the occasional wooden spatula, they were a fantastic opportunity to speak to employees who were working in the industries I was interested in applying for. It was always interesting to speak to many companies you already knew or heard of, as well as many smaller or lesser known companies to learn about and see what they were working on, how they were engineering our future. Sometimes you’d speak to someone and think “no, that’s not for me” but often you’d be hanging on their every word as they made their day jobs sound as exciting as humanly possible, enticing you to take their flyers and apply as soon as you got home.
What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?
While my particular degree title no longer exists, all the key parts of it have been merged with some of the best parts of mechanical engineering to make the Mechatronics and Robotics course. I would recommend that anyone studying the course take every opportunity to see the applications of your degree program. Be this visiting a company which is investing heavily into robotics or meeting people who work in companies which program or develop for those industries, or even just learning more about the research we undertake at the University. As important as it is to learn the foundations of programming to aid you in future endeavours, it’s great to see what you’re working towards, to keep you motivated and inspire you throughout your degree. The world is moving towards automation and technology in every facet of our lives, and we’ll be the ones to help get it there.