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5 things I would tell my undergraduate self | Emily Oakden

Looking back on my time as an undergraduate student, I think fondly about all the amazing experiences and opportunities I had at my university. From building a portfolio of work to making friends for life, it really was some of the best years of my life so far.

However, in the three years that have passed since I graduated I have learnt a lot that I wish I could tell my younger self. I can’t go back in time, but I’m excited to share them with you here!

Begin networking early on

The idea of talking to people you don’t or hardly know seems extremely daunting, but I promise it gets easier the more you do it. Quite often we’d have guest lectures where you’re able to not only get a real insight into how they landed their job and what they look for in applicants as a potential employer but more often than not a chance to talk to them one-to-one at the end or ask questions. It’s so easy to give this opportunity up, but make an impression! I know a few people who secured their first job through someone they met at a guest lecture or through a networking event at university. Even if they don’t specialise in your field, they may be able to connect you with others who do.

Don’t let self-doubt keep you from pursuing your dreams

Before I started as an undergraduate student I had dreams of working at a magazine in London. However, I was nervous about moving away from Nottingham (I had chosen to stay in my home city for university) and I felt as though I would never be as good as other people applying. By doubting myself I let opportunities go and watched friends go and pursue them instead.  I did do a placement in London for two weeks, but I wish I’d done more while I had the chance!

Don’t let opportunities pass by

While I was at University I was lucky that there was a lot of opportunities to get your writing published. I took part in a lot of these as I realised how great they would be further down the line and at the time! I interviewed the likes of Sub Focus, Sharleen Spiteri of Texas, Blue, Bewitched and Atomic Kitten and reviewed numerous gigs across venues in Nottingham. I also started blogging for the Huffington Post and worked for Sky News as a reporter during the 2015 general election. At the time I was a bit nervous about trying new things I hadn’t done before and putting myself out there, but I would 100% do it all over again. Yes, it was hard work to juggle at the same time as my degree and it required some good time management skills, but every inch of it was worth it and it’s great to have a portfolio of published written work to show to employers.

Don’t get hung up on the small things

From massive workloads to friendship rifts and break-ups, university comes with its fair share of stressful moments. Although it might seem like the whole world is crashing down around you in a year, month, week or even a couple of days you’ll probably have forgotten they even happened and those negative feelings do go away. Make sure you keep your feet on the floor and focused on what it is you want to achieve and it will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. And if you feel like you need a bit of extra help, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Everyone goes through difficult times and there are always friends, family, a lecturer or support staff at the university who will be able to help you.

 Have fun!

Even though it might seem like going out with your friends isn’t the most important thing to be doing when you have essays to write and exams coming up, make sure you give yourself time to relax and enjoy the moment. Trust me, it may feel like you can’t wait for the pressure and stress to end, but when it’s all over and you’re in a steady job you’ll wish you savoured it more. Go out and enjoy the city with your university friends because you’ll truly be making friends for life that will be there whenever you need them later down the line.



Emily is an NTU Alumni Fellow. You can find out more about how to get involved with the Alumni Fellowship Programme here.

You can find out more about Emily by finding her on LinkedIn



Blog Administrator. Currently ran by co-author Emilia Denis. Emilia has studied Fashion Communication and Promotion at NTU between years 2017 and 2020.

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