Volunteer – Share Scotland – CSV Placement

Contributor: Carla


Currently I’m a full-time volunteer with Share Scotland, a charity which supports adults with complex learning and physical disabilities. I graduated from Lancaster University in July 2012, with a first-class BA (Hons) in Linguistics and English Language.


I needed to gain valuable experience to help strengthen my application for the postgraduate MSc in Speech and Language Therapy. Also, I wanted the opportunity to move away from home and do something worthwhile and rewarding with my gap year!

How did you find the application process?

I applied through a charity called CSV (www.csv.org.uk) – they specialise in setting up full-time volunteer placements, anywhere within the UK , for between six months to a full year. Initially I registered my interest on the website and then received an email asking if I would like to come to one of the CSV offices for an interview. Prior to the interview I had to fill out a more detailed application form which included questions about my previous work experience and education, why I want to volunteer and my personality and interests. The interview itself lasts an hour and again you fill out another form, this time focused more on your specific skills (e.g. can you cook?) and then discuss in more detail the answers on your application form. My volunteer manager, Amy, then used all this information to compile a detailed volunteer profile, which can then be sent out to other organisations that are looking for volunteers. Luckily Share Scotland liked the look of my profile and, in just three weeks, I received a phone call from Amy offering me a placement in Glasgow which I gladly took!

What do you do here?

My role is similar to that of a support worker so I do a variety of different things such as helping with personal care, cooking, assisting service users with meals, helping them access activities in the community (one of our ladies enjoys both horse riding and skiing!) and generally just enabling them to live as a full a life as possible.

The Good Things:

I absolutely love my placement and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to come and volunteer in Glasgow. CSV state that you are unlikely to volunteer in your home town, so this is a great opportunity to have the chance to live in a new city. You also get your travel expenses to and from the project paid for as well as all your accommodation and bills, so you will not be out of pocket for volunteering. It’s also a great feeling knowing that you are really helping to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Furthermore, as many people aren’t actually aware of the CSV scheme, it does help your CV stand out from the crowd and it’s definitely provided me with some incredibly useful work experience.

The Bad Things:

Living on a limited budget is probably one of the biggest pitfalls. CSVs only get £75 a week expenses so while this is enough to live on, unfortunately you probably won’t have enough money to treat yourself to new clothes or holidays etc. Equally, while you can request certain areas of the UK that you would prefer to be placed in, you don’t really get much of a choice in where you will be placed. Consequently, you could end up very far away from home and all your family and friends – Glasgow is 300 miles (or 5 hours away) from my home town of Nottingham.

Anything else we should know:

If you want to gain valuable work experience and do something a bit different with your gap year I would certainly recommend becoming a full-time volunteer with CSV. Being away from home in the situation has taught me a lot about myself and I definitely think having this experience helped me secure a place on my postgraduate course.

Know the Lingo: The latest Linguistics Blog from UWE

Contributor: Craig

What is Lingo? Lingo is the new blog for English Language and Linguistics at UWE. It is a staff and student collaboration to encourage communication and engagement with all matters affecting students of language and linguistics.

What’s it about? Lingo is a new hub for language events and news, what’s going on at UWE and in the world of language in general; shared experiences and advice about careers; features of interest relating to all kinds of language matters; and anything else to encourage debate and discussion to engage students with the wider cultural experience of language learning.

How you can be a part of it? We are looking for contributions from anyone with an interest in language and linguistics,particularly anyone who has studied it, or whose work is either linguistics or student-related. If you’re working on a particular project or have attended a conference, or you have some useful advice for students, we want to hear from you.

Who to contact? You can either contact me directly by email at craig3.evans@live.uwe.ac.uk, through Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/pub/craig-evans/65/59a/a88, or visit the Lingo ‘About’ page for further contact information.

Work Experience – Mentor – University of Sheffield

Contributor: Charlotte

What?  Mentor for the University of Sheffield

Why did you choose this place? I had worked with younger children and wanted experience working with teenagers.

How did you find the application process? The application process was typical of many jobs. There was an application form and then an interview, the interview was fairly informal involving working in a group which definitely helped my nerves!  Before starting my second year of mentoring I was invited to be a lead mentor responsible for the group of mentors in my assigned school.

What do you do here? I work with young people on both a 1:1 basis and in the classroom to act as a role model and mentor.  I help to raise their achievements and aspirations by targeting subject areas students are having trouble with or by helping them to research careers they’re interested in.  ‘Widening participation’  is another aspect of my role,  whereby groups who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education such as low income or single parent families are encouraged to reach their potential and attend University.

As a mentor I have worked in two very different secondary schools. First was one with a ‘satisfactory’ judgement from OFSTED whilst the second was deemed to be ‘good’.  Seeing such different teaching environments really opened my eyes to how the school which you attend as a child affects your future.

The good things: I have often found the role rewarding when you can provide answers to questions the pupils have struggled to find themselves. Whether these are questions about careers, university, or just tips for handing homework in on time- you can see the impact you’re having on a young person.

Being a linguist, my first school was particularly interesting. Many pupils were new to the country and had a limited understanding of English which proved to be a major barrier to their learning. It showed how knowledge of TESOL could prove useful to those wanting to enter teaching in the UK and not just those wanting to teach abroad.

The bad things: If the children aren’t having a good day or if it’s snowing(!) it can be difficult keeping them on task, I’ve definitely had to learn to be more patient. Also, entering the schools for the first time was daunting but the teachers were all very welcoming so my initial anxieties were quickly forgotten.
Anything else we should know: Despite not wanting to be a teacher when I graduate, the experience has made me want to work in Education or more generally in the public sector. Seeing how you can help improve people’s lives despite only seeing them once a week definitely made me eager to know what you could do with more time! I believe my linguistics degree will put me in good stead for such roles, it has taught me to be more organised and a better communicator. Additionally, what I thought was just an interest in people’s language when beginning my degree; I now see is a wider interest in people’s lives. So I’m thankful to both my Linguistics degree and experiences like mentoring which have helped me to discover the route I want to take after graduation.

Vice President of UWE Linguistics Soceity 2012-13

Contributor: Amy

What? Vice President of UWE Linguistics Society.

Why did you choose this place? I had been a member of the society since it was founded by Tom in 2011 (see related post) – I wanted to get more involved and see the society continue for another year.

How did you find the application process? Committee members are voted in at the society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). I didn’t have anyone stand against me for the position, so I was voted in!

What do you do here? I attend regular meetings with other committee members to plan and organise activities for the society. I have spent a lot of time researching different things to do in LingSoc and then going on to organise them. In my time so far as Vice President, I have been heavily involved in organising three trips, socials and other activities such as language games/scrabble nights.

The good things: I really enjoy organising things for the society and doing interesting things with like-minded people. Being involved in LingSoc has made uni a lot more fun, interesting and memorable for me. I have developed my organisation and teamwork skills (cheesy, but true!).

The bad things: Not much, except there are a few compulsory things that you have to do as a society with the SU, such as attending meetings.  Also I think that in a position like this, you get out of it what you put in, so you do have to commit time and effort.  As a voluntary position, you have to be motivated enough to do this!

Anything else we should know: If you are part of any society and are really interested in it, I would definitely recommend electing yourself as a committee member. Even though there are titles like ‘Secretary’, ‘President’ and ‘Treasurer’, in reality it is a team effort, you aren’t left to do it all on your own!

Work Placement – Administrator at Sound Thinking Ltd

Contributor: Claire

What? Administrator for Sound Thinking Ltd (an Educational Psychologist and Speech Therapist Team)

Why did you choose this place? I was recommended to contact Julia (the educational psychologist) by one of the teachers where I did some work experience, who is also the sister of another employer.

How did you find the application process? I met with Julia initially intending to ask for some voluntary work, but she then said she would be able to hire me as an administrator, along with some possible voluntary work with Rebecca Hill, the predominant Speech Therapist of the company. Initially it was only 8 hours a week, but as the company has gone from strength to strength my hours have increased!

What do you do here? As Julia completes assessments, I enter the background information provided, gathering important conclusions from the given information; enter the appropriate psychometric assessment information; and Julia’s observations into the report structure. I ensure that this in the current and appropriate format. I also enter the majority of information into Access Arrangements, ready to then be approved and any other information added. Additionally I have other administrator duties such as organisation, creating files, photocopying, sending emails, posting etc. Obviously all documents I edit are approved by Julia after, but the fact that the bulk of the information is entered into the document, makes the report process quicker.

The good things: I love working here! It gives me a great insight into the other allied health professionals that often work with Speech Therapists. Julia and Rebecca are really helpful and I can borrow resources. I have an understanding of a good quality report, and using assessments and the statistics involved. As well as increased ability to examine the information in front of me and piece judgements together to make valid conclusions.

The bad things: None!

Anything else we should know: I am really grateful to have this position! I think those who want to pursue speech and language therapy should not underestimate the value of working with the other allied health professionals, because it gives you an insight into the thinking of those who may be on your future teams!

Work Placement – Peer Assisted Learning Leader for 2nd Year Linguistics Module – UWE Bristol

What? PAL Leader (Peer Assisted Learning) for Foundations in linguistics: semantics and pragmatics & syntax module at UWE, Bristol (University of the West of England)

Why did you choose this place? I wanted to get some work experience in teaching/mentoring and this seemed like a good opportunity. I also liked the fact that it was linked with my course.

How did you find the application process? I don’t remember much of it which suggests that it was probably quite easy. There was an online application to be filled out and during the summer they checked my academic results to see if I didn’t fail the module I was supposed to be mentoring.

What do you do here? I mentor a group of 3-12 second year students (depending on how many show up) who are on the same course like me but one year below (I am in my final year). I run a session per week to help them to reduce the workload and answer any questions they might have about the module and the course as a whole. I need to prepare my sessions each week and write a schedule. In the past we’ve done some reading and now towards the end of the term we’re focusing more on essay preparation. My role is not to answer their questions straight away but rather redirecting them towards the whole group and make sure that everyone is involved.

The good things: I get paid for the session which is good because we were told that it is not paid in the rest of the UK. It really challenges me in terms of time management and coming up with new ideas what to do in the sessions. I really enjoy working with the students, it is fascinating to see how everyone has a different style and pace of learning, yet how they all want to pursue the academic goals. PAL has also taken the nervous feeling off me whether I will ever be able to stand up in front of a group of people and try to transmit some knowledge to them.

The bad things: I don’t get paid for the time I spend on planning the sessions, which is about 1-2 hours per week. Even though I mentioned it as a challenge, time management is crucial and sometimes I am wondering how I am going to cope with PAL and my deadlines at the same time towards the end of the academic year. The trainings sometimes seem to be too long.

Anything else we should know? PAL is a really good experience. Even though it is not about “normal” teaching it still involves working with students and preparing a lesson plan. Don’t be put off by the trainings and how formal it all looks; at the end of the day, you will learn how to mentor and enjoy your sessions at the same time in your own way, yet being backed up by the PAL office team.