Volunteer – Share Scotland – CSV Placement

Contributor: Carla

What?

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.

Why?

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.

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!

Applying for courses – UWE BA English Language and Linguistics, UCL MSc Speech and Language Sciences

Contributor: Amie

What? I studied english language and linguistics at UWE and I am starting a masters in speech therapy at UCL next year.

Why did you choose this place? I chose UWE as it was the best university that provided this combination. The linguistics dept at that time was very strong with great staff. As for UCL, it is one of the best universities in the world. Although I’m dreading moving out of Bristol I am really excited to study there. I was very impressed with the facilities and staff there when I went for my interview. The student support in the SLT dept at UCL has also already been exemplary.

How did you find the application process? The application process for my undergrad was simple, and stress free. The masters was a lot harder, a lot more work, and expensive, which I did not expect. I was lucky and had a lot of support but I think it would be very difficult for someone who doesn’t have support from a person with experience in SLT.

What do you do here? When I graduated I worked in the English department of a secondary school, at TESOL summer schools, and then as an assistant speech therapist in a brain injury rehab unit. I now work as a learning support assistant in a special needs school with adolescents with profound and multiple disabilities.

The good things: intellectually challenging, linguistics can lead to many careers, SLT marries linguistics, medical science and public service perfectly

The bad things: linguistics can  lead to many careers!! slt is very competitive with a lack of universities offering the course, application process to SLT masters.

Anything else we should know: get work experience in anything that you feel could be relevant to your future career. This is the most important thing, more than the uni you go to, your degree mark (within reason), more than anything.

Voluntary Position – Volunteer at the Bilingualism Summer School 2012 – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Volunteer for the Bilingualism Summer School at Bangor (University) 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My reason to assist with the Summer School was down to th experience it would give me, the Summer School had top names in the field of Bilingualism travelling into Bangor and this is something of which I wanted to be part. Names such as, Fred Genesee, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre, Ofelia Garcia, and Bonnie D. Schwartz were to attend, amongst many other experts in bilingualism research.

How did you find the application process? The application process was very easy, by this I mean there were no forms, or references to go around retrieving, Patrick Rebuschat (Summer School co-ordinator) asked students from the School of English Language and Linguistics to help with volunteering, we had around twelve or so helping which was around enough.

What do you do here? Throughout the two weeks of the Summer School the job of the volunteers was to make sure everything ran smoothly, and that visiting guests were content. Being more specific, these duties included helping lecturers set up their classes, escorting guests to lecture rooms, and taking them for lunch post-lectures, assisting with the set-up of events for keynote speeches and poster sessions. Furthermore, a top friend and I were asked to help a partially sighted student for the duration of the Summer School. As you may suspect, we aided this student around, making sure to keep her safe, though we did have her guide dog on hand also! This alone was an entirely new experience for both Fay (aforementioned friend) and I, but we both were able to make a new friend! Agata (said partially sighted student) remarked later that our assistance and care had made her stay in Bangor a very enjoyable one. So that was a very nice reward from the Summer School! The good things: Overall the Summer School was a great thing to have participated in; volunteering meant getting the tuition for next to nothing. Granted we couldn’t attend all advertised lectures, as we had to be in other places helping out and such. However, not just myself, but the rest of the volunteers did a great job, so it all balances out! All the same, to have been able to interact with a whole host of new people, from a vast range of different backgrounds all to unite and discuss and share ideas about bilingualism was a very worthwhile thing indeed! Though some of the talk at the pub may have sometimes strayed away from this, ha.

The bad things: If I’m honest, the schedule for the day was a little packed, which did result in long days, and if you add getting up at eight in the morning it made for a lot of tired people. Though it must be said it was the first time that this Summer School has been run at Bangor, so timing of the day may be altered for any future Summer Schools…that or I simply do not have the stamina to last a long day.

Anything else we should know: One additional thing I feel is worth mentioning is that early into week one I created a Facebook and Twitter page (though the latter was not a great success) to bring everyone together and to keep guests informed of events and ongoings throughout the two weeks. The Facebook page proved quite the success; as people made friends on Facebook as they do and can stay in contact with people they may have otherwise not had chance to see again.

Second noteworthy thing was that I was able to present my BA dissertation at one of the poster sessions, this was quite a unique opportunity that presented itself and I am very happy that I took it! Though my throat became hoarse from all the explaining that needed to be done, I was very proud to be presenting in the same room as people older than myself who had more years of experience in linguistics/ bilingualism.

Final thing to inform you of was that the second day of the Summer School was in fact my graduation from Bangor University (Linguistics BA; 2;1 for the record) safe to say I was unable to help out with most of the events on this day!

— If there is anything you have read from this you would like to know more about, feel free to email me at, callumrobsonsu@hotmail.co.uk, all the same you are very welcome to tweet me @CallumRobson

Work Placement – Vocational Mentor – UWE Volunteering

Contributor: Amy

Where? Weston College
What? Vocational Mentoring Pilot Scheme
Why did you choose this place? An opportunity came up at my university (UWE) to go into a local college and mentor students on a vocational course. I was placed at Weston College by UWE.
 How did you find the application process? Fairly straightforward. I had to fill in an online application form, stating previous relevant experience and why I wanted to apply. Then I had a group interview which involved group activities.
What do you do here? I went to Weston College for a couple of hours each week and was available for drop in sessions to the college students if they wanted advice about Higher Education or help with their coursework.
The good things: Working in a new environment and communicating with students. I also had to be organised to balance the time with my studies.
The bad things: The nature of the drop in meant that some weeks I would go to the college and not mentor any students. 
Anything else we should know: If I could do it again, I would attempt to arrange regular mentoring sessions for a small group of students. This would guarantee attendance each week and would hopefully allow me to make a notable impact with mentoring. Whilst drop in sessions are flexible for students at the college, it meant that mentoring was not a priority and sometimes forgotten. Despite this, I still think that mentoring is a valuable experience.

Volunteering – Conference Organiser – ULAB1 (2011)

Contributor: Richard

In 2011, the Undergraduate Linguistics Association of Britain had its first conference. I’m going to be talking here about that experience, and what went into it.

What conference? If you had asked either me or my friend, David Arnold, what ULAB was in 2010, you would have come up with some blank stares. The United Libyan Association for Bombers? The Ugly Lemurs And Bats group? The truth is, it didn’t exist yet. In January, 2011, Dave and I were getting a coffee in Edinburgh, where we were both students (and he still is) at the University there. The conversation went like this: “I wish there was some sort of organisation for undergraduates in Britain.” “Me too.” “Let’s start one.” “Ok.”

We may or may not have had a few more words to say on the topic at the time, but slowly, over the next couple of months, ULAB began to take shape. None of this would have been possible without the dozens of helping hands from the Edinburgh University Linguistics and English Language Society, LangSoc, which Dave and I had restarted after it went defunct, the year before. Together with our friends there, we started planning a conference – and that’s how ULAB 2011 came into being.

How did you get involved in the conference organisation?
So, in a sense, I’ve already answered this. But we didn’t get involved – we created it. I had already been president of LangSoc the year before, and knew a lot about organisation and the university, and what it would take to run a conference. I’d gone to a few conferences by this point, as that student in the background who asks incredibly dumb questions, and figured I’d like to ask questions around people who wouldn’t want to stare me down. I was also a member of the LAGB and the LSA student committees, and figured that I could rely upon their help if I needed it. And after some short work on a wordpress website, and a little creative naming, I was the coordinator.

What did your duties involve? Mostly chairing meetings and telling other people how they could help. We had one girl, Gina, who was absolutely excellent at putting in the hours getting emails and contact information for universities around Britain. Dave was fantastic at making logos; Kajsa was great at mobilising LangSoc to help out; the list goes on. I basically sat there, figured out with Dave what we wanted from ULAB, and tried to make that happen. Closer to the date, I made sure the website worked smoothly, coordinated with the organising team to make sure that everything from coffee to wheelchair exits were set to go, organised all of the peer review for the papers and dealt with emailing the participants who were coming, planned the schedule, and, on the days, sat around and tried to look important in a vest. Oh, I also gave a few short, extemporaneous speeches about ULAB.

How did the conference go? It went great. Something like 50 people turned up. There were two full days of Linguisticing around – following by two nights of going out, showing people Edinburgh, sometimes to Brits who had never seen it before. Many of the students had never presented at a conference, and the surroundings were welcoming, the questions fast and furious, and the after-talk tea hot. What more could you ask for? Presumably, a second conference – which did happen, this year, in Bristol. But that’s someone else’s story.

The good things about running the conference? You get that line on your CV, for one. But that’s not the only thing. You get to personally meet everyone you’ve only heard about while reviewing; you get to see their presentations; you get to see the university from the other side – you’re not sitting in the chairs dumbly, you’re driving the car and running the show. I learned a lot about committee meetings and different personalities and how a successful conference works. I also was able to make a lot of friends, and show them around. That might have been the best thing – the community.

The bad things about running the conference? Well, it can be damn stressful. One day you’ve just got your thesis to keep you company, and the next you’re staring down 50 dull eyes at 8:00am in the morning (why didn’t you just meet at ten, you ask yourself while brushing your teeth at 7:00). You’ve got to liven the room, and get people thinking about the talks, and make sure that everything goes to plan so that the five people who’ve actually read the schedule don’t freak out. This ranges from making sure the tea is plugged in, to making sure that you vacate the building when you do. Of course, none of this compares to the horror of trying to figure out where the funding is going to come from…

Any advice for those involved in conference organisation in the future? Don’t do a thing if you don’t have a good team with you. It’s almost impossible to run a conference on your own. I’ve seen some organisers break down in the middle, and no, I’m not joking. Make sure that you take into account vegetarians and disabled access and, horror of horrors, people who talk over their allotted time. But mainly – don’t get bogged down in the details! For an undergraduate or graduate conference, the main thing is networking. Let people talk, talk to some people yourself, and enjoy the show. Try and figure out what everyone is researching, and whether they’d be good coauthors. Or better, friends.

Volunteering – Organiser – UKC English Language and Linguistic Conference 2011, 2012

Contributor: Robyn

In 2011, I was one of three of the organisers for the Second UKC English Language and Linguistic Conference. I got involved with the committee, as I was already involved with the department through being Course rep. The Conference was made up of presentations from students at Kent, across all year groups, and students from other universities, including Edinburgh, Nottingham Trent, and Chichester. We also had Professor Jean Aitchison as our Keynote speaker, who did a talk on ‘English Today’. My main duties in the run up to the conference, were advertising and co-ordinating. On the day, I was able to make sure things ran smoothly. The conference was successful, and as a result we were able to acquire funding for a third conference.

In 2012, I was one of a larger group of organisers, where my main duties were to distribute tasks, and promote the conference to a larger audience than previously. We were able to get two Keynote speakers, Professor Maggie Tallerman and Professor Martin Conboy. The good thing about organising a conference is that it gives you the chance to get experience in events planning, whilst it being an event that you are interested in. It gives you the chance to interact with students from other universities, and learn about things which you may not have studied. The bad thing about running a conference, is that it was hard getting people involved so close to exam term, as a lot of people are preoccupied with revision, and it can be difficult to balance the workload yourself. For anyone thinking about being involved in the organisation of a student conference, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great way to build on organisational skills, as long as you know what responsibilities you can take on.