Where are they now? Jessica Keen (BA English Literature 2016)
For each newsletter we meet a member of the Sheffield alumni community and find out what they have done since they graduated. For this issue we spoke to Jessica Keen who graduated this summer with a BA in English Literature.
What did you study at Sheffield?
I studied English Literature because I wanted to take a degree in a subject that I genuinely love and would be able to enjoy full time for three years. I never wanted to go to university, and always thought that if I did I would go to my local one, which would have been UEA in Norwich. However after friends brought home prospectuses from open days, and I went to an open day at the UEA and didn’t like the place, both of these dramatically changed!
As I didn’t have a career path in mind – and on coming to university I have fully realised how no degree has a direct career path and how sick I am of people assuming that because I studied English I must want to become a teacher – I decided to choose an open subject that I was passionate about.
What attracted you to study at Sheffield in particular?
I had visited a few universities before I made my UCAS application but my choice of Sheffield was based on the information provided on the website. After visiting in late February 2013 for an open day, I fell in love with the city.
There were a few big factors that influenced my feelings over a university and one of the major ones was the accommodation. What I liked about Sheffield’s halls of residences was the fact that, for the majority, the rooms were all the same and were not like other universities I had been to where it completely depended upon which building you were in as to whether you would be living like a Queen or in a shed.
Course-wise I loved the fact that two of the core modules in the final year were on the Romantic and Victorian periods as these were, and still are, two of my favourite periods of literature. I also liked the fact that creative writing and drama were optional (not my cup of tea) and that the big daddy of a dissertation was also optional (although I ended up choosing to do one!).
And what was your first impression on arriving in Sheffield?
My first trip to Sheffield started off one dark morning at Norwich train station catching the 05:50 train to Sheffield. After a four hour train ride and a delay (this should have been my first pointer that the trains to Sheffield from Norwich are terrible) we arrived into Sheffield. I loved the fact that Sheffield had trams as the only time I had been on a tram previously was on holiday in Blackpool. Coming from a small village where less than 100 people reside, moving to a city was a big step for me. However walking around Sheffield I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and I really liked that you can see the hills of the Peaks from the city, so I knew that if I ever did feel overwhelmed by the urban lifestyle, then I could escape out into the countryside, or into one of Sheffield’s wonderful parks.
What were some of your favourite things to do in the city, aside from studying?
There is so much to do in the city! I know that even after three years of living here I’ve only scraped the surface of what it has to offer. I love visiting the theatre, especially with the 'Live for 5' scheme that enables people between the ages of 16-26 to get two tickets to certain performances for £5 each, which on a student budget is always a plus.
I also really like going out to the Centertainment complex near Meadowhall and playing a bit of mini golf at Paradise Island, or going to see a concert or comedian live at the arena. I once tried ice skating but after getting on the ice and wanting to get off before I had even moved ¼ round the rink that was put into the pile of ‘well I’ve tried that but I’ll never be an ice skater’.
I love seeing how the city changes throughout the year, and the different events that happen. One thing that you must do if you haven’t already, is to get a crepe from the Christmas market. I think in my first year I had one a week for about a month before it was time to return home for the holidays!
Did you get involved with any clubs or societies?
The main society that I was involved in was the Make-Up and Beauty society. This was created as I was coming to the end of my first year, so I was lucky enough to be Secretary in my second year and Society Advisor in my third. I liked going along to different Give it a Go events put on by societies, and really liked going on Give it a Go day trips to places that couldn’t easily be reached without a car.
I absolutely loved going to the end of year ball in my first and third year for the English society. Although a bit pricey (hence why I didn’t go in my second year) departmental end of year balls were a great way of getting together with coursemates and getting all glammed up before a night at Pop Tarts!
How was your graduation week?
Graduation week was lots of fun! I had worked on the alumni stand the year before so had picked up a few tips for the day. As a student blogger I took over the SheffieldUni Snapchat for the first time to document the day, which I really enjoyed.
However the day that I graduated was the hottest day, and no one prepares you for the weight of the gown and hood! My boyfriend graduated the day after I did so it was nice to see it from both sides and get together with family for lots of food. It’s only been a couple of weeks since it took place but seems a lifetime ago!
During your studies you were part of the eMentoring scheme (and were named Mentee of the Year). What did that consist of and how did you get involved?
I became involved in the eMentoring scheme after speaking with a careers advisor at the Careers Service who suggested I look into it. The first time I took part in the scheme was because I had a vague idea of the area I wanted to go into once I graduated, and I wanted to speak to someone who was in this sector with the added bonus of them having attended Sheffield.
Once enrolled onto the scheme I was able to view the different alumni members’ profiles, and choose which one I wanted my mentor to be. My mentor and I would email back and forth, where I could ask questions about their role or gain help on CV or application writing, and hear about their time at Sheffield and what they have gone on to do since graduating.
I took part a second time to specifically speak to an alumna who was in the field that I wanted to go in to, and who was working in Sheffield as I knew I would be staying here once I'd graduated. As my mentor worked and lived in Sheffield I was able to meet up with her, where we would discuss her role and where I wanted my career to go. She helped out with CV checking and applications too.
What were the benefits you experienced by talking to a Sheffield alumnus?
The main benefit I have found from speaking to a Sheffield alumna, both on the eMentoring scheme and at a networking event I attended for a City Connections trip, is that they’ve had similar experiences to you and can relate to what you’re going through. You have the common ground of coming to Sheffield, and I found this really helps in terms of getting to know them, and their advice becomes more specific because their transition from university to a career started at Sheffield. They’re more than happy to provide advice and guidance, and I found that a lot of the alumni that I spoke to wish that they would have had the chance to speak to alumni whilst they were studying.
What are your current goals, and where would you like to go with your career?
At the moment I’ve been having some time off, as the last three years have been pretty hectic! I’m due to start a temporary role in HR soon and after that I’m hoping to be able to complete one of the University’s graduate internships that begin in January. Ideally I’d like to pursue a career in university administration at Sheffield, but ultimately to be in a role in a company where I know that what I do ends up benefitting others.
And are you going to stay in Sheffield or move on to pastures new?
I’m staying in Sheffield! I love it so much here that I couldn’t bear to leave. I’ve moved about five minutes from where my student house was in my second and third year, and my partner is going to start a Masters here in September so we’ve moved in together with our Miniature Schnauzer!
What one piece of advice would you give to other young alumni?
I think it would be to take every opportunity that you can. Even if something comes along that isn’t specifically what you are looking for, take it because you’ll gain a new experience, plus it might lead on to further opportunities that allow you to achieve your goals.
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