Published: 11 September 2017
The opportunity to work in the National Glass Centre and the overwhelming support from staff, in addition to a campus within miles of stunning coastline, are just some of the reasons that Sarah Heseltine was happy with her decision to study Glass and Ceramics at the University of Sunderland. Here, she shares her insight into getting the most out of your course while studying for your Glass and Ceramics degree.
"The facilities at the National Glass Centre are outstanding."
"A real selling point for me was having the National Glass Centre in Sunderland," says Sarah. "It was really exciting to be based there, particularly as it is a public gallery that engages with all ages of the community to promote glass making in the North East. It's a place of excellence not only for undergraduates, but also postgraduate and PhD students, as well as international artists, so there is never a shortage of support and knowledge to seek inspiration for work. The facilities at the National Glass Centre are outstanding to use and have access to during self-study time to make high-quality works of art."
Showcase your work to the best in the business
You'll take part in the end of year Degree Show, which is a chance to showcase your work to industry professionals. "It was hugely rewarding to have the opportunity to showcase my work for thousands of people to see," says Sarah. "The course is also brilliant for preparing students to exhibit their work outside of the Centre. In my second year, I exhibited work in the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead and took my final Degree Show work to London for New Designers for graduates. Huge companies such as ASOS, John Lewis and Selfridges were there to look around and view my work. It was a fantastic networking opportunity to meet professionals in this industry and get my work out to a much wider audience."
The Glass and Ceramics Degree Show
While at University, Sarah also attended the Engage International Conference, which focuses on the theme of digital innovation in the arts. "I self-funded to attend the event which was a fantastic two-night trip away of networking, presentations, workshops and meeting professionals working in the participatory arts. There are plenty of field trips on the course, such as visiting Venice for the Venice Biennale and North Lands which is an internationally visited glass studio in rural Scotland, and we had many opportunities to work on paid commissions for clients to further enhance our network of artists."
Gain the skills most in demand by employers
Not only was Sarah a Glass and Ceramics student, she also worked at the National Glass Centre part-time as a Gallery Learning Facilitator for two years based in the Learning and Engagement team. "This was a significant part of my student experience at the University," she says. "Working here enabled me to gain relevant work experience in relation to my degree. It also enabled me to fulfil my personal drive to want to work with people, teaching creative workshops and inspiring people through community arts projects. It has helped me to prepare for the world of work and gain customer service, communication, teamwork, and leaderships skills to work in a public environment and understand the elements of running creative workshops."
One of Sarah's future ambitions is to set up her own business, and gaining hands-on industry experience at the National Glass Centre, she says, was hugely beneficial for her personal development. "Employability has always been one of my strongest ambitions to strive to do well in. I took every opportunity to use the Careers and Employability Service to gain support in developing my CV while involving myself in excellent skill-enhancing workshops. I participated in the Professional Mentoring Scheme, where I was matched with an employer from Nissan who worked with me for six months to offer support and advice to understand the professional environment and build my network of contacts.
Network with guest speakers, such as European pioneer of Studio Glass, Erwin Eisch
"It was a fantastic scheme to be involved in as it completely changed my outlook on how to prepare for entering the world of work and considering the industries to work in. In addition to this, as part of my course, we had guest speakers, who were resident artists undertaking special projects at the National Glass Centre." A part of the Glass and Ceramics course, artists give evening lectures about their work and talk to our students about how to make a career from being an artist.
Sarah adds: "I wrote a blog about all of the artists talks to add to my website, which inspired me for my dissertation, focussing on the theme of the benefits of social media and digital approaches in museums and galleries to help educate and engage people in the arts." Sarah took over the University's Twitter account for a week and shared her creative experiences, as well as updating the National Glass Centre's social media platforms. The practical experience she gained throughout her course, she says, was invaluable.
Employability is a huge focus of the University, and we've also established the Graduate Internship Scheme to provide you with every opportunity to gain paid real-world experience. As an intern, you'll find yourself working for an organisation related to your degree on a full-time basis while earning a wage of at least £17,000.
Enhance your soft skills by joining a club or society
"There were plenty of facilities I benefited from at Sunderland, particularly from a sports perspective as I have a big interest in keeping active and promoting health and fitness," says Sarah. The University has its own gym at City Campus, CitySpace, Sarah adds: "The gym is really affordable, gives you access to classes, and has its own climbing wall, sports hall and weight training room. I took part in water sports with the Adventure Marines at Roker Beach right next to the campus to carry on my love of surfing, kayaking and body boarding in between study time." We have more than 50 clubs and societies for you to choose from, and you can even set up your own. Joining a group of like-minded people is not only fun but a great way of demonstrating your team-building and time management skills to enhance your CV.
Sarah continues: "My advice for students would be to get involved with as many opportunities as you can. Networking is so important and is a chance to sell yourself to future employers and make yourself known. It's a really competitive jobs market out there and if you have more than just a degree it will really work in your favour. I would tell students to work hard and make sure their studies are a priority, but to also be mindful that there are plenty of social aspects to university, as well as becoming a Student Ambassador or a Student Representative.
"I would strongly recommend coming to an Open Day or requesting an individual tour to see the University for yourself. I would advise to do your research on the University and check out our YouTube pages and social media to hear from students directly about their experiences and achievements that they've gained from studying here. I would really recommend the high level of staff support on each course – our academics want to see students excel and benefit from studying here, graduating with not only a degree, but specialist skills, knowledge and employability experience that can be transferable for their future prospects."