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Caitlin Neal

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Today we have a brand new student case study to bring you. We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Caitlin Neal, she is entering semester 2 of her second year of university, let’s go and meet her!

Hi Caitlin, it’s great being able to chat with you today! Please tell us the course you study & what year you are in?

I am studying Criminology and Security Studies and I will be entering my final year in September 2021.

How many of our award levels have you completed & when did you achieve these?

I have completed 3 awards, and these are the following dates for all 3:

Bronze: September 2019

Silver: December 2019

Gold: January 2021

Out of all the online resources we offer via our website, which is your favourite & why?

My favourite resource offered on the Graduate + page would be the opportunities page. The reason for this is, not only does it act as a hub for students to be able to access all the different opportunities that could help them achieve their Graduate + awards it also acts as a display for all the different fantastic opportunities the university has to offer.

Consequently, you can use these resources to boost your CV and maximise the potential you have as a university student. For example, one of the great opportunities I saw on offer here was to become a Course Representative. I highly recommend this to anyone because it does not need much commitment time wise, but it is a great chance to make connections with students and staff across the university and help improve the experience for everyone, feeding back to staff and students on how the university could be improved.

You tell us you recently have been working in a Pharmacy as a part-time job in the Coronavirus pandemic, can you tell us more about the experiences you had there?

When the pandemic started in March last year I remember leaving my university accommodation as quickly as I could because we were told if we did not leave that day then we would have to lockdown there. As soon as I got back I realised my first year had been cut short and I was going to need to find something to do with my time. Leading to, me asking around for a job. 

My boyfriend's mum works in a pharmacy and she had become overwhelmed with the workload as people were panic buying, ordering prescriptions early and so many people were signing up and suddenly wanted medication. Therefore, I began by delivering prescription to the shielded people that could not leave their homes. Then when I got the permission from head office, I began working on the dispensary floor. I was trained in a matter of days by shadowing and then having my work double checked. In quick time I knew how to fill and label prescriptions for them to be checked by the pharmacist. Fill dosettes, unpack deliveries and serve customers.

Nearly a year on I am still working here and now around my degree I am doing online modules to get the official qualification, so that my skills can become applicable if I decide to do part-time job in Pharmaceuticals elsewhere. I have loved working here it has shown me the world of Pharmacy that I did not know existed, I work with a great staff team, have gained great people skills and helped out during the pandemic, I highly recommend.

You mentioned you also participated as a research assistant for the staff at the university. What did you gain from this experience?

Research is something I had not perceived as an interest of mine prior to being a Virtual Research Assistant for two pieces of BCU staff research in my first semester of my second year at university. When I received the email about being a Virtual Research Assistant for BAME experiences in the pandemic though I could not turn down the opportunity. I have always had an interest in demographic representation and discovering how people with a different skin colour or a different gender viewed the world compared to me. I wanted to give them a voice and help contribute to research that would help out in the future if we ever did get into another pandemic (hopefully not).

It was an opportunity for me to use the transferable research skills I had learnt about in my research module for my course, applying it to the real world and collecting data from articles or interviews to help write a literature review. I also was a research participant for research on how to improve essay marking. This involved me marking an essay getting feedback on that marking and then repeating the process to see if there were any changes. Therefore, this improved my listening skills, ability to critique work fairly and understand different perspectives when it came to marking.

Overall, being a Research Assistant helped me to improve my research skills, my ability to be able to critique others work fairly and critically analyse information to make sure I pull out all the important facts. Hopefully, this will help me in the future, being able to deduce important information and find out what I need, when it comes to my career.

In your downtime you mentioned you love socialising, what else do you enjoy doing alongside your studies & other commitments?

I enjoy travelling to new places that I have never been to before; I like to play Xbox games followed by hanging out with friends, going clubbing and going on outdoor adventures.

If you had to give advice to a new 1st year student who was interested in getting involved with Graduate+, what would you say?

I would say that it is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the various activities that Graduate+ has to offer, it also allows you to understand how to become more employable for your future career and where you want to be. Being interested in the field you want to be in, gives you the confidence and motivation to explore more opportunities. It shows you have taken the will to do something alongside your degree and puts all of the extra- curricular activities towards something, that you can achieve and talk about in job interviews.

Finally, what does the future have in store for you Caitlin?

The future is a little uncertain for me at the moment I am only in my second year of university and with the pandemic it is difficult for anyone to know where they are going to be amongst the job market. I hope in the next coming year I will continue to contribute to communities and continue to work hard in my 4 part time jobs, 3 volunteering roles, running the criminology society and getting my degree.

I hope by the end of my degree all my hard work will have paid off and I will end up going into a job along the lines of the home office. However, more importantly, I want to keep making a difference for people, helping others especially through this very difficult time and just keep trying to do my best.

Caitlin really has taken every opportunity given to her since starting his journey at BCU. If you’d like to speak to us about your story please email the team at graduate+@bcu.ac.uk and we’ll get back to you.