We cannot believe that is has already been one year since we ran our Aspire internship. We caught up with Lucy, Elizabeth and Georgia, to see how skills they learned from Aspire has helped them in going forward with their higher education.
The year since I completed my work with Aspire has been unexpected, to say the least. For starters, I (perhaps naïvely) figured that the COVID-19 pandemic would be pretty much over, and that I would be back at university in-person by now. Instead, I’ve spent more than an entire year at home. Despite everything, it’s been good for me. I’m lucky to live in a relatively remote part of the Scottish Borders where the COVID-19 risk is typically lower than some other parts of the country (due to the population being less dense). The downside of this is that, by the time things started opening up again, I hadn’t been in a crowded public area, a restaurant, or even a clothes shop in months. It made me appreciate the activities I used to take for granted, like visiting a museum or taking walks with my friends. The extra time at home also meant I had a more flexible schedule to participate in several online workshops and courses that improved not only my CV but also my general experience. For these projects, Aspire’s introduction to Trello helped with organisation and time management and I feel I became a more effective contributor thanks to Aspire’s teamwork training, as my degree tends to focus on solitary coursework. I’m still not certain exactly where I’m headed after university, but I’m now a lot more assured of my ability to succeed in whatever workplace I join. Thanks to Anna Schaetzle and Anderson Anderson & Brown Consulting for the opportunity.
If you’d asked me a few years ago how I thought my first year of university would go, I probably would have said a lot of late nights and a lot of running between lecture halls – and even though there were a lot of late nights, I found myself sat at my desk in my university accommodation watching my lecturer give a presentation from her own home. Covid-19 made the already terrifying prospect of moving cities, making friends and starting a university course taught in a completely new way, seem entirely impossible to me. However, I got there and remembered everyone was in the same boat. Nobody knew how the next year was going to go, and we were going to make it work in the circumstances we had.
One of the massive challenges all university students (especially first years) this year faced was lack of support and information from the government. Many times, throughout the course of the year, it felt like students had become an afterthought to the Scottish government, when it came to creating restrictions or providing support, but blamed us when cases rose. Just five days after I moved in, it was announced that students were no longer allowed in pubs, it was then later announced that university students in accommodation had different rules on socialising to the general public and were told not to leave our flats unless necessary and were further threatened by the prospect of not being able to spend Christmas with our families. This news was a massive blow to many students – especially those who didn’t live in Scotland - many of which hadn’t seen their families since moving. After allowing students to move, cases rose significantly within the accommodation but blamed us for this rise in cases. Students clearly didn’t feel supported by our governments and universities properly and that’s why we saw things like the Manchester University lock in, essentially as a cry for help.
One thing my time at Aspire Consulting helped me with during my first year was my productivity. Techniques we’d used as a group to prioritise our workload at Aspire were easily transferrable to my coursework. Agile as a technique helped me to ensure I could keep track of all essays and projects due over each term, especially because I wasn’t being reminded of coursework by lecturers as I never spoke to them one on one. It made sure I could prioritise certain pieces of work based on their due date and course worth. Especially during the times of the year restrictions were easing and I had plans or had to work my retail job, agile helped me plan my week and ensure everything that things that needed done, actually did get done.
Another thing I personally struggled with over the last year was finding motivation to get on with work and practical jobs I needed to get done. Especially over the times where Glasgow was placed under level 3 restrictions and we weren’t allowed to leave the city, you find yourself sat with nothing to do all day. With all this time on my hands, you’d think I’d have completed all my work the day after it was released, but I found myself with the mentality, if I can sit and do nothing instead why would I do work? However, you do eventually run out of that endless time and projects are due. One thing my lack of motivation did teach me Is that I perform better educationally under pressure. Every piece of work I completed with weeks to go tended to get marked worse than the ones I had done in the days leading up to the due date. As a long-term strategy, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. I ended up worrying constantly about the work that needed done up until I did eventually start – usually a couple of night before the hand-in dates. As for my motivation, it was something that increased over time, I felt like the more stuff I had to do outside of university the more I actually wanted to complete my coursework.
Technology wise, my time at Aspire had refreshed my memory with apps like word and PowerPoint. After being out of school for a few months my skills were at best rusty. Working with others on these apps introduced me to new techniques and ideas I could transfer to my university coursework when it came to completing it. As well as this, the use of zoom during Aspire Consulting was extremely helpful. I hadn’t used zoom before our first meeting with Aspire, but new that for at least the first month that was what my lectures and tutorials would be taught through. It helped me familiarise myself with the app before I started at University, which meant I had a good knowledge of how to use most of the tools on Zoom when it came to my first lecture.
Looking back on my first year, although it wasn’t the most conventional one, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Although it was scary at the time, moving cities into halls was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve made many new friends for life and over the course of a year discovered more about a city I love. Moving away has made me feel more independent and I’ve grown as a person. The last year would not have been what it was without the people around me. The prospect of a Covid-19 first year seemed awful but as a group we managed to make it one of the best years of my life. My time with Aspire Consulting last year was key in my transition to university and made things a lot smoother from an academic perspective. A year of online university was a lot less daunting to me after Aspire as I felt I had built and learned skills that would help me throughout the year, and I was right.
It has been a quick year since my time with Anderson Anderson & Brown Consulting (AAB) and a lot has changed for me. Only two years ago I was living with my parents, thinking about buying a house, and pondering if it was possible for me to manage University to help with a change of career, alongside working. Here I am two years and a few Lockdowns later, having bought my own house, just about completed my first year at University, holding down a job, and embracing the thing that always terrified me. Change.
As well as meeting other great interns in Elizabeth, Lucy, and Robbie, I learned a lot from the AAB team and the work they do. While the focus of much of our learning was on the Higher Education sector, the thing I found most valuable and that stuck with me most was how to handle change. I don’t like change. I don’t feel comfortable with it. But I know I need to embrace it. it’s inevitable, its how the world works, and actually, with the right tools it’s not as scary as I thought.
The Agile methodology, the power of Trello, and good research and analysis are all things I have taken from my time with AAB and use almost every day in my work and studies. Trello has even crept into how I manage my house! I’ll never be comfortable with change, but I know now I can face it, without the drama (or at least with less drama than before, I’m working on it!)