Hollie Smith and Charlotte Wisson, Widening Access Co-ordinators at the University of Derby, discuss the benefits of being a Student Ambassador and the ways they can inspire prospective students. They also chat to Amelia, a previous Student Ambassador, about her experiences on the scheme.
Attending a university open day can be a daunting experience but one thing that can put your mind at ease is being greeted by friendly and knowledgeable Student Ambassadors. These are current students who already know the University inside out so are the best people to answer any burning questions you might have on the day. However, this is just one part of the role of a Student Ambassador.
What do Ambassadors do?
At the University of Derby Student Ambassadors work closely with the Widening Access and Schools and Colleges Liaison teams. They act as positive role models, supporting on University Experience Days and workshops in local schools delivered with the aim of providing information about higher education. They help to break down many of the barriers and myths about university for prospective students from diverse backgrounds. For young students who feel that university is out of their reach, meeting an inspirational Student Ambassador can prove to them ‘if they can do it, so can I!’
Student Ambassadors also have opportunities to represent their university course. They can support their lecturers in delivering taster sessions and on Open Days speak to prospective students about their course and university life.
Why become an Ambassador?
Aside from the obvious benefit of earning a little extra money whilst studying, working as an Ambassador is a great way to get more out of your time at university. The role of a Student Ambassador is diverse; students work on a variety of events, ranging from presentations in schools to promoting the University at local music festivals. They develop many skills which can be applied to their future career, as personal development is a key focus during an Ambassador’s time on the scheme. This includes regular paid training sessions and an annual Student Ambassador Conference. The work is also flexible so Ambassadors can choose the shifts they want to work to fit around their studies.
Becoming a Student Ambassador provides the chance to meet a broad range of students from across the University, so it’s a really good way to make friends! Ambassadors also meet members of staff from the University and local schools and colleges, which offers a great networking opportunity. However, perhaps the most rewarding part of being a Student Ambassador is the determined young people they get to work with and inspire.
What else can you get from being an Ambassador?
There are opportunities for progression within the role of a Student Ambassador at the University of Derby. Many Ambassadors have taken part in the Student Ambassador Development scheme. This develops their professional skills and enables Ambassadors to apply to become a Lead Ambassador or a Subject Specific Ambassador. These roles come with more responsibility, pay and look great on a CV!
Finally, there are the added social benefits of being a Student Ambassador. Ambassadors will often work with students studying different courses at the University or who are in a different year of study, providing the chance to meet new people. Regular social events are also organised for Ambassadors. These are more relaxed opportunities for Student Ambassadors to meet up and socialise. Many Ambassadors who meet on the scheme end up as friends for life!
What do Student Ambassadors say about the scheme?
We spoke to Amelia Bevans – who studied at the University of Derby – about her experiences of working as a Student Ambassador.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
I became a Student Ambassador in my second year of university to earn a bit more cash but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I didn’t realise just how many different events I could become part of.
What was the best thing about being an Ambassador?
My favourite part about being a Student Ambassador was the diversity and flexibility of it. I loved the fact that you could work as little or as much as you wanted without it jeopardising your university studies (or your precious lie-ins). Some weeks I would work full time and in the weeks I had deadlines, I wouldn’t work at all. I never felt pressured to work when I was busy because everybody understands that ambassadors are students with deadlines to meet and exams to complete (and that latest Netflix series to watch until 3am). I just signed up for the shifts I wanted to do at the times that suited me and I was good to go.
What impact has being an Ambassador been on you?
Being a Student Ambassador completely changed my direction and made me realise what I wanted to do in life (which was to never leave!). I now know I want to work with young people in my career. I’m also confident that if I was given a presentation to deliver in front of 100 blank faces I would be able to do it with enthusiasm and without a wobble in my step. And I now know far more friendly faces around the University that make me glad I signed up and stepped out of my comfortable bubble.
How to become an Ambassador?
Student Ambassadors are invaluable to the work of the Widening Access and Schools and Colleges Liaison teams. They can make a genuine difference to the prospects of young people. Current students of the University of Derby who would like to become an Ambassador can apply for the scheme here.