Student experiences of the world of work both inspire and inform

Student experiences of the world of work both inspire and inform

19 March 2024

Woldingham students are encouraged to undertake work experience, exploring possible careers, gaining important skills future employers seek and supporting university applications.

Upper Sixth Formers Alison, Audrey, Immy and Iona and Year 11 student Megan share their experiences of working in the fields of medicine, ecotourism, architecture, veterinary medicine, and with a company which creates hand-painted and hand-embroidered wall coverings.

Alison N, Upper Sixth

Making a competitive application to study medicine is helped by extensive work experience. I am doing this as a volunteer general ward assistant at East Surrey Hospital. I had to contact many hospitals before getting the place at East Surrey – but one place was all I needed, so my persistence paid off.

I work there weekly between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. I distribute patients’ supper and assist those unable to eat independently. I shadow the nurses, asking them questions to understand the day-to-day work on the ward. I have observed and learnt many things, including using a hoist to lift a patient from their hospital bed and the type of communication nurses use to talk to patients with speaking disabilities. After each session at the hospital, I write a reflective diary of things that I have learnt and skills I can use in the future.

This has been a really enjoyable experience, not only because I can lessen the staff’s workload a little, but I can also chat with patients during my free time and, hopefully, help brighten their day. The staff are all very friendly and, although I am often pretty tired after a busy day at school, I always leave the hospital with a smile on my face. I highly recommend this type of work experience to others interested in going into healthcare. Not only do you experience what it is like to work in the NHS, you also contribute to society by volunteering.

Audrey Y, Upper Sixth

I volunteered at Hong Kong Wetland Park, an ecotourism institution that promotes environment and wetland conservation. I not only helped educate visitors about the importance of conservation, but also gained insight into habitat management, specifically reedbed management. I learned that reed trimming is critical for maintaining the health of the reedbeds, which work as a natural filtering system for freshwater. Reedbeds also support biodiversity, especially since the Wetland Park is close to the Ramsar Convention reserve, an internationally important breeding and wintering site for migrating birds. 

I learned that management is vital to improve the water quality and impact species' diversity and abundance. This helped me realise how human intervention can mitigate environmental damage (specifically, the downgrading of water quality). Although I have applied to read biology at university, it is marine biology that especially intrigues me. Volunteering in Hong Kong Wetland Park has strengthened my determination to pursue these fields, even though they are not directly related to marine biology. It offered a terrific hands-on insight for people like me who are interested in ecology-related fields.

Megan A, Year 11

During half-term, in a busy and fascinating day with architects Allies & Morrison, I gained a real insight into the profession. I met with the design teams, toured the studio and learned about the day-to-day activities of an architect, key skills designers use to successfully execute project briefs and client presentations, and the importance of laws, regulations and policies that architects need to follow. 

I particularly enjoyed taking part in a project to build a bridge designed to hold books, which gave me a completely fresh perspective on a new type of design process and the impact it had on the result. I left the company with a clearer understanding of architecture and how I might go forward in pursuing it as a career.

Immy D, Upper Sixth

Work experience is incredibly important to those of us wanting to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. Not only do most universities have a set amount they want you to complete (which is different for different universities), but to be a successful vet you need to be really passionate about the job and work experience can help discover whether it’s right for you – as it did for me. I’m choosing this career because I know I will love it.

I’ve done a lot of work experience in different fields, including working on a small family-run farm with all sorts of animals, and lambing at a larger farm. I have worked in two vet practices, which gave me first-hand experience of what my future career could be like. I loved spending every day with animals, finding out more about their anatomy, behaviours and diseases and how to help them. I enjoyed being able to tell people how I delivered a breach lamb, had given dogs and cats injections, and learnt how to diagnose a horse with laminitis.

Obviously, not everything I witnessed was positive. Sometimes staff were tired and overworked and animals die and have to be put down. However, it was important for me to experience this and gain an understanding of how vets, farmers, and pet owners dealt with it and also how I was able to respond.

Having this wide range of experiences also helped me decide which areas of veterinary medicine I would like to specialise in, as some didn’t stimulate me as much as others. But perhaps the key benefit I gained was the knowledge that, despite the hardships that come with the profession, I believe I will want to get up every day to do this job.

Iona H, Upper Sixth

I undertook a one-week internship at de Gournay, a company specialising in luxury hand-painted wallpaper and fabric designs. During my time there, I was lucky enough to undertake a variety of tasks, which gave me a comprehensive understanding of what a full-time position at the company would entail. I particularly enjoyed my time at the head office in Chelsea, where my work included evaluating different rug samples to determine the best supplier and arranging merchandise photographs for social media posts. I was also able to talk to members of staff, learning about their diverse educational backgrounds and career paths within the field of interior design. This was particularly interesting for me as I am planning to study art history and, at this point, am uncertain where this will take me.

During the latter part of my internship, I worked at the de Gournay showroom, also in Chelsea. This really sparked my creative passion as I had the opportunity to closely examine the hand-painted wallpaper, immersing myself in the inspiration and historical context behind each design.

Staff allowed me to shadow their interactions with customers, which gave me a valuable insight into customer service skills. I also learned the importance of taking inventory notes, a crucial skill, particularly when clients visit the showroom and wish to take samples with them. On a few occasions, I was also entrusted with delivering packages to clients across London. My time at de Gournay was an exceedingly valuable experience.

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