Preparing for university with Student Success Advisor Ceri Osborne

School of English Student Success Advisor (SSA), Ceri Osborne, gives her tips for preparing for university and talks about her role as an SSA, her experience as a student, and how the School is set up to support students.

Ceri Osborne
Student Success Advisor

Ceri Osborne SSA - primary

Tell us a bit about your role and what that means for students.

‘Student Success Advisor’ is a bit of a fluffy term for what I do.

As a student myself, I have the insights of what it is actually like to study here at the School of English and at BCU, so I know what the challenges are. Especially those involved with being a commuter student, coming into a big city, managing work and studies, and how to deal with having that awful mark that you didn’t expect. Having that first-hand experience allows me to use my own personal experiences to support students through their difficult, challenging or even exciting times.

As well as having that direct experience of studying here, I also have the benefit of knowing all the internal processes at BCU. I am able to inform and direct students to our well-being support, our student support services; including finances to enablement to the Centre for Academic Success, and also knowing of opportunities that are available for students. Having gone through some challenging times myself, I can really see the importance of getting some help and being able to speak to the right person.

Most days, I am rushed off my feet and will be all over campus. Every week I have “catch up with Ces” which is where students can drop in for a chat, a catch up, or ask any questions they have. Sometimes it can be really busy and sometimes it’s a bit quieter, but it’s always good to have a group of students discussing matters together. For example, today I had a student come to me about their modules choices for next year. Conveniently, the student sat next to them, who they had never met before, was able to talk to them about some of the modules as they had studied them, and give answers to some things that I couldn’t. It’s a brilliant social space where students are able to offer peer to peer support. It all adds to the community feel within the School. 

What advice would you give to a commuter student that is worried about joining a group where people may already know each other?

A lot of students think that are going to feel left out because they are not living in halls and feel as though they will miss out on the party lifestyle but this absolutely doesn’t need to be the case. There is no reason for anyone to feel as though they are not going to build those friendships any more than someone living in halls.

If you are going to be a commuter student I would recommend that you don’t just turn up for your lectures and then go straight home again because it will be more difficult to get to know people on a personal level, exactly the same as if you were in halls. I would suggest you come in as early as possible and leave as late as possible and take time to get to know your peers. It’s always a good idea to get involved with study groups as this is a great way to get to know other students.

Spend social time with your peers outside of the university as well. I had my first Nandos as a student and learnt all about Cosplay! There’s a lot of things you can learn from students and if you aren’t there you’re not going to experience this. There is so much going on around us in the city, go off in between lectures and seminars to see a play, visit a museum or gallery, or just have a wander around town. There is always something going on in Birmingham so take some time to enjoy it.

Closer to the students’ start date, they will receive their reading list. How else would you recommend students prepare for starting here over the summer?

Read, read and read. As much as possible. If you don’t read over the summer you won’t be prepared for the amount of reading you will need to do once you are here. Many students believe they can do an English course and get away without reading anything. You’ll be reading play texts, novels, short stories, poetry, etc. so if you aren’t already, become diverse in your reading. Take a book into the garden (if the weather allows!) so you can enjoy the summer.

If you aren’t already, you could start listening to radio plays, reading the newspaper and watching the news. Read things you have never read before or something you would never usually read. For example, if you are just into crime thrillers, try reading some Victorian fiction, some comedy or some creative non-fiction. It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone. Try writing too, it’s not just about reading. Swallow as much culture as possible. 

What has been your favourite part about working here?

I absolutely love the success of our students and what they have gone on to do. There are actually many past students who now work at BCU because of how much they love it here.

We have graduates across the country and even across the world doing all kinds of amazing things. Some have their own businesses, there are some play wrights, actors, radio show hosts, there is a huge variety to the industry people have gone into since achieving their English degree. It’s really great to see the development of students since starting here and particularly rewarding to hear how wonderfully they reflect on their time at BCU and how valuable it was in getting them to where they are.