JP Ay, Oxford University student on a Biochemistry Masters course at St Hilda’s College, had an interest in forensics as well as a curiosity to explore a variety of other employment sectors. JP writes about his experience on the Crankstart Internship Programme, how the Careers Service supported him, and shares advice for current Crankstart scholars at Oxford University.
What placements have you undertaken on the Crankstart Internship Programme?
The Careers Service found an internship for me with a biotechnology firm called Arctoris in my first year where I worked as a business development Intern. From this opportunity I was offered a paid part-time placement. I was given tasks such as creating LinkedIn posts, social media engagement responsibilities, which taught me all about marketing and I was able to visit and talk to scientists there, and this informed my biochemistry degree and enhanced my learning. This placement helped with real world industry and gave me so much opportunity to learn and grow.
Last summer, I worked with a financial PR firm as I was curious to understand what this sector had to offer and whether it could be a suitable career path.
Being a Crankstart scholar allowed me to explore different sectors and access a range of different opportunities that I wouldn’t have normally been able to contemplate. Being able to explore allowed me to define what I really wanted to do after my Masters completed.
What services have you accessed so far through the Crankstart Internship Programme during your time at the University of Oxford?
The Careers Service was monumentally supportive. Working with an Internship Office adviser was fantastic and she gave me some tips on my CV that gave me a format that I still work with now and that I have continued to build upon. The Crankstart Internship Programme also organised numerous events exclusively for Crankstart scholars, which were heavily subsidised such as the Crankstart Ball for example which allowed me to meet more Crankstart scholars and build lasting friendships. Getting to know other Crankstart scholars was brilliant and meant we could inspire each other. These events were crucial in gaining a sense of belonging where it might be hard to do so.
Oxford Hub were so supportive when liaising with Crankstart scholars too, and the Internship Office and its opportunities advertised on a rolling basis were always supported by fantastic talks and workshops which supported myself and my peers with every step forward towards widening our potential.
How do you think these services have helped you? How have they developed your career aspirations if at all?
Volunteering with both the police and the NHS were great ways to develop myself as a person. In the NHS I volunteered in an Intensive Care (ICU) COVID ward as part of my volunteering hours on and off and this gave me lots of experience that I would not have seen at university, including how to work on a London bus that had been converted into an ambulance! I really enjoyed being able to help people, part of it was because I wanted to have an impact and even if I could give a nurse a break on a busy ward this felt like I was giving something back. I would not have pushed myself to do this otherwise. The Careers Service was brilliant when I began exploring consulting and finance as were the talks exclusive to Crankstart scholars through the Internship Office.
The realism from people in the industry is always really helpful. A talk by Toto Wolff from Formula 1 was one talk in particular which was great and inspired me that you can make a difference and achieve your goals despite your background. When you hear inspiring stories from people, who have come through hardship and hear how they have overcome this it’s so important to understanding yourself as Crankstart scholar in relation to your employment possibilities.
Initially I didn’t know whether the detective role I have now would be for me but being a Crankstart scholar allowed me to seek out experience in relevant sectors, even on weekends during term-time without worrying about a financial impact on my financial budgeting while at University. This meant I was able to learn important aspects of criminal law and physical techniques and training in person, which allowed me to have a first-hand insight into the detective role and affirm that it is a role for me after University.
The Crankstart scholarship has given me something amazing, which has now allowed me to complete the training experience I needed to now take the role of detective with the MET Police beginning this year and for this I will always be grateful.
How easy has it been to obtain financial support through the Crankstart Internship Programme and the team involved?
I didn’t know there was a Crankstart scholarship when I applied to Oxford for students from low-income backgrounds like mine. I was surprised when I found out and it turned out to be so useful in the long run. It supported me in so many ways. One being that the financial support available allowed me to open a savings account to support me straight after University before finding my footing. A maintenance support package allowed me to go buy textbooks relevant to my course, hang out with my friends at events such as balls and formals and pursue my dreams and goals. It was great having the weight of money off my shoulders, so I didn’t need to worry. Filling out a funding form for payment towards unpaid or poorly paid internship was an easy process. The process is streamlined, and everyone is really supportive so that you can apply for funding for Internships either secured through the Crankstart Internship Programme, or for whether it’s something you secure yourself. To be able to know you can acquire a wage for doing something you really want to do, or whether it’s something you are just exploring, is just so brilliant.
Is there any advice you would give to our current Crankstart scholars?
Don’t just see your bursary as just a massive payment of money. Instead think of how you want to make the most of the opportunity you have been given. As a Crankstart scholar you have such a huge number of resources, wealth of internships, workshops to choose from, CV appointments to book; you can help yourself get into a fantastic position for your chosen career. Go for every Internship that interests you. it doesn’t matter if you don’t get it. Even though my volunteering placements were unpaid, it didn’t matter at all as it allowed me to pursue my dreams and explore more of the world outside of the education bubble; volunteer for something you love, and you enjoy. I have completed around 500 hours with St John’s Ambulance and the NHS but it didn’t feel like work to me, because I enjoyed the volunteering, helping others and it was an opportunity to do something during the COVID lockdowns!
Make the most of the opportunities you have been given so you can give back. Make a list of all the things you would like to achieve before leaving university and think about how the Crankstart scholarship can help you to achieve them. I was able to write and self-publish a book called What’s the point of school? How the current education system fails to face students for the real world (2020) on Amazon. The Crankstart scholarship allowed me to pursue the publication of my book, which in turn led to me being interviewed on BBC Radio London, and be featured in the Oxford Mail which was just an extraordinary experience.
Thank you so much to all of the Crankstart team for your support, you’ve helped me tremendously!