How to take advantage of University? How to gain experience, whilst studying?

A blog contribution about entering higher education and self development after A-level results, for those entering university/further education.

About the contributor: UpRising alumna Dominika Kalinowska, @lucky_dominika

Hello UpRisers! My name is Dominika Kalinowska, and I am from Poland.

I completed the UpRising Leadership Programme back in 2019 and currently I work in higher education as an Applicant Engagement Manager, recruiting and managing Student Ambassadors at Cranfield University.

I have completed BSc in Psychology, and MSc in Consumer Psychology. I have also created a YouTube channel where I help young people with their concerns about studying in England, mental health, career advice, and many more. You can see link to my YouTube channel here.

Today, I would like to share my university experience with you – what helped me get a job after graduating, how you can improve your CV whilst studying, and how to prepare for the professional working life! Believe me, these will kick-start your career and help you build your experience and stand out from the crowd. Without further do, let’s start!


Where to start?
Sit down, on your own, or with a career advisor (you can find them at university, free of charge), and think about yourself as an individual. Who you are? What do you believe in? What do you expect from life? Where are you heading? Write down all the things you are good at, what are you passionate about, and what are your ideas for your future career. It is okay if you are not sure where do you want to go. Maybe young people are confused and lost, and THIS IS FINE. You are young, you have not experienced much yet and think of it as a journey. Long journey through jobs, projects, and experiences you like, as well those you do not. Write down a list of things you want to try, places to work in, types of careers you want to experience.

What helped me, was taking responsibility for my life, taking action and just going for it. Simple as that. 

I will list of things I have done, that were useful for my personal, but also professional development. By taking them, you make sure you use the University resources to the max, and get a head start from every other student:

  • Taking an internship opportunity (ask in the career office), usually not very long, some are a few weeks, some a few months. Mine was 6 weeks, and I got paid £500 for it.
  • Volunteer – I volunteered in the charity I had my internship in (GreenHouseMentoring, where I was trained to be a youth mentor, at just 19!). Such a great experience.
  • I was involved in extra-curricular activities at university, such as “public speaking” and “networking” sessions.
  • I gained customer service experience as a part-time barista in the coffee shop, as well as a waiter at Wasabi Restaurant at the airport. These were my part-time jobs where I earned extra cash, but also built-up valuable experience.
  • During my Master’s, I started my YouTube channel as my side hobby, and I love spending my creativity on it. I learned how to record and edit videos, and this helped me get some social media assistant roles.
  • I took part in the UpRising Leadership Campaign Training which was incredible! If you are considering applying for the campaign, do it. It is worth every minute of it.
  • I have created a LinkedIn Profile where I post from time to time my change of jobs, life updates, network with professionals within my area, meet new people, and so much more. You can get a job from there, of be head hunted by a recruiter, so always keep your information up to date on the profile.

You can help your development by taking an action and going out of your comfort zone. Be confident, step out, and speak out. You are unique the way you are, and you have lots to offer.

Here you can see my video on the topic where I talk about all these steps you can take to take advantage of the university and develop yourself as a young adult:

What else you can do?
You can join a society, do a gap year, apply for a placement year, do free, online courses, sign up for a dance class or learn how to play an instrument, start working on something on the side, not related to your studies, like I did with video editing, start a new hobby, go on University trips, get involved in a student union, find a job, tutor younger students, help out international students with their English… so much you can do!

All these points helped me build up my CV, but also my confidence. I came to the UK from Poland in 2016 to study. None of my family members went to the university and I am the first one to do it. I feel privileged to be able to do it, and grateful to my parents to give me the chance to try and apply to the UK university.

You do not have to be rich to accomplish great things in life. In fact, those from less advantaged backgrounds do better at school, get great careers, and are more empathetic and understanding. But please, be aware of your boundaries and do not overwork yourself. Take care of your mental health and do what feels right. Because I have done it, it does not mean it will work for you. The best way is to get inspired, but think rationally about your own goals, see if this resonates with you, and just try. Your mental health should be your priority.

The only thing you need is to understand how important is for you to act for your life, decisions, and future. You are the person who can change it.

But most importantly, have fun. University time is best time of your life and enjoy it!

Hope this helped you a little and showed you all the things you can do at university, other than studying. I have recorded lots of videos for young people about career advice, starting university, and entering professional world. If you will be interested, check out my YouTube Channel.

All the best to you and your future!