It's bizarre to think that so many educational, inspiring, and overall fun experiences I've had being a Gold Scholar would not have been a reality if I had given into my hesitance to apply for the programme. Fundamentally, I really have my mum to thank, for being my biggest mascot and motivator to apply for the GSP. Without her encouraging words, my university journey would look a lot different to what it has been.
Where did it all begin?
Due to my family background, an important part of my overall university journey was securing any financial assistance I could attain. With the University of Bath, I was already appreciative of the clarity and ease at which I could find out more about the scholarships the university offers, as well as apply for them. The GSP was easily noticeable amongst the other scholarships, no doubt because of the generous amount of money offered to students per year, but also because of the enriching opportunities which are core to the programme, regarding personal development, mentoring opportunities and career progression. It says it all on this shiny ticket we received as part of our introductory info pack of the GSP:
There is also the '50 hours of volunteering' commitment, which is a staple of the GSP and required for Gold Scholars to complete - though in a placement year you wouldn't have to complete this, and in your final year the hours are reduced down to 25. This may seem daunting at first glance. What volunteering can I do to get all of these hours? How do I find the time to volunteer? But bear in mind that there is an entire academic year (including holidays) to attain these hours, and as I will explain later, the GSP constantly offers an abundance of volunteering opportunities throughout various mediums to scholars i.e. Microsoft Teams channels, GSP events, GSP mentors, and so on.
Being a scholarship of course, there are requirements to complete within the application such as, at the time that I was applying, a 500-word personal statement. Those 500 words I had to write for my personal statement were strangely menacing. Now, it seems comical to have been so alarmed by 500 words, with the various 1000+ word-long essays and reports I regularly submit as part of my course. But I still remember staring at my screen like a zombie, trying to will words into my mind and to be typed. What finally broke me out of the haze I was briefly trapped in was envisioning the ambitions I had going into university, and expressing my passionate for learning and new experiences bundled up in my mind, into grammatically correct, complete sentences. Then came the whirlwind of my acceptance emails, the Welcome days, and social activities. Then, the Gold adventure really began.
A Year in the Life of the GSP
I will say, the GSP does not play around with the emphasis on personal development, mentoring opportunities and career progression as essentials of the programme. In fact, I cannot even think of a week when I haven't been showered with various volunteering or job opportunities on the Microsoft Teams channel. There are even roles working at the university that are not only part-time jobs with financial benefits and provides a diverse range of skills and experience for your CV, but also counts as GSP volunteering hours, such as my job as a Casual Outreach Ambassador. Moreover, thanks to advertising by the GSP, I currently volunteer as a Student Mentor at the charity IntoUniversity, in which I mentor young children towards their path into higher education and assist them with developing goals and skills to improve their education and mental wellbeing. I've also had volunteering experiences helping to plant trees, and I volunteered at a secondary school's 'Philosophy Day' event and competition, in which I helped to grade the most intriguing essays from Year 7 and Year 8 students about the implications of artificial intelligence, and also created and gave a presentation to the students about the difference between deontology and utilitarian ethics. It cannot be overstated the genuine newfound confidence in public speaking, interpersonal communication, and creativity skills I gained thanks to those opportunities. All of which I would have unlikely been part of without being a Gold Scholar.
My favourite aspect of the GSP is all the steps the programme takes every year to foster excitement to learn whilst pushing us out of our comfort zone and achieve goals conducive not only to gaining confidence for your career progression but also for your personal wellbeing and sense of belonging. As Gold Scholars are more likely than the general university population to come from a lower socio-economic background, the GSP provides a sort of social mobility and ability to transcend barriers typically in place when you don't have family with connections to a particular job industry for instance. No time does this ever become more apparent than in the case of 'STEP' events, that start from 'STEP A' and can progress to 'STEP E', all of which consist of networking opportunities and training courses to improve various skillsets.
Just last year in early November, I attended the first 'STEP A' event of Year 2 that the GSP organises, which are tailored for different university year groups as the GSP staff factor in the amount of experience and confidence we are likely to have with networking.
Here's how it looked:
In my 1st year, our final networking event, combined with our end of year celebration dinner, was eased into by having us attend various 'STEP A, B, C' and so on training classes about the intricacies of networking, and a very memorable online networking event on a platform called Gathertown in which we networked with staff all across university departments with charming avatars and distinctive virtual chatrooms. This celebration dinner was definitely a stunning evening to remember … and a brilliant opportunity for glammed up selfies!
But wait … there is more?
Can you believe I haven't even scratched the surface of the GSP? I could go on about the endless array of mentoring opportunities, in which you can match and meet with lots of keen mentors all across industries and University of Bath departments. All of this support around you is so enriching, and such a conducive environment for academic and developmental success. There is way more to delve into and explore if you want to apply for the GSP, and a good starting point is right here.