Student testimonials

Amelie Sievers

"Our work from Grand Challenges is leading to changes being made at the University"

I cannot speak highly enough of my experiences of Grand Challenges. I felt incredibly well supported by our supervisors who were always at hand to guide us through our projects, always letting us take control of the direction we wanted to take it in whilst providing us with their specialist knowledge which we benefitted from immensely. With their help, we looked at how the Wellbeing Service is approaching students and what kind of language is used on the website. We ran a small study and found out that students found the language a little intimidating, we have passed on the results to the Head of Wellbeing and as a consequence they are reviewing their whole website, which is incredible! They have let me be part of the process too, taking on any issues we identified during Grand Challenges, such as the use of specific words like 'intervention'. The Wellbeing Staff have really welcomed and taken on board any suggestions I have made and it's really showed me that University Staff do really value student's input. Such a great example to show that Grand Challenges can really make an impact!

Taking part in this challenge also gave me the opportunity to practise a great range of skills I do not necessarily get to use on a regular basis in the context of my course, such as speaking in front of a large audience, managing time effectively to work on a big project in a short space of time and working in an interdisciplinary team. I now feel much more confident in my public speaking and also working in groups, which will really help me in future years! 

I feel Grand Challenges really prepared for me for life after University and has enhanced my employability greatly, and I can honestly recommend it to anyone!

Jess Wade

"I met so many amazing new people and we quickly became friends through working together"

I could not possibly have enjoyed taking part in Grand Challenges 2016 any more than I did. After what had felt like a long and difficult first year at university, Grand Challenges came at exactly the right time for me. I met so many amazing new people and we quickly became friends through working together. I therefore look back on that week with fond memories, and I am very grateful for the experience. 

I originally chose to take part in Grand Challenges because I wanted to expand my knowledge outside of my degree course. Overall, it was certainly a fulfilling experience. I truly felt as though what my team was working towards had the potential to make a difference, and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of something with this level of significance.

The most important aspect for me personally was that I found myself in a new circle of like-minded people, and this gave me the confidence to continue on with my university studies into my second year at Exeter. I am now in my final year. Grand Challenges gave me the confidence to be more outgoing, and my second and third years have been so much better because of it. 

I highly recommend taking part! 

Hannah Tate

"Participating in Grand Challenges helped me to secure a placement at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers)"

I participated in Grand Challenges Week in 2015 which helped me to secure a placement at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Teamwork and leadership skills, as well as the ability to innovate are sought after and this is what Grand Challenges is all about; this is why Grand Challenges appealed to me, as I was applying for jobs at the time.

I worked with a group of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and degrees, thus there were a variety of opinions which were, sometimes, conflicting. This allowed me to practice build on my team-work and leadership skills to ensure my group did not lose sight of the goal and achieved an exceptional outcome. I also had to continually act on my own initiative and think innovatively, to ensure that the outcome we achieved was ready to present, at the highest standard, on the final day of Grand Challenges.

I used Grand Challenges to demonstrate these skills in my interview for PwC and they were very interested in the project we completed as it is unique to Exeter University. I also make some great friends along the journey, and some great memories which have added to my university experience.

Adina Pintilie

"The skills I have taken away from Grand Challenges are at the top of my CV"

Grand Challenges week was a fantastic extension to my degree studies. When I signed up to the Strategy and Security Institute’s Global Security Challenge I was ready to learn more about terrorism and listen to some great speakers, but the week was so much more! All the activities we undertook during the week had a purpose and built towards both group and my own learning outcomes.

I signed up for induction sessions on team-building and personal growth. Learning how to do a team exercise on a SWOT analysis was my first team interaction of the kind and it served me very well when I interviewed for Unilever.

Individual learning was, however, my biggest take-away. I had never considered the utility of any form of applied writing and I’ve never been more grateful for being taught how to do anything of the kind. During Grand Challenges I wrote a Ministerial Submission on the raised terror threat posed by the Irish Republican Army to the UK. As there was little in formally taught modules about the IRA, this was a great opportunity to engage with highly UK-relevant security topics. My newly-found understanding of applied writing allowed me to take more responsibility in my subsequent summer work placement where I was able to turn surveys of more than 2 million data entries into concise ministerial summaries for the ministers of the European Union on topics ranging from Gender Inequality to Cybersecurity.

If that was not enough to make Grand Challenges interesting and valuable for my future career, the week was also a unique opportunity to hear from the people at the top of the security field. What was the most engaging experience for me was reading about the work EUROPOL does in my textbooks and then being able to ask Mr Rob Wainwright, the Executive Director of Europol, the questions not answered by my academic reading!

Even in my third year, the skills I have taken away from Grand Challenges are at the top of my CV, and I cannot recommend the Strategy and Security Institute’s Global Security Challenge highly enough.

Melanie Mackay

"Grand Challenges helped me consolidate various skills and build my confidence"

Grand Challenges enabled me to meet some lovely people and learn a lot in a short space of time. I gained insight into the different stages of a team project, all the way from brainstorming and research to implementing our ideas in practice. I became familiar with the emerging market for augmented reality (AR) products thanks to the involvement of an industry specialist. He really brought AR to life and showed us how it could be applied in different settings (in schools for example). Crucially, this experience helped me recognise the importance of commercial awareness in any business venture, which is something that companies really value in prospective employees.

I have used the Grand Challenges programme in interviews on assessment days as evidence of my ability to work with others, time-manage and think creatively. It came across really well, since it was easy to talk about a project that I thoroughly enjoyed. All in all, Grand Challenges helped me consolidate various skills and build my confidence, and provided me with great material with which to impress employers.

Kristin Allan

"Grand Challenges put my skills to the test and enabled me to identify my own strengths and weaknesses"

Grand Challenges was a fantastic and genuinely enjoyable experience, working in an interdisciplinary environment where I could consider a wide range of ideas and perspectives. As a team it was important that we recognised the value of people’s inputs and this allowed us to collaborate our ideas effectively, thus creating something unique and innovating.

Having completed Grand Challenges, I have been able to apply the skills I developed in other aspects of my life. The ability to communicate and negotiate well with people has been useful during group projects at university. It is also an attractive trait that I mention when applying for internships. Working in a new environment and pitching a presentation at the end of the week improved my confidence skills greatly. This is something future employers look for and I was delighted to be able to build on my confidence in a safe and friendly environment. I also learned to take on leadership roles by delegating jobs and understanding that leadership requires you to listen to others and reach decisions based on what is best for the team and the overall outcome.

Grand Challenges put my skills to the test and enabled me to identify my own strengths and weaknesses when working in a fast pace, dynamic team. This has allowed me to work on certain skills which I can be sure will help improve my employability and general work ethos.

Iona Brunker

"Since the week, our project has been involved with the launch of the Global Systems Institute here at the university"

Grand Challenges was an invaluable experience for me. I started the week with little expectations, having signed up because I was interested in learning more about climate change outside of my course. It quickly became evident that the programme was highly flexible, and groups had an almost limitless range of areas to focus on. I loved that we were encouraged by the supervisors and academics to not shy away from large, seemingly unreachable, problems, while still having the freedom to develop our project in any direction we liked.

The week also offered me my first opportunity with video production and editing as my group used a short stop-motion video as a launchpad for our sustainability social media campaign. I found the experience so rewarding that now I am working towards a career in television production and broadcasting.

Since the week, our project has been involved with the launch of the Global Systems Institute here at the university promoting sustainability, particularly in regard to food sourcing. We hope to continue developing the project further, encouraging food outlets across campus to source their products more locally.

Overall, I have developed a wide range of skills which I can now use as examples in job applications and interviews, but Grand Challenges also benefitted me in other ways. I now feel that I can make a difference against contemporary issues, I have gained professional contacts, and I had a great time throughout the week and made new friends.