Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Tue 13 Jul 21
Despite already having a career in human resources, Lauren Young decided to follow her passion and study history, a subject she says offers so much more than people expect. In the process, she’s helped shape courses and been the voice of fellow students.
Lauren, who is graduating with a BA History and Sociology, first applied to Essex in 2016, and embarked on a Sociology and Politics degree but ended up withdrawing.
“It didn’t feel like the right decision,” she said. “Instead I completed a business administration apprenticeship in the HR team at a company called Munich Re.”
After deciding to give higher education a second chance, choosing her subject was easy.
“It was important to me that I picked something I would enjoy. History is perhaps one of the best degrees to learn useful transferrable skills that you will hold with you for the rest of your life. People think it’s memorising meaningless dates and battle wins but it’s so much more than that!”
An interest in sociology led her to enrol on a joint degree and she feels the two subjects make perfect partners: “The disciplines often overlap, though perhaps things are studied through different lenses.”
During her time at Essex Lauren has helped ensure students in the Department of History are represented and get a say in how courses and processes develop. She’s been a Student Rep since her first year and helped the Department evolve its online teaching during the pandemic.
The role didn’t come without challenges: “Something that every Student Rep will come to learn is that you can’t please everyone! University is a hub of people with different ideas, preferences, and ways of working. There is no one size fits all. The best thing to do is listen to people,” she said.
"It was important to me that I picked something I would enjoy. History is perhaps one of the best degrees to learn useful transferable skills. People think it's memorising meaningless dates and battle wins but it's so much more than that!"
Being the voice of students has been a rewarding experience though: “When departments acknowledge there is room for improvement and call on student feedback to help in the process, an opportunity opens for everyone involved. Representing student views meant that I could see changes happen in real time and see the effect of my work.”
In her final year, she also took on the role of President of the History Society after a friend, who had worked hard to revive it was unable to run for the role herself.
“I didn’t want to see my friend’s hard work go to waste. That goes to show the importance of community in the Department of History. Taking on the role of President to ensure the society could run for its members was something I didn’t even question as I knew how important it was.”
Now she’s taking her new skills back into human resources, having secured a role as HR Associate at Publicis Sapient.
“Going back after completing my degree offers me a different perspective. I am much more disciplined in my work and even the way I think. Being at University also really helped me come out of my shell which has had a huge impact on my ability to communicate with co-workers.”
Lauren’s advice for new history students is: “Choose a wild card module at least once a year, a topic that you don’t know much about. You may find that it inspires you to explore an area of the past that you wouldn’t have thought to otherwise.”