My name is Ratnadip Das and I am currently in the 2nd year of my Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences undergraduate programme, in which my chosen major is International Relations. Because most of my modules in my first year were in the Arts and Social Sciences, I chose the Culture theme of The Birmingham Project.
What advice would you give to students who are thinking of getting involved in The Birmingham Project?
I would say that the most exciting element of it was working with people with different academic backgrounds and doing research on a topic specific to Birmingham - it enabled each of us I think to learn more about the artistic background and culture of the place and it made us feel more at home with Birmingham as well. I met other first years during the process and that was definitely a highlight, particularly in terms of boosting my team-work skills.
Overall, I gained a valuable skillset in terms of doing independent and group research in addition to ramping up my presentation skills. I would definitely encourage people to get involved because it's a positive experience to put on your CV and you get a lot of out it. It's also exclusively for first-years so it's a nice way to get involved in an extra-curricular project that also adds to your PSA points - something which benefits your degree transcript.
What did you do during the project?
Our project was to design an app focused on highlighting the Cultural Sector of Birmingham and bringing new audiences to the Arts in Birmingham.
We did not have to actually make the application on account of the Project being conducted virtually but we prepared a presentation with each of us (there was five of us in our team including me) narrating one or multiple slides.
We divided our group into different sections - so one of us was doing surveys and looking into literature/resources regarding how to increase engagement with the arts through a digital medium while others were tasked with creating digital templates for the app and doing extensive research into the cultural sector in the city and highlighting the richness and diversity of it. The last bit was assigned to me and I looked for digital sources discussing cultural artefacts and places of artistic interest in Birmingham - which was quite engaging and interesting to dig into.
Then we streamlined it into one presentation, which we made on Canva and collaborated on it to smoothen the process and finally, we added our audio recordings for our specific slides.
A really useful tool we used was Coggle - a digital mind mapping website that has a collaborative feature and is really intuitive and helpful in the brainstorming process.
We had regular virtual meetings in the mornings to keep track of each other's progress and kept in constant communication by making a group chat which eased the process of delegating tasks to each other.
How will your Birmingham Project experience benefit you in the future?
I learned useful digital skills in terms of building more effective and visually stimulating presentations through Canva and a really valuable thinking aid in Coggle.
The Project also aided me in terms of building on my team-work capabilities as well as improving my timeliness and sharpness in researching in a focused manner. It was also helpful to work in a related but still distinct field to my academic modules. The value of having to present your independent research in a coherent fashion and make sure it fits with other perspectives is something that I think will be immense for me in the future, in the workplace.
Trying to build an app also is a useful way to gain more practical skills in terms of thinking about how to effectively market and bring forth ideas that they are engaging for a wider audience, something that will undoubtedly be needed in the future.
Personally, it helped with my communication skills and confidence in my ability to work independently yet still cooperate fruitfully with other people. And on that aspect, it was great to network with other first-year UG students from other departments and have their skills and experience rub off on myself a little.
Something I would also add is that during the tumultuous summer of 2020, it was such a plus to have an experience like The Birmingham Project to keep myself occupied doing something both productive and incredibly enjoyable and I am so grateful for that.