Student stories from The Birmingham Project

Previous project participants share their insight, experience, and advice about taking part in The Birmingham Project.

Ratnadip Das, Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences (International Relations Major) student

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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.

Muskan Surana, LLB International Law and Globalization student

Portrait photo of student

I'm Muskan, a second year LLB International Law and Globalization student.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking of getting involved in The Birmingham Project?

If you're thinking about getting involved in The Birmingham Project, you're on the right track! If you're still hesitant, then don't worry, because this is a great opportunity you would not want to miss. Not only will you get a chance to explore a theme of your interest with completely new yet similar people for two weeks, but this is also a brilliant opportunity to interact with prestigious employers and enhance certain skills. Collaboration and communication are just a few of those skills you'll get to develop through The Birmingham Project. But most importantly, you'll acquaint yourselves with diverse people that share similar interests. When you're sitting in your dorm room with nothing much to do after exams, this is a perfect way to gain knowledge in a professional work life setting. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for only first year UG students. So if you're one, live this experience to the fullest!

What did you do during the project?

I had chosen the theme 'Shaping Global Society' where our question revolved around the role of charities in helping promote equality. We were five equally excited participants when we first met. The management and organization team helped us bond well with a few ice-breaker activities on the first day. Through the rest of the week we attended daily meetings scheduled for us by The Birmingham Project team, gave ourselves personal deadlines for each day and communicated at least twice a day, as per the convenience of everyone. While we all were situated in different time zones, not once did we feel the difference because of the comfortability we had around each other. We had divided the work amongst ourselves, giving everyone an equal share of work. By the end of the week, we had an entire presentation ready with our findings for our employers to see. Owing to the global pandemic, The Birmingham Project was unprecedentedly held virtually this year. The experience was nothing short of unique, with all our resources made available to us. The organizing committee had been very supportive throughout the process and so did my teammates.

How will your Birmingham Project experience benefit you in the future?

This memorable experience has helped me develop my personal skills such as confidence and socializing. Despite being an introvert, I found myself at ease with my teammates as well as confident that I could put forth my ideas. On a professional level, this opportunity has helped me harness my leadership skills. I took the initiative for many aspects, clarifying doubts as well as making sure we all met our daily deadlines. Along with teamwork and collaboration so that every opinion made by the team is taken into consideration, leadership has definitely been enhanced over this project.

BSc Chemistry student

How did your group tackle your challenge?

Early on in the process we quickly brain stormed how we could provide a solution. We also identified the different skill sets from our degree programmes, thus allowing us to assign specific roles and help spread the workload accordingly. We also did the inevitable shed load of reading around our topic to help us get a rough image.

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

Getting the feedback for our presentations was a moment I can’t forget. Getting judged by 8 important people from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) was a daunting experience during the presentation but we did better than we thought when they gave us their comments on how we tackled the problem. They told they’d take concepts we developed (from scratch) and possibly implement them in future projects.

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Since the completing the Birmingham Project, I have been searching and applying to Year in Industry and summer programmes, just to get the most experience I can and to help me stand out of the crowd. Without mentioning the Birmingham Project, I would have found it difficult to answer interview questions but I have been able to talk about team work and being a key team player.

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

I would 100% recommend the Birmingham Project, it’ll help you find out what type of team player you are. You’ll improve your ability to work under pressure, as two weeks to research and to create a digital output is quite short. Hopefully you’ll see that you’ve changed at the end of it.

Also, you never know, you could be offered exclusive internship opportunities like my team were; I was able to complete a further two weeks of work experience at Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) at their Summer Lane offices. It really is a win-win situation.

This student's group project was: "Tranplan" mobile phone app

MSci Mathematics student

How did your group tackle your challenge?

My group has a very focused approach to the challenge. We stated the milestones we needed to achieve very early on, and kept those goals in sight throughout the challenge. At the start of our day, we all planned what needed to get done and we did not leave until it was completed. We all had our strengths and we played to them.  

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

There are a few that come to mind. We had some interesting debates, both on topic and off topic in our spare time but I think the most memorable moment had to be after the awards presentation. We did not win our challenge but whilst we were celebrating our experience together, we were approached by a colleague from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). She congratulated us on our hard work and told us that if we ever wanted placements that she would be happy to get us involved with the organisation. We were all tired and washed out from the intensive two weeks and her praise made it all seem worth it. Our hard work had actually achieved something. 

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Following the offer of a placement from TfWM, I was able to work with them on a student-specific project, along with one other person from my Birmingham Project team. We were tasked in surveying the public's views on the refurbishment of the University train station.

We learnt critical skills about data processing, presentation and questionnaire building in a corporate setting. During the two week placement we surveyed around 500 people, analysed qualitative data and were able to give a presentation to a few of the stakeholders involved in the University train station project. So although we did not continue with the work we started during the Birmingham Project, we were able to start on a new project that could continue into summers to come. 

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

DO IT! Enrol! It is so worth all the blood, sweat and tears! I made good friends across so many subjects. I learnt how to project manage, how to work as an equal part in a team, and how to design and brand a product I had no idea how to begin building. It is a project that will stretch your mind, improve so many skills and may even land you an internship.

My only advice would be to put everything you have into it. You can NEVER be over prepared for anything. Do not get disheartened by seeing other groups projects, yours may still win even if you think someone else’s project is better. 

This student's group project was: "Tranplan" mobile phone app

BSc Economics student

2a Society App

How did your group tackle your challenge?

We had so many ideas initially related to how the features of our digital output could tackle the real-world issues of so many citizens not getting involved in local decision making. We surveyed members of the public to see which of these features people would find most useful and which platform (e.g. an app or website) they would prefer. Our presentation was designed with fun elements included in it such as a prototype app we could click through and a short advert. We thought that things we found fun to create would also be interesting for an audience to watch. 

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

Undoubtedly, finding out that I had won CIMA's business challenge on the final day. My group members were so supportive towards me! 

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Over the summer, I mostly took time to relax and spend time with my family. I also applied to some ad-hoc jobs at the university. The Birmingham Project really boosted my CV for these purposes.

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

Go ahead and enrol! Working in a team as part of The Birmingham Project can be quite different to working on group projects on your course, as the project is opt in. This tends to mean your team is enthusiastic and workload is split evenly. Don’t be put off if you don’t think you have the skills to do it, I now see myself as much better at working within teams, more confident and as having better digital skills.

This student's group project was: 'Civitas' mobile app

 

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