What should I be doing over the summer?

If you are worried that your career planning will lose momentum over the summer, take five minutes to read the latest blog from our Employability Adviser, Jo Cooksley.  Jo will put your mind at ease with some great advice and some quick, practical activities that will help keep things going at a pace that works for you.

When I see students in one-to-one careers meetings I am often asked ‘what should I be doing over the summer’. My answer? ‘What do you want to do?’

It can be easy to forget that your time is your own, you have had busy challenging years and sometimes we can lose track of what we want to do as we are so busy thinking about what we should be doing.

“As a careers adviser (and a human!) I am a great advocate of the importance of aligning your interests, passions and career aspirations. The more aligned they are the happier you will be.”

When was the last time you really thought about what you want to do after Uni? It can be easy to be swept along with recruitment timelines (more on that later) particularly when studying a subject such as Law which has such a clear recruitment trajectory. This can be very reassuring, until perhaps your timeline and the recruiters timelines start to diverge, maybe you haven’t got the vac scheme you thought you would, or the Training Contract offer. This can be immensely unsettling.

So…why not take some time to really examine what your options are and what interests you. The next question I am usually asked when I say this is ‘but how do I do that’? It is too easy at this point to just grind to a halt, it’s such a vast thing to think about. My suggestion is you do something, almost anything, just keep taking the next step. Below are some suggestions and resources to help you take the next step.

So where to start?

Timetable in some careers time, maybe a Wednesday afternoon? Couple of hours on a Saturday morning? Doing some planning/researching is better than none and will help you to feel more in control.

The Careers Service has lots of resources to help you. Take a look at its ‘Exploring Career Options’ resources.

Maybe you could take a look at the Sector Guides that are available, which provide a summary of key information and starting points to help you explore a range of careers including Advertising, Publishing, policy, TV and Media and MANY more.

Start to engage with others working in areas you think might interest you.

Set up/improve your LinkedIn profile or sign up for the University Bristol Connects Service.

But I need to earn some money this summer…

You are also likely to need to work over the summer to earn some money, don’t underestimate how positively employers will view the less obviously relevant, paid work you undertake. If you need some help articulating the skills you develop in this work for future employers, why not book a careers appointment?

“So, in response to ‘what should I do this summer’… have a break, earn some money and take some time to think about what you’d really like to do.”


How volunteering helped me believe I could pursue a career that would make a difference

In this blog, Siphesihle Tsabedze discusses the role volunteering played in developing skills and knowledge that went above and beyond her law degree – and how that experience, combined with a very developed sense of justice, has given her the confidence to pursue her goal of becoming a human rights barrister.

My school was in Eswatini and it’s a very socially unequal country.  I was interested in law because of all the social inequality I could see around me. I was very motivated to do something to help people that couldn’t defend themselves against patriarchy and against the classism that determines your life when you are born. I went on to study at a United World College. Its mission is to make the world a better place by breaking down the barriers that stop people from diverse backgrounds seeing how similar they are. With that background, studying law just made sense to me.


What is the Human Rights Law Clinic? What was your role in it?

The University of Bristol’s Human Rights Law Clinic is part of the Law School and is dedicated to researching and supporting human rights NGOs all over the world to do the work that they need to do. Often NGOs are underfunded, and they can’t afford to employ all the people that they need to do research on the ground and to be fact checking and to be collating information. The Human Rights Law Clinic gives students the opportunity to get involved in that process.

The research you do supports NGOs with the work that they need to then inform their litigation strategies and form their reports to official human rights bodies like the UN, like commissions against torture. I was involved in my second year doing research for the Committee on the Prevention Against Torture in Africa. And in my third year, I was a team leader for research supporting an NGO based in the Gambia that litigates on a regional level there, on all sorts of human rights matters, to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights.

What did taking part in the Human Rights Law Clinic mean to you?

Being part of the Human Rights Law Clinic meant everything to me. I learned a lot about the state of human rights and different human rights cultures around the world, particularly East, Southern and West Africa. I feel like I got to do work that was very meaningful in helping organizations do the incredible work that they do that has a real impact on people that need help.

“It was very much beyond the scope of my law degree. I went further than I ever thought I would because of the work I did in the Human Rights Implementation Center. It’s given me a real edge in my job-hunting process and regularly impresses people that interview me.”

Tell us about the other volunteering initiatives you were involved in? How did they also help you pursue your passion for human rights?

I also worked for the Freedom Law Clinic and Lawyers without Borders. The Freedom Law Clinic is a UK organization that offers law students the opportunity to get practical experience of how the law works in criminal cases and appeals. I was involved as a student caseworker with a group of eight other students, and we learned all about the criminal appeals procedure in England and Wales and how you write to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a life sentence on murder. It was an invaluable experience and it helped me decide what kind of lawyer I wanted to be, what areas of law I wanted to get into.

With the University of Bristol Lawyers Without Borders Student Division I found that, again, I went beyond the scope of what my degree required me to know about human rights. It was a way of always being tapped into this field that I knew I wanted to go into. I met so many like-minded people, so many international students, of course, because of the nature of the organization. And I even made contacts within the organization that will be invaluable to me if I ever decide to apply to them. The one project that stands out was a project in Kenya and Tanzania that helped female victims of gender-based violence escape that situation and get help, get the medical attention that they might need. We did lots of research on what, legally, their options were. What protections do these women have? Can they walk into a lawyer’s office ask for legal aid? What were their rights for asylum, for example.

What do you plan to do now you have finished your degree?

Now that I’m done with my law degree, I intend to do the bar practice course within the next two years. I want to be a human rights and immigration barrister. And so, I’m currently building experience working in that area of law, immigration specifically, building my portfolio of client, facing work with vulnerable clients. And I’m volunteering for refugee council as a refugee integration advisor. I do that five days a week where I take on a few clients and help their paid staff manage their caseload, because the UK has a really, really hostile and overwhelmed system of asylum and refugee law.

“I’m very interested in defending people that don’t have traditional markers of privilege protecting them. I have a very developed sense of justice. I’ve always hated it when things were unfair. And so that really motivated me to get to grips with this whole thing called law.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 / 10 years? 

In five years, I see myself as a barrister who specializes in immigration and human rights. In 10 years, my goodness, I see myself as an expert, perhaps in one of those areas. I’m not quite sure which yet. I’m very open to learning. I’ll probably have more degrees than I do now, and I’ll probably be very happy with the work that I would have done in between now and then.

Find out more

Don’t forget to read the full Volunteering Week blog series to find out more about the options for gaining real-life experiences of law, in social justice and beyond, whilst studying at the Law School. Find out more about our Law Clinic work and careers opportunities on our webpages.

How being a volunteer in a dynamic university has changed me

For this blog we caught up with Aryan Mandal, who shares his thoughts about being an international student here – and how the culture and spirit of the university, combined with his experience working as a volunteer lawyer, has seen him grow as a human with ambition for the future.

Aryan Mandal

How has your experience at the University of Bristol shaped you?

The University of Bristol is always changing, always evolving – it’s so dynamic in nature. It’s all about new ideas, new cultures, new traditions and it makes you think differently.  It’s made me understand my choices. I’ve had such beautiful courses, such beautiful optional units, it has shaped my future ambition. I’m very thankful to the university for that. It’s all about choosing something which you deserve and choosing something that suits you.  When I came in here, I always thought I wanted to become a barrister in the area of human rights law. But then Bristol changed that completely. I still want to become a barrister, but in the field of commercial law, in the field of arbitration law.

What is the Law Clinic – and how did it help form your future goals?

The University of Bristol Law Clinic provides social service to anyone who needs advice with regard to legal problems, and I think that is what makes University of Bristol stand apart. It helps people solve their legal problems without any costs, and I feel that is what is needed. Free legal aid, helping people, advising people, that is what us volunteer lawyers are. You help that person, you make a difference to that person’s life by your advice, and that person can decide whether or not to take it to litigation or arbitration or mediation and then get resolution out of it. That can make a real difference to their lives

“It’s not always about getting something out of it. It’s not always something about gaining reputation, but it’s about helping people. And that is what a law degree is actually about. It’s about human rights. It’s about how you can help, how you can make a change to another person.”

What cases have you worked on as a volunteer in the Clinic and what have they taught you?

I have undertaken many different cases and been involved in many different activities. From cases involving family law and environmental law to arbitration and mediation. These experiences have got me ready for the legal world. I’m advising clients every month and that gets me ready to go out there as a lawyer after three years and advise clients. The Law Clinic taught me the procedures to do that, and that’s the biggest blessing for me because going out there as a lawyer, you never might know how to advise a client or how to write advise or draft advice. But the Law Clinic prepares you for all of that.

What other activities have helped you build practical skills? 

Offering students the opportunity to get involved with the many different mooting competitions that are available around the world is another way the Law School helps you develop skills for your future career.  My highlight of being here is taking part in the KK Luthra International Moot Court competition as the lead mooter. Mooting generally helps you gain confidence in yourself. It helps you know what it is to stand in that court and argue as counsel for a client, making a difference to that person. It is such an important part the career and employability provision – and there is an array of opportunities that you can get involved in as an international student.  There’s so much to do I have never felt that, well, I’ve come to a different country, what’s going to happen? I’ve never felt that. And that is what is so pleasing to me. 

What advice would you give a student thinking about studying here?

My big bit of advice is just accept your offer. Just accept it and come here because there’s nothing better. There’s nothing better than the University of Bristol Law School. It’s highly ranked. It’s research intensive. It’s top five in UK for research. And they accept you with open arms. They’re so welcoming to international students. You go to the library, you sit among people and they become your best friends. I feel that is what the University of Bristol’s all about. That is what the culture in Bristol is all about. That is what the city is all about.  

Find out more

Don’t forget to read the full Volunteering Week blog series to find out more about the options for gaining real-life experiences of law, in social justice and beyond, whilst studying at the Law School. Find out more about our Law Clinic work and careers opportunities on our webpages.