Student Name: Samantha Gilhooley

Course: BA (Hons) Business Management (Graduate Apprenticeship)

Home Country: Scotland

Year of Course: 3rd

About you

Tell us a little about yourself.

I started my working life as a nurse and subsequently moved into health & social care. I currently work as a Learning & Development Manager for a disability charity supporting the L&D needs of all levels of staff. I am married with three children and am, without a doubt, a mature student!

Why did you choose to study a Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) at QMU, and what attracted you to the course?

If I am completely honest, I entered this course as a way of achieving a degree (something I had always wanted, but the opportunity hadn't come along). When I left school, I trained as a nurse (before it was a degree course), and it had always been a nagging thing in my head. I had thought it would be a box-ticking exercise but what I hadn't anticipated was just how much I would gain from the experience. I was working as a senior manager in health and social care and hadn't really considered how applicable the majority of my course was to my work (or to any role in any sector, really). 

The Course

What have you most enjoyed about your course? What has been your highlight?

There have been quite a few. First and foremost, the people that I have met on the way. Secondly, being reintroduced to reflective practice. Reflection has such a significant impact on my personal and professional life, and without undertaking this course, I wouldn't have re-engaged with it. Certain modules really fired my interest, such as law, organisational behaviour and HRM (Human Resource Management). I was surprised by how I was able to apply theory to practice. I say this because, as a GA, you have the benefit of being able to take what you learn at university and apply it in real life. For me, things always make more sense when they are tangible or real, and it was gratifying to be able to take the learning and apply it directly in my role. 

How have your lecturers supported your learning?

The lecturers were all fantastic. Approachable, understanding and helpful. Never be afraid to ask questions – even if you think they are stupid because someone else is probably wondering the exact same thing. 

What have been some of your challenges with the course and university life? How have you overcome them?

One module nearly broke me because it was based around Excel (something that I have feared for a long time!) But, with hard work and the support of classmates and lecturers, I got there, and I can use excel now (well, to a fashion). Managing your time is a challenge. Working full time, studying and meeting your personal commitments is, without doubt, extremely hard and at times a slog, but you will get there. I had to set aside time every week to study, and you have to keep on top of that, or the workload can quickly run away with you. 

Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

You need to be aware of the time you need to invest personally in this course, but then, very little is ever handed to you on a plate, is it? You will need to give up evenings and weekends while managing your work and personal life but, for me, it was 100% worth it. 

"As a GA, you have the benefit of being able to take what you learn at university and apply it in real life. For me, things always make more sense when they are tangible or real, and it was gratifying to be able to take the learning and apply it directly in my role."
Samantha Gilhooley, BA (Hons) Business Management (Graduate Apprenticeship)

Enhancing student learning and personal development

How has the GA helped you in the workplace in terms of developing a career path?

I was at the stage in my career where I didn't want to be promoted any further, but completing this award has enhanced my confidence, critical thinking, research and time management skills. There are also some practical benefits, such as getting to grips with Excel or understanding more about why people act in the way they do that have helped.

Have you joined any schemes/initiatives to enhance your learning and development?

No, but I have used some of the knowledge gained in the course to enhance learning in my workplace. For example, I have now implemented, as part of induction for all care staff, a reflective practice module that sets people on the right path from the start about how to reflect and the benefits of reflection not only to them but also to the people we support on a daily basis.

Life as a Student at QMU

What's your 'top tip' for making the most of being a student on a GA programme?

Engage! Attend all classes and put time aside to complete. Understand that there will be certain times in the year where you will feel like you don't have a life – acknowledge it and accept it and keep going!

What has been the most valuable lesson that you've learned at university?

That even when you think you can't do something, you can! You might need support, but if it's important to you, you WILL get there.

[Published July 2021]