BA Geography student Nicole Wong looks back on her time as one of the University’s first Arts Ambassadors and consider how the internship will help shape her future (Nicole pictured centre).
It is with sadness that I write to you as my time as an Arts Ambassador (AA), supported by the University’s Excel Internship scheme, is coming to an end. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the role and the people very much and will always have fond memories of the internship. Reminiscing about the start of scheme, I have to say, I was so excited, yet apprehensive to be one of the first to embrace and shape the Arts Ambassador scheme. Not only has this been a positive development in awareness of arts and culture amongst students across the university, but it has also been an enormous personal development opportunity for me. Throughout this role there has been many opportunities that I never thought I would ever encounter during my time at University. It has been a truly real world experience.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Although I might seem outwardly confident, I’ve always been shy to let anyone read my writing. However since becoming an AA, my responsibility to produce regular blog posts gave me the chance to become more confident in accepting errors and perfecting my writing. I also got to practice the various writing styles which are required when communicating to different audiences, on different social media platforms. The scheme also helped me to act as the mediator between the arts and students, making arts and culture more relatable than ever before. From testing out new cultural venues to writing reviews to shows and events, I tried to give my fellow students a sense of what is like to be at an event in an accessible and approachable tone.
When the former arts coordinator and social media guru Cameron left us after his internship ended, my fellow Arts Ambassadors and I further consolidated the foundations of our social media outlets, strengthening the image of Arts at University of Southampton. At an event, we would be on our mobile devices ready to make the next tweet, set up a quick Instagram story and not to mention Facebook live. Managing and co-producing the content for our social media platforms was a great introduction to what marketing on online platform is like, which has further developed my professional social media skills.
On many occasions, the Arts Ambassadors have been the front face of an event or promotional campaign. Together we have helped to put a familiar face for students to the arts and culture that is offered at the University and in the city. The most unforgettable success of this was when we helped to promote ‘Southampton Celebrates’, a week-long celebration to mark the opening of Southampton’s new city arts complex, Studio 144 in the Cultural Quarter. As a team, we produced the content for our ten day ‘Whiteboard Moments’ countdown for Southampton Celebrates which included photoshoots featuring each Ambassador posing across the University campus. We effectively commemorated the build-up towards opening of ‘Southampton Celebrates’ where we witnessed over 3000 visitors crowding over Southampton’s Cultural Quarter on one night to attend the opening of Studio 144. The night couldn’t have gone any better and it was my first ever major promotion event. I felt a strong sense of accomplishment and that our hard work had really paid off. Then an opportunity to become a gallery assistant at John Hansard Gallery’s Sampler’ exhibition opened up for me. This was an opportunity which I thought was not easy to come by until I became an Arts Ambassador, so without a doubt, I jumped straight into that pond and the rest was history. What a way to enhance my CV!
Becoming an Arts Ambassador has given me the opportunity to network with arts professionals and people in this field. I attended regular meetings and events where I gained new connections and learned how to communicate in a professional environment. I was formally introduced to the CEO of Arts Council England, Darren Henley, where we had an hour meeting discussing the future of arts for young people and the Arts Council’s 30 years plan. Four months later, I then met the Chairman of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, where I recorded a light hearted interview with him on my phone at the opening night of John Hansard Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Gerhard Richter: Artists Rooms. And YES, my role also gave me access to attend special events such as gallery launches with VIPs!
All of my experiences and opportunities that I have encountered whilst being an Arts Ambassador are all treasured life experiences and career developments. Building experiences as a student, this internship has been an investment in my future. I got to try out by exploring the arts and culture sector, which gave me insights to experience whether or not this is a foreseeable future career path for me and also to see what chances there are for me to take. When people asked what my role was, I found it hard most of the time to find the exact words to describe it because there are so many things that I have done. From writing blogs at home, to scheduling social media posts in the office, attending events and becoming the front face of an event promotion campaign, this scheme is a unique opportunity that has never been offer before until now, and to be one of the first to jump into Southampton and Winchester’s blossoming arts and culture scene has been incredible!
I cannot give enough thanks to Louise, Jamie and Cameron for their professionalism in mentoring and guidance throughout my journey as an Arts Ambassador. Their generous understanding supported me during times of hardship when balancing third year work load and internship responsibilities, which in turn helped me to thrive with the opportunities that were offered to me. The Arts Ambassador scheme has provided me with the building blocks I need for my future. One thing that I would say is that I wish that my time at University could have been longer so that I could stay as an Ambassador for longer, because there are so much more I want to do in this role. But as my time at Southampton is coming to an end, a new chapter awaits
Nicole Wong has recently completed a three year degree in Geography at University of Southampton and is very excited to be start her master’s degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising at Manchester Metropolitan University, commencing in September 2018.
Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.