BLOG: Student Takeover – Aaron, Sociology and Politics student
Say hello to Aaron Wappler, 3rd year BA (Hons) Sociology and Politics student, who shares his experience volunteering with North East Scotland Scouts and how Moray College UHI supported him to take on one of their biggest challenges yet.
Hello! Let me introduce myself…
I am Aaron! I am currently a full-time Sociology and Politics student here at Moray College UHI. I completed the NC (SCQF Level 6) in Social Sciences then progressed onto the HNC (SCQF Level 7) in Social Sciences. I found that the BA (Hons) Sociology and Politics course was my natural strengths academically, which Moray College UHI staff nurtured from the beginning.
Outside of my studies, I currently hold the role of Assistant Regional Commissioner (Communications) for North East Scotland Scouts and hold a couple of trusteeships with other organisations outside of that. As effectively the head of communications for the North East Scotland Scouts, my main priority is to raise the profile of activities we do.
I am really passionate about how volunteering can improve employability skills and contribute to better mental wellbeing, two areas that are really important to me.
I coordinated an internal campaign with North East Scotland Scouts to fill food banks across the North East of Scotland using a variety of different messages and platforms to kickstart the campaign. The knowledge I have gained from studying social sciences made me want to do something about this issue, particularly from seeing how immensely COVID-19 has affected families and individuals.
I created the hashtag #FillOurFoodBanks and we achieved record engagement like never before with over 900 young people and volunteers taking part in line with the restrictions at the time between the 1st - 24th December 2020. We managed to record a whopping six thousand eight hundred and eighty kilograms (6.8 Tonnes) in food donations across the region and to be honest there would have been a lot more that wasn’t recorded so safe to say that number could potentially be just under ten tonnes! Through some research, I found that the amount of food parcels had increased by around 1500 from March to September 2020 from the previous year across Aberdeenshire and City according to the Trussell Trust Food Bank Network, one of the main foodbank providers in the area.
I learned a lot during the campaign - how to manage a strategical campaign, how to lead and make decisions confidentially and in line with a larger strategical aim, liaising with stakeholders, managing deliveries, creating social media posts, making materials for guidance, arranging virtual visits the Scout's Groups zoom meetings, website content, and managed all communications including videos and posters… It's safe to say I could not have achieved this feat or have the confidence to give it a go without the support of the University of the Highlands and Islands, particularly the Social Sciences team here at Moray College UHI who continue to go above and beyond for their students, time and time again. They really opened my eyes to the inequality and injustice in the world, which has been immensely compounded by COVID-19, that was part of the reason for choosing to do something about it on the scale I did.
#FillOurFoodBanks campaign logo
Why choose Moray?
Before I started on the NC Social Sciences course, I chatted with the Student Services team whilst I was still in full time employment. They helped me decide which course would be most suitable for me. I wanted to know more about the world around me and discover how everything inter-links, so social sciences were the natural choice. It meant I could learn about society, people and how the world is connected. I am naturally someone who enjoys asking the big questions in life and exploring the ways we can answer that, although at times it can be complicated, it’s the complications that make the subject come alive. The flexible opportunity to learn online really suited my circumstances and allowed me to continue studying while maintaining my current lifestyle.
Initially, I will take a break after completing my degree, do a little travelling if restrictions allow before I go full force into my chosen career. Although I would like to return to Moray College UHI at some point in the future, maybe even as a lecturer, so I hope they’ll take me back!
I would like to take my career as far as possible; I enjoy my roles in the Third Sector and feel that the BA (Hons) Sociology and Politics degree could open a variety of graduate programmes. Most likely, I will pursue a career in the Third Sector, or I would consider a career in the Civil Service, in their Fast Stream programme. I am really interested in their Project Management stream and feel I would excel with the buzz of delivering big scale projects and maximising the value for the taxpayer.
I would like to say thank you to my lecturers as I didn’t have a career path initially due to lacking personal confidence in myself. However, as I discovered my own strengths and weaknesses with the help from my lecturers and other students on my course, I found the potential career paths open as I developed my own self-belief.
If you would like to study locally with a good mixture of blended learning with online and face to face learning, I would definitely consider a course at Moray College UHI. It’s fantastic being able to work around my existing commitments like work, volunteering and home life while studying. The blended learning approach means I can study at my own pace and the technology means I won’t miss a thing. I think it’s truly special that a student can walk into the lowest entry course and leave with a PHD or MBA, not many education providers could say the same.
If you are thinking about volunteering, I would definitely make an appointment with tsiMoray or contact some local charities and ask what positions are available. Try a few different charities and roles, there’s literally something for everyone no matter how much time you can give, from hands on roles to backroom functions. A lot of people have the idea that it means lots of long hours, but you could actually give an hour or two a week when it suits you and that really does have a big impact. Also, the positive impact on your mental health cannot be understated. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve went to an event or meeting with my voluntary organisation feeling like the world was beating me, then walking out with a massive smile on my face. If you do struggle a little bit with your mental health, volunteering is a great way to build a network and make new connections.
Aaron with the Social Sciences brand ambassadors
I’ve had so many highlights during my time at Moray College UHI, both for my personal and professional development, I really threw myself into student life after a career change. Between my time on the Social Sciences courses, there’s so many moments I could pick but when I achieved the ‘Best Overall Student’ during my time on the National Certificate followed by the ‘Best Class Representative’ during my time on the Higher National Certificate it was really special to see my efforts pay off. Also receiving an A in my Graded Unit along with the Ede and Ravenscroft award at my graduation was definitely special.
Another highlight which sticks out was seeing my Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) Dr Suki Haider being recognised as the Best PAT of the University of the Highlands and Islands in the HISA Awards, it was really something to see knowing how hard she worked for us throughout the year. She went above the role of the PAT in so many ways, so it was great to see her get such a top award.
Aaron and his class mates celebrating their achievements
That’s all for now…
Thanks for joining me today on my Student Takeover, I truly would not be where I am today without certain lecturers, PAT’s and a Learning Development Worker (LDW) taking time to talk and work with me on an individual level.
A big thank you to Aaron for taking part in our Student Takeover Blog! We can’t wait to see where Aaron’s dedication and new-found confidence will take him next.
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