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A selfie photo of a female NTU alumni

Leah Rhiannon
Savage

United Kingdom
My time at NTU has made me into who I am today

More about Leah Rhiannon

NTU alum, Leah Rhiannon Savage, is a two-time graduate from NTU, having achieved a BA and MA in History. Leah shares how NTU fueled her passion for history and higher education, and how her experiences helped shape her into the person she is today.

Why did you choose to study at NTU?

I chose to study at NTU because I came to an open day and really liked the course. I met some of the staff and got to know about the course content which really influenced my decision. I have a passion for Early Modern History and so to see many Early Modern History lecturers on the course was a bonus. I also really liked the campus and that was a big part of my decision. The campus has so many great facilities and is also very accessible. I have a physical disability and so I wanted to make sure that the campus would be accessible for me.

What did you learn – both inside and outside of lectures?

When I first started at NTU, I was quite nervous and shy. I got to network on my course with people with similar interests which I think was the first step to me coming out of my shell. I learned from my lecturers and fellow students how to be confident and passionate about the things I love and embrace them. At school, I was made to feel ashamed or embarrassed about being a history “nerd”, whereas when studying at university, it was more important to embrace my interest and knowledge, and to share that contribution, which I found really encouraging.

NTU gave me a chance to grow as an individual. I started throwing myself into opportunities and building my own self-confidence.

In my first year, I became a member of the History Society. By my third year, I became the society’s President which is something I never thought I would be capable of and something which made me think about my own ambitions of leadership roles for the future. In my third year of university and during my master's, I was also the Course Representative which gave me a real insight into the course and the confidence to speak to high-powered professionals about issues that could help improve things for students. This is a skill that has now become essential in my career in education.

NTU was also where I met my now Husband. We met during our first year of university and began our relationship in our second year. I have to say it was a big change from my fresher’s year at university to my graduation from master’s four years later. I came to university single, and left a married woman! We have now been together nearly five years and wouldn’t have even met if it hadn’t been for NTU.

Initially, when I moved to Nottingham to be at NTU, my aim was to do my bachelor’s degree and then see where it could take me, without any real plan. However, I liked NTU so much that since I graduated from my master’s degree, I have found ways to stay connected to NTU. With currently working at Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, I am still part of the NTU family.

What does your current day involve?

I work in a further education setting, supporting students with additional learning needs. These could be students with physical disabilities who are in wheelchairs, students with emotional and social learning needs, who may get overwhelmed in social situations or by college life, or even have problems at home that could impact their wellbeing at college. I support mainly in the classroom setting, but also if I need to will sit and do 1-1 talks with students who may need extra help outside of the classroom.

The job can be quite emotionally and physically draining but knowing that you are helping a young person gain the vital education and skills they will need in life is rewarding.

In my spare time, I also work for a few History magazines including The History Magazine & Historic U.K. I have so far published articles on John Knox and the Scottish Reformation, The Four Mary’s: Ladies in Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots, Imprisoned and Punished: The Female Relatives of Robert the Bruce, Margaret Thatcher: Britain’s First Female Prime Minister, and am due to have more articles published this year. I also work as a Freelance writer on a variety of projects, which can involve proofreading, editing, writing essays and articles and much more.

What attracted you to this field of work?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to work in education, but my time at NTU made me reconsider what education setting I would like to work in, in the future. NTU gave me the ambition to work in higher education, as this will give me the opportunity to teach the subject that I love – history, but also enable me to have time to do my own research which is something I really enjoy.

During my time at university, I did some agency work supporting secondary and SEN schools. Whilst I liked this, I knew I wanted to work with older students. I searched for a job that would allow me to work both in the classroom setting and to support students with additional learning needs in further education. Working at Confetti is giving me the opportunity to advance my skills in the classroom setting and in supporting student attainment and welfare.

I have to admit, I was apprehensive at first about working in SEN schools and in additional needs environments before I had any experience or training. However, once I received this, I found that this is valuable experience to have, and allows me to be a more inclusive and supportive practitioner in my future career endeavours.

How has your degree influenced your career?

My degree made it clear that I wanted to teach history but at a higher level. I realised that I wanted to teach students who were as interested in history as I was, but also that I wanted a chance to do my own research on the side.

I was also influenced by the great lecturers I met at NTU. They demonstrated how rewarding it can be to teach the subject you are passionate about, whilst being able to improve your own qualities as an academic and researcher.

I engaged in a lot of employability workshops. Advice from lecturers and employability advisors like getting a LinkedIn profile and networking with other historians and professionals has really helped my career progression. LinkedIn is where I found the job for the current position I am in. It is also where I discovered the opportunities to work for the history magazines I am now part of.

What challenges have you faced?

During my time at university, I had some pretty difficult periods that made me feel as if achieving my goals was impossible. I experienced a bereavement that impacted my emotional wellbeing, but also later in my degree I also was unwell myself. I had a few months where I had to continue my degree as a distanced learner which I struggled with but had to for my own health reasons. I got over both things with the support of student services at university but also with being honest with my lecturers and friends on the course who were supportive in any ways they could. I worried so much that I wouldn’t do well because these things were holding me back, but with perseverance and hard work I still achieved both my degrees at NTU.

I am not ashamed to admit that after my master’s degree I went on to do a PGCE in Secondary Education, to which I dropped out. During this course, I found my mental health took a serious decline and I found myself in a role that I learned wasn’t for me. Whilst this experience was a negative one, it helped me clarify what role I did want to do. Now I am working in a higher education setting I am much happier, but I may not have realised this had I not tried and failed at the PGCE first. Leaving this course was a difficult decision as I was unsure of the path it would lead me on afterwards, but again I was supported by the staff at the university all the way and they even kept in contact after I had left the course to check how I was doing, which I am grateful for.

Whilst I had many challenges and hard times during university, I am in some ways glad that I did as it taught me to be resilient and showed me how I could still achieve and better myself even when at times I felt like everything was against me. With the right support and my own determination, I was able to adapt and enable myself to get to where I am today.

What have been the highlights and biggest challenges of your career so far?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my new role, is having to speak up and voice the opinions of the students I support who can’t speak for themselves.

When I started my role, I began supporting two students on different courses whom I was told would not pass the year as they had both struggled with managing their mental health and education. However, I have worked with both students on a 1-1 basis and in the classroom, to ensure that they feel supported and can be honest about when they are struggling. Both students, with my support, have improved their social skills and I have made provisions for them to work in an environment that helps keep their mental health in a much better state, allowing them to succeed academically. Both students have now passed the year. I see this a real highlight as I wanted to be able to make a difference and support my students to see what they are capable of.

What are your plans for the future?

In the next few years my aim is to either pursue a PGCE in Higher Education or even a PHD but it would depend on finding the right one at the right time. I have ambitions to be a lecturer in History, preferably in Early Modern History. Either way, I plan to work in further or higher education and support students, as I was supported so much during my own education.

If you had a time machine, what would you go back and tell yourself at uni?

Stress less about the future and just enjoy the present!

History and heritage is a route to your future.

Challenge your digital literacy, analytical, interpretive and communication skills to open up limitless professional possibilities.

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