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Michelle Hopwood

BSc (Hons) Business & Management with Leisure & Tourism

female student Michelle Hopwood who used the student opportunity fund

As a mother of two, this opportunity was the first time I had travelled alone for the first time in 15 years; it was an unusual feeling but I learnt that now my daughters are at university it is my time to carve my own path for myself. The experience definitely increased my self-confidence and reminded me I can do anything if I just push myself out of my comfort zone.

As a child Michelle loved to travel, but never pursued her dream of working in tourism. Fast-forward to the pandemic and she decided to trade her NHS role for student life, now in her second year studying Business and Management with Travel and Tourism. The Student Opportunity Fund has enabled her to develop industry connections and attend the 2022 World Travel Market Conference in London.

What inspired you to apply for the Student Opportunity Fund?

Being an avid user of the Edge Hill website I had frequently seen the stories of previous successful SOF applicants and hoped one day I would get to be one of them. An opportunity arose for me to represent the EHU Business School at the 2022 World Travel Market London Conference so I grabbed it with both hands and applied. As a later life career changer, I hoped attending the conference would not only provide me with access to up-to-date industry knowledge, but that I would also make multiple networking connections to build and strengthen my future career. Which it did.

What was the SOF application process like? Did you receive any support to help you with your application?

I first heard about the conference quite close to the conference date so was a little worried I would not get my SOF application processed in time, but after speaking with my personal tutor I felt confident enough to at least try. There were a few forms to fill in, which included providing cost evidence for what I was applying for. However, I found this process quite fun and, in seeking a summer placement within the travel industry, gave me the experience of ‘pricing up’ a four-day travel itinerary. The forms are really straightforward; in addition to the costing evidence my personal tutor kindly provided a statement of support and I had additional help from the Scholarships team (thanks to Zoe who is the font of all scholarship knowledge). Zoe was able to answer all my questions and processed the application quickly for me. Without her support, I don’t think I would have been able to get the application through so efficiently in time for the conference.

What did you do with the funding?

I used the Student Opportunity Fund to book a central London hotel, return train fares and cover my travel expenses whilst I was there. The conference was taking place during the first set of London rail strikes so navigating and booking various elements of the London transport network tested my planning skills. I was able to travel on the Tube, the Thames Carrier and the Emirates cable car to make it to the conference. As a tourism student getting to experience these different forms of transportation enabled me to consider how the theory I had learnt in lectures and seminars worked in practice; something I hadn’t considered when initially applying for SOF which was a bonus.

How did you find the experience itself and did it help you to achieve your goals?

The conference had multiple sessions about sustainability, the future of tourism, including space travel, and some keynote speakers such as Steven Bartlett (Diary of a CEO podcast and Dragons Den). Having a keen interest in sustainable tourism I was able to network with leading researchers and industry leaders in this field. To hear an industry leader comment how they would like to get involved somehow with my university felt really empowering, as I realised I had represented the university well at the conference.

Learning about the shift from sustainability in tourism to responsible tourism gave me current knowledge I don’t think I would have acquired just yet without attending the conference; knowledge I have been able to use in developing my assessment work. After returning from the conference, I was also able to share the knowledge gained with my tutors and peers which felt really rewarding that this opportunity was not just to my benefit. As a mother of two, this opportunity was the first time I had travelled alone for the first time too in 15 years; it was an unusual feeling but I learnt that now my daughters are at university it is my time to carve my own path for myself. The experience definitely increased my self-confidence and reminded me I can do anything if I just push myself out of my comfort zone.

Have you taken advantage of any other opportunities on campus or elsewhere?

I get involved with as much as I possibly can where my study time allows. I have loved my university experience so far and said from day one I would only get out what I put in.

In my first year, I was a Mature Students Society Committee member, being an instrumental part of the committee in restarting the society. I have completed the Bronze and Silver Extra Edge Awards, due to complete Gold this year. Alongside my studies I work as a Student Advisor within Library and Learning Services and last summer I completed a Digital Internship with the Learning Technology Division.

I love to give back to the university so have been a member of the Student Advisory Panels since the beginning of my first year and have volunteered as a Business School Course Representative. In Semester 2 I completed a work placement as part of my employability module working as a Project Support Officer on a collaboration between West Lancashire County Council and Edge Hill.

What are you hoping to do next?

I have developed a love of tourism research this year. So next I am hoping to further develop my skills and knowledge in this area, particularly concerning responsible tourism across the various elements of the sector such as tour operations, cruising, and visitor attractions, particularly garden and royal tourism attractions. I am hoping to be lucky enough to successfully apply to the SOF again next year to develop my understanding in these fields further, such as attending a tourism research conference next March. Right now, my main focus is on gaining a summer placement.

Do you have any advice for those considering applying to the Student Opportunity Fund?

My first advice for anyone applying to the fund would be to allow plenty of time to gather your evidence for submitting the form as well as time to complete the application form itself – it takes time to do it correctly and if you are applying around assessment deadlines it will be a challenge. Secondly, I would say do not be afraid to ask the Scholarships Team for advice or support – they really are amazingly supportive. Thirdly, ensure you have spoken with your personal tutor about your application. You will need their support in applying so you need to be mindful of their time demands when asking for a reference letter of support. Finally, I would say just go for it. Whatever you are applying to the fund for is obviously something you really want to do otherwise you wouldn’t be applying, so don’t hold back, be honest and let the application demonstrate your passion for the opportunity you want to experience.

I would 100% recommend the SOF to everyone. Although it takes time to complete, it is absolutely worth it when you stand in the middle of the opportunity you are applying to get to and realise how great it is that EHU provides a fund like this to help develop you further and beyond the lecture hall.