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Emily Smith

Graduated 2020

Portrait image of Emily Smith

Finish this sentence: English at Solent is for you if …

You love a good debate! Our lectures and seminars across the whole three years encouraged us to consider things on a deeper level and voice our opinions on everything from the novels we were studying to current affairs.

What was the best thing about your course lecturers?

The Solent English team has some of the most intellectual, inspiring and supportive people I have met. They all have a number of connections across multiple different industries, which is invaluable when it comes to establishing a career. Above all, their approach to their students is amazing, and I think I can speak for the whole course when I say we all had an amazing relationship with the team.

What about the facilities?

In terms of English, the library has an extensive collection of research journals, academic papers and theory books, and if we weren’t able to access a certain text, it could be transferred from a different library, which was very helpful.

How do you feel your studies helped you prepare for a career in the industry?

There are a lot of transferrable skills that we learnt from the Solent English team – for example, working as part of a team, being confident in voicing and backing your own opinions, and presentation skills – all of which are vital in the workplace. We also had a compulsory work experience module, for which we had to complete 100 hours of work experience in our chosen field. The Head of Solent English invited me to work as an editorial assistant on the African Communication Research journal because I wanted to go into publishing, but I know others who worked in bookselling, teaching, or human rights projects – each student was able to establish relationships in the industry they wished to work in.

My time working on the African Communication Research journal was definitely something of a highlight, though! After finishing my work experience module in 2019, I was invited back to work as deputy editor on the second edition in 2020. It was amazing to read and edit such revolutionary articles, and to be involved in the publication of something that provides a platform to voice opinions that may have otherwise been repressed.

The Solent English team has some of the most intellectual, inspiring and supportive people I have met. They all have a number of connections across multiple different industries, which is invaluable when it comes to establishing a career.

What opportunities did you have to gain practical experience?

A few other third-year students and I – all with an interest in publishing – founded the Solent Society for Proofreaders and Editors (SSfPE), with help from the Head of English. This created an opportunity for students to get an insight into how the industry works and gave tips on how to successfully enter a notoriously competitive industry.

What’s your favourite Solent memory?

One of my favourite memories would be when I was able to have my own short story and poem published by The English Collective (an indie publisher founded by Solent English), and then went on to create and publish Pensive magazine with a team of fellow students during one of our second-year modules.

What did you like best about living and studying in Southampton?

Southampton has lots of fun things to do. I loved being in the city centre – all of the uni accommodation is a five-minute walk away from the shops and restaurants, and most of the student housing for second and third year is very nearby too, which made socialising so easy!

What did you take away from your time at Solent University?

Friends, connections, new opportunities? Absolutely all three!

You graduated in 2020 – what have you been up to since then?

My career, as such, is still developing. I have started working as a freelance editor to develop my skillset and experience in that industry. I feel happier doing freelance editorial work because it’s not high pressure and means I have more freedom and control over my spare time.

What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?

I think it’s so important to know that most graduates don’t get a job in their relevant industry for at least six months – and more likely a year – after graduating. I think an awareness of that would have led me to be much less harsh on myself.

What are you working on at the moment? Any projects or plans you’re excited about?

I’m currently finishing up a project with an author who is about to publish their third novel – it’s in the final stages of the editorial process and it has been so great to see it finally taking shape after working on it for so many months. I’m also about to start working as an acquisitions assistant for an indie publisher called SmashBear, so I’m very excited to get started on that – I was offered this role by another Solent English student who I worked alongside in the SSfPE. I also worked for them as an editor on their debut novel, which is being released next month! This new role involves reading submissions sent to SmashBear, then presenting a report to the rest of the team on why I believe we should or should not proceed with the prospective novel.

What tips would you give to someone wanting a career in English?

You need to absolutely love reading; also, get as much experience as you can before graduating. You will also need to be prepared to relocate in order to work in publishing – although the world of work has changed with Covid, so this may be different in years to come.