A day in the life of a ‘Connect to’ student

Digital Marketing Officer Catriona Cook recently spent a day with Loren Gemmell, who was named the NUS Scotland Student of the Year last month. Here Catriona tells us what a typical college day for Loren looks like…


I meet with Loren at 10am, she’s had a busy morning already so she is having a break with her friend Katie Naismith, enjoying a drink in the College Refectory. I’m here to shadow Loren – who is a Connect to Learning student – to experience what it’s like to be a student on this course.

Loren recently completed her work experience with the College marketing team. During this time, Loren and I worked closely on graduation and her infectious smile and personality made my working day even more enjoyable. Today is no different; Loren greets me with a big smile and is keen to tell me all about her experiences at College.

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The day started early, Loren was at Breakfast Club, which runs every Wednesday morning. She tells me she loves helping to prepare the breakfasts and getting to chat with her friends, and always finishes the morning with a delicious bacon roll. “I’d love to work in a restaurant one day. It would be hard work but I think I’d be really good at it,” she tells me – I agree! Next year, Loren is planning to return to College and study on a Connect to Careers course. On this course, students complete a two week work placement. Previous students have worked in various places including Emergency One vehicle manufacturers, the British Heart Foundation charity and the Salt & Barrel restaurant. This gives the students the chance to gain real life work experience and lecturers say that the two weeks can do wonders for student’s confidence and gives them a great sense of independence.

Today, Loren is keen to show me the Easter stall that her class and the Connect to Enterprise class are running. They are working together to sell rice crispy treats, painted ceramic hearts, decorated wooden hearts, daffodils and other arts and crafts that the students have made.

Loren says, “It’s fun when we get to work together with the other class, and I like speaking to our customers who are buying treats.” Running stalls like this gives Loren and her classmates invaluable work experience, they learn customer services skills, sales techniques and cash handling skills, all while working closely as a team.

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In the afternoon, Loren and I head to her next class. I ask Loren what a typical day at College is like, and she tells me the days are extremely varied, so it’s always fun. She can do anything from arts and crafts, to IT work – including learning to send and receive emails. Today we’re off to a cookery class.

We arrive at the classroom, which is a fully equipped kitchen with a workspace, utensils and oven for each student. There is a recipe for lasagne written on the board at the front of the class. Everyone gets prepared by getting their aprons, washing their hands and collecting their ingredients. Loren’s lecturer, Linda Todd, tells me that not only will the students learn cookery skills, but by following the recipe, they are learning and understanding weights, measurements and fractions. Loren loves cooking, and she enjoys getting to taste her creations at the end once they’re ready.

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At the end of the busy day, I ask Loren what her favourite thing about College is. “Definitely getting to see my pals! I like going on the laptops too and of course winning my award.”

Loren was recently crowned Student of the Year at the NUS Scotland Awards 2018 for her work with the marketing team and Ayrshire College’s Student Association. Student President, Lainey McKinlay said, “I am delighted that Loren won the NUS Scotland Student of the Year Award. Loren was an absolute star during her time with us. I really enjoyed having her, she is brilliant at student engagement and was a great help to our team.”

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I’ve had a great day shadowing Loren and think that studying on a Connect To course is a fantastic opportunity for young people who have recently left school and want to become familiar with the college environment. There’s so much happening from day to day and all of the students I met in Loren’s class were all having a great time. I just wish I could join in every day!

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