Arts Emergency

Alice Whittaker


What do you do with a BA in English? Basically, anything…
After my graduation, I worked in an international college in Oxford, realised that wasn’t what I was interested in, did an MA in English, got into campaigning and looked at jobs in International Development charities, found that’s a very competitive area to find work in (though really good fun to do voluntarily), worked as a notetaker at my university (supporting people with a disability that meant they couldn’t take their own notes) and discovered Occupational Therapy, which I’m now going back to uni (again) to study. This one’s technically a science degree, but it’s very creative, there’s lots of problem solving, and you need to be able to communicate well with people, and these are all things I’ve developed through studying arts subjects first. To me, it links art and science brilliantly, and is all about supporting people to do what they want to do, which I think is really important.
It’s taken me a long time and lots of trying things out and changing my mind to get here, and I think that everyone deserves this luxury if they need or want it. When I was deciding to go to university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I picked something I knew I would enjoy. I am a firm believer in this approach – do things that are enjoyable, there is plenty of time for life to fall into place afterwards. I’m involved with Arts Emergency because I think it’s important for people to know this when deciding whether or not to go to university and what to study.
Whatever you study will benefit you in many ways. It may not be vocational – English certainly doesn’t point you towards any careers in particular, though I’ve been asked “so you’re going to be a writer?” endlessly – but as well as giving you skills that prepare you for eventually working, it will bring you into contact with people, ideas, professions and opportunities that you will never have encountered before, and can lead you on to places that you would never have considered.