Student Stories

Emma Boyle - Heriot Watt University

“I was really self-critical. I think I knew I had quite low confidence, even before this programme, but I never actively looked or knew how to fix it,” begins Emma Boyle, ‘International Business Management with Marketing’ student at Heriot-Watt University. That was until she attended Susan’s group coaching Winter School for students in the Christmas break.

“The whole programme is designed to give you self-awareness. I learned so much about my speech, speech habits and body language. It’s understanding things you never noticed in yourself before and the impact they have when you are talking to someone else.”


Emma learned that projecting that confidence begins long before you interact with others though – it starts by how you talk to yourself.


“I’m being kinder with how I talk to myself now,” Emma explains. “I learned about the importance of this while participating in the Winter School, which took place just before my exams.” Yet despite all the incredible effort Emma knows she always puts into studying for exams, she admits that she’d usually have still been talking negatively to herself. Her internal and familiar soundtrack would sound something like: ‘Don’t get your hopes up, you’ll probably still do rubbish’.


But not this time. Because, for Emma, the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student school was brimming with useful techniques that were brilliantly timed - taking place just before her December exams. “For the first time ever, I was confident in myself going into those exams. And when I came out, I positively said to myself: ‘You’ve done the best you can possibly do.’ The thing is I ended up doing way beyond my expectations.”


So, does Emma believe there was a direct correlation between changing her internal commentary and her exam results?


“100% yes. There was absolutely a direct link between the way I spoke to myself and the outcome I got. It’s all about mindset. I now believe when you put out positive, you get back positive. When you speak to yourself kindly, like I did then, I feel I got a positive result back from it.”


Speaking kindly to herself is a learning that’s proving useful beyond Emma’s exams though – it’s also helping her remain positive while applying for internships. That’s something the pandemic has made more challenging than ever. Having done five or six such interviews online, Emma’s yet to interact with, or even hear back from, a single person.


“I love my University and my course, but I just don’t feel we’re being given all the tools we need to succeed,” says Emma. These online interviews, where you don’t even speak to someone, are weird because you’re not getting that back and forth with the conversation. Performing well in this type of interview requires a completely different skill set. Susan’s the first person who has proactively reached out to freely give something of real value to any student I know. She’s helped me learn valuable skills about resilience, using your voice effectively, and communicating with gravitas.”


Emma shares that these are practical learnings that you can take away and immediately implement. “Susan showed us how something as simple as planting your feet firmly on the ground can impact your entire performance. Let’s just say I’m a lot more positive about these types of online internship interviews now than I would have been a few months ago.”


One of the things that’s really boosted Emma’s confidence is realising the Make Your Mark student school has given her a head start on learning the essential soft skills she’ll need when transitioning into her professional career.


And Emma’s career is one that she hopes will be teeming with people. “My dream is to work with an international company, where I get to meet a diversity of people. I love speaking with new people and am fascinated by different cultures. I was meant to be in Malaysia this year, doing a semester abroad studying at Herriot–Watt’s campus out there. I was so excited about having the opportunity to immerse myself in their culture – rather than just going as a tourist for a couple of weeks to see the sights.”


Sadly, it’s yet another disappointment, in what has transpired to be a year of lost opportunities, let downs, and loneliness for so many young people because of the pandemic.


“I’m quite gutted because that’s an opportunity I won’t get back now as a student,” says Emma, although she remains optimistic that she’ll find a way to travel there in the future, “perhaps another opportunity will present itself during my career.”


And it’s developing all the skills she’ll need, both technical and non, to secure a successful career, that Emma is laser focused on now.


“Susan explained that her Make Your Mark programme just starts the ball rolling, that this learning never stops, that we’ll always have things we want to work on.”


Emma certainly believes her experiences on Susan’s student school have started the ball rolling for her now.


“These skills I’m beginning to develop will benefit me so much in the future. I’m not even in the business environment yet so by implementing this learning into my everyday life now, I’ll have a head start. What’s important is that by starting to fix things now and keeping going, I keep getting to the best version of myself.”


And for that learning and the confidence it has brought her, Emma is so grateful to Susan and her sponsor - former student school participant, Beth Thom.


“I’ve really benefited from this Make Your Mark student school, but I was by far from alone. Everyone on the programme was engaged and I know we each took something valuable away from the experience.” It’s why, having completed the programme, Emma was eager to become a Make Your Mark Ambassador. She concludes: “I’ve already benefited so much from this programme, now I’d love to help someone else.”


Emma Boyle is in her third year at Heriot-Watt University. She is studying International Business Management with Marketing. She hails from Edinburgh and aspires to work with a multinational when she graduates in June 2022 because she loves speaking to and learning about those from other countries and cultures. Having herself benefitted so much, Emma has become a Make Your Mark ambassador to help someone else.

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"These skills I’m beginning to develop will benefit me so much in the future. I’m not even in the business environment yet so by implementing this learning into my everyday life now, I’ll have a head start."

— Emma Boyle, Heriot Watt University