“When I arrived for the start of my Psychology course I wasn't sure what to expect, but at the same time I was looking forward to the challenge,” says 21 year old Azeem Ijaz Butt, from Stockport in Greater Manchester.
“It was such a welcoming atmosphere and I was very excited by what was to come. During the first few weeks, I made an effort to meet new people; I got involved with lots of groups and societies and went to lots of talks. I quickly realised that the Students’ Union was especially good in terms of help and activities.”
As well as making the most of the extra-curricular activities, Azeem was soon engrossed in his course.
“The modules I studied during my first year were very interesting and thought provoking,” he says. “I enjoyed the science aspects of the statistics module and we studied humanistic, social, cognitive, biological and developmental psychology, so there was a good mix of topics.”
Although impressed by the content of his course, Azeem was surprised at the number of hours he spent in lecture theatres. “Three days a week didn’t seem a great deal of time, but then I realised I had more time to use the university’s other facilities, and it was good to have a balance between academic life and extra-curricular activities
“That’s very important, university is not just a place for you to learn about your career path, it should be something that facilitates your personal ambitions and goals and helps you learn more about yourself. Academia is a small part of it.”
Now in his final year, Azeem has certainly stayed true to his word. In his first year he became secretary of the Table Tennis Society and volunteered for the charity Dig Deep. In his second year he was the official Students’ Union representative for his course and he also joined Mass, the university fitness society.
“Healthy mind, healthy body,” says Azeem. “Before I got into the society I’d never been to the gym but I was hooked as soon as I got into it. I will carry on my enthusiasm for fitness for life. I do weights, sometimes sessions of martial arts, and it wasn't just the desire for results that motivated me, it is also a very good way to relieve stress. It gives me a sense of personal intrinsic fulfilment.”
With a very healthy work life balance, Azeem has been able to cram a huge amount into university life. “I took part in the Salford Advantage Award, which was a very structured way for me to reflect upon the activities I did in my second year,” he says. “The award is a formal certificate you’re given after completing work experience or devoting your time to any extra-curricular activity for the best part of a year, reflecting on your achievements and presenting them. It was excellent for self-development and self-awareness.”
Azeem also trained as a mental health co-ordinator for the charity Rethink Mental Illness. “I’m passionate about fighting the stigma of mental health, and their aim is to do just that,” he says. “It’s like a peer support scheme but it’s for the whole of the UK. I’m a mental health group co-ordinator and run the Facebook group. I was recently invited to discuss the charity on a panel show on Channel M on a programme about mental health and fitness, and I’m very happy to spread the word as far and wide as I can.”
With his studies almost complete, Azeem has his sights set on a career in clinical psychology. “I know I definitely want to do a Masters in applied psychology therapies. After that, probably a PhD.”
As someone who’s clearly made the most of his time at university, what advice does Azeem have for prospective students?
“I absolutely recommend the University of Salford. Students are very well supported and it’s one of the main benefits of studying here, in my opinion. The careers and employability service is top class, and you definitely get the support you need in terms of giving you a clear idea of what career your skills will be most suited for.
“I’ve learnt a lot about time management while I’ve been here. I learnt to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. I realised I should have done a few things and made them perfect, not tried to do everything.
“Everything I’ve done here has definitely built my confidence and given me more clarity in terms of what I like and don’t like. It’s about trial and error and going out of your comfort zone. You need to find out what makes you unique, find out your strengths and weaknesses and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Studying psychology has made me very self-aware, and given me the confidence to pursue my altruistic goals.”