What I wish I had done in my first year

Himieka Jain

I remember when I started in my first year, everything was so new and overwhelming. There was so much going on everywhere around me – I was getting used to living on my own, making sense of a new culture as an international student, trying to make friends in college, focusing on academics, trying to find a part-time job and whatnot. People told me that first year is my time to chill out. Others told me that first year grades don’t matter because they don’t count towards your final degree. Well, guess what! Your final degree classification may not count your first year grades, but when you apply for internships, companies ask you for a breakdown of your marks in all modules that you’ve studied, irrespective of the year. So you can’t ignore the first year completely.

This is not me trying to scare you, or telling you to be a giant nerd from the very beginning, but there are things that you can do outside of your academics that will be extremely helpful for your career. I’ve only found out about them now that I’m in my final year and actually starting to care about my graduate prospects. So take this advice from your older sister, especially if you’re interested in a legal career. Even if you’re not looking for a legal career, the first three points in this blog are still very relevant to you!

SEO London

SEO London prepare students from underrepresented backgrounds for a successful career. They offer bespoke work experience programmes in different industries with their partner organisations.

This includes programmes in corporate law, insurance, banking, asset management, real estate, technology etc. I knew about them in first year but always thought that I’d get involved later, in second or third year. Now that I have delved deeper into it, I’ve realised that most of these programmes are for first year students only, so don’t miss out!

DU Global Opportunities

Again, something I found out in the summer of second year – these are opportunities to volunteer or do an internship in an international destination in the summer of your first or second year. Destinations include Seoul, Shanghai, Canada, New York, Lisbon and so much more. What’s more, the university may even fully fund your internship if you meet the eligibility criteria! Applications are usually open in Michaelmas term for internships that are held in the summer. A Global Opportunities Fair will be held on campus from 18-19 October 2023 so do attend that and find out all the opportunities that are on offer. Read about Crystals summer internship in Vietnam in this blog > Reflections on the first month of my summer internship in Vietnam

Laidlaw Leadership & Research Project

This is a funded opportunity and is spread over six weeks in two different summer periods. In the summer of your first year, you can be part of a research project on a topic chosen by a Durham professor who will be your supervisor. You can also choose your own topic but you’ll have to find a supervisor for yourself if you happen to secure a place on the scheme. Then in the summer of your second year, you get to apply leadership skills by working on international projects. You have to be a first year undergraduate student in any discipline to apply for this.


You might have heard of Rare Recruitment when applying for internships, but did you know they also run three programmes for students interested in a legal career? This is a chance to get directly involved with people from law firms like Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Clyde & Co, Deloitte Legal etc.- this will

be very useful when you ultimately apply to their vacation schemes or training contracts! There are eligibility criteria again, like BAME background,

low economic background etc. You also need to be in your first year of any undergraduate discipline.

Don’t overwhelm yourself

Hopefully, some of this has piqued your interest. I know this can be a lot to take in or engage with all at the same time, so you can choose to focus on just one to two things. Don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much, because you do actually need to chill out as well. Good luck!

Discover more

Click here for info about Internships & Placements – Durham University

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Himieka Jain

Hiya! I'm Himieka, an international undergraduate student from India studying law here at Durham. Apparently, my name means 'made of ice' but some people seem to say I get angry real quick haha. I'm an absolute sucker for Indian and Italian food and love working out too 🙂

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