Case study


For Tamzin Burch, finding the right path took a few attempts. But every opportunity helped mould her into the First-Class honours Marketing (PR and Advertising) graduate she is today. 

Tamzin has never shied away from adjusting her path in life whenever something didn’t feel right – changing mid-sixth form to an apprenticeship, where a focus on Marketing and PR made her realise that she wanted to go to uni to study the subject for real.

Admitting she felt a bit of ‘FOMO’ on seeing her peers go to uni without her, she started exploring the specific degree combination.
Tamzin was keen to find the right balance between not straying too far from home but going far enough that it warranted moving out. With Derby just 45 minutes from her previous home in Sheffield, she’d found just the place.

First in the family

Tamzin is a first-generation student for her family so unlike others who might have parents or siblings to help explain the process, there was no knowledge base for her to draw on to complete her application.

She says: “Because I was in an apprenticeship as well, I didn't have teachers to speak with like peers had. No one in my workplace knew a lot about university, so I found myself navigating it on my own, which didn't really bother me too much because I'm quite an independent person anyway.”

Tamzin understands that her experience was different to ‘the norm’, but she credits the support of Derby for making it easy to research and understand resources available. “Derby made it so easy to navigate. There was always a solution to every problem and help always available. If you’ve got mental health issues for example, Student Wellbeing can and will support you with whatever you need.”

Finding her place

A good conversation with the programme leader at our Open Day covered the kind of experience Tamzin had been getting as part of her apprenticeship, which led to a verbal offer for the course with a foundation year. “I was just overwhelmed and so excited that I'd spoken to someone, and they could see how passionate I was and how much I really wanted it.”

Tamzin went home to complete her application, which soon led to her official offer back.

Tamzin Burch turned sideways looking up

If it wasn't for that Open Day then I wouldn't have had the confidence to apply, coming from an unconventional background and also growing up not really knowing if I would go to university.

Tamzin Burch
On the difference her visit made

She explains: “I struggled somewhat in school, and that made me unsure whether university would be for me, but when I got the offer, it was like no – I can do it, and I just felt so proud of myself.”

Tamzin knew she performed best when assessed through coursework only, which this course offered. She’d previously struggled with her memory in exams, something that she gleamed insight on following a learning difficulties assessment towards the end of her degree.

She says: “Looking back, I had no idea it was because I had Dyspraxia and ADHD, and that's why I couldn't retain information. Because I knew I didn't have to do any exams, it really took the pressure off and I think that really helps neurodivergent people thrive, knowing that they don't have to do exams or other things that might be difficult for them.”

The student storyteller

Tamzin found her feet straight away – from living in halls for two years of study to embracing lots of opportunities to share her student story while at university. “I absolutely loved the staff in halls – they were so supportive and cared so much about the students.”

As a digital native even before coming to Derby, Tamzin brought her YouTube and blogging skills to work with the University Marketing and Student Experience teams during her time with us. From hosting Instagram Lives and Stories at Open Days, to covering things to do in Derby city and her uni trip to Italy, Tamzin always offered a personable and relatable insight of what being a student looked like.

You might have seen her videos before – others certainly did. Tamzin hastens to add – not wanting to seem big-headed – that she would often hear about the impact she had, through generous offers of free drinks from fellow students on nights out. 

Tamzin says: “I had people come up to me and say ‘do you remember that video that you did for uni talking about this this and that? Well, that was the whole reason why I came to uni!’ It's weird to talk about but I can't count how many people have said to me like, ‘you are the reason that I came to Derby’, or ‘I applied because your story was unconventional like mine.’”

Being appreciated as part of others university journeys has helped Tamzin steer herself towards a career goal of wanting to help people. She explains: “Long term I'd like to work in marketing, but hopefully for an organisation that is doing something for the greater good – if you know what you're selling or promoting or talking about is somehow going to make a difference to someone, then I think it just makes everything feel really worthwhile.”

Watch one of Tamzin's vlogs

Undergraduate student Tamzin Burch

View Student Tamzin's favourite places to visit in Derby city video transcript

Career front-of-mind

Tamzin is crystal clear that her time at university was mainly to pursue her career, by honing her ambition into skills. She says: “I'm a bit of a workaholic and Derby has really helped me develop that passion. Uni has been instrumental in my career journey by giving me the opportunities I needed. I've done countless DRIVEN internships with various companies, allowing me to explore different industries and really come to the understand what I want to do in the long term.”

Tamzin worked with various companies in many areas, including placements, freelance work, an internship at SwapShop (a business-to-business skills swapping service), behind the scenes at Bustler Street Food Market, and being requested to manage people as Student Partner Project Lead while working for the Student Experience team.

She explains: “That was a challenge for me – I thought I had leadership skills as I was very bossy as a kid, and I was always that person who spoke up and told people what to do. That’s not the case as much now! Being put in a role as an adult where I was learning how to manage people, have authority and delegate really challenged me but in the best way possible, because I learned so much and when I was looking at jobs after graduating, I knew I had that experience under my belt."

Tamzin Burch smiling

I can go further in my career because people at uni trusted me to take on such responsibility. I’m so grateful that others saw my potential, something I couldn’t always see myself.

Tamzin Burch
On gaining valuable career experience while a student

Make it yours

Tamzin isn't sure she knew who she really was before university: “I think Derby's helped me realise who I am as a person and helped me figure myself out. I'm so proud of the journey I've been on from 18 to 22-year-old me. That's probably my biggest joy looking back and thinking you did it, and you've achieved so much.”

She appreciates this was a deeper discovery than she was expecting to make however and advises people not to put too much pressure on themselves to experience anything other than their own personal journey.

Tamzin explains: “Uni is what you make it. Your biggest achievement might be completely different to somebody else's, and that's okay. I didn't go out partying a lot, I wasn’t part of a sports team, and you sometimes feel like you have to do all of those things because it's 'part of the uni experience'. But your uni experience is your uni experience – it's what you want it to be and it's what you make it, so whatever that is that you choose to focus on and hone and make your uni experience should be celebrated. For me that's been my career, and I'm happy with that.”

Earning a range of awards and acknowledgements throughout her time at Derby, finally ending with her First-Class Honours Degree, it’s safe to say that Tamzin’s third move, was the right one. Now a Social Media Manager for a financial services company, all her experience and desire to make a difference in people’s lives is being put to good use as she planned.

She concludes: “I think everything happens for a reason and I'm so happy that my biggest achievement has been how far I've come personally and professionally and being able to give so much time and attention to my career, as well as being able to give back to my university community in a way. I hope I’ve left somewhat of a legacy!”