Alumni Profile – Philip J.S. Jones, LLB Law with Spanish Law, 2008

The village Apuquri, described in A Peruvian Diary

Surrey graduates are paving the way in all walks of life. Our alumni community consists of composers, teachers, physicists, nurses, actors, writers, globe trotters, and everything in between! Without a doubt, one of the best things about Surrey is that our students and graduates don’t conform to a one-size-fits-all model.

Meet Philip Jones, an alumnus who has, literally and metaphorically, taken the road less travelled.

Philip in the Peruvian Andes

Leaving his life as an International Reinsurance Broker in London, Philip came to Surrey in 2004 as a mature student to read Law with Spanish Law. With London’s prestigious law firms on his doorstep, Philip threw himself in and spent his student years doing pro-bono work, gaining experience of chamber meetings and fighting court cases, often for those with little financial means. In his own words, “It was brilliant, but all consuming. All I did was law. It taught me a process of logical thought that is invaluable in life.”

Indeed, taking on a combined honours degree was demanding, but Surrey provided him with the wonderful opportunity to spend a year immersing himself in Spain at the University of Valladolid. He kept a diary of his time there, documenting his bizarre experience of raising a four-day old lamb in a strict pet-free apartment, against a backdrop of Spanish life off the beaten track. Following the recommendation of a friend who laughed her way through his tale, Philip chose to publish his diary, The Story of Chuletas, and his writing career began – almost by accident.

After graduating, Philip took his Spanish legal knowledge and building skills to Peru, expecting to assist in the construction of a soup kitchen in Lima on behalf of a charity. Instead, he found himself at 3700 metres in the Peruvian Andes, living and working alongside the local people to build a children’s dormitory. Again, he kept a diary, and this time, he needed no encouragement in self-publishing. Then, following several rounds of writing, editing and proofreading, Philip submitted his piece to various mainstream publishers. They all came back with the same response: “Thanks, but no thanks.” Dejected, Philip gave up and decided to travel the length of the Amazon instead. As he puts it, “When things don’t work as they should, I like to step back and take a break.” And who could refuse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with an Amazonian tribe, scuba-dive with sharks on an island populated by pirates and write to the Queen about his adventures? Needless to say, Philip’s bucket list is longer and more extreme than most!

The boat from Nueva Rocafuerte

However, returning from this unforgettable adventure in a buoyant mood, he tried a few more publishers until, finally, Austin Macauley Publishers snapped up his story. A Peruvian Diary was published earlier this year.

So what words of wisdom does he have for students or grads with a burning desire to write?

“The writing process is extremely daunting. People who are just starting out expect to get it right the first time, but that never happens! Write what you think and go from there. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re writing fiction, it will probably be based on personal experience, so write everything down – the smallest detail or throwaway comment can form the basis of a story. A large part of writing is actually editing, proofreading, and editing again and again. Ask a friend to read your manuscript. Be prepared to get knocked back when trying to get published; you will need to persevere!”

And what about those experiencing wanderlust?

“If you’re thinking about travelling, don’t think about it for too long – just go! Have a rough idea and a readiness to ‘wing it’ rather than meticulously planning every second. Stay open and flexible to all the opportunities that come up. The best way to travel abroad is through volunteering for a charity; in fact, voluntary work at home and abroad is extremely fulfilling. Visiting remote places is a real eye-opener as it teaches you to look at things in a different way. You come away with a refreshed outlook on life and a new way of relating to the world. Surrey was an important part of my traveling journey. I expanded my mind during my time there and it has improved my life enormously.”

Philip is currently writing his third book about his navigation of the Amazon River in addition to working for Arkouda Legal, a cost-effective Family Law Consultancy and Spanish translation/interpretation business. A Peruvian Diary and The Story of Chuletas are both available on Amazon.

Philip will be doing a book signing in London, Monday 22 January 2018 at 3pm: http://www.andinalondon.com/shoreditch

Success comes in all shapes and sizes, and we love celebrating our graduates’ highlights. Please get in touch and share your story with us by filling out this form or emailing alumni@surrey.ac.uk!