Today I filled out my yearbook profile, and it hit me: my bachelor’s is about to end. So as I reflected on the “what’s your fondest Surrey memory” and “what would you tell your Pre-undergrad self” questions, I thought of what I’m taking away and what I wish I knew before starting the programme to make (even more so!) the most out of my Surrey experience.
1 – Trust yourself and take the opportunity
The most important piece of advice from day 1, trust yourself as you start a new phase of your life. Meeting classmates who spoke five languages, had lived in 10 different countries, were elite sports champions, and so on, I thought, “Surrey might have made a mistake in admitting me“. But, trust me, if you’re feeling the same, they didn’t make a mistake. We’ve all worked hard to be here and have much to contribute. But, it’s up to you to bring your life learnings, share your point of view, and use this time to reach your full potential and goals (and never think you cannot accomplish them – believe me, I completed more than I ever dreamt of).
2 – Be your authentic self yet open to change
Bring your authentic self to Surrey. Be honest and genuine, but also open and flexible. The beauty of the Surrey cohort is diversity, and I’ve learned so much and experienced many of my classmates evolving as professionals and human beings. So listen, be receptive to different perspectives and be tolerant of others’ beliefs (unless these are anti-inclusion ideas – always stand up for the correct principles).
3 – Join a club (or many)
Clubs are the best place to meet like-minded people, share passions, network, and have fun. Whether it’s a sport, professional or hobby-related club, Surrey has one (or many!) that will suit you. Most companies have affinity clubs; if yours doesn’t, create your own.
4 – Find your passions and make time for them
What have you always complained your job was preventing you from doing? Was it reading, yoga, sports, studying a new topic, or dedicating time to your family? You will find time for it and explore new passions. My biggest lesson is if you’ve found something that brings you true joy, do not let your work or anything keep you away from it. Find the time, set priorities, and take care of yourself and the life you want to live.
5 – Build your path and explore
We often start our degree with a bold idea of our path: job x, company y, city z. Surrey allows us to be noticed by our dream companies, which is excellent. But it also gives a more valuable opportunity –exploring different careers, learning about new industries and discovering new paths. Talk to classmates and alumni, take a part-time internship, and take a class on a topic that is new to you.
6 – Find your “crowd.”
In a cohort of 500+ people, it’s great to meet them all – but even better to find “your people” – those who genuinely energise you. I’ve found mine and am so grateful for them. They are my family in the U.K., with whom I can count for anything, and I’m so excited to share the post-Surrey life with them.
7 – You get what you give
As with everything in life, your experience is shaped by what you give. You will benefit the Surrey community if you make yourself part of it (organise a student-led event, join a club, go to conferences, speakers, sundowners). You will get your dream job if you work hard (cv workshops, network, interview prep). You will make true friends if you are a true friend (be there for the ones you love, make time for them).
8 – Avoid comparisons and be ready for challenging moments
Recruiting can be tricky. Being away from family is challenging. The undergraduate schedule can be overwhelming. The best thing is to accept all journeys have down moments and that the only thing within our control is doing our best. When facing a challenging and unexpected situation, avoid comparing yourself to others. Each of us has our path; if you work hard, things will work out for you.
9 – London is amazing
Enjoy the city. A walk-in Regents park, a picnic on Primrose Hill, cycling in Hyde Park, the markets, neighbourhoods, museums, streets, and musicals. We are so blessed to study economics here. Please take advantage of it!
10 – Time flies
You can’t avoid the “time flies” cliché. It does. Three years go by so fast. Find your crowd, and shape your path. Be yourself, evolve as a human being, leader and professional. Enjoy London, work hard for your dream job but be flexible to change some variables. Read a book, join a club, and take classes on topics you love. Travel somewhere you’ve always dreamt. Cross items out of your bucket list and add new ones. But time is also limited. Do not try everything at once. Take “time off” if needed, set your non-negotiable priorities and what/who makes you happy – and make time for what is essential.
I hope this advice proves to be valuable to you. You might not understand all of it now, but you probably will soon. I have met amazing people, reconsidered my priorities, travelled to places I had always dreamt of, and landed jobs I never thought were within my reach. Surrey has changed my life for good – and I hope it changes yours too.
Joao Miguel Rodrigues Pereira