Susann Landefeld previews life after St Andrews

Another summer has passed and we find ourselves back in St Andrews. As every year, our little university town is quickly filling up with returning students and anticipating Freshers alike. Many familiar faces will be missed once again; it’s always hard to imagine that classmates, friends and academic parents have left for good. With the class of 2010, another generation of St Andrews students has scattered all over the world in search for new adventures. But what’s next, when you have a degree from Scotland’s first university in your pocket? The Saint tracked down a few of this year’s alumni to talk about post-bubble life and plans for the future.

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“The Businessman”

Jai Popat from the UK traded the classroom for an office, starting at a Strategy and Marketing Consultancy in central London this autumn. Luckily, he was spared the stressful application process to masters programs landing a job in time before graduating with a BSc in Economics and Management from the University of St Andrews.

“The job sold me on the fact that it was well paid, but most importantly it was at a firm where I could actually get involved in the day to day running of the office in things such as recruitment and client generation”, Popat said. “In a larger firm I probably would not have got the same level of client contact or responsibility. The work itself also involves a fair amount of international travel, which is always a nice bonus.”

Having been actively engaged in various societies and events during his time in St Andrews, he knows the value of extracurricular activities in your CV. “Whilst my degree was helpful in terms of showing I had ability to the employer, it was other things that they were most interested in,” said Popat. “In particular it was the social aspect with clubs and societies that helped me in interviews!”

Popat therefore encourages all Freshers to get involved as soon as possible. “Although it seems audacious to run for VP in a society at the end of first year, if you’ve been heavily involved during the year then go for it! Just make sure it’s in something you’re genuinely interested in.”

“The MSc Student”

Instead of immediately entering the world of work, American student Jacqueline Pinta has always  pursuing a postgraduate degree after obtaining her MA in International Relations from the University of St Andrews. “But deciding which graduate program was the best fit was not exactly straightforward”, she admits. From a variety of lucrative offers, Pinta eventually decided in favor of the University of Oxford, where she is going to spend the next year studying for an MSc in Contemporary India. “The program stood out from the others because it was tailored to my specific interest,” she explained.

Four years in St Andrews have played a crucial role in smoothing the way for her upcoming task. “It was an ideal opportunity for both personal and academic growth,” Pinta said. “I’m better prepared for future challenges because of my time in St Andrews.”

“The PhD Student“

Whilst many graduates prefer to stay in Europe, Chris Moser from Germany headed to far-off shores. After graduating with a BSc in Economics and Mathematics, he moved to the United States to start a PhD program in Economics at Princeton University. “After a couple of internships during my undergraduate summers, I came to the conclusion that, while I thoroughly enjoyed some of those jobs, my real interest lies in mathematical economics,” said Moser of his choice of doctoral degree.

“I got to choose between some of Europe’s outstanding universities and was lucky enough to receive a funded offer from Princeton, too,” said Moser. He expects to complete the PhD program by 2015, however, it is quite possible that he will stay longer at the Ivy League university in New Jersey. “I am the youngest one in my peer group so I might just take my time,” he says, “Ten years from now, I will be either the oldest one in my peer group, still here at Princeton, or a Professor in a sunny place, preferably back in Europe.”

However the wind blows, Moser will certainly never forget how his Alma Mater has set the grounds for his future. “St Andrews is what you make out of it! I was constantly trying to push the boundaries and that eventually paid off,” he said. “No need to say, I had a fantastic time at St Andrews.”

“The Traveler”

Without a doubt, American student Freddie Arbona would agree that his time at St Andrews was extraordinary. He initially came to the University of St Andrews on a junior semester abroad from the University of Arizona and ended up transferring to Scotland. Due to the experience he gained at his former institution of higher education, Arbona was able to “appreciate every second of St Andrews”. According to him, part of the reason for transfer was the way he had been constantly challenged to look at the world from different perspectives. “They encourage thoughtful self-exploration in St Andrews, not just silly busy work,” he said. “That’s not as common as you would think, and it’s easy to forget that point when you’re only around intelligent people.”

After graduating with an MA in International Relations, Arbona set off to China where he is currently working as an English teacher at a University in Changsha. Studying at St Andrews has certainly influenced the direction he has taken. “Honestly, I’m not sure how practically the set of knowledge I picked up from IR will assist me. It’s the nature of the field that it changes rapidly,” Arbona said. “However, being able to think broadly and being open-minded is the important part of the education at the University.” As a result, everyone has numerous options after graduation “provided that you don’t mind stepping out of your comfort zone and traveling a little bit”.

For Arbona, the opportunity to travel, work and learn Mandarin had the greatest appeal in the end. He intends to continue his teaching job in Changsha for another year whilst working for a postgraduate degree. “Then Norway for the next adventure,” he said, “and I’ll redefine my meandering plan from there.”

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One day, we’ll all be facing the difficult choice of where to go and what to do after St Andrews. Four years in the bubble seem like a very long time, especially when you have just arrived as a Fresher. However, most alumni would certainly agree that the undergraduate years fly by before you know it. It’s up to each of us to make the best out of it – unfading memories, lasting friendships and invaluable experience undeniably shape the path we follow in the future. Everyone has to leave St Andrews sooner or later. But St Andrews will be with us forever.

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