Judyta Hawrys | Middlesex University London
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Judyta Hawrys

Format AreaJudyta HawrysBranch Manager, Santander, University Division

BA Business Studies with Marketing

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I lived in London for seven months but then moved to Northern Ireland. I really enjoyed the experience of living in London so it was a natural choice to go to university there.  After looking online for universities in the area Middlesex stood out as a choice and I decided to apply. A few weeks later I received my acceptance letter in the post; it was great!

As a foreign student I didn't know much about which university was best or what courses they offered, and I didn't have anyone to advise me. I just read about different Universities on their websites to see what they had to offer. The advice Middlesex gave to foreign students was very informative and it clearly had excellent teaching resources.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

Originally I wanted to apply to study art but my friend told me I should consider what a business course might offer me.  In the end I decided apply to for business because I thought it would give me more diverse career options after I graduated.

My friend studied business and he told me about all the interesting things I would learn and the opportunities I would have. He was right; I just loved it and I was so pleased that I took his advice.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

The teaching here was very professional and I really enjoyed my first year. The first year was great because you're getting familiar with an exciting new environment and the work is challenging but not overwhelming.  This allows you the time to get a feel for what University life is like without having to be too stressed.

When I first joined Middlesex it was very hard as my English wasn't as good as it is now. I was confused and I didn't know where to go to improve it. It was a big challenge to study here without perfect English, so I was a little bit scared at the beginning and didn't know if I could do it. At that time I thought doing the exams in English would be too big a challenge. Then I realised that the University offer English lessons and this was a great help to me. My friends were also very encouraging and told me that if I studied hard I could achieve whatever I wanted.

What were the English lessons like?

I found the English lessons very interesting and the students and staff were extremely supportive. There was a lot of group work and you get to meet many different people through the lessons.

I used to go to the lessons for one hour each week and they helped me improve my English very quickly. The lessons also taught us about academic essay writing.  This was especially useful as the system in Poland is completely different and I didn't know much about it. It was good to learn the expectations of the teachers and this helped me improve my performance in the exams.

As an international student I felt a lot of pressure to do well. I didn't want to disappoint anyone, and as I'd taken out a student loan I wanted to make sure I didn't have to pay it back without getting a degree.

What was it like being an international student at Middlesex?

It was great as the teachers were very supportive. At the beginning I was lost but the teachers encouraged you to speak to them after the lectures if you didn't understand something, and they were very friendly about it. They didn't just make us go out and find information ourselves; they would ask us to come to their office so we could talk about things in more depth.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I enjoyed the lectures the most as I learnt so many interesting things. Some of the lecturers used to tell jokes which brought the lectures to life and kept you engaged. The atmosphere in the lectures was very good and it meant that you always wanted to go to them. One of my marketing lecturers used to always slip jokes into his talks, but he would do it in a way that meant they were relevant to the subject and it really helped you remember things.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

Meet as many people as you can and make as many friends as possible in the first year because in the second year work is much tougher. It all gets a lot more serious so you have to find friends early on. We had to do group work in the second year and it was easier if you had a groups of friends.  It meant you knew you would get on well will people you were working with, and you worked hard for each other to get good grades.

What advice would you offer to international students thinking of coming to Middlesex?

There are a lot of international students at Middlesex and I still have a good friend from Poland who I met there. It is nice to find people from your own background and culture at university so you feel at home. If you are an international student, having friends from your own culture is great because it is easier to communicate in your own language and they can act as a very helpful and supportive network.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

The degree I did at Middlesex is probably one of the most important things I have done in my life. For international students it is a lot harder to get a job in the UK. There is a lot of competition out there at the moment because home students are applying for the same jobs. I found it hard at first; it took me eight months to get on the graduate scheme at Santander.  My degree was crucial in helping me get the job and if I hadn't done it I don't think I would be where I am now.

International students can get jobs in coffee shops, in bars or as cleaners, but if you want a professional job and to reach a high position in your career you have to go to university.

What is the attraction of coming and studying in the UK?

When I finished secondary school I wanted to travel so I came to London and I loved it; the atmosphere and the different cultures make it such a wonderful place to live. I just thought: 'This is the most amazing city in the world, I want to be here and study here'.

After living in London I went to Northern Ireland to spend some time with my brother and save up for university. I was working night shifts in a chicken factory and it was tough. I had to work very hard and carry lots of heavy things so I was exhausted by the end of the day. The thought that I would have the reward of going to London to study at Middlesex kept me going.

What made you choose the industry you work in?

I wanted to go into banking and finance because there are a lot of successful people in the industry and there is fast career progression if you're good at what you do. I am very ambitious and I was prepared to work hard to reach to a high position.

How did you get your first foot on the career ladder?

I applied to the graduate programme at Santander and I got on to it, I couldn't believe it.

Based on your experience, would you recommend graduate schemes to other students?

One clear benefit is that you get a higher starting salary. I started on a higher salary than other people who had been working for five years. Saying that, I was put into one job and then I stayed there for two and a half years, so I didn't get to move around like I thought I would. In the end I took my own initiative and applied for a Branch Manager role.

It is a great achievement to get a position on a graduate programme because there is a lot of competition. You go into a room with ten people and they are only looking for two recruits so if you are chosen you feel very special. They are looking for future managers to join the graduate scheme so if you get hired you know they believe that you can go far in the bank.

I was up against high performers with first-class degrees from top universities and I didn't know whether I'd get it, but in the end it is about being different and standing out from the others.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

My promotion to Branch Manager at the Goldsmiths University branch and working in the Santander Universities Global Division has been a fantastic experience. I am only 27 so I am quite lucky to be in the position of managing a team at my age. I'm proud of myself and where I am now, especially as I had to work hard to achieve it.

What does the future hold for you?

I'm very ambitious and have a plan for every year. I want to be a Regional Manager within the next year or two and I'd like to eventually go into corporate banking. I would also like to do the IMC exam to get my investment management certificate as this is very important for a career in corporate banking.

What are the top tips you would give to current students and recent graduates who are looking for a similar career to yourself?

What I realised when I applied for jobs is that your CV plays such an important role in your application. I found after four or five months that my CV wasn't very good.  It wasn't tailored to what recruiters were looking for so I changed it and then I started to hear back from lots of companies.

A friend of mine that works in recruitment told me recruiters don't have time to read every CV so they often use a search engine to pick up on keywords. They then pull out the top CVs that match the terms they're looking for.

Once you get an interview you have to be confident in answering questions. Being friendly also helps as it makes you more relaxed and the interviewer gets to see more of your personality.

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

I would tell myself to concentrate on studying. When you're younger you think that meeting friends and doing other things are more important, but they're not. I would tell myself to work hard on improving my maths and economics skills because these are things that I now use everyday and therefore are very important.

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