In 2017, I graduated from the University of Nottingham with a Master in Science in the first class. After graduating, I moved to London to start a graduate job at KPMG, one of the top four accounting firms in the world.
Why I decided to study in the UK
Roughly 4000 Irish students apply to study in the UK every year and the UK has so much to offer in terms of the university experience and student life. Personally, I decided to study in the UK for 4 main reasons:
- The UK has some of the most prestigious and highly ranked universities in the world. I knew from 5th year that I wanted to study at a university renowned for its scientific research and Nottingham is home to two Nobel Prizes, one for Economics and one for Physics.
- UK universities are diverse and cosmopolitan and you get to make friends with people from all over the world.
- You graduate earlier in the UK than you would in Ireland. For some courses, you can also do an integrated masters in the UK, where you study for four years and graduate directly with a masters degree instead of a bachelors. This is what I did and it was amazing to get a masters in the same amount of time it took my friends to get their bachelors back home.
- The UK graduate job market has far more opportunities and it really doesn’t matter what degree you gain. I have a Master in Science and now work in Financial Services Audit!
Uni and graduate life was not what I expected- but in the best way
Studying in the UK has been one of the most fulfilling and enriching experiences of my life. But it was certainly very different from what I imagined. In fact, almost everything I was sure I liked or didn’t like had switched places by the time I graduated and started working!
Take my course itself for starters. I absolutely loved Leaving Cert Chemistry and when I started university, I was convinced that I would eventually get a PhD and work in research. But I found the first week of lectures so intense, I shelved the idea straight away!
Eventually, I decided that a job in the corporate world unrelated to science was a better fit for my personality, skills and future ambitions. This was my first big life pivot and my first lesson in letting go of what I thought I wanted.
One of my best friends at uni wanted to work for the Big 4 accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and EY). She persuaded me to go to some seminars held by the firms and it was there that I heard about their graduate roles. Technology Consulting caught my attention so in the summer before final year, I started applying for graduate jobs. At the start of my final year, I received an offer from my number one choice- the KPMG London office, to join their Tech Consulting graduate programme.
My second big life pivot came when I started work because I ended up not in consulting but in audit! This was especially ironic since a career in audit was the least appealing job to me when I was in uni (thanks universe).
But because I had already experienced so much change, what with moving to the UK, realising that I didn’t want a career in research, and having my favourite Leaving Cert subject become my least favourite- I was able to roll with it. Again, I had to let go of what I thought I wanted and give things a chance.
It wasn’t easy at first. I was so unsure if I was in the right place that I kept a daily log of whether I liked my job for the first 3 months! As it turns out, audit was an ideal match for my type-A, pedantic, hyper-focused-on-detail type personality. In October this year, I finished my 3-year graduate programme and was promoted to Assistant Manager.
Life is unpredictable and it’s crazy to believe that you’ll have the same interests and ambitions throughout school, uni and after graduation. Don’t label yourself, speak to other people about what their goals are, and explore as many avenues as interests you. Most importantly, if you find yourself doing something you thought you’d never do, don’t quit. At least not without having really given yourself a chance to like it first.
Living and working in London has been incredible and I can’t see myself ever leaving. I work for and with some of the biggest companies in the world and have an excellent professional network. Like most graduates working in the city, my hours can be crazy but the opportunities and speed at which you can advance in a career are unparalleled.
How I made the most of studying in the UK
After university, you will never get as many opportunities to experience new things. So try as many new things as possible while you can! While at uni I:
- Joined the debating society
- Joined the Model United Nations society
- Became a mentor for underprivileged students at a local secondary school
- Tried to learn Korean with the Korean Society (emphasis on the tried)
- Joined the travel society and became it’s Treasurer then President (#freetravel)
- Became a student ambassador for my course
- Learned archery
- Worked at a canteen on campus and as a proofreader/beta tester for an e-learning company
All of these things helped me draft my CV. I also met lots of new people, learned new skills and became a better/more interesting human being. Dive headfirst into all that uni life has to offer and don’t let your studies stop you from participating fully- they’re not supposed to!
I also took advantage of the careers service at my uni. I went to CV workshops, mock interviews, alumni talks, careers fairs, and employer-sponsored events. As a result, I felt super prepared when I started my graduate job search.
If you’re a uni student, start exploring what you want to do after graduation as early as possible so you have the most time to apply for internships and graduate roles.
Thinking about studying in the UK?
I secured a place at one of the top 100 universities in the world, and studying in the UK has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in life so far.
But I remember vividly how stressful and confusing the process was. Information is scattered all over the internet and it’s hard to figure out if any of that information is even relevant to you as an Irish applicant.
I’ve spoken to many Irish students who have applied or considered applying to study in the UK and I know that they’ve all felt the same way.
That’s why I’ve just launched The Irish Student’s Guide to Studying in the UK.
This complete guide will help you understand the process, write a killer application and get your dream university place. Click here to check it out and get your copy.