The second in our series of graduates chit chats, we’re sitting down with Olivia Shalofsky to talk about her time at university. Working in the press office for KPMG since graduating, Olivia tells us about the degree she studied, how her studies helped her prepare for her future career, and some all-important advice for current students to take note of.
What course did you study and where did you study it?
I have a BA (Hons) in Publishing with English from Loughborough University.
What was your favourite part of going to university?
Loughborough is known for its student experience, so for me, the opportunities to get involved in clubs, teams and societies meant that I had lots to commit to and enjoy outside of lecture halls. This also gave me the chance to make friends from all over the country. And since everyone had all kinds of different opinions and hobbies of their own, I definitely ended up learning much more at university than I expected!
What parts of university did you find the most difficult?
Adjusting to living away from home and having to enforce my own work ethic, without my mum and dad forcing me to do my work every week, was one of the most difficult parts of university at first. It was difficult to balance all the great experiences I was having with getting my work done. By final year, I was well versed in managing my commitments to extra-curricular groups, my studies and having a social life – so it’s a skill worth learning!
Is your job related to your university course?
My job is not directly related to my university course. I work in the Press Office at KPMG now, and whilst people might expect that you need to do a PR degree to get a job in this industry, I would say that it’s not necessary. My course prepared me well for working life by teaching me key transferable skills like communicating effectively, managing my time and being creative.
How do you feel university prepared you for your career?
University courses themselves demand a lot of time-management skills, as you juggle numerous topics and work to deadlines. Similarly, they test your analytical skills, your communication skills, and your ability to produce high-quality content. My lecturers provided unparalleled support, and the transferable skills I learnt at university have been more than sufficient in helping me build my career.
Did you need to undertake any other experience to get your current job? (e.g. internships, volunteering)
I would recommend to anyone, if they have the opportunity, to take a year out of university and complete an industrial placement. At Loughborough, it is quite standard to spend your third year (between second and final year of study) undertaking an internship.
Because so many companies have created programmes that give students the opportunity to work for a year and return to their studies, it is a great way to gain some experience ahead of graduating. I completed my placement with Direct Line Group, and they taught me everything I know about PR. I wouldn’t have got my graduate role without that experience.
What advice do you wish you knew before starting university?
How to budget! If I knew what I know now about effective ways to make your money last, I’d have probably spent my first year of university eating better and doing more.
Check out our student budgeting guide for tips on saving money while studying.
What tips do you have for other students on choosing where to go to university?
I’d say to seriously consider the culture, which isn’t always the first thing that springs to mind when you’re thinking about courses, but needless to say, it is really important. I think people forget that, whilst the priority is naturally the course and how well the university is regarded in the league tables, you have to spend a minimum of three years living wherever you choose. So, picking somewhere with a nice feel is probably just as important as picking somewhere where the course ranks highly in terms of overall experience.
How did you find making friends at university?
Loughborough has a great variety of accommodation available which, for first years, is usually hall-based. Halls are a great opportunity to meet a range of people (which I did) and then branch out and get involved in different sports and societies coordinated by the union. It’s much easier to make friends when you consider the groups at your disposal – you can make friends in class, in the gym, on a night out at the union. The possibilities to meet new people are endless.
What was your main reason for going to university?
Even four years ago, the apprenticeships available to me weren’t as varied as they are now. I know of so many companies that offer excellent apprenticeships and internship schemes, that work so well for people who aren’t interested in university. I wonder if I’d had them at my disposal, would I have made a different decision?
But, with two lecturers for parents, I was well accustomed to the benefits of university – namely being able to experience living away from home in a more controlled environment and the roles that would open themselves up to me for having a degree.
Would you recommend any extracurricular activities at university and did you do any yourself?
Extracurricular activities were what made my university experience. As well as giving me the opportunity to make new friends, my time spent on hall committees and performing roles in the students’ union were what gave me an edge when applying for internships for my placement year.
Whilst in my first and second year, I was a welfare representative for my hall and a communications officer for the women’s group in Loughborough Students’ Union. After returning from my placement year, I applied to be a student ambassador, which gave me the opportunity to work with prospective students and pass on all the knowledge I’d spent three years accumulating on the reasons for why Loughborough is the place to be.
If you’re looking for a student living experience that offers more, head over to the NIDO STUDENT SITE to see what properties are nearby or drop us a line on 0207 1000 100 for more information on our student residences.