Skip to main content

Alumni view: student life

One of the great things about Queen Mary is the community and support available when you’re studying. Kajal Kumar knows all about that, so we asked her to share some tips and experiences that made studying here so special.

Profile Picture of Alumna

What skills did you learn during your studies and what aspects of your course helped with that?

Time management! Each year we had eight modules, all with a heavy workload. Learning to prioritise things like tests, assignments and group projects involved a lot of planning. I learned to keep a diary and calendar and to plan out my week. The senior tutor, Dr Guglielmo Volpe, is very helpful. If you ever feel flustered, he offers the best advice.

I also learned presentation skills. In my first year, as part of the World Economy module, you get to do a group poster presentation on the economy of a certain country. Everyone comes together in the last lecture and presents their poster over drinks! There were also many times when I gave individual presentations on a topic.

Team work is really important here. University is all about working with others. It’s great, because each person has their own strengths and perspectives.

Finally, I learned to question everything. The course taught me to not just read a book and believe it. Not everything is set in stone or final, and it is encouraged to question and challenge ideas, because that’s what helps build your knowledge and allows you to think beyond the syllabus.

What extracurricular activities did you get involved in and what would you recommend to freshers?

In first year, when I first started, I felt so lost because university was just so different to school. Getting involved with things outside my course really helped; I can’t recommend it highly enough!

In first year, I got involved with student blogging for the School of Economics and Finance. From there I also took part in promotional films and photo shoots for the department. It was amazing to be able to share my experience with prospective students and give them my honest views.  Yes, university is a big change, but it’s so worth it, and at Queen Mary you will be made to feel at home.

After getting involved a little in first year, I realised I loved it. it made me feel at home when I was doing things for the university and helping students. So in second year, I took on everything I could physically do. I said yes to everything! I started a new society – the Fashion Society – with some friends, which soon became one of the biggest societies on campus and won Best New Society at the Students' Union awards. If you have a passion and there is no society for it, start it yourself!

Did you have the chance to study abroad during your course?

At the end of my second year, I spent a summer studying abroad at UC Berkeley. It was scary to decide to go, but it was a life-changing experience. California was beautiful and I made friends from all over the world there. I studied courses in microeconomics and econometrics – two of my favourite areas. I learned methods and did topics that gave me a deeper understanding. I learnt to program in STATA and wrote my first research paper which was useful in third year at Queen Mary. Besides the studies, study abroad is a great chance to learn about a new culture, explore a new city and make new friends. San Francisco was a dream city and Berkeley was such a student town, with cafés everywhere. My friends from UC Berkeley are living and working all over the world now, so it’s a great network.

Did you do any work experience or internships? If so, what skills did you learn and how did they prepare you for your career?

During my second year, I got the chance to intern with the Queen Mary marketing and communications team.  I worked on student engagement projects and had the chance to increase student involvement in the University's marketing campaigns. I got to work with the design and branding team to create a Snapchat filter.

Interning gave me a great insight into professional life and taught me skills such as project management, writing, communication and teamwork. All of these skills helped me start my career in consulting. After my third year, I interned as an economic researcher at CEMFI, a research institution in Madrid.

This was my first flavour of academic life, which was interesting. It’s not something many undergraduate students get to see, so I was grateful. Academia gave me skills in data analysis and econometrics, which I need in consulting. Madrid was also a beautiful city and there were only 15 interns from all over Europe, so we became a close knit group and explored the city together. 

What would be your advice to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t follow anyone's footsteps, pave your own path, you are special. It’s easy to worry about the future from day one at uni, but try not to. You will change, ideas will change, and opportunities will come, so there is no point planning three years ahead. Live in the moment and enjoy it.

Start thinking about your likes and dislikes in first year, and apply to a few internships in different fields. Talk to people who have been there. Get a feel for what it’s really like. Queen Mary alumni are all over the world; I’m sure any one of us would be happy to help you.

Enjoy the ride and journey, because university goes way too quickly. Get involved with as much as you can so you have no regrets. As a student you have the chance to do so many things, so follow your heart.

I can’t imagine planning where I am today. I just went with what came my way, and followed my passions. Stay true to yourself and you’ll find your path.

Back to top