Meet the Undergraduate - Sarah Alvi
Sarah Alvi, BSc Mathematics and Statistics, shares her top tips for students starting an undergraduate degree programme at the School of Maths at Queen Mary University of London. From Queen Mary's "Buddy Scheme" to the flexibility of choosing from a variety of modules, Sarah discusses the things she appreciates the most about the School of Maths and the University as a whole.
What are your top tips for students starting an undergraduate degree programme at the School of Maths at Queen Mary?
Firstly, I highly recommend the Buddy Scheme in place at Queen Mary. I had a “buddy” to help me as I started university and I have been a “buddy” to new students. It is a great way to settle in and make friends within the School, as you are added into groups of first-year maths students with one mentor in the year above. It is always useful to be able to ask questions to someone who was in your position just one year ago. Questions can range from maths, university, internships and everything in between. My mentees still text me whenever they have questions or want my opinion on things such as module selection. There is no deadline for stopping communication and there is no obligation to be in touch. It is super beneficial and I highly recommend it. When it comes to studying, I recommend being proactive. It can be daunting going from small school classes to lecture halls with 200+ students but do not feel shy and raise your hand if you do not understand something or have a question. Lecturers have office hours and they are always happy to chat after the lecture. You can also email them, message your tutor or ask your peers. Queen Mary is a very inclusive and supportive environment and you can always find someone to help you.
What is good about your degree programme?
My favourite part about my degree programme is the option to learn skills that are not core maths. For example, in the first year, we learnt about Data Analysis on Excel, and in the second year, we had an optional “Introduction to Computer Programming” module, in which we learnt Python. In the first year, it was also great that most students across the School covered the exact same modules. These modules provided a foundation for studying maths at university. It also allowed students to seek support from one another and was great for both making friends and adopting the group learning technique that is so useful at university. I also love the opportunities available at Queen Mary and the flexibility within my degree programme. Going abroad was always something I wanted to do, and Queen Mary made that possible. I am due to study abroad for a year at the University of Miami in 2021 and Queen Mary’s scheme is the best. Thanks to connections with universities across the globe, it is an amazing option to look into. It also exposed me to the wonderful team in the School of Maths that aided my quick and smooth transfer from a 3-year course to a 4-year one with a Year Abroad, without any difficulties.
Do you have any tips for students starting in September 2021?
To students joining in September 2021, the University will be more in-person than last year but remember that your university experience does not have to be boring if parts of your study are online. Facilities on campus such as the library, cafes and gyms will be open and the opportunities to meet people will still exist. Join schemes/events that force you to leave the house and meet people (buddy schemes, societies, networking events, freshers’ welcome week). Another advantage of blended learning is that having recorded lectures available to watch later is always useful. With the right time management and a positive mindset, anyone can make the most out of blended learning and enjoy university to the fullest. Although it can be difficult to feel motivated when you are learning on a laptop screen, there are advantages too. For example, it gave me extra time to dedicate to my hobbies and taught me discipline and more effective time management. In Semester B last year, I decided to take up Spanish lessons offered by Queen Mary’s School of Languages and Linguistics. I found this was an amazing way to engage my brain and to motivate me to focus more.
Can you tell us about your current internship opportunity?
I am currently interning at PwC in the Assurance line of service, more specifically in BCR (Business Controls Risk). I am learning about the role of identifying risks and implementing risk controls in the auditing process for clients. I am working within teams and learning about different clients in this process. My favourite thing so far is the incredible work environment, the friendliness of employees and flexibility in the internship. My “Buddy” (a senior employee here at PwC) works so hard to tailor the experience to what I want to learn. Formally, I am in the Risk Assurance department, but I have already been exposed to Data Analysis, Financial Processes, and Research. Essentially, all these departments come together to provide an outcome, which can be presented to clients, and it is incredible to be involved in that. I would highly recommend finding work experience or an internship, especially if you are unsure about what you want to do in the future. Experiencing different things and learning what you love is how you will decide. The Careers department at Queen Mary is amazing. One of the first things I did was sign up to receive the careers newsletter, which provides regular information about any networking events Queen Mary is organising or events where professionals give talks to university students. There is also a useful service offered by the University, in which you can book a mock interview for internships/jobs - I can say this is helpful in easing nerves and in order to receive professional advice. Queen Mary always works with students to help them with career progression. The university also participates in the ELBA Mentoring Programme, through which I was paired with a mentor who is an employee at Morgan Stanley. She has also gone through the process of internship applications in this industry and it is incredibly helpful to have her advice and guidance.