Alumnae Advice - Sydenham High School

  • Maia (Class of 2015)

    When I think about the picture I had of my life at 18, there has been a shift to the one I see for myself now. This is partially because of external factors, I finished school in 2015 and the world today feels like a radically different place. However this is also because I have reassessed what I want, how I see myself and what I have to contribute….


    Maia is an actor, writer, filmmaker and artist.

  • Lola (Class of 2018)

    Things you wish you’d known  
    University is not the only option! I feel the option of going straight into work is often looked down upon as it is not really a norm. You need to understand yourself and what would work best for you, not what other people are encouraging. Personally I knew for quite some time that I did not want to go to university so was not focused on applying, however it was great that Sydenham encouraged me to apply as a backup option.

    What practical skills you’ve found invaluable
    Social and organisation skills are a definite must for any industry. Don’t be afraid to geek out and get a life planner or to reach out and ask for help.

    Advice on getting organised
    Get a diary! I live from my diary, everything even the small things are written down.

    Tips on how to make the best of your first week in work
    Be confident! I started work at 19 and so was the youngest by far and was very nervous for the first month until I realised I was the only one who cared about the age! Try to remember everyone’s names (a downfall of mine!). And finally first impressions last a lifetime…

    How to travel cheaply
    My gap year was the best year of my life (so far) My best friend and I had signed up to an STA travel bus which was pretty expensive but was a great way to settle any nerves we had and perfect to show us a great route to travel. If I was to do it again I wouldn’t recommend taking this option as we didn’t realise how easy it would be to catch buses on our own time etc. STA has great routes though! Travelling in London is different. I save a lot of money cycling to work in Covent Garden and have a 16 – 25 yrs travel card which is a life saver!

    How to make new friends
    Go to parties! I have made so many friends and contacts in the industry through saying yes to every invite I receive!

    How to manage your finances
    I note down everyday expenses in my diary and total up at the end of the week. As a very visual person I find this a great way of getting to grips with how much I am spending and how much of it is necessary.

    And finally… Don’t take life too seriously! It took me a while to actually think about what that means, not that nothing matters but that any mistakes made are not the end of the world!

    Lola is working as a Production Assistant at Work Editorial in Covent Garden.

  • Annabelle (Class of 2019)

    Make the most of every opportunity  that you can as you never know how one experience could impact the path you choose to follow beyond school.

    Be open to changing the direction of the path that you believe you want/should follow. Had I not eventually done this, I would not be where I am now – working in a global accounting firm where I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

    If you do decide to follow the apprenticeship route like I have, make the absolute most of it. Raise your hand to take on the challenging roles and complex tasks – nobody will know what you’re capable of unless you show them.

    Always consider your long term goals, not just the short term ones. For me, as I am living at home still and not paying university fees, I am saving a large amount of what I would have spent at university into a Help to Buy ISA with the intention of being able to buy a house when I qualify as a chartered accountant at 22.

    The best piece of advice I was given at work was you will never be 100% sure in any decision you make – if you’re 60:40, that’s enough”.
    Don’t always expect to know exactly what you should do in life decisions, but that’s what makes it so exciting – you never know just how amazing an opportunity may be until you just go for it!

    Annabelle is a Strategy and Transactions Apprentice at EY in London, studying towards my ACA with 2023 qualification. She is also an EY Apprenticeship Ambassador. You can read more about her role at EY here

  • Teresa (Class of 2019)

    Advice for Online Learning

    University during a pandemic is very different and it is something I have found challenging. Most if not all of your teaching will be online and it takes some getting used to. My advice for online learning is to make sure you are getting fresh air. Online learning is a lot more exhausting than in-person teaching. You spend all day in front of a laptop screen and it is very easy to get into a routine where you are mostly going from your bed to your desk (with meals in between). Going out for walks helps you break up the time spent in front of a screen.

    I think getting into a routine is probably the best piece of advice I could give someone starting university, particularly under the current climate. Especially at the moment, where most universities will record lectures and there is no need to watch them live, it is very easy to lose all sense of structure. Actually trying to watch lectures live helps add some structure to my days and ensure that I am keeping up with the content. I have recently also found calling a friend and working together can be helpful (but make sure you also do not distract each other too much). Video calling a friend can make the experience feel less isolating and almost mimics what you would have in a library or coffee shop. Also make an effort to spend time with your flatmates if you choose to move out for university, and do activities together (safely). In lockdown, how much you can go out/ see people is limited, so where you can, make the most of social interaction.

    Lastly, I would just like to say, online learning can feel very lonely and difficult, but everyone is struggling and in the same boat. I had a call with the rest of the committee of a society I am part of recently and we were all finding online learning challenging in some way. The same goes for all of my friends. Reach out to others, whether it be a friend or the university itself and don’t be afraid to seek out counselling if you find you are struggling mentally. There are support systems in place and you don’t have to go through anything alone.

    Online learning is definitely not ideal, but it is the best of a bad situation and will not last forever. If you are lucky enough to have anything in person, make the most of it and make the most of social interaction whether it be in person or online (for me that was in tutorials). Engage where you can- turn your camera on, ask questions etc. Adding small things you can look forward to in your day, whether it be a cup of coffee or watching an episode of a series you enjoy helps.

    Teresa is currently studying Law at Southampton University and is also the Marketing Vice President for the European Law Students’ Association, a mentor for First Year students, the Bright Network campus ambassador for Southampton and a law student ambassador where she represents the Law School at open days. 

  • Kyah (Class of 2023)

    Kyah’s ambition extends beyond personal success; she aspires to inspire young people, particularly girls and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, to pursue their dreams and seize every opportunity available to them.

    Her advice to us : Just go for it; ‘what ifs’ aren’t worth it.