Published on 07 July 2021
For business student Paula Purgal, the world really is her oyster as she joins thousands of students who are graduating from Sunderland this year with celebrations taking place online.
Polish-born Paula moved to London in 2013 when she was 19-years-old and worked full-time in manufacturing.
Four years later, no longer able to ignore her burning ambition to pursue a career in business, she headed to north to study a degree in Business and Applied Management at the University of Sunderland.
“I wanted to move to a smaller city where it would be easier for me to support myself as an independent student,” Paula explained.
“I chose Sunderland as it is an industrial city close Newcastle, so I knew that I would not have an issue to find a suitable part-time job during my studies.
“Moreover, I wanted to study business and Sunderland has a good faculty of business and lecturers with strong business backgrounds.”
During her studies, Paula spent two years as a student representative and even travelled across the pond the Texas for a one year internship in the hotel industry.
The 27-year-old also took part in a ‘reverse-mentoring’ scheme with the head of her department.
Reverse-mentoring is a workplace scheme in which a junior employee is paired with a senior leader in a “professional friendship” to exchange skills, knowledge and understanding.
The University’s reverse-mentoring scheme is designed to prepare students for the business world.
Paula’s student experience wasn’t without its challenges, though.
The coronavirus pandemic meant learning had to move online but Paula’s sheer grit and determination to succeed helped her overcome this hurdle.
“I feel incredibly happy and proud of all the students who managed to finish their studies in the current situation in the world,” she said.
“This last year was more challenging as all my learning was done online but all the extra hard work I put into my studies will be even more rewarding when I get my degree.
“I still can’t believe how quickly these four years have passed and that I am closing this chapter to start a professional career.”
So, what does the future hold for Paula?
“My career can take many different paths, so now I am focusing on all my options and finding the right job offer for me,” she said.
“I want to develop further, and I am open to what the future will bring. The most important thing for me now is to gain experience and use all my knowledge and potential.”
Professor Monika Foster, Head of School, Business and Management at the University of Sunderland, said: “Paula is very ambitious about achieving her best on the programme and beyond. She's aware of her graduate attributes and actively seeking opportunities to extend her skills beyond graduation.
“Paula is very mature as a mentor, she's able to guide and advise but also to challenge. These are all the great skills she's picked up during her course, which aims to develop students' confidence in operating in challenging circumstances, being assertive and prepared to challenge the status quo.
“Paula is also very caring and has a big commitment to the University’s mission to be “life-changing”. When she mentored me, she really wanted to make a change to the students in the School through enabling me to think how to engage students more and how to see things from their perspective.”
You can see today’s celebration ceremonies here