ToucanTech editorial intern, Shivani Lodhia, interviews fellow school leavers, a year after they’ve flown the nest and settled in to university
Shivani Lodhia has completed her first year at the University of Warwick, studying Politics, International Relations and German. She is an alumna of The Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, Middlesex, where she studied for 11 years. Her friends were interviewed and answered numerous polls to create this article!
As a technophobic 19 year old, constantly classified as a media junky Millennial who grew up surrounded by tech, I don’t really appreciate the stereotype. Actually I’d argue that it wasn’t until my teenage years that digital comms really exploded. My early childhood was probably not that different to the Gen Xers older than me – we had a landline phone at home, no computer and no broadband. Maybe a few of the ‘Dads’ in our friendship group had a mobile for work (usually a Nokia ‘brick’) but the Smartphone was still a futuristic concept, Apple a barely known brand and social media was in the test tube stages- Zuckerberg was only barely beginning The Facebook, his dorm room project.
Less than a decade later, the period when I was at a teenager at school, high speed internet and social media made a seismic impact. As a 14 year old, it was social suicide to not have a Blackberry and now, as a fresh-faced undergrad, it’s hard to imagine a world without social media. Meeting new people at university, instead of swapping numbers or emails, you add new friends on Facebook and exchange snapcodes with mates you want to be close to.
On leaving school a year ago, I assumed that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat would be my life-lines to my school pals, that even though I would go for months without seeing them, their daily messages or snaps and photos would always be at my fingertips- memories to resist on demand. Despite being asked by my school to sign up to their online network, Holles Connect, I didn’t really see the point of a ‘reunion event’ or understand the concept of ‘alumni networking’ – as I couldn’t really imagine losing touch with my friends, or wanting to connect with Old Girls who had left the school thirty odd years ago.
A year on, and my views on this have changed. Having experienced three roller-coaster terms while being immersed into the bubble of a new university experience, forging fresh friendships and keeping on top of my lecture schedule and exploring new subjects, I realise I’ve already unconsciously started to lose touch with people I used to see and talk to every day.
So, I reached out to my friends, new and old, on, guess what, Facebook, and asked them how many of their schools friends they’re in touch with and what would entice them back to their schools for a reunion!
Most undergraduates I spoke to are in touch with 5-10 people from school, which surprised me as I thought the number would be much higher for such recent leavers. In fact the only friend to say she was in touch with more than 15 people had only just left school this summer.
Invite alumni back with their year group
18 people would attend an event which featured their classmates because as Charlotte, an Oxford undergrad studying Classics said, “when I think of an alumni event, I think it is probably going to be attended by older girls who weren’t at my school when I was. If I went to something, I’d want to see people I knew well and not feel like a stranger”.
Location, Location, Location
Zara, currently a 1st year Psychology student at UCL, was quick to talk about the importance of location, “While it may be nice to come back to school for an event, our school has changed so much since I left, it may not feel as nice to come back. Although I do live nearby enough to make it worthwhile, a lot of my friends don’t and I’m not sure they’d want to come all the way to a see such a different school”.
On the other hand, locations such as restaurants in for example, Central London aren’t very appealing, says Chloe, a first year History and Politics student at Warwick, “as a student, the idea of a swanky restaurant or bar can seem quite intimidating, not to mention the fact that it is completely out of budget”.
According to Amelia, a 1st year studying Material Science and Engineering at Sheffield, “it would be nice for the school to fund something accessible for us or choose an average place to go which we can all afford”.
Meet The Teachers
A few people spoke about how nice it would be to see teachers. I know that from personal experience it was nice to compare notes about how my course changed from A-Level and it actually comforted me to know that this was something my own teachers had experienced, as did other girls who they had taught.
Nine people would attend an event with their former teachers – one commented that it would be nice to come back to school to catch up with her Classics teacher now that she’s studying Classics at university and they can swap notes about their shared subject passion.
Do They Know What An ‘Alumni Network’ Is?
Some people mentioned that their schools either do not offer a very sophisticated network for alumni, while others simply had no network whatsoever. Those without communities mentioned keeping in contact with teachers, which of course is a good thing, but it does not provide the same opportunities as a network with former classmates and older alumni who can provide careers support and advice.
My first experience with alumni networking was when my next door neighbour (an Old Girl) got in touch with her friend from school, Kate Jillings (co-founder of ToucanTech and BusinessBecause- our sister company) to help find me an internship. Kate was more than happy to help out a fellow Old Girl and offered me two weeks at BusinessBecause last summer, writing articles on business schools and MBA applicants. The team were so friendly last year, that I asked to come back for some more writing experience this year! So I have joined the marvellous ToucanTech team for 7 weeks this summer! So from personal experience, alumni networking really works! In the future I’d like to do something to connect all the LEH girls who are studying at Warwick- especially as a fair few are on my course (PAIS and ModLangs) in the years above and have been very kind about chatting to me about my first year and offering tips for my year abroad!
Thanks go to: Charlotte, Zara, Amelia, Ellie, Chloe, Georgina, Amy, Nadine, Camille, Clara, Jeni, Ami, Saniya, Az, Anna, Eryn, Katie, Raahil, Isabel, Cindy, Jasmine, Katy, Carys, Emily, Mitul, Arun, Griffin and Reno.