Starting university as a mature and foreign student was a difficult decision. However, I took a risk and must say it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I told myself there is nothing to be won from being afraid in life and that I should take every exciting opportunity that came my way.

That is the reason why, when I saw the article about the Undergraduate of the Year Award on my university website, I decided I would take a chance. As a quantity surveying student, I applied for the construction and engineering category.

The application process started by answering Laing O’Rourke’s questions in the form of short essays. One of them was about an innovation supporting sustainability and the other one was about a favourite project of mine. I found these topics really interesting and enjoyed writing about them. The next step was to sit through some behavioural and reasoning tests. I found the reasoning test quite difficult but prepared myself by completing a few practice tests in advance, which helped me to understand how to proceed in answering these questions.

After a couple of weeks, I received an email saying I had made it to the next stage and was invited to attend the assessment day at Laing O’Rourke! At this point I got really excited and couldn’t wait to experience the process. When I arrived at Laing O’Rourke’s main office in Dartford, I was quite nervous, but the nerves quickly went away when I got to meet other students, and Laing O’Rourke’s people were all really friendly and positive. The assessment day consisted of a group exercise where we were expected to show good teamwork, followed by a presentation about why I thought I should be the Undergraduate of the Year. I was required to present to one interviewer for a couple of minutes which was then followed by questions. I thought I would feel nervous doing a presentation about myself, but I actually felt calm thanks to the friendly attitude of my interviewer. After the presentation we had lunch and got a chance to chat to Laing O’Rourke’s people and other students.

When I received an email saying I had made it to the grand final in London, I felt very happy and proud of myself. I never expected to get this far! The awards ceremony was hosted at East Wintergarden, which is an impressive building in Canary Wharf. We were welcomed by some Prosecco and got a chance to chat to the other students and sponsors. Then we proceeded with the dinner – I must say the meal was excellent! I was also very excited to see Rachel Riley and listen to her inspiring speech, which was followed by an announcement of the winners. When the winner of our category, Luke Collinson, was announced I felt happy for him and thought it was well deserved. Overall, we had a lot of fun at the awards ceremony and enjoyed it very much.

In conclusion, I think Undergraduate of the Year was a great experience, which I learned a lot from. I got a chance to experience the assessment day and interviewing process and met some amazing and inspiring people. In addition, I feel like this achievement might give me an edge in competitive recruitment processes in the future. Moreover, thanks to attending the awards, I got offered a summer placement on the East West Rail project for Laing O’Rourke!

I would definitely recommend applying to anyone considering it. You have nothing to lose, but can gain a lot, so why not to give it a try?