Thousands of DMU students graduated in July after years of hard work. We reported some of their stories in our Class of 2015 series...
Despite a difficult start to her final year of studies, Aruna Bhalla has finished her time at De Montfort University (DMU) on a real high with a first-class degree in Marketing and Media BA (Hons) and a job at a leading British bank.
Aruna was offered her place on the graduate scheme at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), after being flown up to Edinburgh for an assessment day in March. Following a series of rigorous interviews and psychometric tests, she flew back that evening and they phoned the same night with an offer.
“I’ll be rotating around different areas within operations – customer experience, procurement, architecture, transformation and change, research, innovation and other services” she said. “It’s a two-year programme but you spend six months in each department. I’m delighted. It’s a great result and I really needed it after the year I’ve had…”
Aruna first started feeling poorly last summer. “I was on holiday and losing so much weight. When I came back my mum told me I needed to see a doctor because I looked really unwell. I ended up in hospital and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’ve not been lucky with my health in the past few years,” said Aruna, which is something of an understatement.
She struggles with fibromyalgia, a condition which causes joint pain and exhaustion, and has a metal rod in her back after having surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. In recent years she’s also had two operations for other related health issues. Her daily battles, hard work and optimism earned her a nomination in the Leicester Mercury newspaper’s 2013 Young Achiever Awards.
Aruna has got through these difficult times with her relentlessly positive approach to life – and support from DMU: “It has been tremendously tough, but all my tutors have been so helpful getting everything sorted. I keep in touch with the Disability Advice and Support service, too. I was really anxious because this year I had to take my exams separately, but they’ve set up all the right support for me. I also needed an extension because I was feeling very ill in December and they were so nice about it. I have good days and bad days, but I just keep thinking that my degree will make it all worthwhile.”
Asked why she chose DMU, Aruna said: “Because I’m from Leicester, I like the city and I love the campus. Plus I wanted family support with my health issues. But also I really like the Business School and my course was great. Coming here I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. I don’t think this university gets enough recognition for what it does and how it supports its students and pushes them to get a good job.”
One of the highlights of her time at DMU was her 12-month placement at UBS, an international bank based in Switzerland, working for the internal communications team in London. She went there between her second and third years of study.
“Half my team was in Zurich, my mentor was Indian and my manager was Australian. I also had colleagues in China and America, so I got to speak to everyone, saw how they worked and learned about their cultures – it gives you a great perspective on life.
“I was concentrating on providing the internal communications for Group Operations. I learned so much and it truly was an amazing experience. I took in so much from my surroundings and the people I was with. I didn’t want to leave London and can’t wait to go back. I was creating newsletters for employees, working on social media, setting up events for senior managers and face-to-face forums. I also got the chance to work on a couple of transformation and change projects, which I found really interesting … it was an incredible opportunity.”
It was also a great chance to put what she’d been taught by her tutors into practise: “Everything I learned in my first and second year, I could apply to my role. Sometimes you’d sit there at lectures and wonder ‘how am I going to use this’? Now I know!”
Although Aruna had to find the internship herself – and impress on a very challenging assessment day – the placement unit at the Faculty of Business and Law offered plenty of support, helping her to apply, giving CV advice and setting up mock interviews.
“The unit gives a lot of help to students. Then it keeps in contact with you throughout the year and you have meetings with your placement tutor, so you’re still in touch with DMU. At the end you have to do a placement portfolio, which was a lovely way to finish the year.”
Aruna starts at RBS in September, although she still doesn’t know where she’ll be working: “It could be Edinburgh, Birmingham or Manchester, but I’m hoping it will be London because that’s where I ultimately want to be based.”
However, she will miss her time in Leicester: “There’s always a real buzz around the university and I’m really proud of coming to DMU – it’s made me the person I am and I wouldn’t have been able to get any of these jobs or placements without studying here.”
Posted on Monday 6th July 2015