Published: 18 March 2024

"Scholarships allow students to take the leap"

We caught up with our newest Forever Surrey scholar, Alex, about his love of space and his first year studying at Surrey. 

What drew you to study at Surrey?

It was a recommendation from a friend at my sixth form college. We were going through the process of applying to different universities for aerospace engineering. He told me he was applying to the University of Surrey, and that it was ranked quite high up in the UK, so that is how I came to be here. 


You were set on aerospace engineering. How did you decide on that?

I’ve always been passionate about space and space travel, so it was either an aerospace engineering degree or an astrophysics degree. One of my life goals is to go into space, and because of my height, being an astronaut is not too realistic. The tallest recorded astronaut is six foot four and I’m six foot three, but it’s much harder to get onto a programme as I weigh more than someone shorter.

I decided that if I can't go the traditional route and try and go to space as an astronaut straight away, I would try and apply myself in the commercial space flight sector. Potentially if I could help in that industry, I can make going into space more affordable, right now it’s around £250,000 for one flight! If I could make space travel accessible, then I could go up and make my dreams come true. 


How did your love of space start? 

I've always liked learning about it. I’d sit on YouTube for hours at a time, just consuming a lot of space content and facts about exploring space. It’s really cool but also really beautiful, and the main reason I’d like to go into space is for the experience of looking down on earth. It’s something you can’t really imagine until you get there, and that moment will stick with you for the rest of your life. It’s a life goal that I would be proud to achieve. 

What’s been your favourite thing about Surrey so far?

My favourite thing so far has to be the community. You could walk around campus and talk to another student you’d never met, and they’d say ‘hi’ and be friendly back. Everyone is really kind and welcoming, and this is reflected in the societies I do too.  


Could you tell us some more about the societies you’re part of? 

I am part of three societies, and I like to think I have the perfect balance, because I have one sport, one social and one related to my course. 

I take part in archery for my sport and it's something I've always been interested in but haven't had the opportunity to participate in outside of university because Stafford, my home-town, doesn’t have affordable archery ranges.

The social society that I part of is SAM SOC (the anime and manga society) where I attend a weekly group anime watch with my friends. Once a semester, the society votes on which shows to watch. 

My third society is rocketry, obviously because I want to do that in the future. I’m part of Peryton Space which is primarily a rocketry club. 

We enter a few different competitions around the design and building of rockets, including the National Rocketry Championship. NRC involves simply building a rocket that meets the requirements set by the competition, which is an amazing way to gain experience for future competitions and improve teamwork. This year, the rocket needs to reach 760 metres, with a payload that weighs 200g. 


It sounds like you’re focused on your future plans already. Do you have any idea what you’ll do after studying at Surrey?

Firstly, I’d find company in the UK where I can gain some experience. Airbus (a European multinational aerospace corporation) would probably be my next jump from university. After developing my skills in the field, I could move to America which is where 90% of the big space opportunities are, like SpaceX and NASA. 


Could you tell us a bit about your background? 

Five years ago, my mum was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). It’s a condition where your motion neurons start degenerating and dying so that you can't really move for your limbs. Your muscles stop working basically.

For the first year of her life with this disease, I cared for her basically by myself. The care packages where we lived weren’t very good - the companies weren’t equipped for the level of care my mum needed, so I was a live in carer for her. 

When the disease progressed even more, she needed more equipment in the house, which meant I moved out and lived with my godfather. Initially, I went back and helped her in the evenings, but we managed to find some stable carers and I could slowly stop this. Now I can visit just to spend time with her. 


How has receiving the Forever Surrey scholarship made a difference? 

At first I didn’t know if I would fit the criteria for the scholarship, so I wasn’t expecting to receive it, but it’s been great. 
My general money stress has gone down. Now I know I have some backup funds, I don’t have to worry as much if I go a little over budget – I don’t have to wait until the next maintenance loan comes in. 

It really helped me out with renting a house for next year. I wouldn’t have been able to put a hold on the house with my friends without the scholarship money. 

The money has also helped me take part in clubs and societies.

How important would you say these sorts of scholarships are?

Scholarships allow students to take the leap into university education. For someone struggling financially and without family support, receiving a scholarship could be the reason they can come to university. 


If you want to support talented students like Alexandre, please donate to our Forever Surrey Fund here:

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