Graduate profile
The Rik Medlik building

Jack Ryan

Jack describes what he enjoyed most about his time as a Surrey student and shares his memories from his Professional Training placement year at Airbus in France.


Aerospace Engineering

What attracted you to choose Surrey and to study your course here?

The University of Surrey is not too far away from my home and was high in the league tables for my chosen degree. Guildford is a great student city and has brilliant facilities, both academically and for sports.

The course also offered the best contacts in industry of any university I looked at. This meant that students could get placements with large, industry-leading companies on their Professional Training years and had strong chances of employability straight from graduation.

What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?

In terms of where I spent most of my time, it would have to be the computer rooms in the engineering department. A lot of hard work and revision went on in those computer suites - it was tough at times, but gave me the tools to achieve success in my degree.

Other areas of the campus I think of were the sports field in the summer - great for impromptu games of football and chilling in the sun. I enjoyed a lot of success in five-a-side leagues up at the Sports Parkand the old Varsity Centre. 

What is the one thing you would say about Surrey, or the course you studied, to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

I would say it's a modern, tightly-knit campus and community which has something to offer for everyone. Guildford is a great city and the facilities and courses offered at Surrey are second to none. It has great transport links to London and the Sports Park is amazing.

The engineering department has been well respected for a number of years and has great links to industry so students can get really good experience, which will stand them in good stead when they leave.

Where did you spend your Professional Training Year and what did you enjoy most about the experience?

I spent my Professional Training placement at Airbus S.A.S. down in Toulouse in southern France. It was far and away the best experience of my student life. The company is huge and offered great opportunities while I was there.

Toulouse is a vibrant student city which was a joy to live in and it was great to get a taste of a different culture and way of life. The weather was fantastic most of the time and there was always something going on socially to enjoy.

The thing I loved most about the experience was getting to know people who have become friends for life. Living somewhere unfamiliar was daunting at first, but through working for Airbus and the relaxed work ethic at the company, I quickly met others in the same boat. Airbus takes on thousands of interns/students and there is such a great community of people.

How did studying or working abroad influence your career aspirations? Did it benefit you in other ways?

Having Airbus on my CV has definitely helped me in my career after university, as has the fact I can say I’ve lived in a foreign country for twelve months. It has made me realise that I want to be in a role where I get the opportunity to travel and see more of the world with work.

I feel like I am definitely more confident because I have that experience under my belt and I try to challenge myself in terms of where I want to go in my career.

I also attended French classes while I was abroad so I have good language skills which can help when applying for jobs. In my opinion, the whole experience gave me invaluable lessons in both my personal and professional life which I have benefitted from since.

Reflecting on your own experiences, what advice do you have for students considering studying or working outside of the UK?

Go for it and apply, even if you’re not sure. I had such an amazing experience that I would actively encourage people to take a gamble and try it at least once. It is difficult, but overall it is so worth it and sets you apart from other people when applying for jobs and other roles.

Be prepared for challenges, especially if you’re going somewhere where English is not a major language. Be bold and put yourself out of your comfort zone, you will reap rewards!

What has your career journey been like and what do you do now?

I am currently on the graduate scheme with British Airways, the UK’s largest airline. It is a two-year scheme where we move around different parts of British Airways’ Engineering organisation before applying for a permanent role at the end. I am currently in the powerplant team which looks after the maintenance of jet engines.

What do you find most enjoyable about your line of work and why?

Working for an airline is extremely challenging as the competition in the market is so high. Being on the graduate scheme, we are encouraged to learn all we can about the maintenance of aircraft but also to build up a knowledge of the entire business and the challenges that we face.

Some parts of the job are very reactive and change on a day to day basis. This helps to keep things fresh and provides plenty of opportunities to learn something new. I like the problem solving aspect of an engineering role and it helps to keep things interesting with providing different challenges each day.

What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?

My top tip would be to fill out your CV with as much relevant experience as possible. Surrey has great links with industry, and a years’ worth of experience at a top engineering firm will be gold dust on your CV when applying for graduate jobs.

Also get a summer job or work experience if you can. You need to show prospective employers that you are keen and motivated to get involved in engineering companies and activities.

Learn more about our MEng Aerospace Engineering degree and others in the field of Mechanical Engineering Sciences.