Karolina Surdokaite

Operations Management Graduate, Western Route with Network Rail

Karolina Surdokaite, graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography with International relations in 2023 and is an Operations Management Graduate, Western Route with Network Rail, based in Bristol.
Since successfully finishing my studies in May 2023, I completed a two-month summer placement in Reading with Evoke Transport Planning Consultants Ltd, doing Transport Planning, followed by starting my graduate scheme at Network Rail, in Bristol. 
I have found it extremely valuable in my career to explore different avenues and career pathways. Prior to my placement with Network Rail, I explored opportunities with councils and with companies such as Enterprise, followed by gaining experience in transport consultancy, before committing to the railway for the long-term. This has allowed me to be more certain about my choices, but also to gain (and bring) a range of experiences to my role. 
My main reason for choosing Plymouth University was to remain close to my family and young siblings, as well as, having only moved to Plymouth at the age of 10, I was not yet ready to move away from the city. 
In terms of the university itself, Plymouth was well respected for geography and offered me flexibility in allowing me to do a combined degree (geography with international relations), which merged a few of my interests into one. 
Karolina Surdokaite on her graduation day on Plymouth Hoe
Charles Seale-Hayne Library
Having flexibility in my degree choice really appealed to me, as whilst I had a keen interest in geography during A levels and prior, at the age of 18 I was still fairly uncertain of what I wanted to do in the long run, hence having a combined degree allowed me to keep my options more open. 
I found the services provided by the library extremely helpful, especially the 1-1 sessions provided by the The Writing Cafe. Having the opportunity to discuss pieces of work with a person that is not a subject expert allowed for me to improve my writing style and understand better how my writing could be perceived. Moreover, my tutor, Dr Paul Simpson, provided me with great advice to keep myself motivated (especially in final year when I had to re-adjust to student life from full-time employment) and put things into perspective in terms of long-term plans and grade achievements. 
Personally, I found the fact that there are so many opportunities and different pathways that could be pursued with my degree the most inspiring. Having the ability to not be locked down into one particular path really excited me. With my degree I have now developed reports, maps, new systems of work (and many other things), in industries that I would have not thought of before. 
During final year specifically, I used the careers and employability service to get advice on my CV and how to approach future career prospects. I found the service to be very useful as it was able to provide me with 1-1 appointments and advice that was specifically catered to me. In line with this, I completed the mentor programme that the university offers, which allowed me to network as well as gain really good advice from someone who has been out in the working world for a bit of time. Without this mentorship I would have not felt confident enough to make the decision to do a summer placement prior to the start of my Graduate Scheme. 
Careers and employability
Studying at Plymouth allowed me to explore different pathways, as well as aspire for more than just the criteria of having a full-time job. I was able to learn and understand that there are more values to look for from employers than just an opportunity to be employed after graduation. 
My favourite memory of studying at Plymouth must be being part of University of Plymouth Ladies Football Club (UPLFC). Being part of a society that created an environment that was welcoming to everyone and provided so many people with a family away from home was amazing, and I will cherish the memories I made with those girls for life #BleedBlue.
Smeaton's Tower, Plymouth Hoe on a clear sunny summer day.
I think by probing me to be proactive and providing various opportunities for development, the university prepared me well for the challenges I have faced so far in my career journey.  
It is a great, well-respected university, which offers a wide range of activities to get involved in that go beyond your studies. Having the opportunity to develop different skills through things like working at the Student Union or being part of a committee for a society provides you with so many experiences that will be beneficial to you in the future (as well as memories and friends). 
Doing a placement year significantly impacted my long-term career plans. Without my placement year I would have not explored different industries, as well as would have not had the opportunity to have a confirmed offer for a Graduate Scheme for straight after graduation.