Alumni Spotlight - James Farley

Each year the Development and Alumni Relations Team welcome first year students to campus with a gift. This year it will be a canvas bag called the Brum Bag, exclusively designed by James Farley (BA Classics and Ancient History, 2014). James, who won the chance to design the bag after entering our competition, shares his advice for current students and his memories of studying at Birmingham.

James Farley

What advice would you give to new students?

The University of Birmingham is a place where opportunities are aplenty, coming in an array of forms and areas. I would always encourage new students to take advantage of and explore - whether it be within the realms of your degree subject, sporting, research, volunteering or almost anything else that you can (and sometimes can’t) think of! University is a place for learning and that extends outside of the library or lectures, so fill yourself up with experience and knowledge and you will definitely get the most out of your time here!

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birmingham?

For all the great times that I had in Birmingham, from living with friends to results day, Welcome Week to graduation, I think I would have to say that my favourite memories of Birmingham come from the ease of which you can transition between quiet campus life to the vibrant offerings of the city itself. Having a campus university that is also only a couple of stops on the train from the city centre is simply the best of both worlds - one day you can enjoy the grassy lawns that surround Aston Webb with friends after exams, and the next you could experience the wonders of the winter markets and the Bullring in the city centre. There are so many ways to make memories at Birmingham. 

What was your favourite place on campus?


For me the Guild of Students was where I spent a considerable amount of my free time at Birmingham. This is where I made some of my greatest friends through the many societies and activities on offer, and the multiple spaces available to meet and relax. It was also an invaluable source for advice and information surrounding all aspects of student life. The Guild plays such a crucial part in every student’s time at Birmingham in many ways. It's a real student community hub, with its iconic Mermaid fountain, that will always leave a lasting impression on me. 

What are you currently doing?

Having graduated in 2014 I am currently working as a UK account manager for Europe’s fastest growing payments service provider.  On a daily basis I help businesses of all sizes integrate the latest cutting-edge electronic payment technology, enabling increased efficiency and revenue opportunities. My time spent studying at Birmingham has equipped me with the ability to effectively analyse multiple sources of key information, which is key to delivering the best results for businesses nationwide. 

How did Birmingham prepare you for life as a graduate?

Whilst I firmly agree that life at university prepares you for the responsibilities and independence for life after graduating, I think that it does much more. Birmingham in particular, being an international campus within such a cosmopolitan city, helps you develop relationships and share experiences with others, which plays a key part of graduate life, whatever you choose to do.  

What would your top tip be for new graduates?

You will find that your years at Birmingham have given you a wealth of not just skills, but insights into yourself. It may sound clichéd, but for instance things that motivate you or the type of people whom you really have an affinity with are all experiences that can stand you out from the crowd and help you achieve your goals. Of course, also ensure that you have fun, as you will always have these memories of the University to look back on and enjoy once you have graduated.

What made you enter the BrumBag competition?

Having seen the competition advertised on the University of Birmingham Alumni Facebook page, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to brush up on my design skills and be creative within a brief that was very free and completely different from my usual daily work. I thought that the initiative described in the competition was a great idea. The thousands of bags that will be distributed will no doubt be with many students for the length of their time in Birmingham, a lasting reminder of what they have achieved.