Sara Ashall, BSc Natural Sciences

'The course provided me with the skills to think logically and express my self simply and clearly.'
Sara Ashall

Current role

I currently work for Shearman and Sterling, a large US law firm based in New York. I work in the Brussels office practicing EU and UK competition law. After I graduated, I did a law conversion course plus a further year of practical training before starting my training contract with a large law firm in London. My science background I think means that I tend to have a very practical and pragmatic approach to problem solving compared to my colleagues with an arts background but apart from the odd pharmaceutical client, I rarely use the knowledge I gained during my course which I sometimes regret.

Outline the course you studied at the University of Birmingham and how it benefited you?

I studied Natural Sciences, specialising in Biology and Biochemistry with minors in Spanish and economics. The course provided me with the skills to think logically and express my self simply and clearly. The mix of different subjects has given me very valuable skills to undertake work on different topics and disciplines at the same time, which is what work is like! The university more generally really helped to develop my confidence, with work and personally.

How did you find your first year in Birmingham?

I found the first year quite hard and a bit lonely, it seemed like a constant competition with my friends back home to see who was having the best time and I felt a bit stressed that perhaps I wasn't having enough fun or making enough new friends. After a while though, I made some really good friends and settled in. I realised that in the end everyone was nervous and apprehensive about starting somewhere new.

How did going to University as a whole benefit you?

University taught me practical skills like learning to balance my time and competing interests and gave me qualifications essential to my professional career but more importantly, it taught me self-motivation to get work done to the best of my ability.

How did you find campus life?

I really enjoyed campus life and am glad i was not in a city centre. I'm originally from a small village and campus life was perfect for me. It gives a home to all the students which was familiar and a little enclave from the rest of the world!

How did you find living in Birmingham?

I loved living in Birmingham. It was friendly, the shops are great and there are lots of things to do. It's also easy to get out of the city and to get to other places in the UK to visit friends!

Did you join any student societies during your studies?

I played on my halls hockey team, they were really welcoming even though I hadn't really played before! Apart from that I went to a number of the music events and course socials as my two house mates were musicians. By the end of the three years, I was nominated as best-non-muso!

Any tips to pass on to students thinking of coming here?

Firstly, study want you will enjoy, not what you think you should study. this is particularly important advice I think during the current economic climate as a good mark in a course you are passionate about is better than an average mark in something you thought you should do.

Secondly, Birmingham is a great city to study in, especially at Birmingham Uni Campus. Its a buzzing city but not overwhelming, it's a friendly, homely campus but not parochial and its perfectly geographically located in the Midlands. Thirdly, when you're looking at universities, speak to as many of the students and professors as you can, at the end of the day, it's the people that make somewhere special.