1. Tell us about yourself — what’s your story and what are you studying?
I am currently completing my MSc in Digital Marketing at Royal Holloway University of London. I have worked in PR/graphic design for three years before this and decided to upskill myself amid the global pandemic as I had been placed on furlough midway through my final year working. I chose digital marketing because Covid-19 has forced many businesses to move online and digital marketing would be the best way for me to capitalise on this new demand.
Throughout my time working, I gained a lot of experience creating online content but lacked the formal qualifications to get involved in the strategic side of the process. Although I had many good ideas, I needed a stronger understanding of the market and more specifically of the digital landscape. I knew that if I ever wanted to be responsible for developing a full campaign, I would need to undergo some intensive training.
My degree is focused on capitalising on the online marketplace and understanding consumer culture and behaviour. This course is intensive and expects students to be able to work under pressure, with multiple overlapping deadlines and commitment to taking responsibility for your own learning. It has helped me grow immensely and take pride in my own ability to seek out information and help as necessary.
2. Why did you choose to study in the UK?
There were many factors that led me to choose the UK for my higher education. The first is that I have a family member that came here to study before me, which I think was particularly important in convincing my parents.
Safety is an unavoidable worry for any parents sending their children abroad, so having proof that it is safe for me to study here gave me some ground to stand on.
At a young age I knew that I wanted to study abroad because I craved the independence above anything else. Like many, I’ve lived a very sheltered life and have not had much chance to learn how to live on my own.
The UK proved to be the best option when I started to do more research. I find UK’s advertising industry more subtle which got me interested, while it can be a bit too loud in other countries. The NHS also played an important role in my decision as government campaigns for public safety and social benefit (also known as social marketing) resonated with me. (more on this in Q6)
3. With businesses around the world turning to digital marketing to survive, how has this pandemic changed the landscape of marketing and advertising?
Having to adapt to an online-only storefront meant that smaller businesses that may not have prioritised, or had the budget for, a digital presence have had to scramble to adapt, or get left behind. Today we see an overall increase in time spent online, including shopping, social media, gaming, interacting with friends and working from home. The only stable way for a company to reach its target audience is online.
Companies have tried to address this issue in innovative ways. An example is the concept of virtual fashion. The premise is that customers could purchase virtual clothing from them and apply it, much like a snapchat filter, to past pictures, so they would be able to post new content online. This is just one small example of how marketing has had to adapt on a large scale all at once in response to the pandemic, in just one industry.
The global crisis has flipped many businesses, forcing companies to innovate and look for new gaps in the market. Brands that can absorb the costs and pay more attention to the change in customer needs now have a golden opportunity to shine.
On the other hand, small businesses such as mom-and-pop shops, corner stores and many SMEs have had to focus on just staying afloat. In many situations this means dropping their marketing department, slashing budgets and layoffs – hardly a marketer’s dream.
Covid-19 has provided many great opportunities for marketing and advertising to make leaps and bounds in its development and execution, but not without cost and this cost is unfortunately competition among smaller companies.
4. What’s your day-to-day life like as a postgraduate student in the UK?
Currently, the life of a postgraduate student (or at least in my case) is two-part. I spent the first six months working on assessments and meeting overlapping deadlines from home. It can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing, but I think it is well worth the effort if you are focused on achieving the best possible grade you can have and building the network you need for your career. I will be starting the second phase in July, where the sole focus is the dissertation. My plan is to get a part-time job in the industry and work on my dissertation at the same time. I expect this to be the freest time students will get for their degree, and hence, that time must be spent wisely. I plan to enjoy what London has to offer (with activities permitted amid COVID-19) and meet my classmates. If events are taking place, online or offline, it is best to attend. It is a great opportunity to further build one’s professional and personal networks.
5. What are your ambitions?
I believe in social marketing and want to genuinely make the world a better place for everyone. The best way I can think of to accomplish this is by working for an issues-based marketing, advertising, or PR firm and develop campaigns that benefit everyone, be it in the form of drink-driving, anti-smoking, general health campaigns or addressing intolerance or misinformation.
Having a goal bigger than myself gives me the space to grow and learn, while working towards a better tomorrow. I feel like the direction I want to steer my career towards for the longest time has been to help. I don’t need to make a difference on a massive scale but helping in some way is what drives me forward.
6. Are there any tips or advice you want to share that have personally helped you as an international student?
The best advice I can give anyone is to relax your inhibition. It is normal to get anxious and nervous in higher education, and much more if you’re moving to an entirely different hemisphere of the planet! The experience is worth it and rewarding in more ways than you can imagine. The UK is a diverse place where you can meet and engage with new people from all over the world, experience new things and most importantly get out of your comfort zone!
More practical advice are as follows:
- Don’t be afraid to cycle, especially in London. There are many paths specifically meant for cyclists and driving here is a little less chaotic.
- Learn to budget as soon as possible. Knowing how far £10 gets you is important; it gives you a baseline for how much you need to have in the bank at any given time.
- Seek out Filipino communities. In London, you need not go further than Earls Court to start hearing the familiar Tagalog all around you. It is easy to build a supportive friend circle here and find a little taste of home if you are open to introducing yourself to the existing community.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to some people on the tube. While not everyone will respond, those who do help make you be more comfortable with the local people and area. You might just make a new friend. (Just make sure not to abuse this and know when it is better not to.)
- Try to get in touch with other people coming to the UK around the same time. You might be able to find a place together, which would be more affordable than university accommodation and probably more spacious if you look for a deal.
- As for getting into the UK, IB is a great option if it is available, but also look for recruiters too. Some universities do school visits and hold workshops to promote courses and degrees. Show your interest and ask them what they are looking for in a candidate.
- Recruiters like Study International are also great for finding the right university and course for you, they helped me find mine and I wouldn’t be here today if not for them.