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Paula Kulczyk

BEng (Hons) Civil & Structural Engineering

Placement with WYG (a Tetra Tech Company), Leeds (Aug 2019)

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?

When I arrived in Bradford, I found myself curiously looking at the streets – the architecture so much different from my native country (Poland). I immediately felt I am in the scenery of some British novel of manners! The University appealed to me as well, it is relatively near to the city centre and I enjoyed walking around the streets. Bradford hosts a really worth-attending festival (Literature Festival) and I quite liked meetings with the authors.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

I knew I wanted to study civil engineering so the choice was straightforward for me. What is unique about the course offered by the University of Braford is that it also teaches some aspects of structural engineering.  Strictly speaking, structural engineering is a specialisation of civil engineering and it deals with structure of buildings instead of for e.g. water flow in a dam. The course offered trips to local quarries and projects (such as building your own bridge) and I found the idea of such interactive studying beneficial to my understanding of working on construction projects.

What I liked the most are the lecturers’ attitudes – the professors were so eager to explain my questions and suggest to me how I can develop my knowledge. Fluid Mechanics Module in my second year was especially entertaining, since the lecturer always started his lecturer with ‘in the news’ slides – it showed me the practical side of the learning equations.

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

Civil engineering course is well-structured; from the first year, you learn the foundation that you will later build your further knowledge on. This means, do not skip anything; and ask questions if you do not understand – the lecturer is here to help you! This is a huge help and you will appreciate it when new material comes and you just need to refresh your mind when there are some links to the previous lessons. Also, however old-fashioned it might sound to some students, the library with its traditional resources is a great place. Textbooks serve you in-depth knowledge; in my studies, I used to combine them with the lecturers’ slideshow and the Internet. In this way, I knew I understood the topic well.

Outside the University, I am an active member of ICE GAST and I volunteered at ICE Global Engineering Congress – I simply love to help with anything relating to civil engineering and I know all those activities develop all the various skills, personal traits and knowledge necessary to boost my employability.

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff?

The support from Career and Employability Services has been outstanding right from my visit to their office. From my first year, I had ambitious plans of undertaking some work experience; however, I did not even know where to start! The Career Consultants showed me some good resources, such as Gradcracker kit and some websites that advertise placements. They also gave me professional look to my CV and my CL. I eagerly attended Career and Employability workshops, e.g. how to prepare for interviews because the structure of the workshops enabled me to learn the theory and get some practice together with my peers.

In my second year, I attended weekly sessions especially targeted to students looking for placements – it covered all what I needed to know regarding placement applications. The Lead Career Consultant for my faculty was always happy to go an extra mile and when I got the invitation for the interview, she conducted a mock interview with me. Such wonderful staff, all of them!

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

University of Bradford has been offering me so many ways of professional development – workshops run by Career and Employability Services, careers fairs, company presentations, guest speaker lectures (my faculty tended to advertise their events via University email so I stayed up-to-date with what’s going on at the University).

I also took part in mentoring scheme run by my faculty – it enabled me to go to the company office and learn what civil engineers do after graduation. Outside the University, I am an active member of ICE GAST and I volunteered at ICE Global Engineering Congress – I simply love to help with anything relating to civil engineering and I know all those activities develop all the various skills, personal traits and knowledge necessary to boost my employability.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

Just some time ago, I was asking the same question to the luckiest ones who found their placements – now I am fortunate enough to give advice to my younger fellows. Keep your ears open – the opportunities are there, you just have to be active in your search!  As per civil engineering students, ICE events, whether an annual debate or ICE GAST (young members of the Institute) meetings are a great place where you can get contacts with your potential employers. Additionally, get involved and be active on social media, especially on LinkedIn – this is how you can be spotted by recruiters and lands your dream job!

Tell us about your current placement

I will be working as a Structural Engineer from August 2019 in a leading civil engineering company that provides engineering services in various sectors, such as water, infrastructure, energy and environment. Since I will be in a structural team, my day-to-day work will be design of buildings, including the general body of the building as well as structural calculations. It will be an office-based placement; however, there might be some on-site visits, depending on the project requirements.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

The first benefit that I think most is the better understanding of how projects are done – from bidding, design and construction to their maintenance. This will surely reflect in my University projects because my experience will be enhanced with practice in a professional environment.

I hope I will also find a topic that I would want to work on for my final year project. I think I will also gain more self-confidence because I will see with my own eyes how the theories that I learn during lectures are being implemented in real engineering projects.