Former Student Profile - Olivia Hawes - Class of 2008
What years did you attend WHS?
What did you get up to at WHS in terms of study and extracurricular activities?
During sixth form, I studied Psychology AS Level and History, English and Geography at A-Level. I was also involved with sports such as Hockey and Netball and music like orchestra and Chamber Choir, where we had the opportunity to perform in concerts throughout Europe.
Do you have any fond memories you’d like to share?
Definitely the people! I had a great group of friends and our time at WHS allowed us to form strong, lifelong friendships; many of them are still my best friends today (12 years on!) A standout memory was our leaver’s assembly where we all sang ‘Lean on Me’ and our last day of school where we all dressed up in togas (I have no idea why!).
What did you do after school? Gap year, straight into business or Uni.
After the obligatory end of sixth form girl’s holiday to Malia, I went straight to University of Exeter to study Ancient History. In all honesty, at this point I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career, however I loved history at school and in particular found Ancient History really interesting.
If you went to Uni where did you go and why did you choose it?
Exeter Uni has an amazing classics department and I loved the university, and campus (my brother had also studied here so I had been to visit a few times). It is also in a beautiful part of the country and the city is so nice because it isn’t too big so you can easily walk into the city centre from the campus.
What are you up to now?
I am now a Buyer, working in fashion retail. I always loved fashion and despite not studying a fashion related course, I got involved with some extra curricular activities whilst at University, including writing fashion articles for the University newspaper and being Head Stylist for a big fundraising fashion show event. This, combined with my experience working as a part-time sales assistant, as well as showing enthusiasm for the industry, helped me get an entry-level merchandiser job at River Island head office after leaving Uni. I soon moved over to Buying and have worked my way up to Buyer over the last 8 years, working for a few different large retailers, including fast fashion brands and luxury designers.
What do you know now that you didn’t in Year 13 that you’d like to share with current students?
I think it’s really important to research and get advice on all sorts of different careers. When I was at school, I felt most of the advice I was given was around Medicine and Law but there really are so many different, amazing, careers out there and I love mine because it is the perfect balance of business and creativity. I don’t at all regret my decision to go to Uni to study History and I think if anything, it didn’t narrow my career options after Uni.
However if you know you really want to work in a particular industry whilst you’re at school, I would advise investigating industry related University courses. However, it is also totally fine if you only realise during or post Uni what you want to do! e.g. if you want to work in fashion, it is also possible to get your foot in the door through completing a Masters degree, short courses or just doing internships/work experience and showing real passion for the role and industry.