Interview: Kashyap Patel, Student Experience Team Member, gains skills
8 February 2024
Kashyap Patel is an international student who moved from India to the UK four months ago. He is now employed part-time as a Unite Students student experience team member in Durham, where he attends university.
Here, the 24-year-old talks about how supportive the company has been in settling him in, the skills he is developing and the cultural differences he has experienced.
How has Unite Students welcomed you?
The Unite Students team here is extremely open and welcoming, you can easily communicate any thoughts or issues you might have. Durham is a relatively small city but the team itself is quite big. I am very fortunate that I’ve been able to go to social occasions that Unite Students has organised, where I’ve had a chance to meet every Durham team member, which was great.
There are around 30 people that are employed in the Durham team and around eight in the team I work in. As I was planning for my Masters, I was sure that I wanted to do a relevant professional job. It was something I was searching for when I arrived in Durham in September. I saw this opportunity online, applied and was offered an interview after a couple of weeks.
How has the job gone so far?
I’ve learnt a lot about the role in terms of sales and communication, and problem solving. The job now involves a lot more interaction with students. So far, it has been about training and understanding the company and my role, as well as the type of software and business process we use on a day-to-day basis.
There were a large variety of training modules and procedures to learn. There is a rota and I tend to work seven-and-a-half hours on both Saturday and Sunday. A lot of students, like me, like to work on weekends, which matches well with other colleagues who carry out their duties in the working week.
Has Unite Students helped with your transition to living in the UK?
It has been a really good experience in getting to know so many different people, with differing backgrounds and how they contribute to the team and students. I have worked in a couple of professional jobs in the past and this part of the world is very different, which I was looking to experience and I’m glad I have – I think it will really contribute to the type of service and customer-led roles I hope to have in the future. Fortunately, I also have a couple of relatives in London and a friend in Manchester, which also helps.
Would you recommend Unite Students to other international students?
Absolutely – not just to work for Unite Students but to live in the company’s accommodation too. The offering and value for money that Unite Students provides is something I haven’t seen from other providers – in terms of safety, location and customer experience. These are the three factors that makes Unite Students stand out from its competitors.
There are job opportunities out there – in retails stores, restaurants and other service roles, but working at Unite Students means I get to work in a professional environment, and coming from another country, I get to experience set procedures, rules and standards at a sector leader. I’m fortunate enough to be part of the business and learn from it. It’s a great opportunity and I would encourage students to apply for a similar role to help with their cultural understanding and to develop professional skills.
I actually posted about my new role on LinkedIn and since then, a lot of students on my course have got in touch asking how they can apply for a similar position and what I did to apply and get such a great job. I’ve had a great response.
What is life like as an international student in Durham and how has your background led you to Unite Students?
I’d never been to the UK before September. Durham is beautiful – a world heritage city – with easy access to lots of important places, including Newcastle. There are quite a few cultural differences that I’ve experienced, even just waiting for lights to cross the road – and the food is very different. I am enjoying these changes and what Durham has to offer students.
My Masters (MSc) in Management (International Business) is going very well. I read a degree in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering in my home state of Gujarat, in west India, before that. After my degree, I spent two years learning business development, sales, finance and client relationship management, and that’s how my interest shifted to management and business. I did well in my electronics exams and my goal was to read a Masters in a different country. Covid delayed things and I didn’t want to do my Masters virtually. So, I took time out to work in several jobs, including an automobile tech start-up, which had an app for people to book services and repair their car.
Volunteering at AIESEC (an international youth-run not-for-profit organisation providing young people with leadership experience through internships) introduced me to this world of business and management. In the future I want to work within sales, business development and operations, in a client facing role.
What do you think of Unite Students’ Rushford Court property, which is currently being improved and extended ready for September this year – and could be the university’s 18th college in future?
Rushford Court is the biggest of all three Unite Students sites in Durham. More than 300 students live in the property and it’s one of the closest to the city centre. It’s one of my favourite places to work as it’s very sociable. It’s really great that it’s being extended and will offer students even more facilities – Rushford Court is already very special.
I live in Durham University college accommodation. It was all a very quick process and I didn’t have a chance to look at other accommodation like Unite Students, but I’m enjoying the opportunity to meet more people and develop my understanding of Durham and the university while working for Unite Students.
What does your Student Experience Team Member role involve?
I’m in the sales team and I’m on a part-time role as legally I can work up to 20 hours per week. The job is about talking to people – students, usually to help them solve any queries they have, look after their parcels, and to look around the property to make sure everything is well and up to date. To be there for customers, should they need any support.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I don’t like to think too much into the long term, but I will complete my Masters this year and then gain a couple of years of experience in the business world, which will equip me for future roles. I will enjoy my time here in Durham and with Unite Students and support them, while gaining knowledge to perhaps open my own business one day.