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Life's a journey

ARU graduate Mary Strech

Mary Stretch

If I could offer anyone one piece of advice, I’d tell them to go for the big risks – you’ve only got one wild and precious life!

I’ve certainly never looked back when it comes to my own life – I’ve had a whirlwind career. I joined Unilever straight after graduating, becoming a Brand Manager at Jif (Cif), a brand turning over £40 million a year, before joining the BBC as a Radio 4 Current Affairs Producer, then a BBC Radio 1 Producer, a BBC TV News Reporter and finally a BBC Breakfast Time Reporter/Presenter – (all with no formal training)! I now run my own business, Hutton House Recruitment, a boutique search and selection consultancy finding marketers for huge brands such as Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, Disney, Primark, ASOS and Puma.

Back when I was younger, racism was still very common, so the best antidote was to get the best education possible. My goal was always University, and I worked hard in my exams, receiving the Essex Scholarship for the highest A Level grades in Essex, and a 2:1 BA Hons in French and Spanish from UCL. Then came work.

After a long period of time, I returned to university, this time to study for a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages at ARU. My circumstances were very different – no longer an undergraduate I had a young daughter and needed to provide to put food on the table. As a divorced parent, I wanted to be there for her during her GSCEs and A Levels, and ARU’s Chelmsford campus was local to me, only a short drive away from my home in Brentwood. After qualifying, I was able to work part-time, spending three years, qualifying to full QTS status, teaching GCSE French and Media Studies. This allowed me to spend more time with my daughter during her exams. She became Head Girl of her school, and went to a great university having achieved excellent grades. Then I re-opened my recruitment business and here I am today.

Higher education exposes you to great minds, which helps you refine your thought process. You develop skills. You accept change. It forces you to absorb a huge amount of new information, which needs to be scrutinised, synthesised and sometimes re-created as an entirely new thought

It gets you used to intense debate, without getting over- upset; you can face and cope with fierce intellectual challenge. More importantly it forces you to mix with new people. You move from your ‘in-group’ towards people you’d normally consider to be your ‘out-group’. You listen, discuss, make friends, learn to respect their views. They almost certainly have different ideas, experiences and perspectives. It’s a great way to grow, and learn tolerance – which is what we need in this complex, battered world today!

Back in 2017 I started Calais Light, in response to the growing and desperate world refugee crisis. A charitable group, every three months we take 30 volunteers to Calais as a car-sharing convoy, assisting with the three main charities out there: Help Refugees, Refugee Community Kitchen and Care4Calais. Everything is booked and arranged for people who don’t speak French, don’t have cars, are too scared to go alone or don’t know where to book accommodation.

By taking people across from the UK, we make it possible for those who sympathise with the situation to do vital humanitarian work for destitute and deeply distressed people, rather than despair themselves and look the other way. Visit Calais Light to find out more information, our go to our Facebook page.