With the lifting of Covid restrictions this year, it has been great to finally welcome back into school ex-students to share their experiences. One of our alumni, Pedro Heredia Medio, was welcomed into assemblies with Year 11 and 13 pupils on two Friday mornings to give a talk on coping with anxiety. In the run up to exam leave for these two year groups, and the fact that they were both taking external exams for the first time, Pedro gave excellent talks on how they could cope with the mental pressures at this time. He tells us his story of his journey after leaving us 24 years ago:
Pedro Heredia Medio (1998)
“I started at Aloha College when I was 5 and left at 18 years old. Up until summer 1998, Aloha College was my second home and my classmates my second family.
Although studying at Aloha College offered me the opportunity to study and read an undergraduate degree anywhere in the world, I chose to stay in Madrid to study a BSc in Psychology at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid. It was not easy to switch from an English educational system to a Spanish one but luckily at Aloha we not only took IB, we also had to take Spanish courses to be able to sit the Selectividad exams. This helped immensely with the transition.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I decided to explore a career in Social and Organisational Psychology. I therefore studied an MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology at London School of Economics and Political Sciences. For over 10 years, I worked for companies such as Warner Brothers, Yahoo!, and big consulting firms helping them better their understanding of their customers. I helped companies understand how to better package their products and how to improve communication with their audiences. In essence, I was the ears of their consumers.
My career took me all over the world from London, Paris, Geneva, Lausanne, Dubai and to Malta. I have always found old Aloha friends living in every city that I have worked in. But there is no place like home. After living and working abroad for more than 15 years, I decided it was time to do what I was really passionate about in a place that will allow me to have a good quality of life. That place was Marbella and my passion was to help people understand that our emotions are not our enemies, they are not something that we should be shy or ashamed of, but proud of.
After studying a masters degree in General Health Psychology and another one in Neuropsychology, I opened my own practice, Clínica Heredia & Bautista, with my sister and brother-in-law, who are both physiotherapists and osteopaths. Having been brought up in Marbella and having studied at Aloha College allows me to have a different point of view towards the difficulties that children and teenagers go through in this type of international environment. It allows me to understand them in a different way, which as a result allows me to accompany them and support them through the therapeutic process in a much seamless manner.”
Pedro was one of four family members who studied at Aloha College Marbella, including his sister Maria, who he is now in practice with.
Fernanda Masri recently revisited the school after an absence of sixteen years and she also contributed to this year’s Science Fair in June.
Mª Fernanda Masri (2006)
“It’s been 16 years since I graduated from Aloha College and started working in STEM, specifically bridging bioprocess engineering with regenerative medicine.
My time at Aloha was brief but life changing. My parents migrated from Argentina to Spain hoping for a better future for myself and my brother. At the time I moved and joined Aloha College, I was 15 years old. I was not looking forward to leaving my friends and everything I knew behind to start a new life. However, from day 1 there was a huge amount of support from my teachers to make sure my time at Aloha was as enjoyable and fruitful as possible.
After spending some time there, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue my education in the UK. I was keen on the more practical aspects of the British educational system so I set my heart on an engineering degree in London. As I was pursuing my Chemical Engineering degree at University College London (UCL) I realised that as much as I enjoyed the subject matter, I did not want to work as a chemical engineer. I therefore tailored my Masters and PhD to biochemical engineering, particularly bioprocessing of cell and gene therapies. Little did I know the incredible opportunities that this particular industry would offer.
After a short postdoc at UCL, I moved to Toronto to work as a bioprocess engineer at CCRM, addressing the need for scalable processes in regenerative medicine. Life brought me back to the UK, but this time to Edinburgh, which is where I live today. I now head the commercial operations for a manufacturing innovation centre in England where these therapies become a reality and progress into the clinic, treating patients who otherwise may have had no treatment options.
My job is extremely satisfying but it changes every day. I always thought I was unlucky not to know exactly what I wanted to do, some people just seem to know, but more and more I realise that it has allowed me to explore different options and opportunities with an open mind, and that, I would recommend to anyone! To pursue a career in STEM can be extremely satisfying and as a woman, mother of 2, I have learned that your support system (family and friends, your employer, your colleagues) all play a critical role to be able to achieve everything you want. It’s not true that you have to choose family or a career, you have to choose a support system that thrives in your growth and there are enough people out there wanting to see you succeed. There are mentors and enablers but there’s also those close to your heart who are key to your development.”
Many of our Year 13 pupils have applied for degree studies in the Netherlands over the last two years. With the impact of BREXIT, meaning tuition fees are much higher for international students wishing to go to UK universities, Holland is seen as an alternative way to study in English inside the EU. Lucía was one of the pioneers of this growing trend, and she tells us about her journey.
Lucía Rodriguez Lopez (2017)
“I remember back in 2016 looking through UCAS for Economics and Business degrees. The UK was the obvious option; I even had an offer to study at King’s College London, but then an opportunity that I had never considered came up; Netherlands. I decided to take the risk, and moved to Maastricht to study International Business.
In no time I realised I had made the right choice. Maastricht University offers Problem Based Learning, a system in which tutorials are conducted in groups of 10-15 people and are fully based on real-life cases.
During my time there, we had multiple networking events, one of which I organized, and that is where I first got in touch with Philip Morris. I went through their selection process and joined their INKOMPASS program, where I was hired as a Supply Chain intern. I was given the responsibility of leading the implementation of a return logistics flow of the IQOS portfolio for the Dutch market.
In my third year of university, I went on exchange to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. I took some economics courses which helped me to dive deep into the SEA economic environment. Unfortunately, a couple months later, COVID hit and I was on the next flight home to enter lockdown without a clear idea of what would happen next. My plan had always been to take a year to do internships before doing a masters degree, but with such uncertainty, it was unclear how that would turn out.
Spain was in lockdown for 2 months, and during that time I looked for internships. Eventually, I got a call from Amazon and joined as a Program Manager Intern in the Prime Now Team! Prime Now offers grocery delivery in 2h time-slots and during COVID it became the source of groceries for many Spanish households. During my time there, I helped with the expansion to other cities as well as worked on improving the forecasting mechanism that they had in place back at the time.
When my internship finished, a full-time position opened up as Brand Specialist and I was hired to join the Toys Team. Within this role, I work closely with key vendors of the category, helping them promote brands and products, enabling them to reach new customers, and ultimately, boost their sales performance. 1 and a half years later, I am still in the Toys team managing bigger accounts and looking for my next challenge.”
Caroline Kowalski (1998)
“I graduated from Aloha in 1998 at age of 17, after having spent 7 years there. I excitedly packed my bags to leave for the University of Birmingham Medical School, which took me on as their youngest med-student of a class of 240. The multicultural environment, resilience, independent study and hard work ethic that Aloha had instilled in me certainly helped me cope with the high demands of medical school. I found that I certainly struggled less than some of my colleagues due to having covered a lot of the topics in higher IB Biology, Chemistry and Maths.
After University, I started my junior doctor rotations in surgical training in the United Kingdom which brought about a whole other level of commitment, hard work and time management as I was also then studying for surgical exams. I found that having been exposed to the numerous languages at home and school helped me to add another level of care to my patients. Generally most will feel more comfortable when they are able to communicate well. This really highlighted the importance of great communication within the health sector and it’s impact on how people feel and perceive treatment.
I took a 6 month break to travel through Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji which really cemented that I wanted to eventually move to Australia.
On my return to the UK, I moved to London to work at the University College London Head and Neck centre, which was the reason I applied to the Dental School. I gained a place (1 of 8 per year) for a condensed 3yr program at King’s College. During my studies I continued to work in the maxillofacial department, got married to a Kiwi and managed to graduate with Honours in 2011. After graduation I was partly working as a doctor and partly as a dentist to get an understanding of both specialties. I also managed to have two beautiful boys.
Then as a family we decided that we missed the amazing Mediterranean weather too much so we decided to move to Perth, Australia, in 2015.
I now fully practice dentistry with a special interest in cosmetic alignment and smile makeovers, complex medical cases and snoring and sleep apnoea in a boutique practice in central Perth. Outside of work I love the outside lifestyle that Perth delivers with regular surf boat rowing, ocean swimming and bike riding. I also love being very involved with Sorrento lifesaving club and regularly patrol the beaches during the summer months.
I would have to say that it is definitely the people you meet along the way that have shaped me but I will never forget the long hours that Mrs Secker and Mr Lochhead devoted to my higher Maths (which I had to work on the most) and I am forever grateful for all the extra lengths that all the teachers at Aloha went to to help those that wanted to realise their goals.”
We are always looking at ways to engage our alumni in the work of the college and wherever your journey has taken you since leaving us, get in touch on the email@example.com email. We would really like to hear from you and hopefully see you again one day. If you are planning a visit to Marbella during term time and would like to come in, drop us a line in advance and we can plan a visit.