Samuel and Allegra - BA (Hons) Digital Marketing

Allegra and Sam
Two RGU students with very different paths are graduating together this summer as part of a unique group who can rightly claim to be the first of their kind in Scotland.

Sam Sharp and Allegra Barbalonga, 22 and from Aberdeen and Rome respectively, will now always share common ground having both graduated as part of Scotland’s first ever cohort of Digital Marketing students.

Despite their contrasting backgrounds, they’ve both enjoyed similarly rewarding experiences while gaining their degrees and will have been equally delighted to step across the stage at the School of Creative and Cultural Business graduation ceremony this Summer.

“I’ve always had a keen interest in all things digital since I was young with my parents both being in the creative industries”, said Sam, an Aberdeen Grammar School leaver. “Digital marketing stood out to me due to the ever-evolving way in which the world is shifting, everything is becoming digitalised so the requirement for digital marketing will remain strong for a good while.”

Allegra studied in Muscat, Oman directly prior to moving to Aberdeen. On her decision to relocate to the North East, she said: “I decided that I wanted to study digital marketing and, although I looked at various universities, none of them included the hands-on modules that RGU was offering. For this reason, I decided I wanted to study at RGU.”

It wasn’t plain sailing for this significant group of students with the pandemic striking midway through their course, enforcing teaching to go online and University life to drastically alter. However, this transition was made somewhat smoother thanks to the support offered by staff.

“The most challenging period was during Covid and the rapid shift to online teaching. In the first two years there were a lot of group projects but staff were able to provide us with all the support necessary to reassure us of any doubts for the modules, even from afar”, said Allegra.

“They made it feel like a friendly community in the course which resulted in a great online experience both during Covid as well as during my placement. I felt like the staff always had our back and were constantly encouraging everyone to do their best and believe in themselves and that is something I appreciated a lot. It increased my self-confidence both personally and professionally.”

Sam added: “The flexibility that my lecturers have provided, particularly Course Leader, Dr Helen Dargie, has been paramount to me. She made sure that I had the arrangements in place should I need to miss classes for a week or so for work, yet not fall behind. That for me has been a real highlight.”

A key element to the course, and why many are so popular at RGU, is due to the ability to undertake a year’s industry placement. Allegra spent her time at Hewlett Packard Enterprise as a Global Marketing Intern.

“I got to work for an amazing company for a whole year and create strong connections in the work environment, further increasing my professional skills. I had the chance to put my skills into practice and challenge myself and the skills learned at University.

“I felt incredibly appreciated by the whole company for the expertise I learned at RGU, and what I was then bringing into the company too. I must admit that the year-long placement opportunity is the highlight of my time.”

Sam made use of the flexibility afforded to him to kickstart his own business, Sharpi Studios: “There has always been a strong focus on developing your career at RGU and ensuring that you have the best possible resources to hit the ground running once you leave, however, the staff at RGU have enabled me to do this simultaneously within my studies.

“I started my photography business mid-Covid during my second year, when University shifted online and I was put on furlough. The business offers professional photography to commercial businesses in Aberdeen that are looking to elevate their digital presence, whether this be on their social media channels, websites, or ad’ campaigns.”

Both students highlighted the quality of the modules involved in their Digital Marketing degree and how it brought the course to life.

“Modules within the Digital Marketing course have been a great foundation for dealing with real-life clients in the industry. It’s not always plain sailing when working on creative projects for many reasons, so having experience in how to navigate and ultimately mitigate these issues has been incredibly useful”, said Sam.

Similarly, Allegra added: “The practical approach to each module was a great way to give me the opportunity to better understand what I was looking for in a job. Each module provided real-life examples and simulation of a work environment that made me feel like I am now ready to enter the work environment confident of what I can offer the company.”

A sportsman as well as a business owner, Sam was also keen to emphasise the importance of the social side of joining University: “The people that I have met throughout my time at RGU has been the biggest thing for me, not only my peers on the course but the lecturers, sports staff, and other members of the sporting teams.

“Whilst I’m incredibly happy with my degree in the end of it all, the social benefits that I have seen as a result of attending RGU have been brilliant. Everything from the people you will meet to the events you'll attend. This, for me is what has really topped of my time at university. Overall, it’s been great.”

Having both obtained a first class honours degree, Allegra is keen to jump straight back into work and apply the expertise that she’s gained from her time at RGU. For her peer, Sam, the time is now to take Sharpi Studios to the next level.

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