We had the good fortune of having Sarah Marleen Abay come in at lunch time on 23rd September to talk to the Grade 11s and 12s about her university choices and career path. She is an energetic speaker and gave an engaging talk about her time at LIS, her choice of University in Scotland, her start working at RB Leipzig Football Club and her recently completed MBA from the HHL. She kindly gave us an interview before she went on stage.
Hi Sarah, thanks for being with us today, could you tell me when you graduated from LIS?
I moved to Leipzig in 2004 which is also when I started at LIS and I graduated in 2010. So it’s already quite some time ago and since then I moved back to Leipzig in 2014 after my studies in Scotland.
I also recently graduated from HHL with a Master in Business Administration.
What subjects did you take at LIS?
That would be English Literature HL, German Literarture, Maths Studies because I wasn’t so good at Maths, I had Biology, Art and History.
What are you doing now?
I’m at RB Leipzig. I already started working there as an intern during my studies because my third year entailed completing an internship. I was lucky to get in back then and I proceeded to work my way up and am now working as Head of Processes and Internal Services. So I’m in the sportive department. I do work with the football players but not as much as some people would like. 🙂
How did your time at LIS prepare you for your academic life and for your journey after school?
Back then LIS was really small, we were 16 people graduating in 2010. It meant that there was a lot of contact and one on one feeling, which was really important to me. In a normal German school system I got lost. It was really nice to have teachers who really cared about you. Even nowadays I’m still in touch with some of them. For me personally, LIS was the best chance to get to where I am now. I probably would never have graduated from Universtiy or even got there, if it had not been for the teachers at LIS.
Do you have any special memories?
The last day of school we had Mr Ragget dressed up in a dress acting out a scene from Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was really funny.
What advice would you give young people with similar goals?
What I would have wanted to hear when I was younger was that you can achieve everything you want to if you believe in it. I repeated Grade 11 back then and someone told my father that I was not intelligent enough to manage the IB and he said “No no, she’ll do it!” Ms Eels, Head of Student Support Services, then kicked my ass, and that really helped and got me through the IB. That is what I would like to tell any young people. You can achieve anything if you truly dedicate yourself to it.
I really wasn’t any good at Maths but I always found ways around it. In my Erasmus year in Amsterdam, I knew that the marks weren’t going to count towards my final results so I could take classes I wouldn’t have dared to otherwise. I enrolled in a lot of finance classes and got the opportunity to gain insight into those areas without being afraid of losing points towards my final grade.
I realised during my studies that mathematics was not where I should put my focus. I started to use the things I am good at. I’m good at communicating and I’m good at organizing.
You’ve been involved in quiet a few organisations during your studies. Could you tell us a bit about them?
In my third year in Scotland I founded the Young Trustees in Scotland together with a professor. We arranged volunteers for NGO’s. These trustees form a group that represented that organization’s target market to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making”. We started with four or five people and now they are over 60.
I was also a business school representative and worked with the academic board which worked to come up with a way to explain the grading system to new students. It is very difficult to understand when one comes from abroad.
During my time at the HHL I was also part of the HHL Senate – we are a board of 4 students and 20 academic staff that discusses all kinds of academic matters. It was a very fulfilling role and it’s wonderful to be part of an institution that involves all of its members in decision making processes.
What are some of the things you are most proud of?
Most recently, giving the graduation speech at the HHL Graduation Ceremony in front of all the graduates, their families as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Legarde, Director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), no less. I’m very proud of myself for managing to get my MBA while also working full time.
What do you think your future holds?
When I was in Grade 11 I thought I was going to move to Africa and take care of animals. My life turned out very different. One thing I learned is that you can’t always plan what the future holds. I don’t know where I will be in ten years but I hope that I will be happy and love what I do, like I do now. But I will go with the flow and see what happens.
What are your hopes for LIS?
I hope it stays this familiar school that makes you feel at home, like it did for me. Even when you are having a hard time, for some students it’s tough being a teenager and this familiar feeling is very encouraging.
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