MORE than 40 past pupils returned to Ripon Grammar School to give current students the benefit of their advice on life after leaving school.

From working as a barista in Berlin to travelling in Australia and volunteering in an orphanage in Ghana, many students were keen to share their experiences of taking a gap year.

They were joined by those studying a range of courses, from animal science and architecture to dentistry, economics, law, medicine, nursing, philosophy and TV and film set design at university, who all offered valuable advice.

Topics covered included everything from living away from home, how to pick the right university, what to do when you don’t get the results you expect and entering the world of work.

One of the key messages to those students struggling to decide what they want to do following A-levels was: “Don’t worry. You can always change your mind.”

Head of sixth form Terry Fell said he was delighted to welcome so many wonderful former pupils back to school for this increasingly popular event and to catch up on their exciting news and experiences of life beyond school.

“Particularly kind was their willingness to share that experience and advice with our lower sixth formers who are on the threshold of starting to form their own plans and aspirations beyond school, and our upper sixth formers who are now just months away from following in their footsteps.”

One human resources specialist at a luxury five-star hotel told how she stumbled across her dream job while taking time out to decide what to do following A-levels.

Emily Leslie, 19, from Ripon, didn’t get a place on the university course she’d applied for but, while working in a bar, she was offered the chance of a human resources apprenticeship, working for the five-star luxury hotel and spa Grantley Hall.

Speaking in front of an audience of more than 100 students, she told them how, within three months, she had been promoted from apprentice to HR administrator: “I wasn’t sure I wanted it at first, but it didn’t take me long to realise that this was what I want to do.”

She revealed how the job has given her a huge amount of valuable experience in a range of fields and developed her as a person: “I used to be really shy, now I deliver talks. My progression in just seven months, learning about so many different aspects of the industry, has been amazing.”

She added: “I am 19 years old and I’m already building a career and saving for my first house and I am passionate about what I do.”

Another former student told how he was inspired to apply to drama school while travelling in Australia.

Finlay Atkinson, 18, from Pickhill, who performed in school productions of Billy Elliot, Les Misérables and She Stoops to Conquer, had second thoughts about taking a university degree course in American Studies.

“I always wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t think it was possible. Now I’ve decided I am going to go for it.

Elite rugby player Abi Lovel from Mickley, near Ripon, gave students advice about juggling sports and study at university.

Abi, 18, plays alongside a number of England and professional rugby players in the First team at Durham University, where she is studying geography.

The former Yorkshire player has been training up to six times a week: “It’s intense. My advice is to get the balance right early on, organise your time well and if you miss lectures, catch up straight away.”

*RGS Sixth Form Open Evening, January 20, 6.30pm. For more information, visit www.ripongrammar.co.uk