• Sun. May 26th, 2024

North East Connected

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(Working) life is a rollercoaster

There can be few student graduating university this summer who can claim that their dreams have literally come true – but Jon Hawkins can.

Jon, 26, graduated from the University of Sunderland this week with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Back in May Jon completed his final exam, and the next day jumped on a plane to France to start his job as theme park engineer.

For a kid who had spent every holiday with his family travelling to theme parks around the world, it was a dream come true.

“The day after my final exam I moved overseas to a company called Interlink based in Avignon, Southern France, and then flew out to help install a water flume attraction inside of a shopping centre.”

Now Jon is working as an engineer for Interlink, theme park ride specialists who design and build rides around the world, but only a few years ago it seemed like an impossible dream to the young engineer from Sunderland.

“Before I came to university I worked as a manager in a bar, but I always knew I wanted to do more. Studying something you have a genuine interest in makes university a lot easier – but I quickly realised that I needed to go out and network with people in the industry I wanted to work in.”

Jon approached the University’s Development Office to support him to achieve his dream. The University’s award-winning DOSH (Development Office Scholarships) offer tens of thousands of pounds worth of funding every year to Sunderland students to help them achieve their ambitions and further their professional experience.

The funding allowed Jon to travel to Hong Kong and attend the IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), a themed entertainment trade show and networking event.

“That was my first opportunity to speak with people in the theme park industry and build relationships. It was a huge first step for me.

“I was then funded to take part in a short placement at two companies based in the Midlands who I met in Hong Kong. They build everything from simulator rides to trams.

“The University also gave me funding to help with the move overseas. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have without their support.”

Jon returned to Sunderland briefly to pick up his degree at the Stadium of Light, and then is flying out again to help create more heart-stopping theme park rides across the world.

“When I was a kid my family always went on holiday to theme parks, so this really is a dream for me.”

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