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News > Updates from our ONs > Catching up with ON Andra Stan

Catching up with ON Andra Stan

Our thanks to Andra Stan (Class of 2007) for sharing what she has been doing since her Sixth Form years at Adams. We hope you enjoy reading her news as much as we have.
ON Andra Stan, Class of 2007
ON Andra Stan, Class of 2007

Andra's news - May 2022

A massive thank you for the opportunity to share some of my story since leaving Adams. Not only has this given me an opportunity to reflect on the last 15 years, but also starkly reminded me of how quickly time flies!

Sending this article from Shanghai, China - the above picture shows one of the iconic scenes from the city – the Bund!

After finishing Sixth Form, I went on to study English and Related Literature (with Italian) at York University where I also had the opportunity to study in Italy for a year!

I’m sure I wasn’t alone then, and perhaps some of you heading to uni soon can empathise now, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do next, so decided to continue my studies with a Masters in International Relations at Warwick University. This, I should say, was one of my best decisions; the Masters allowed me to refine my studies in an interest that drew upon my passions and was a foundation for my future.

Having always been passionate about languages, cultures and travel, this has underpinned many of the choices that have got me to where I am today. For some who may know me, I’m always up for an adventure and naturally curious to learn and explore.

Mix these together and here I am today; I live in Shanghai where I have been based for the last three years and I work as the HR & Communications Director for McCain Foods. Yep, your favourite chips… all the way in China!

Getting here hasn’t been a straight path, and this is one of the main things I’d love for anyone reading to take away – the path may seem like it has to be linear, clear… but I would encourage us all to embrace the ‘squiggly’ route… and see what opportunities and adventure await.

In fact chips and China were not something I’d ever envisaged! After my Masters I went to work as a volunteer in the Maldives… a wonderful experience that not only showed me the beauty of nature (yes, it is as stunning as the pictures you see online) but also the beauty of people and culture.

Here I worked in a school, on a remote island focusing on supporting education policy. Sadly I had to leave earlier than planned due to a change in the political landscape in the country but even my short few months in the country showed me the importance of understanding people for who they are, how culture shapes a community and how all the elements of my previous studies on politics and society come together beyond the theory.

Coming back to the UK, it was time to consider what to do next. At this point I took a sales role with McCain – fryer in the boot of my car, I became the local chip girl! 

While this wasn’t something I had planned to focus on for a considerable amount of time, as I started working in sales I began to get a greater understanding of how businesses work and operate.

After a year of sales I had the opportunity to move into a different role – Corporate Affairs, which is a lesser known role but one that supports the reputation and risk management of a company.

It was a fabulous time where I was able to learn so much - not only about the business of chips but also the whole agricultural supply chain, including spending many hours with local farmers who grew the potatoes for the products – many of which are in Newport and nearby across Shropshire! On top of this, I had the opportunity to work closely in Westminster and get a greater understanding of the regulatory and political landscape.

Several years later, I made the decision to pause my time with the fries and work for the Civil Service where I worked for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. What an insightful time this was – in the midst of preparing for Brexit, my role was to build a new function within the department to bring parliament and business closer together. Quite a challenging time but through challenge you grow!

And next comes China. I arrived here early May 2019, and I am now one of the Directors for the local business. You may ask how do chips get to China? Well, a long journey and one for another day, but to reinforce the earlier point, embracing the ‘squiggly’ path allows you to have adventures perhaps you never imagined.

Three years into my China life, I have met incredible people, I continue to learn a new culture and environment rooted in thousands of years of history, I am attempting (!) to add to my language bank, and have the opportunities to travel to new places I would never have imagined, all while building my career.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always the filtered pics on the gram; it is tough. I spend most days not really understanding what is being said or needing to translate something every hour. I have had to learn the ‘dos and don'ts, to understand a new social context and have had to make some sacrifices such as not seeing my family and friends during three years due to the Covid outbreak.

And Covid brings us to this moment as I write this article, as Shanghai comes out of one of the strictest lockdowns seen in the world. While of course we can focus on the incredible challenges and the ups and downs experienced during this time, instead what’s more lasting is that even in adversity, in challenging times, the positivity and how society has come together has been quite remarkable. 

This lockdown has seen supply chain challenges with food being scarce, not being able to leave past the front door for two months, and being unsure of when the restrictions will lift. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough, but the community where we live has been unified through these challenges; neighbours cooking for each other, learning more about each other as we queued for Covid testing, practicing language skills together (the old lady next door trying her English as I try to recall some more Chinese phrases!). It’s these memories that will last in our small community once restrictions have lifted and it’s these moments that I value and am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced through my career and my ‘squiggly path’ that has led me to a life I would perhaps have never imagined in 2007 when I left Newport for the adventures ahead.

So for those of you starting the first steps into your new chapters, I wish you all the very best. And remember, the path is not and does not always have to be a straight line, there are many opportunities and experiences out there for you- embrace them.




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