Meet Arnau, a first officer currently building his flight hours in the Maldives...
In my first article “How to become a Pilot: a step by step guide”, I addressed the general details of the different methods on how to become a pilot. Whilst that guide objectively lays out the pros and cons of the different directions a prospective pilot student can take to achieve the end goal of entering the commercial aviation sector, I did not detail my own experiences and subjective takes on the process...
In this new article I aim to explain my personal experience of doing a Modular pilot training format whilst balancing it with my University studies, also laying out some tips and advice.
When I decided that I wanted to pursue a career as a pilot, it started a long series of discussions with my parents regarding timing, financing and expectations. These discussions finally yielded the shared view that doing a Modular type of training whilst getting a separate Bachelor’s degree would personally be the best way to go. By doing this, we were able to spread out the financial impact of my pilot studies over many years as well as prepare me for any uncertainties that could arise in the future such as declination of the aviation industry, loss of medical or incompatibility of my personal life with a pilot job.
The choice of degree, a double Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Telecommunications Engineering was indeed a safe bet to ensure plenty of job options in the future but also could have been seen as a potential setback to my pilot studies due to the complexity of the degree.
Never choose a degree just for the sake of having one
This leads to my first piece of advice for anyone choosing a similar route of becoming a pilot, never choose a degree just for the sake of having one because what that does is lower your motivation to complete that degree. Also, if you ever get the chance to work in that sector, you will struggle to find a job that really fulfills your goals. Take your time, do your research on all types of degrees in different countries and try to find one that really suits you.
The struggles that come with this method of becoming a pilot are applicable to a lot of pilot students, whether they’re studying any form of higher education or working a job and trying to balance it with their pilot studies. The lack of time, the constraints fixed by other commitments with all the pressures associated to them, can lead to some stressful and difficult times along the way.
I myself really struggled in some periods of time. I remember finishing my first year of University and failing a few courses and feeling like this path wasn’t taking me to where I wanted to be in the future. Here, at this point, values such as discipline and perseverance are the ones needed to overcome these momentary feelings of frustration and being able to focus and believe in your long-term plans. But, at these moments, I’d argue that the most important
help will be found around the people you have besides you.
Have your best people around you
Whether it’s family, friends, work colleagues, study partners or anyone else, there is nothing even close to the importance of having people around you who believe in you and in your goal, and will lift you up in the moments where you doubt everything. I myself would have never got where I am without the continuous support of my family and close friends, who, when I most needed it, lifted me up and kept me going.
Because, always remember, both the job of a pilot and the journey to getting there are team efforts, the better the team you surround yourself with, the easier it’ll be to achieve your goals and, even more importantly, the less of a struggle it’ll be to pull through the difficult times that come along the way.
Decide if you're going to work or study in your spare time
It is also important to mention that regardless of your personal circumstances, whether you choose to either work or study whilst trying to complete your flight training, it is hard to plan well when to find the time to do everything you want to as most of your time off and vacations will have to be dedicated to flying. It does not sound as a sacrifice at first because flying is our shared passion but when it takes time away from time you would be relaxing, having fun or spending it with your loved ones then it can be a bit hard sometimes on your mental health. This topic is what leads me to my last but most important point, happiness and mental health.
Be intentional about finding a balance
Speaking from experience, balancing either work or University with flight school is an extremely time-consuming task that can lead to many times where you’d be wishing you are focusing on your present social and personal life rather than solely on your future. It is a very long journey that, in the future, you might regret not having enjoyed yourself enough and I think there is a very important balance to be found there, which is a lot easier said than done.
Your focus on the future cannot be the sole driver of your choices in life. The balance between the future goals and present happiness the most important balance to be found during any period of time.
My final conclusions
Overall, one of the most important things that engineering has taught me is that if you put your mind and effort into it, with good time management, you are capable of doing much more than what you think is possible at the moment.
Will you have to make sacrifices in order to balance work/University with flight training? Yes.
Will you have to make difficult decisions along the way? Yes, of course.
Can it be done? Yes, if you are willing to put in the hard work.
Will you look back and have done stuff differently? Yes, no one gets everything right the first time.
Does it have to come at the cost of your happiness? NO.
Because what is the point of working towards a future that you hope will make you happy if you are not happy in the present? You must do your best to enjoy the journey.
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