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Catching up with... Victor Smith

Victor Smith graduated from Kingston in 1981. He has travelled the world and now lives with his partner in Thailand. He's a Chartered Arbitrator, Chartered Quantity Surveyor and Chartered Builder with his own firm, but says that he still misses the fresh mornings we get in the UK.

Victor with his mother and his partner receiving his LLM

What degree did you do at Kingston?

I did a BSc in Quantity Surveying from 1977 to 1981 – it was a four-year sandwich course.

Why did you choose Kingston?

It was close to London, not far from home and I was able to live on Kingston Hill next to Richmond Park.

What do you remember about your time at Kingston? In three words.

Work, women and beer (and not necessarily in that order!)

Are you still in touch with anyone from your Kingston days? And have you been back since?

I'm still in contact with Phil Waugh who took the same degree as me and now lives in Brunei. I visited the Students' Union bar a few years after leaving but I felt too old to re-visit.

How has your time at Kingston shaped your career?

It gave me the qualification to become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and travel the world – I have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah and Riyadh), Italy (Milan), France (Paris), Nigeria (Katsina) and Thailand (Bangkok).

What are you doing now?

I am now a Chartered Arbitrator, Chartered Quantity Surveyor and Chartered Builder with my own firm in Bangkok.

How did you come to be living and working in Thailand? 

I received a three-month assignment 20 years ago to settle a final account on a hotel project. I fell in love with the people and the country.

What do you like most about living in Thailand and miss most about living in the UK?

I love the challenge of getting things done in Thailand. The people are so nice – they always smile and say 'no problem' putting one at ease. However, when you go back to ask if the assignment has been completed they often say 'what assignment?'. This applies equally for staff, clients and external consultants. And I miss the fresh mornings that you get in the UK.

What are the biggest challenges facing any graduate going to work in another country – apart from the language?

Flexibility and not lowering your standards. Many people fall into the trap of lowering their standards to the local standards, which I consider not acceptable for professionals. Having said that, there is a need for flexibility and avoiding confrontation, especially in Thailand as Thais do not handle confrontation situations well.

What has been your greatest achievement? 

Several – getting a Distinction in my LLM Masters of Laws, buying a brand new Harley in 2008, and being able to take my 74-year-old mother to different places all over the world, such as the top of Ankor Wat in Cambodia.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

I received an LLM Master of Laws degree in International Commercial Law in 2007, but I would definitely say ‘take more academic qualifications earlier' as the older you get the harder it is to study.

Do you have family in Thailand?

I have been married twice but now live with my girlfriend of 10 years, Anong Treesayajan. She is Thai but her grandparents were Chinese. Anong is currently taking her masters degree to teach English.

What last made you laugh?

My mother trying unsuccessfully to peel a pineapple. 

Victor enjoys travelling on his HarleyWhat's your ideal weekend?

Travelling through northern Thailand with my friends on our Harleys.

Tell us something we would never guess about you?

I never thought I would live outside of the UK.

You are to live out your final days on a desert island …

Who would you take with you any why? Spike Milligan – to make me laugh.

What book would you take and why? Any Jean le Carré novel – I like intrigue.

What movie would you take and why? Any Bob Hope classic (Road to Mandalay etc) – to make me laugh.

What food item would you take and why? French bread – to go with the wine.

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