Caroline Ralston, Travel and Tourism Management

What are you doing now; tell us about your role and your journey since graduation?

Since completing my BA (Hons) Travel and Tourism Management degree in 2007 I’ve launched my own business, Proposal Boutique in Dubai. It’s a bespoke engagement proposal planning service to make that special moment even more magical.

I decided to set up Proposal Boutique after my boyfriend Tom Ralston (also a Derby graduate, he studied BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology) proposed to me on a five-day holiday to New York one Christmas. Every single aspect of the proposal was perfectly planned. It was everything I dreamed it would be and I love telling my story to everyone I meet.  Now I make it my goal to help others plan a truly amazing proposal.

Proposal Boutique creates unique proposal ideas, scouts locations and hires caterers, musicians, photographers and videographers. We then draw up the necessary contracts, acquire permits, source the perfect accessories, attend the proposal to ensure it all runs smoothly, plan contingencies…the list goes on!

Tom and I recently worked together on Dubai’s largest ever proposal, where the all-important question was popped in the middle of a ‘We Will Rock You’ concert.

What were the main reasons you took that course?

I’ve always loved Travel and Tourism but when I started the course at Derby I wasn’t sure of the exact career path I wanted to follow, however I knew the University would help me find placements and other opportunities. I always found the Travel and Tourism industry very exciting and I knew one day I wanted to work and live overseas.

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

As soon as I visited the University of Derby, I knew this was the place for me. The tutors seamed so approachable and the course seemed very hands-on with amazing field trips. The stories of past students sounded very impressive, so I knew my future would be in safe hands.

The social side was also another major influencing factor, the University seemed big, but not too big and throughout my time it always felt like home. The students all seemed to know each other and there was a real feeling of community. I only have the very best memories from my time there.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

I cannot thank The University of Derby enough for my business success. The course taught me everything I needed to know about how to be an entrepreneur. When starting a business, you need the confidence to succeed and ongoing support from your peers and this is something that I have ­­- thanks to my time at the University.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

They were constantly there to challenge and push my boundaries. They really do try to get the very best from you. They had an open door policy, so you could pop by and say hi or ask for guidance and I was never turned away.

They always spent time with me and it really felt like they were investing in my future. After graduating eight years ago I still have great support from my amazing lecturers; they gave me the skills and confidence to set up my own business.

How do you feel the University has helped you in your career so far?

I was given the opportunity to take a year out between the second and third year of study and this is something that really shaped my future. I spent a year in Australia gathering research for my final year dissertation which also gave me invaluable life skills and the confidence to live and work overseas.

What are your future plans?

I am already taking full advantage of all that Dubai has to offer and have built great relationships with many vendors in the city; hotels, restaurants, musicians, bars, photographers and florists which will support my business. Plus I’m currently in very exciting talks with other major suppliers from the United Arab Emirates.

There are many exciting future plans with Proposal Boutique and would love to have a special TV series in the UAE that would showcase some of our proposals.

To find out more about Proposal Boutique visit:

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

  • Stay open to opportunities - never say never to any opportunity you never know when you will need that experience in the future
  • Have fun - I graduated with First Class Honours and had the most fun I have ever had
  • You need a healthy balance of work and play
  • Maintain a good relationship with your lecturers, they will become your friends and open up many opportunities in the future for you.

Who are you still in touch with from University of Derby?

The wonderfully weird Geoff Shirt (now retired), Peter Wiltshire, Asia Alder and Iride Azara.

"As soon as I visited the University of Derby, I knew this was the place for me. The tutors seemed so approachable and the course seemed very hands-on with amazing field trips." Caroline Ralston