18 March 2020

My UEA Story: Rachel Sawers

Development with Social Anthropology and Politics | 2017 

When I finished my degree in 2017, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I found my degree absolutely fascinating but the problem was I was interested in a lot of things and didn’t feel u had a specific career trajectory in mind. I spent the year after graduating in Norwich working in a couple of jobs. I spent some time in retail (hated it), six months working on campus (loved it), and interned at a charity called Hope Into Action, all to slowly build up my CV. 

I now work in Bournemouth, as a support worker at a charity called International Care Network (ICN). ICN have contracts with Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset Councils to support the resettlement and integration of Syrian families arriving in England under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. We take on a large proportion of the day-to-day support from the local councils, including picking up the resettled families up from the airport, carrying out local orientation and getting them set up with service providers such as GP’s, schools, and employers. Our aim is to support families to find their feet, build healthy relationships, and successfully integrate into their community. The job is always varied and sometimes extremely difficult, but I love it. I get to build really strong, long-term relationships with the families who arrive, and it is such a privilege to stand alongside and support them during such a pivotal period of their life. 

Do what you love 

One of the things I loved about studying in DEV was that we were able to pursue topics that we were personally interested in. I grew up within a conflict zone in sub-Saharan Africa, and have been back several times to help at trauma healing workshops being run by faith-based organisations there. These experiences sparked an interest in me regarding the effects that experience trauma, either second- or first-hand, can have on development personnel. When it came to approaching a member of staff to supervise my dissertation, I was really apprehensive that I would have to alter my subject matter, as it didn’t fall into anyone’s ‘key research areas’. However, when I approached my course director she encouraged me to stick to the topic that I was passionate about and did an amazing job of supervising and critiquing my progress, despite it not being her specific area of expertise. I especially value this in my current job role, as secondary traumatic stress is something which I have felt so much more equipped to process what I hear, see and experience at work, knowing the practical steps I can take to maintain my wellbeing and ability to care for others.  

Another great thing about UEA is that we were also recommended to take modules outside our School where possible. On a whim, I decided to take beginner’s Arabic class for a semester – which has now come in very handy! 

Expereince counts too 

Yes, internships and coluteerring are very helpful whenit comes to getting a job in the development sector, but neve be afraid to make you of the experience you have picked up incidentally. Your everyday life contributes to the skills and strengths you bring to a job role so don’t be afrai toi apply for jobs that’s may seem a little out of your reach. On paper, I could have considered vastly underqualified to take on my current role, but I sis have international experience, a personal understanding of living in other cultures and I care very deeply that refuges coming to England should know that they are welcomed and valued here. I am so grateful to work for an organisation which sees and values that above age or work experience.