21 November 2023

Samiha Begum’s UEA journey

Samiha Begum with London skyline behind her.Samiha Begum studied BA History at UEA from 2017-2020. Samiha now works as Graduate Trainee at KPMG, after a stint in the Civil Service. Samiha talked to us about building a career and studying history at UEA.

I look back with pride at how far I’ve come since graduating at a time of great uncertainty. Hard work and perseverance eventually paid off!

What have you been up to since you graduated?

I graduated in 2020 during the pandemic so it wasn’t easy finding a job. I finished the final weeks of my degree at home with my family in London and then looked for work. I eventually found a job in a higher education centre where I picked up lots of transferable skills, befriended wonderful colleagues and learned more about working as a team. A year later I was thrilled to receive an offer to work in the Civil Service in a Governance post. I had wanted to work for the Civil Service since a careers event at school and I really enjoyed every day and learned so much from my line manager to whom I will always be grateful. Eight months into this post I won a place on a training programme at one of the Big Four accounting firms. I felt torn about leaving the Civil Service, but my colleagues were really supportive and encouraged me to do what was best for my long-term career. So, I started working in audit in October 2022. It’s been extremely rewarding so far: challenging, yes, but also very interesting working on my first engagement. I’ve completed my first four exams and have eleven to go until I qualify.

What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?

When I started at UEA I didn’t have any concrete career plans other than studying History because I loved the subject and thought I’d just figure what came next. However, I started giving my career serious thought during my second year and by the time that I started my final year and did work experience at my current firm, I knew that I wanted to work at a Big Four accountancy firm.

Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA.

I attended an open day at UEA, arriving from London with an open mind and not knowing much about the university but leaving convinced that I wanted to study in Norwich. I met academics from the History School who were so welcoming and passionate. 

I really enjoyed my time at UEA. Being away from my family was sometimes isolating but I made some great friends as a result. As far as learning went, I particularly enjoyed doing French History, first with a second-year module on eighteenth-century Paris and later with a year-long module on the Revolution of 1789. My favourite lectures and seminars demonstrated our lecturers’ passion for research.

In your career what key tasks & skills are involved on a day-to-day basis, and what are/have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects?

Each day is different in my current role which makes it exciting and forces me to learn about the ins and outs of the business. The most challenging aspect has been studying exams and studying alongside a full time job, but completing the exams has simultaneously been the most rewarding aspect.
Has your degree influenced your career? (This could be skills gained, technical knowledge, confidence, or other benefits.)

A History BA and a career in audit seem an odd match at first glance, but in reality the transferable skills – such as critical reasoning and problem-solving – that I gained during my years at UEA help me in my work. 

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

I look back with pride at how far I’ve come since graduating at a time of great uncertainty. Hard work and perseverance eventually paid off!

What were your experiences of Norwich? Is there anything in particular that you miss or have fond memories of?

Norwich truly is a lovely city to call home. I loved exploring the centre with my friends. One of my fondest memories is from the March 2018 snowstorm. We had booked tickets to watch Black Panther but woke up to thick snow. We soon found out that there were no buses or taxis running and so we had to brave the weather.

Would you recommend studying at UEA? Why?

Yes, I would recommend studying at UEA because I was well supported during my studies and even after finishing my degree. I really enjoyed my time at UEA. The campus is beautiful and I now miss walking around the lake and grounds during the summer, and stumbling upon unexplored corners. 
Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?
I would say: don’t let ‘not having a plan’ or feeling ‘behind’ discourage you!

Samiha Begum studied BA History at UEA.