BA Geography with International Development - Isabelle Nelder

Isabelle Nelder studied BA Geography with International Development at UEA.

Here she talks about the careers support which helped to shape her future.

What did you like best about your course?

I absolutely loved my course at UEA. I loved how broad the course was.

There were a lot of optional modules so you could pick exactly what you were interested in.

I also had the opportunity complete field trips, ranging from a local trip in Norfolk for a weekend to trips to India or Chile. That was a good experience because it took you outside of the classroom and allowed you to learn on the job and apply what you are learning.

The thing that I really liked about the course was that was the combination of geography and International Development. It is important to understand the relationship between people and place and how those two interact so I would say that is UEA’s unique selling point that it offers the combination of the two. 

I liked the course focus on wider learning and employability skills, not just academia. 

What inspired you during your studies?

I travelled to Chile on a field course. That solidified my want to work in that field because I enjoyed applying those skills.

We had eight weeks of classroom research, background learning, and then we went on the trip and then you had a period of analysis. I think the way the course is structured over the three years gives you that good foundation at the start and enables you to grow.

I enjoyed contemporary issues in resource development and conservation as that was not something I'd ever encountered before.
I enjoyed GIS module since I got practical skills and enjoyed environmental economics.

It was taking what you've learned, using a tool, and then applying it. I thought that's exactly what we needed in order to be able to go into the working world.

How did the course help you develop your current career?

I think UEA has a good breadth as well as depth.

You could study whatever area of geography and International Development you find most interesting and find your own path.

Also, I think UEA’s reputation stands students in very good stead for a career in International Development. It's very well known within the sector, it's just clear that UEA is one of the leaders in this space.

What were your enduring memories of UEA?

My enduring memory is absolutely my friends. It is easy to bump into the people you know on UEA campus, especially when sitting in the square. 

I also was lucky to enjoy lots of great events. I also worked in the Students’ Union bakery, which allowed me to be a team leader and work my way up. 
I look back on my time at UEA fondly. I think it made me, and I just feel grateful for the friends I made, the lecturers that I am still in contact with and the course itself.

How did UEA support you to build your professional network?

I took all the opportunities that UEA offered. I attended a presentation from CareerCentral specifically for International Development students.

They gave a list of the recruitment sites for International Development, including a Facebook page and that is where I found my job. UEA steered me in that right direction and gave me the tools to enable me to find the right job for me.

And when I got through the interview for the job that I've got now, I had two different mock interviews with Career Central. I would not have got the job had I have not done those interviews.

In terms of building networks, I'm still in contact with some of the lecturers at UEA.

The world is huge, but it seems that the sector of International Development is quite small. Through the research I’m now working on, I see my lecturers’ names all the time and I get a little bit of excitement to see they are the leaders in their area of work.

It just shows how well connected and networked you are if you have been to UEA.

How did you prepare for your career ahead of your graduation?

I graduated in July and started my job two days before I graduated, so there wasn't a lot of space to do any preparation in that time!

But from the age of about 16 or 17, I had a job at local retail shops, and I went out of my way to find other opportunities like volunteering that would allow me to get the career that I wanted. 

My main advice would be to use every single summer at university if you can to try volunteering in something.

I worked for a unit in the City Council, the Civil Protection unit, over one summer. That gave me experience of working in an office using spreadsheets, basic admin office stuff.

And then I also worked for another organization who are a natural hazard response charity and that gave me much better grounding in projects, programs, and kind of a thematic area, so working in Disaster Risk Reduction and response. Those two together gave me a lot of skills.

I would say use every bit of free time you have to do something extra which will help to make you stand apart from everyone else.

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do before you graduated?

I was lucky because I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I've always wanted help people and I wanted to find a career where I would be best placed to do that.

And then, just as I got older, I just loved geography and I loved the human and physical and how it came together. I wanted to find a way to combine my love and interest of geography with my want and desire to help people and for equality and fairness. I think the most obvious choice is International Development and it was absolutely perfect.

From about 16 years old, I could tailor my experiences so that all those opportunities put me in the right direction to get to the job I have now. 
After being in the job for two years, I absolutely love it and I don't think I would want to do anything else.

What was your first job after graduation?

My job title was assistant coordinator and I work for a company called Practical Action.

They are an international NGO and they work to change ambitions in automatic areas. They work in energy access, resilience or any kind of Disaster Risk Reduction, agriculture and then water sanitation and hygiene, it's a big company. There's a lot of areas of work and there are many brilliant people in the organisation who are intelligent and skilled.

As assistant coordinator, I worked in the department called PAC (practical action consulting).

My job was providing support to the thematic teams, so not being a thematic expert but providing the business development support. I would be responsible for sourcing consultants to use in our projects. 

Now I am business development and communications coordinator. I put more focus on communicating our work internally and externally. 
My end goal is to be one of the technical people and my area of interest is Disaster Risk Reduction or disaster management.