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World Urban Forum 2020 – UCL Climate Action Society

Joe O'Brien25 February 2020

Written by The UCL Climate Action Society

This past weekend UCL students Aliza Ayaz (BSc Global Health, 3rd year) and Tehnia Amir (BSc Information Management, 2nd year) became the first students from the United Kingdom to speak at the United Nations. They were the youngest speakers at the 10th session of the prestigious World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi and represented UCL’s Climate Action Society.

Aliza spoke on Youth, Peace and Security, and Tehnia debated the challenges of implementing climate action strategies in urban spaces.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to have discussed the final declaration alongside Mayor’s, Minsters, and members of the Royal Family of Kuwait and UAE that will be passed as an official Resolution by the UN Habitat. We hope that our participation at such events inspires the youth to push for initiative, to be bold in their demands and to realise that no action is small. We started off as a student club, but thanks to our diverse, dedicated and passionate team, and UCL Careers which made us aware of opportunities at the UN, we have been able to assimilate the educational and awareness aspects of our approach into actual groundwork. This collective support has enabled us to put pressure on various national and international organisation to adapt to climate resilience strategies.”

Tehnia Amir: “Being the youngest speaker on a panel discussion on how to combat Climate Change in Cities, demonstrates how the efforts of young people championing for climate action and sustainable urbanisation are being recognised. Forums like these help to rekindle our hopes in the government, private sector and other change-makers in supporting the most avid contesters for a sustainable future – the youth.”

The UCL Climate Action Society (CAS)

UCL’s Climate Action Society is a pioneering non-profit organisation at the front line of student action for environmental causes. Our approach is multidimensional. We promote sustainable practice in the individual and consumer through varied informative events and media, as well as empowering them to demand climate action. We also invite businesses, politicians and organisations to join our discussions; challenging them to make changes to their practices that are beneficial to both them and the planet.

We host events that aim to converge perspectives, efforts, and solutions on the issues that concern climate change. For example, our flagship event “Sustainability Symposium” is regarded as an impactful conference with attendees from a range of backgrounds who came together at UCL to intrigue and engage British society on climate change. This year, the symposium included a speed mentoring session, many engaging speakers, and a networking dinner with over 320 attendees!

From CAS to the UN

Aliza is the Founder & Chair at CAS and Tehnia Amir is the Events Executive, helping organise various workshops, conferences and activities.

After recognising the lack of coordinated student effort and interest for climate change in UCL, Aliza proactively founded the CAS. With support from UCL, the society organised campaigns to motivate positive changes in climate-related behaviours. CAS facilitated diversity and inclusion in the fight against climate change through organising BME-focused networking dinners and conferences; such efforts were commended and praised by Baroness Young of Hornsey. The CAS committee also organised the first UK-wide “Sustainability Symposium” which won the Student’s Union “Event of the Year” award. Its theme is to link the role of various disciplines, such as economists, statisticians, doctors and scientists, to participate in mitigating and adapting to the consequences of climate change. CAS currently counsels the UCL Policy Commission on the Communication of Climate Science and start-up Rhizome as to methods of creating awareness regarding clime-related health conditions and increasing youth participation in climate action. Subsequently, CAS become the only society globally to be involved with parliamentary lobbying. These efforts were recognised by the United Nations Environment Program.

The experience

WUF10 started in Abu Dhabi on 8 February, with over 17,000 participants. The theme of the Forum was “Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation.”

We took part in the Six Dialogues Sessions at the WUF10 which took stock of emerging innovative approaches and practices in harnessing culture and innovation as drivers for sustainable urbanisation. This provided greater insights into the linkages between urbanisation, culture and innovation as a basis for achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The participants at the World Urban Forum reflects the mix of people that makes our towns and cities a place to stay. Aliza worked with the Mayor of Kabul, Ahmed Zaki Sarfarez, and Prime Minister Bainimarama of Fiji on inclusive, participatory planning. We also attended a session on Youth, Peace and Security which highlighted good-practice youth-led initiatives that contribute to conflict resolution – through community service, civic engagement or the direct participation in formal institutions. It encouraged political decision-makers to build inclusive structures that allow youth ownership and leadership to benefit of young people’s power to build peace.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our trip, or the society itself, please be sure to contact us on Facebook or Instagram.

For UCL Careers’ Sustainability Fortnight events, check out the website.

My Global Internship: how to ace your video interview

skye.aitken27 November 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager at UCL Careers.

Applying for roles overseas means you are inevitably going to experience a video interview, particularly for smaller firms who have no budget to fly all of their applicants over to their offices! There are two types of video interview – pre-recorded ones where you will be given a question and you record your answers and live ones where someone will be on the other end asking questions and engaging in a conversation with you. This blog is going to focus on the latter but advice about pre-recorded video interviews can be found in one of our CareersLab videos, ‘How to ace video interviews

With the right amount of preparation, you can ace your video interview just as well as if it were in-person. What’s more, the way that you conduct yourself is a real life example of how well you can work in a global and remote working context. So how can you prepare?

Before the interview

Student sat in front of an abstract painting whilst holding a brochure whilst at their global internshipThink about the time

Communicate clearly and remember that you may need to take time difference into account. Compare these responses:

  • Could we arrange the interview for 3 next Monday?
  • Could we arrange the interview for 15:00 (GMT) on Monday 11 September?

 The second is much clearer. If you want to offer the suggestion in the interviewer’s time zone, you could write 15:00 (GMT+1) or 15:00 UK / 16:00 France. Time and Date is a good website for checking time differences.

Go the extra mile

Employers are busy, and recruitment of an overseas candidate can already be extra work. Anticipating what information, they may require from you could not only save you both time, but also demonstrates proactive thinking. For example:

Share a list of your contact details. Use your judgement as to what methods to suggest. Whatever you end up using, be aware of your public visibility and make sure what an employer can see is appropriate, from profile pictures to past status updates.

  • Do let me know how you would like to conduct the interview. I have attached my details here should you need:
    • Phone/WhatsApp: +441234567890 (include international dialling code!)
    • Skype: xx@xx.com
    • Zoom: 12345678
    • Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams etc

Enable international calls on your phone. If video communication breaks down, then phone can be a backup option. Ensure you have international calls enabled just in case – ask your service provider.

Show some flexibility. You’re unlikely to be asked to wake up at 3am, but there’s a chance you may have to get up a couple of hours early, use a lunch break, or speak after hours. The more flexible you can be the better (within reason), and shows that you are interested in the role.

Research from afar

It’s essential when preparing to apply for any interview that you research the company – and it’s no different for a video interview. You may be less familiar with aspects of an overseas organisation such as their perception in the local market or the location they are based. The internet is a powerful tool in this situation, and you could use resources such as:

  • Glassdoor – this is useful for any candidate to learn about an organisation from it’s own employees. There is a useful feature allowing you to filter by location. However, be mindful that there are countries where Glassdoor is not commonly used, or small organisations that return limited or no information, which doesn’t necessarily mean the experience won’t be a good one.
  • LinkedIn – you might wish to research the current talent they have hired. You can use LinkedIn to search the organisation’s current and past employees and get an understanding of their background, work experience, interests etc. You might also find a mutual connection somewhere! Take your findings with a pinch of salt – you don’t necessarily have to ‘fit the same mould’.
  • Alumni – use the UCL Alumni Online Community to connect with alumni overseas to get tips about interviewing in their home country.
  • Your prospective organisation’s website – naturally, many organisations have some form of online presence, from LinkedIn to their own domain. Explore this thoroughly to get an understanding of their business, culture, and values.

During the interview

Student sat at a computer with their global internship employerTake challenges in your stride

Any job interview can be stressful, let alone one that is both via video and with an overseas employer. Be aware of potential challenges such as:

  • Language miscommunications. The language of the interview will likely be the same as that of the job description (although do check if you’re unsure!) and this could potentially be the interviewer’s second (or third) language. This may not be a challenge and you might not even realise. However, if you are faced with a situation where miscommunication occurs, don’t worry! Just be honest and ask for clarification where needed – you could ask the interviewer to repeat the question, or repeat the question back to them first to check your understanding.
  • Technical issues. Despite advances in tech, issues can still occur. It’s up to you to make a judgement about what you can live with and what is going to have an impact on your performance. Sometimes the best option is to acknowledge an issue when it occurs, and say you’ll let the interview know if it affects your ability to perform. Do not wait until the end to raise a significant technical issue – it may look like you are making excuses.

Tips from students on the ground

  1. Prepare an introduction to your university or qualifications. Overseas employers may be less familiar with UK universities and the degree classification system. Scholera has a free conversion tool you can use.
  2. Prepare answers to common questions for overseas candidates. For example, previous international experience, adapting to working in a new country etc. For candidates returning to their home country, you could instead be asked about what your international experience has taught you, why you’re looking to return home etc. Interview Stream has a whole section dedicated to common questions asked in international job interviews – access them by selecting ‘conduct an interview’ > ‘custom interview’ > ‘international/global job search’.
  3. If you have told the employer you speak a foreign language, be prepared to use it to answer a few questions. Don’t say you’re a fluent speaker if you’re not comfortable doing this!

So start preparing for your video interviews and put yourself in the best possible position to ace it. Got your own tips to share? Comment below!

My Global Internship: 8 steps to making a strong application

skye.aitken18 November 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager at UCL Careers.

Welcome to the third blog in the ‘My Global Internship’ series. You’ve heard about global mindset and how you can get started with your search for an international internship. Now it’s time to think about making some applications…

Student working at a desk in a sketchbook

Whether you’re applying for an internship in a company that’s around the corner, or on the other side of the world, general advice around how to construct a great CV, cover letter, and application is universal. You’ll want to prepare an application that highlights your skills, experience, and interests in order to convince an employer that you’re the best person for the role. Saying that, there is some additional preparation you can do if you are preparing an application for a global internship. 

  1. Research, research, research

Use a site like GoinGlobal (a service that UCL Careers subscribes to) to check the conventions in the country you’re applying to. You don’t need to follow every rule – not only do CVs and cover letters differ from country to country, but also job to job and industry to industry. However, you might discover some useful guidelines, such as countries where it is standard practice to include things like a photo or pre-written references.

If you are planning to undertake an internship in Europe, you could also check out Europass, an online tool that helps you prepare the necessary documents to highlight your skills and qualifications, including template CVs, cover letters and a language self-assessment tool.

  1. Get your numbers right

Including a telephone number? Remember to include the right international dialing code. Writing a date? Get the order of day, month and year right for the standard practice of the country you’re applying to a job in. These seemingly small differences show that you’ve done your homework and back up any claim you’ve made of showing attention to detail!

  1. Highlight your language skills

It’s not always a prerequisite of a role to have any additional language skills, although if it is, you should certainly mention how you meet that criteria. Be honest with your skills and include your level of fluency. If you claim to be fluent in a second language, a native speaker can easily check this at interview stage. Write your application in the same language as the job advert (unless it is explicitly stated to submit it in another language).

Student standing by a flag

  1. “Translating” your experience

Be aware that your qualifications, or even institution, may not be as well recognised in the country you are applying for an internship in. You can include the international equivalent to your degree (Scholera has a free conversion tool) and consider changing UCL to the local language (e.g. UCL is 伦敦大学学院in Chinese). You could mention that UCL is a world-leading university (top 10 according to the latest QS rankings) or include something specific about your department or course that makes it stand out internationally.

  1. Highlight your international experience

By applying for an internship outside of the UK and/or your home country, you should highlight your ability to work in a global context, adapt to a new environment and work with colleagues from different cultures. Highlight past experiences living abroad, language skills, working with peers from different nationalities and any examples of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and overcoming challenges. Remember to also address the other skills that are required for the role – you might be able to adapt to life in the country as easy as pie, but you’ve also got to show that you’re the right candidate for the role! UCL Careers has plenty of general advice and guidance to help you write excellent CVs and cover letters on the UCL Careers website as well as the following CareersLab videos.

  1. Declare your visa status

Whilst not a requirement, it can be useful when applying for an internship in a foreign country to make clear your visa status at application stage. There may be cases where it’s simply not possible for an employer to accept an international candidate, so you could either find out beforehand or outline the situation in your application. Note that your visa status is different to your nationality, which you don’t have to disclose on your CV.

  1. Get a helping hand

All job applications should be proofread and spell-checked but this is particularly critical if you’ve written it in another language. Even if it is in English, it might be worth getting someone who doesn’t know UCL or your degree subject to read it to see if they can easily follow what you have written in your application. You could even contact recruitment agencies in the country where you intend to work and ask their advice. 

  1. Applying speculatively

Not all internships are advertised and many students approach companies directly with the aim of securing an internship with that organisation. They may have found the company online or used their personal network to get contact details of an appropriate person. This is a really positive, proactive of finding opportunities and shows your eagerness to work for that company. If you go down this route, it is really important that you understand the culture before you send any emails. In some cultures, addressing the email or letter to ‘Dear Sir/Madam rather than a named contact can be seen as rude so try and find exactly who you want to approach.

Next steps

So it’s time to start making those applications! Remember you can have your application checked by a UCL Careers Consultant (in English!) before you send it off to an organisation. Next time we’ll be exploring video interviews, which are very common in the recruitment process when applying for internships overseas.

My Global Internship: where to start and how to find one

skye.aitken14 November 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager at UCL Careers.

Student on an internship stood by a river holding a camera and smilingWelcome to the second blog in our ‘My Global Internship’ series. Last week we learnt about global mindset and now we’re going to talk about how you can find an international internship, what you should think about when searching and places you can look to get you started.

Did you know students who go abroad during their studies are more likely to gain a 1st degree and be in graduate-level jobs six months after graduation? They’re also likely to have a fantastic time and build their confidence, so it’s a win-win all round! If you haven’t thought about going overseas before, perhaps because you don’t even know where to start, then we’re here to help you.

Before you start

Before you start actually finding specific roles to look at, you should think about the following things:

  1. What sort of work do you want to do and what are you aiming to get out of the whole experience?Are you looking to travel and explore a new culture (and thus open to all opportunities) or do you want to do a particular role related to your degree or career objectives? Perhaps you want to work in a large corporate environment or you want to try a smaller company or start-up where you may get more responsibility?
  2. Where do you want to go?Have you got a particular city, country or continent in mind? This may depend on your answer to question 1 as there might be particular countries or regions that are better suited to the work you’d like to do. Write down all the places you’re keen to consider – it’s worth drilling down to city-level as the experience can differ within country.
  3. How feasible is it to work in a particular area or country?You will need to think about travel and accommodation, and find out if you need a visa. Also, do you need to be able to speak the local language? Some countries are more accessible for English speakers than others, so if you don’t have a second language then perhaps start with these (but remember that the business language in some countries not on this map might still be English).
  4. What is the environment / culture like and how will you adapt to this?Whilst this is something you will prepare for once you’ve already secured an internship, it is a good idea to also research this early on because it may help when making applications.

All of the above will take both some thinking on your part, but also some research. A great place to start is the GoinGlobal website. Access this site via the Working Outside of the UK page on the UCL Careers website. You can also use the working abroad pages on TargetJobs and Prospects to help you. Make a note of your answers to the above – they might change over time as you explore new places, and that’s absolutely fine!

Looking for opportunities

Three students sat on a sofa working on laptopsAfter you’ve done a bit of thinking, next up is to starting looking for opportunities. Finding an international internship in a country you have limited experience with requires you to be proactive, but the rewards will be worth it. Here’s some places to start:

  • myUCLCareers jobs board – click on the Search tab > Vacancies and use the locations or country filter on the left to narrow down the options.
  • LinkedIn can be a valuable tool to help you find companies or contacts in countries that are of interest to you. Use the locations filter on the search function to target a particular country, or search via industry if you know what sector you want to work in.
  • General job boards such as Indeed, Reed and Google all have options to search by country and industry. org is a great platform for finding opportunities in specifically in Europe.
  • Local job boards can also be a great way to find opportunities, particularly from smaller organisations focusing on targeting local students. Search ‘job boards in x country’ to see what is recommended. For example, Welcome to the Jungle is a popular job platform in France for students to find opportunities in French SMEs.
  • Directories are a great way to help you find companies that you might be interested in working in, particularly ones you haven’t heard of yet! Sites like co allow you to search for companies by sector or location and provide general company information as well as links to jobs. If the company doesn’t have any jobs listed, there’s no harm in applying speculatively – we’ll cover this in the next blog!
  • Direct application to an organisation – this is the DIY route to finding an internship abroad. Take a look at the Careers Essentials module on guides on job huntingto help you with various stages of the job hunting process, whether at home or overseas.

So, open your laptop and start a spreadsheet – this will help you to keep track of websites you’ve explored, information you’ve found out and log some companies that you’re interested in applying to. Who knows what you might find and where you might end up going! Next time we will drill down into how to make an application, focusing on important things to consider when applying for overseas roles.

My Global Internship: what does it mean to have a ‘global mindset’?

skye.aitken6 November 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager at UCL Careers.

A student with sun glasses on stands in front of a view of a European cityWelcome to the first in a series of blogs aimed at helping students to find, apply for, prepare for and undertake a global internship (usually meaning outside the UK and probably your home country). We will be publishing blogs under the #myglobalinternship tag across the autumn and spring terms, so keep an eye out!

So maybe you’ve been applying for international internships already, or perhaps it’s something you’d like to start doing. Wherever you’re at, you may have come across the term ‘global mindset’ and you might wonder what this actually means.

One of the simpler definitions we like is ‘the ability to operate comfortably across borders, cultures, and languages’ and for a student to be a ‘global graduate’ they need to be able to possess a range of competencies such as team-working, adaptability, resilience and self-awareness.

Why is it important?

In an increasingly globalised workplace, employers require their staff to have intercultural competence to enable them to collaborate effectively with their colleagues and in different cultural settings (such as in a country you may not have experience before). They also need employees from diverse backgrounds to represent their client base, who can also grasp the interconnectedness of international business.

A report from McKinsey’s Global Institute shows that ‘cross-border data flows are increasing at rates approaching 50 times those of last decade. Almost a billion social-networking users have at least one foreign connection, while 2.5 billion people have email accounts, and 200 billion emails are exchanged every day. About 250 million people are currently living outside of their home country, and more than 350 million people are cross-border e-commerce shoppers’.

In addition, ‘increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the centre of organisational operations’ according to the Future Work Skills 2020 report. This means employers are looking for candidates who can keep up with this rate of change and collaborate virtually by working productively and effectively as part of a virtual team (e.g. one across different global sites).

What kind of experiences can you draw upon?

By studying at UCL, you are already in a great position to talk about your experiences of interacting with individuals from different cultures, given that there are over 150+ nationalities represented on campus. You can also demonstrate your global mindset by talking about the following experiences on your applications and in interviews:

  • Living abroad (during upbringing or as part of course)
  • Picking up language skills
  • Transitioning from home to London
  • Coming to London from outside of the UK
  • Representing one organisation at its interface with another in a different region/country/culture
  • Presenting papers at international conferences or in committees
  • Having an interest in current affairs, listening to/reading global business news (be prepared to back this up)
  • Independent travel
  • Sensitivity to different regional/class/cultural attitudes, e.g. travel, voluntary work, vacation jobs

Plus, if you decide to undertake a global internship in summer 2020 then that will enhance your global mindset even further! For further reading about global skills, you may enjoy the QS 2019 Global Skills Gap Report which aims  to  provide a greater understanding  of  the  gaps  between  graduate  skills  and employer expectations around the world. You can also book a careers appointment to talk about these skills and explore how you can highlight yours to future employers!

Future blogs in the series will look at:

  • How to find international internships
  • Making applications for international internships
  • Conducting video interviews for overseas roles
  • Preparing for your time abroad
  • Working in a global workplace

UCL Careers Global Interns Photo Competition Winners 2019

skye.aitken11 October 2019

Congratulations to the winners of our inaugural #UCLGlobalInterns photo competition! We had some excellent entries and it was great to see what students have been up to during their overseas summer internship.

In third place was Yagmur Arica who undertook an internship at a women’s university in Tokyo. With the caption “I feel love” we felt her photo captured the beauty of Japan, particularly with the use of vibrant colour to showcase a traditional Japanese outfit.

A female student from behind dressed in colourful traditional Japanese clothing striking a pose in front of traditional on a wet day

In second place, we liked the simplicity of Dorothy Tong’s photo from Shanghai. Dorothy says, “I experienced a different culture both socially and professionally and gained valuable analytical and communication skills. I chose to work in Shanghai as there are so many job opportunities and it is the global hub for many businesses around the world.”

A student standing in a garden in the centre of a round sculpture

In joint first place, we enjoyed the photos and captions from Anna Sarasiti and Florence Fowkes. Anna highlighted how one of the things she took away from her internship in Berlin was in fact something more associated with London! She said, “In one of the most international cities in the world, Brit, Greek and Maltese comrades have a butcher’s at the Soviet War Memorial. Of all the things I have learnt in Berlin, I was not expecting to return to London having improved my cockney rhyming slang.” We also enjoyed the adventurous side of Florence’s photo from Delhi and she encourages others to undertake an international internship: “From culture, language, work ethic to the fantastic food, I learnt an incredible amount. Could not recommend an overseas internship more. Be proactive and send out those emails!”

Students standing on the steps of a monument with the monument and sky behind themA student standing on top of a mountain with the mountain region behind her and many colourful flags to her leftWould you like to undertake a summer internship outside of the UK? Take a look at the Global Internships Programme webpages and keen an eye out for upcoming communications throughout the autumn term.

 

UK Job Hunting For International Students | CareersLab

skye.aitken1 October 2019

It’s time for the second episode of CareersLab!

Are you an international student looking to pursue a career in the UK after graduating?
We’ve made this video just for you!
Watching this video will help you:
  • Understand how international students can get to be employed in the UK after graduating
  • Get real data on which firms sponsored UCL graduates between 2014 and 2018
  • Understand the UK recruitment culture

We’re be posting a CareersLab video every week on the UCL Careers YouTube channel and right here on the UCL Careers blog.

If you’re a UCL student or recent graduate and you have a question you’d like Raj to answer in a future CareersLab video then please email as at careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and the UCL Careers Newsletter so you never miss an episode.

#UCLGlobalInterns Photo Competition

UCL Careers5 June 2019

Student with a child

This year we’ve launched an Instagram photo competition for UCL students to showcase their international internship experiences and be in for the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher!

Getting involved is easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Either send us an email with your image and a caption to globalinternships@ucl.ac.uk or share it with us on Instagram by using the #UCLGlobalInterns and tagging @uclcareers
  2. You will receive a response letting you know that we have received your entry. Your post may be reshared on the @uclcareers Instagram account
  3. Three images will be selected on 11 October to receive a £50 Amazon voucher

Terms and conditions

  • You must be a current UCL student or recent graduate (June 2019)
  • Your image should showcase an internship experience taking place in Summer 2019
  • You must have the permission of anyone other than yourself included in the photo

By entering you give permission for UCL Careers to use the photo in future promotion of the Global Internships Programme. UCL Careers reserves the right not to award all three prizes, depending on the quality of entries. You may also be asked to provide evidence that you meet the above conditions.

What kind of entries are we looking for?

That is up to you! We want to see and read about what is exciting and challenging about your international work experience; whether that’s in the office or what you get up to in your time off. Remember to use your caption wisely. Ideally, images will be of good resolution and quality.

Can I enter more than one image?

Yes, you can enter the competition a maximum three times. However, only one prize can be claimed per applicant.

When is the deadline?

Entries must be received by 23:59 (GMT) on 6 October 2019. The top three photos will be informed by 11 October. Other entries may also be shared on the @uclcareers Instagram account.

Sustainability in the Built Environment

UCL Careers20 February 2019

Sara Godinho Senior Consultant at XCO2 and Lecturer at University of Suffolk

(*Spoiler alert: my career path has been a bumpy one, filled with trial and error. I don’t regret a single thing as every experience was valuable but hasn’t definitely been a straight line!)

I decided to study Architecture (MArch University of Lisbon) as I was told by a high school career advisor that it would be the best way to combine my creative and artistic side with my analytical thinking. It wasn’t really! While I liked studying Architecture it never really fulfilled me. During my studies, I had a module on Environmental Design that caught my attention. It sparked curiosity and interest in sustainability and environmental design that hasn’t fade.

After graduating and working for a couple of years in my home town Lisbon, I decided to move to London. I was always very oriented to international experiences, I did Erasmus in Norway, studied in Japan for a year, so it was only a matter of time before going abroad again. I was also increasingly frustrated as an architect only focusing on design and ignoring the environmental impact. I really wanted to make a difference and work on making buildings more environmentally friendly. London was an easy choice because after living in Japan, I understood how European I am. I also had a good English level and the UCL MSc Environmental Design and Engineering programme seemed really good. Coming to the UK was a breath of fresh air! The master was a lot of hard work but one of the best years of my life. I learned a lot, made great friends, and had a real “this is it” epiphany as this was the area I wanted to be working on!

I decided to stay after graduation but had a tough time getting a job, it took me about six months and a lot of rejection. I was trying to enter this new sector and was also a foreigner. I got interviews and having UK education helped but everybody kept seeing me as an architect with no UK work experience. I decided to change my strategy and got a job in an architecture practice. It was small and specialised in Passivhaus and was a great learning experience. I got to work on site delivering one of the most demanding energy certifications in the world on a project that has now received a CIBSE Building Performance Award! At the time, the practice had also some research funding so I was lucky to work on Post Occupancy Evaluation of Passivhaus buildings and study their actual performance. It also confirmed that I was less interested in the design and more on the performance so, a couple of years in, I decided to try to move into environmental consultancy. Having now UK work experience made change easier and I finally made it into consultancy work. Funnily for my current job at XCO2 my architectural background was valuable to them as we work with a lot of architects and, being trained in their language, is helpful.

At XCO2, my role is to lead on the energy and sustainability strategies for a project, being a masterplan, new built or refurbishment. My work focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry, improving buildings’ energy efficiency and performance while promoting occupant wellbeing. Buildings are such complex and beautiful constructions and we spend most of our time inside one so it’s really gratifying when my advice contributes to improving a building’s energy performance or occupant comfort.

Teaching came by serendipity into my life two years ago. Through connections, I saw that the University of Suffolk was looking for a Lecturer in Technology. I applied and got selected and immediately panicked! Would I be able to do it? Instead, I absolutely loved it from day one and teaching has been incredibly transformative for my career. Being able to digest all my knowledge and experience into teaching has made realise how passionate I am about sustainability in the built environment and how much it matters to me to pass on the concepts and the skills and influence future architects. I don’t see sustainability in the built environment as an add-on but as an absolutely fundamental aspect of design. I want my students (and everybody!) to know of the impact buildings have in the environment and in our wellbeing and give them tools to thinks and create better ways of designing.

Although balancing two jobs can be demanding with conflicting needs at times, they absolutely complement each other. My industry experience means I can bring very practical knowledge to my students and teaching requires me to translate difficult concepts into comprehensible principles. It keeps me very aware of the bigger picture and my focus on improving sustainability in the built environment.

 

 

 

Erasmus+ funding available for EU internships

UCL Careers15 January 2019

Thinking of undertaking an internship in the EU this summer? Perhaps you’re looking for an opportunity or you’ve already secured one. Either way, you may be eligible to receive the Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant to help you with the costs associated with interning outside of the UK.

Last year Tanja Hann returned home to Germany to undertake an internship in a research institute. She told us more about the experience…

“The Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant allowed me to undertake an internship where I found out what real work in a research laboratory looks like. I have always wanted to become a research scientist, but never really had any actual experience with this. Of course, I also had occasional doubts – what if the job is not right for me? What if it is totally different from what I imagined? The internship definitely helped me to get a better impression of what type of career I want to pursue and erased any doubts I had about whether this path would be right for me.”

How did you find your internship?
The internship was not compulsory to my degree programme – it was fully up to me to decide where to apply. Sourcing the internship was more straightforward than I initially expected. I knew roughly what I wanted to do and what expectations I had and so I just started searching online. I quickly found a couple of research institutes that raised my interest and then proceeded to search for individual research groups. When I found the website of the laboratory I eventually worked with, I knew their work would be right for me – so I just contacted them and was lucky enough to receive a positive reply!

What did you do during your internship?
My internship took place in a research laboratory which is focussed on gene therapy. I was able to get involved in several ongoing projects, which was a really valuable aspect of my experience. One of the projects hadn’t yet reached the experimental stage and I was able to contribute to planning it from the very beginning. This involved reading many research papers on the topic and coming up with an overall project objective. This experience not only taught me how to be a scientist “behind the scenes”, but also gave me the opportunity to learn experimental procedures within another, larger project. The tasks I completed were typical for a cell and molecular genetics laboratory and involved cloning, Western analysis, qPCR, transfection of mammalian cells and even iPSC development.

Why did you choose to undertake an international internship?
The country in which my internship took place was not new to me – however, given the international background of the research institute I worked with, I came into contact with many different cultures at once. My co-workers and I often found ourselves discussing differences between languages, cuisines and even day-to-day habits. This not only taught me to look at things from a different perspective but was also a lot of fun!

What skills did you develop during the internship?
Naturally, working in a research laboratory for two months taught me a lot of experimental techniques relevant to my field of study, as well as the process of planning an advanced research project. However, I learnt so much more than that. During the internship, I wrote a scientific report on all of my accomplishments during the time – this was a really valuable experience and improved my scientific writing skills. On top of that, I believe that working with a variety of people in the laboratory really boosted my communication and teamwork skills, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Has the experience influenced your plans for the future?
The whole internship experience strengthened my desire to pursue a career path in this industry by giving me a much better impression on what this type of work actually involves. I feel like I am more prepared for life after university now and it all seems much less scary!

What tips do you have for other students thinking of doing an internship overseas?
My main tip for students considering going overseas would be: be open to everything. Your experience will (most) likely not be precisely what you imagined and it would be pretty boring if it were, right? You will learn so many things and gather valuable experience – for your studies, your career and your personal development. Another tip I would give to virtually anyone with high career aspirations is: do not be afraid to dream big! You will only have a chance to succeed if you are unafraid to try so do not let anyone, including yourself, tells you what you cannot do!

You don’t need to be doing an internship in a research institute to receive the Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant – all sectors are eligible! If you’d like to apply for the grant, have a look at the Funding page on the Global Internships Programme website to find out more.

Photo from Tanja Hann