Fatima did an internship at the United Nations before studying MA International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London. After graduating, she has returned to the UN as a communications specialist
How did your degree prepare you for your career?
I always told myself that if I ever got too comfortable in life that was the time to quit and to move on, and that was how I came to start a postgraduate degree in diplomacy at SOAS. Before starting the course, I skyped a current student who told me how wonderful SOAS was and said that I should 'just do it'. I think it's true to say that the course has changed my life. Doing media training with a BBC professional, plus the opportunity to meet students from all around the world from East Timor to Fiji, has been amazing. However, for me, the highlight was when I was able to go to the UN as a student panellist and give a talk in front of 200 people on the subject of women and the UN Charter. SOAS gives everyone the chance to succeed, and it is up to you to make the most of the experience.
How did you come to work at the United Nations?
It was while working at the UN on an internship that I first heard about SOAS, because the part of the UN that I was working for organised the annual SOAS study tour, and then later, while I was studying at SOAS and on my own study tour of the UN, I was approached by an old colleague who told me about a job opportunity, which I applied for and got.
I am also combining my work at the UN with researching gender equality, and I am currently working on a documentary with HBO on the subject, which has involved me travelling to New York and Brazil.
Can you describe a typical working day?
My specialism is gender equality in the humanitarian field; and I have to ensure that discussions surrounding gender are included in any project plans when responding to worldwide crises, and so I am involved in talks with partner organisations about this. I also talk to colleagues in the field, currently in Yemen, Syria, Indonesia, the Ukraine - which I recently visited - Palestine, Kenya and Nigeria. There is also a lot of practical stuff to do, like preparing press releases, writing articles, plus a bit of room for creativity on the website and making videos.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
Everything. Before I started work at the UN I didn't believe it was possible to have a job that I would find truly enjoyable, but I have found real meaning in the work I do, and that makes me feel both useful and happy.
What aspect do you find the most challenging?
It can be frustrating working in the field of gender equality, because I am fighting for something which should be commonplace, but which is still not. Norms take time.
What advice would you give to anyone who is considering studying diplomacy?
I would thoroughly recommend doing an internship: it plants seeds, which may take six months or a year to bear fruit, but which will ultimately be valuable. I was able to build networks, which have helped me in my career ever since. On the SOAS programme, I recommend being proactive and grabbing every opportunity - do research, join organisations and build networks. And remember, building networks is a balance - you have as much to offer as you are hoping to gain.
Find out more
- See what you can do with a career in international relations.
- Take a look at the MA International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London and explore programmes in international studies and diplomacy.