Before studying at Kent, I hoped to have an international element to my career. I had a dream of working in the public sector for a large and recognised international institution, with people and society across the world at the centre.
I am currently Head of Business Management for Arts Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). It is my first regional role and I absolutely love it.
Kent opened up the world to me. I’m in touch with lots of the UK and international friends I made in Kent, and many of them also live and work internationally.
While I was studying Chaucer for my GCSEs at school, my English Literature teacher took us on a trip to Canterbury which included a talk on campus. I loved the fresh air and the beautiful view.
I visited a couple of other universities during A levels but Kent had already made a lasting impression.
On my first day at Kent we had a welcome talk in Eliot College halls. The speaker told us to talk to the person next to us, so I turned to a tall, animated girl and we became friends on the spot.
The next day, I saw her with a group of other girls outside Eliot. I had accidentally dropped my phone credit scratch card in the bin instead of the wrapper. One of them took it out the bin for me and we are still friends today. I also met my soul sister at Kent – I’m really grateful to Kent for this as although she also lives in the UK, I don’t know how we would have met otherwise!
I met the rest of my friends from the Politics and International Relations course, the New Life Church that met on campus at the time and the Afro-Caribbean (or Afrocab) society. One day I met a guy at an Afrocab event and we became the best of friends. I call him my BFAM – brother from another mother.
He also stayed at Kent for a Master’s and is now really successful in life and career. We were at each other’s weddings and I am proudly godmother to his son.
Kent offered all the things that mattered to me in one place and opened up the world. I loved Canterbury, the cheerful vibe at what we then called UKC, I met my best friends there and enjoyed my studies. Attending New Life Church also gave me a meaningful connection to a local community beyond university students.
I love finding out about the natural and cultural history, food and practices of people all over the world. When I was in primary school, my mum gave me a book that shows pictures of children from around the world. I remember being amazed at how each character looked completely different. It was a whole new world, each time you turned the page.
As a teenager, I was part of Lewisham Young Women’s Resource Project in Lewisham borough, London and was selected for the exchange project ‘gesha’, which means ‘bridge’ in Hebrew. The project took me to Israel with a group of young women from surrounding schools. We hosted talks around youth issues and visited major heritage and historical sites in Israel. This was my first major taste of cultural exchange.
Internationalism to me is a reminder that there is no one way of doing or understanding anything. People live and survive in completely different environments and contexts all over the world.
This interest has driven my studies, work and travels, and I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to follow this.
I try to see UNESCO World Heritage and other cultural sites as much as possible. I have seen Elmina Castle in Ghana, Betty’s Hope and Devil’s Bridge in Antigua, Meiji and Fushimi Inari shrines in Japan, and the Colosseum in Rome. And I’ve visited Azure window in Gozo, spice farms in Zanzibar, the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi museums and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and – perhaps the most breathtaking – Lalibela churches in Ethiopia.
After finishing my Master’s at Kent, I saw an ad in the newspaper about teaching in Japan. It seemed as though there were sunbeams coming out of the article. I applied and got the job, and had a blast during my year in Japan.
When I got back, I got a temporary position at the British Council, which is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. I was working in the International Assignments team, taking care of the HR needs of senior staff posted to East Asia.
Nine months later, I got my first promotion and permanent contract.
After seven years delivering on a range of international education programmes at the British Council, I wasn’t quite clear on what I needed as a final cherry on my CV cake. I was keen to do more with my skills and felt hugely inspired by the international opportunities and careers of the people all around me.
I attended a masterclass that was put on by our Diversity and Inclusion Unit. We looked at areas such as ‘Thinking Strategically’ and I was really geeky about all the homework and exercises.
It also included a 10-minute chat with a member of the Executive Board and mine was magical! It challenged me to see my career path strategically and just go for it. The course also gave me access to more senior colleagues that had more experience and exposure than I did at the time and some of them were more than happy to give me feedback on my approach to applications.
It really supported me to rethink my approach and ask for advice from more senior colleagues who already did the kind of work I wanted to do. They were all generous with time and tips and supported me to present myself better on paper and in interviews.
I had worked overseas on short trips to Germany, India, and Portugal and wanted to work overseas for a longer stint – especially on the continent of Africa.
In 2015, I went to Ethiopia to work on an international development programme that supports civil society.
Currently, I’m Head of Business Management for Arts Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Our team works in 19 countries in West, Southern and East Africa and the UK to create opportunities and connections for young creatives.
My role is to clarify our targets, monitor our progress towards them and shape the governance of our work. This includes setting up structures to monitor business performance such as introducing a quarterly business review. I also seek out support to advance skills and knowledge across the team whilst streamlining our processes so our brilliant team can do what they best – support the creation of new art to new audiences.
I have absolutely loved the last decade of my career, working on international education, social development and creative programmes.
I have friends from Kent in London, Birmingham, Japan, Sudan, Bermuda, Nigeria, Ghana and one still in Canterbury. We mostly use WhatsApp to stay in touch.
Lots of them also work and travel internationally, so we can keep in touch all over the world. One friend recently sent me stunning pictures from the Sydney Opera House light show while on a work trip, and another sent photos of his wedding in India.
Whilst working in Ethiopia, I was in a very quiet mall, at the end of an almost empty corridor and bumped in to a friend from the Master’s course. We were so shocked that we started screaming and jumping as neither of us even knew the other was in Addis Ababa. The ladies that work in the shops came out because they thought there was a fight!
Having been part of the Afrocab society at Kent, I met lots of cool students from Nigeria and Ghana. A few years after graduation, one of my friends said I should visit. I hopped on a plane and they showed me such a good time – I fell in love with Lagos.
Weirdly we bumped into lots of other people who also went to Kent whilst in Lagos, just casually in ice-cream parlours and the mall.
I attended the Kent in London alumni event in the summer of 2019 and it was so much fun.
I ended up next to the oldest alumnus in the room and his stories of working in Nigeria and travelling were hilarious and super inspiring. It was a great night and reminded me what Kent really means to me and the significant role it has played in my life.
My advice to Kent students would firstly be to really jump in and enjoy their time at Kent! I cannot believe I am saying this already but time really does fly and that season of life is a really special one. Enjoy extra-curricular activities and the international access to new worlds through friends.
Secondly, regardless of what you are studying, search yourself and figure out what your real passions are – your anchors. Most likely you’ll be drawn back to them, so if you have the opportunity to plan a path of congruency with that now, go for it. Not everyone is able to follow their heart’s pleasures for different reasons but if you can, stay real to what you love.
Thirdly, if you do know what you want to do and in my case that was working internationally, speak to people who already do that now. I underestimated networking and learning from the experts when I was younger. Everyone will need to tread their own path but you can learn a lot of tips from people who do what you want to do.
If you want to work internationally, try to get work experience with an international organisation. If that doesn’t work out, travel as much as you can and see the world, this will feed your passion for the international and hopefully show up one day just when you need it.