After Kent - Humanitarian Worker, Eleftherios Baltzidis

Eleftherios studied an MSc in Development Psychology and is now a Humanitarian Worker. Their role is very varied and interesting: communicating with protection officers, legal officers, asylum officers, and medical officers to implement projects, refer vulnerable persons, and raise awareness of human rights. At Kent, Eleftherios made the most of the employability support services, and gained the practical skills crucial to their role now.

What course did you study at Kent? What attracted you to the course?

The course I studied at the University of Kent was the master’s in science in Developmental Psychology. In my bachelor I studied education, during which I had few courses in child psychology and psychology of education. Thus, this master was a natural selection for me in order to advance my knowledge in child development.

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am working for the European Union Agency for Asylum at the refugee camp of Kavala. My role is site management assistant with tasks related to supporting the overall management of the refugee camp (e.g., shelter allocation and information provision to residents), collaborating daily with variant actors such as Regional Asylum Offices, Central Registration and Identification Unit of Ministry, local municipality, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Civil Society Organisations, and other international organisations (e.g., IOM, UNICEF, and UNHCR), acting as focal point for issues related to education and unaccompanied and separated minors (e.g., custodies/guardianships, age assessment process, etc.), referring vulnerable persons to alternative shelter, protection services, or legal assistance, monitoring and delivering asylum notifications in contact with asylum case officers, and referring persons with international protection to accommodation assistance and informing them about their rights. At the same time, I have the role of project manager at the organisations which I have established. It is a child rights-based grassroot Civil Society Organisation through which I aim to raise awareness through non-formal educational projects about human rights and rights of persons with special needs collaborating with similar-attitude Civil Society Organisations around Europe and developing projects.

How did studying (your course) prepare you for your current position?

Initially, my experience at the university of Kent changed my attitudes about the world and it opened my eyes, if I may say. As an international student I was socially exposed to variant nationalities and persons around the world. Moreover, the lecturers I had, and their work (e.g., their research interests in developmental psychology, social psychology, etc.) inspired me academically and personally to discover alternative thought processes and career pathways. This is something difficult to explain in words. When I first attended the course at the university of Kent, I was dreaming to pursue a PhD in Psychology and concentrate in a specific subject. However, being exposed to a social and academic context which is totally different than the one I grew up, I thought that I want to have a job that has an impact out there in the world. Thus, once I graduated, I started working with international non-governmental organisations (such as Danish Refugee Council, Save the Children International, etc.) and gaining field experience. At the same time, being exposed to persons from all over the world through my work, I started learning new languages and at the moment I am in a point where I can communicate in seven different languages (e.g., English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, etc.). Thinking from this point of my life, I am sure that even if I would have done a PhD in the past, I would have chosen to follow a similar career path.

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?

A typical day would start at 8am with a hot coffee in my office in the refugee camp, while checking my emails of the last day. Around 10am residents would start visiting my office to ask questions about their asylum case, their human rights, and other needs they may have (e.g., there were cases of domestic violence, of sexual exploitation, etc.). During the week there might be interagency meetings with other organisations in order to coordinate the work we are doing (e.g., tasks and actions each organisation will take during new arrivals). In the afternoon I will organise my workload and I will communicate with protection officers, legal officers, asylum officers, and medical officers for referrals of cases and sharing of information. Last, my work will finish at 4pm. The evenings and weekends which I have free time, I will do work for the charity such as skype meetings with other project managers from organisations around Europe, writing project proposals, or implementing an education project (usually small-scale Erasmus projects) with colleagues.

What do you love most about your role?

The part I love the most is that it is an intercultural context and every day I see and speak with persons from variant nationalities with hard life experiences.

What steps did you take to get into your current role? What was the process during/after University?

After I graduated, I started applying to roles I was interested in while doing some volunteer work with NGOs in the meantime to gain some experience. Once I started my first role and my career, then it was easy to learn more in depth about the field I was working and get to know people who have worked in this field so that to get their perspectives. After I completed some years of professional experience, it became easier to me to choose among the variant humanitarian roles out there.

What employability support did you get from the University?

I used the employability support services numerous times in order to get support for creating a CV and also attending seminars they were organising (e.g., about time management skills, presentation skills, etc.).

What skills did you gain at the University, not just from your course that you use now in your career?

I would say that the Kent experience taught me to be independent and be able to survive in any place given as I gained practical skills such as how to navigate around a place I have never been, to manage my time between morning duties and personal life.

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?

To get the most out of the university. The university is not merely about gaining knowledge, but more importantly to make social connections and expose yourself to situations you may are not familiar (such as to register to societies, participate in volunteering through kent union, etc.).

What’s your best memory of studying at Kent?

The induction week and the moments I had with my friends.

Eleftherios Baltzidis studied Development Psychology MSc.

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