Working for an NGO
At school I was always successful academically, especially in the hard sciences (Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry). In spite of that, I did not even consider the possibility of studying at Cambridge until I was in the Lower Sixth and my brother, who was one year above me at school, was accepted to read Natural Sciences there. At the time I was taking A Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and German, so it seemed to make sense for me to apply for the Natural Sciences course like my brother. I was accepted for the course; however, by the time I arrived in Cambridge I wanted to study something with a more practical focus. Engineering was the perfect fit and I was allowed to change course by my College.
I was quite apprehensive about accepting the offer to study at Cambridge, but looking back I can safely say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The course itself was rigorous and intellectually challenging. One great aspect of the course is the environment in which learning takes place: the faculty members are obviously world class, and the students, I found, were generous in helping each other learn. The first two years of the course cover a broad range of engineering subjects which means that students leave Cambridge with an understanding of a diverse range of engineering fields.
Aside from the course itself, Cambridge was a great place to study. There are societies which cater to the interests of almost all students. During my time at Cambridge I played a lot of sports, which included playing hockey and rowing for my College. With a few friends I also attempted to build a small hovercraft, and photographed the transit of Mercury across the Sun.
When I graduated from Cambridge, I decided I wanted to spend some time travelling before starting a career. I took an internship with an NGO (non-governmental organisation) in Brussels called World Youth Alliance, which is engaged in advocacy at both the UN and the EU and development projects around the world. After a short time working there I realised my Engineering degree had equipped me with both technical and problem-solving skills that I could use to benefit the organisation. A year and a half later I had been promoted to the position of Director of Operations at their headquarters in New York. Work at World Youth Alliance has been rewarding: with memorable experiences ranging from building houses in slums in the Philippines, to speaking with high-school students in the Bronx. While I was studying Engineering, I never imagined that the skills it taught would be applicable in such diverse and rewarding work.