Manchester Calling

The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Alexandra Mateer

What did you study at undergraduate level?

I completed a B.A.H. in Psychology and Sociology at Trent University in Canada, and spent the third year of my four-year degree studying abroad at Lancaster University. It was this year abroad that was key to attracting me to both postgraduate studies in the UK and the field of disasters.

What attracted you to HCRI/ the course?

In Canada, postgraduate disaster management studies are much less established and the programmes available are few and far between. The University of Manchester, however, has a reputation for being a centre of excellence for international research in emergencies and conflicts, and is committed to informing and supporting policy and decision-makers with the latest thinking. Given my interest in shaping policy related to vulnerable persons in disaster-affected contexts following graduation, those were definitely key selling points!

More specifically concerning HCRI and the International Disaster Management pathway, I was really attracted by the combination of theoretical and practical postgraduate training. Not only would I be given the opportunity to further explore the social construction and experience of disasters (making my inner sociologist very happy), I would also be given the opportunity to get my hands dirty and experience life in the field. As such, I was really looking forward to starting my placement with the European Interagency Security Forum in London.

Last but not least? Manchester! I really enjoyed my time in the North West during my undergraduate degree, and knew that I would love the chance to explore more of it. The city has been fantastic in terms of food, drinks and music (cheap gigs and amazing artists!).

What have you enjoyed most about the course?

To be honest, I’ve enjoyed the course in its entirety. However, I’d have to say that what I’ve enjoyed the most is meeting so many new people from around the world who share my passion. We’re quite a diverse group, with very different backgrounds in many cases, yet we’re all passionate about humanitarianism and conflict response. Not everyone seems to understand when you have such an interest, so it’s been really great to get to share it with likeminded people.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt?

I have a learnt a lot since joining HCRI, one of the most interesting being the speaker’s series where they get experts from the field to come and give talks to the students. These have been very insightful as you get to hear first-hand experiences for those currently employed in this sector. These talks, as well as lectures, have highlighted the challenges that can come with this type of career but that it can also be very rewarding.

What are your plans now you have graduated?

I’m not certain. All sorts of ideas cross my mind daily, from traveling, to earning a PhD, to getting a job as soon as I finish the course. For the moment, I think that the most likely scenario will involve finding an internship in the UK until my visa runs out and then a job back in Canada that will allow me to get my foot in the door. I’m excited to enter the field and to see where things take me.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about doing the course?

Don’t be afraid! As long as you’re interested and committed to humanitarianism and conflict response, you’ll fit right in! We really are quite a varied bunch, and it’s one of the things that makes the course so amazing.

And a tip to those who feel like they’re coming at this from left field: I have friends in the course with backgrounds ranging from philosophy through to engineering and zoology. There’s no set ‘type’ of person for a course like this. We all bring something new and it makes for a great dynamic!