Class of 2022: Asja Karanusic

We’re so proud of our class of 2022. They’ve overcome enormous challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities, and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done all of this during a global pandemic when life – and student life – changed beyond recognition. Here, we’re taking the opportunity to share some of their stories.

  • Date

    Tue 12 Jul 22

Asja Karanusic

For Asja Karanusic, her time at Essex has been life-changing. Arriving from Croatia as an 18-year-old with little confidence and self-belief, four years later, she's taking any challenge life throws her way.


During her time studying for a BSc Economics (with placement year), Asja challenged stereotypes around those going into a career in banking; drew attention to the problem of sex trafficking; and secured a highly competitive scholarship for her final year.

And she did all of this while supporting herself financially by working three part-time jobs.

“When I arrived here, I had shattered confidence and little belief in myself. Now, I am ready to take up any challenge life throws at me,” she said. “I owe this transformation to this amazing institution and if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Asja always knew she wanted to study economics.

“I wanted to pursue a degree in economics because of my profound interest in societal wellbeing and poverty alleviation. Having grown up during the financial crisis of 2007, I wanted to learn about banking and the financial system, and how they can be directed towards creating a more equitable society.”

She also knew she wanted to learn from top researchers in her field. She was drawn to Essex due to its high research rankings and its socially conscious ethics.

Being a self-funded EU student who relied solely on her own income, Asja had to balance working three part-time jobs while studying for her degree.

“Juggling long shifts, aspiring for top grades, and applying for competitive internships presented a difficult challenge. It meant countless hours at the library, self-doubts, and sacrificing my social life,” she said.

Her efforts paid off. She won the Department of Economics Best Performance Prize in both her first and second year, which helped her secure a highly competitive scholarship from The Black Heart Foundation Scholarship for her final year.

She was also involved with the Enactus Essex society where she got the chance to lead a team of four students in regional and national business competitions.

“Our project, She Inspires, aimed to empower former sex-trafficked women by acquiring business education and opening their own shop,” she said. “Through competing and making it to the top eight teams, out of 60 nationwide, we drew attention to the sex trafficking problem and raised much-needed funds.

“For a small team, this was a great success, and even more so for our three beneficiaries, who are now independent business owners. This experience taught me that business and entrepreneurship have the potential to sustainably resolve the world’s most pressing issues.”

During her third year, Asja spent her placement year working as an intern at the Bank of England, which she says was an invaluable learning experience.

“My favourite aspect was volunteering to hold career workshops for A-level students from deprived areas across the country. I got to present careers in banking and break common stereotypes. Students were left with confidence that they can aim for elite careers, regardless of their socio-economic background.”

Asja has been awarded the Best Final Year Undergraduate Prize and the Best Undergraduate Research Project Prize from the Department of Economics, and has secured a graduate role, which includes a sponsored part-time Masters degree, with the Bank of England.