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Alice's story

Alice Ferro headshot

"I led on a project in Bhutan which was about the transition of power from a main state to the different regions"

During my placement I was working in an international development consultancy which means they try to win projects which are funded by different entities. For example, I was working on projects funded by the European Commission. These projects were about governance, human rights, women’s rights as well as energy and the environment and they were projects based in different countries of course.

I led on a project in Bhutan which was about the transition of power from a main state to the different regions, and it was also about climate change. I was trying to win the projects and the other part of the office was trying to implement them. I liked it because it brought out a very competitive side of me. I knew already that I was competitive but it came out so much on my placement.

Volunteering in Ghana wasn’t my first experience abroad in Africa, but it was the first time I was in the community doing something to help the community. I was there for two and a half months and I was in Tamale which is in the northern region. The Muslim minority who live there are in a tough situation and it’s probably one of the cruellest regions in Ghana.

I lived with a local family and I had to adapt to their kind of lifestyle. It was completely different from what I’m used to. While there I was working on a project about women’s empowerment and we were delivering workshops about financial independence, hygiene and sanitation and family planning. When you’re from the outside the community you have to speak with the chief of the community first before delivering the workshops, because they need to understand what you’re doing and see if they like it or not. Meeting all these men who actually had a genuine interest in the good of the women of their communities and praying with them in a way I’d never seen before was very spiritual and moving. I had to do it three times because there were three communities. It was great because the first and second time I was in Africa when I went to Zambia and Zanzibar; I had much more of the western attitude. I was like ‘I’m here to save the world’ because that’s what people here say you will go and do. Whereas in Ghana I just tried to engage with the community and let them teach me as much as possible.

From my first year I’ve been part of Amnesty International and I was one of the execs for two years and of course last year I did my placement so I wasn’t here. I think Amnesty helped me feel much more integrated into the University life. After that I tried some sports but it’s not my thing! I made loads of friends at Amnesty because we’re all like-minded people so we understand each other and even sometimes when our opinions differ because we come from different cultures it was such a great exchange throughout the years.

At Essex if the lecturers see you’re committed to a cause and have a purpose outside of your studies, then they encourage you to do better. Also, sometimes they invite you to meetings just to talk about how you’re doing, some professors are helping me apply for Masters and they genuinely want me to do well. They don’t want me to get lost because it’s easy to get lost when you come out of University where you’ve been for 4 years. So as soon as they notice you have an interest outside of the readings and doing the essay they want to help you and want to give you whatever they have inside to you to help you do better.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved throughout this year. I arrived here, I’d been living home with my parents for all my life and I came here and I started to do laundry by myself and things like this and taking care of myself and I was able to manage all of this. Also I’ve finally found what I want to do with my life, which is working for NGO’s and helping others in any sort of way so I’m proud that I understood my way in life and what I want to do later on. Many people at my age, I’m 22, don’t know what they want to do after university but since I started I knew what I wanted to do and throughout the years I just managed to make it more concrete.


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