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Alumni

Sebastian Reichel

Career Path: International Stakeholder Coordinator - BRECcIA project, University of Southampton
Location: Southampton, UK

I've always been interested in all topics concerning sustainability and environmental protection, which morphed specifically into a deeper passion for sustainable development in an international context. I believe strongly in the greater good of international partnerships and institutions. Studying environmental science at a large, modern and globally connected university was therefore the most logical step in giving me a proper scientific grounding in these interests to make myself available for a range of sustainable development based career options. I completed my degree with a placement in Germany with an NGO specialising in sustainable international development project work, which enabled me to be offered my first full time dream job at the University of Southampton in another international sustainability project.

What are you doing now?

I co-ordinate international stakeholder engagement and internationalisation of project research and outcomes for the BRECcIA project, in collaboration with the BRECcIA research teams in the UK, Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Niger, Botswana and South Africa, and with the UNESCO - Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme based in Paris, France. Working with academics, NGOs, governments and the public, I lead international stakeholder engagement for water and food security research and capacity development within the project.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The high course satisfaction levels and grade achievement scores, as well as module contents of the Northumbria Environmental Science course attracted my attention the most when choosing where to apply. The added bonuses of Newcastle-upon-Tyne being a consistent winner of the official best city for student life in the UK for many years running and the ability for me to get a sports scholarship with the Water Polo team also helped.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

Frequent group seminars and projects, lectures and unforgettable field trips provided a perfect balance of learning and assessment styles. I couldn't commend the staff of Northumbria higher, as advice was always there whenever I needed it and staff were genuinely passionate about their fields. Studying at Northumbria was satisfying, as the location of campus and affordability of the city's overflowing entertainment offerings provided the perfect place to undertake a degree with a good work life balance. I cannot imagine the thought of having possibly studied anywhere else. I still catch up with my old course mates (some of whom were also housemates throughout) who are some of my best friends whenever possible.

How connected was your course with industry?

The course was brilliantly connected with industry, especially as I was able to secure a relevant placement abroad through my course which kept me on the career path I wanted most without having to compromise. At Non-Governmental Organisation KATE Stuttgart e.V. I was able to work on my first international sustainability project 'Start the Change!', which was EU-wide and involved tens of thousands of young people across more than 15 countries. We had guest lectures from a wide range of people in various industries, all of whom were inspiring to us and provided invaluable career advice. Several group projects in my final year were done for the benefit of actual companies and organisations in Newcastle, which was another direct intertwining of industry and our degree.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

It was absolutely essential in securing my first full time dream job in terms of required references and required relevant experience, and gave me confidence, knowledge and extra maturity to get a 1:1 in my final year and dissertation upon my return. I learned information that made final year modules easier, and gave me
self- confidence in that I had applied some of the material I was learning in real life in an actual job. I had worked with EMAS for example, which was covered in certain final year modules. By working at KATE Stuttgart e.V. on the EU-wide sustainability and migration education project ‘Start the Change!’ in the roles of project management and junior researcher on behalf of Germany, funded by the EU Commission, I had proven to my current employer that I was skilled enough for a senior position not usually given to recent graduates.

What was the best thing about your course?

The module contents were the best thing about my course, as they provided the best possible grounding in a wide range of topics. This was the best thing as I wasn't sure which career path I wanted inside of sustainable development and general environmentalism. The range of modules enable you to keep your options open, but still be considered skilled in each area learned. Afterall, multidisciplinary thinking and working is increasingly valued by employers!

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

The recognition by my old and new employers that Northumbria is a modern, unpretentious and internationally connected university certainly gave my career an edge, as they verbally expressed their admiration for the course contents I had had the privilege of studying. Northumbria was one of the first universities in the UK to offer an environmental science degree, and based on my experiences and that of peers in other universities, I'm truly convinced Northumbria offers one of the very best Environmental Science degrees in the country all round.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Multidisciplinary thinking and working skills have proven completely essential in the career I find myself in. Both at KATE and University of Southampton, I occupy roles which require me to be able to understand, contribute to and broker between very different fields of work in an attempt to combine efforts into single outcomes. For example, I am often required to communicate researchers' highly complicated and scientific research outputs in ways that non - scientists such as policy makers and public stakeholders might better understand, and then communicate their feedback and requests back to the researchers. In this two-way communication process I also often need to be able to offer additional insight and advice or suggestions to both sides to improve the quality of the communications and move work along more efficiently - very difficult without multidisciplinary skills!

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

Except for achieving my target grade which was deeply satisfying, my social life was enjoyed at the maximum possible level in line with achieving a good work-life balance with my course mates and water polo team mates. University shouldn't be all work and no play for most of us if you want to stay mentally healthy! You can achieve good grades, get enough sleep and fit in plenty of socialising and fun if you time everything right. The absolute stand out highlight though was the field trip to Tenerife. We toured the majority of the island with scientists and were able to fit in a good amount of fun free time as a bonus. Singing "Viva Tenerife" with friendly locals in a small bar halfway up a volcano with course mates after a full day's exploring is a fun memory.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Absolutely go for it. Northumbria is a modern, well connected and prestigious institution that will set you off on your career path with full confidence. Northumbria has worked hard to build itself a respectable reputation that employers will acknowledge. My course mates and I are all doing very well, all having found employment in careers we enjoy. Plus - and I say this with the experience of having visited campuses all across the country due to water polo matches and work - I guarantee you will not find a better city suited to student life in the UK.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Inspiring, Entertaining, Educational

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