On parade

The University of Bath alumni blog

Topic: International

Getting Connected in Hong Kong

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📥  Get Connected, International, Uncategorized

Alumni panel - Get Connected Hong Kong

Alumni panel - Get Connected Hong Kong

This was a week of firsts, from my first landing at Hong Kong Airport in a Level 8 typhoon to my first Thai iced tea (somewhere between an iced coffee and pumpkin juice).

The purpose of this trip was to bring a new offering to our graduates living and working here. My mission? To deliver Hong Kong’s first ever Get Connected event. From Bath to London to New York, we have had great success with these alumni networking evenings, but now it was time to look even further.

With some 1500 Bath alumni living and working in the city, we have a wonderfully strong and enthusiastic community here in Hong Kong with a great breadth of experience and sector knowledge. Despite being some 6,000 miles from Bath, there is a real sense of family amongst out graduates here and this is what it’s all about. The Get Connected events are about making the network ‘work’; utilising the alumni ‘family’ to learn and get ahead and I was really excited to help them do this.

So on Tuesday, with the Typhoon disappearing north and the normal humidity returning to the air, I head over to Exchange Square, the illustrious home of the city’s Stock Exchange, where we are lucky enough to be using the auditorium for our panel discussion. As guests and alumni panel members start to arrive I’m told by many that being allowed inside this building is an experience in itself, adding a great buzz to the atmosphere! This alone goes to shows the power of the Bath community, having been offered this amazing venue by one of our Honorary Graduates in Hong Kong, Sir CK Chow.

The panel seated on the stage is made up of five graduates, all of whom are incredibly successful in their respective fields. Each was kind enough to give up their evening to share their professional experiences and insights and they didn’t disappoint. With 40 eager faces in the crowd we kicked off the discussion, hearing from each panellist in turn as they imparted the best and, indeed, worst points of their careers and their sound advice for starting out and progressing in the world of work.

The audience was a great mix of graduates from across the years (including a 1970’s engineer!) and I was really pleased to see a number of our third year placement students in the crowd as well. Questions from the floor were plentiful and judging by the unwillingness of people to go home, I think it’s fair to say that a huge amount was gained by all.

In true Hong Kong style, business cards were swapping hands left right and centre, then it was back out into the bustling metropolis to fight off the humidity on the journey home. I have a feeling that this Get Connected Hong Kong will be the first of many.

This event wouldn’t have been possible without the help and enthusiasm of Chapter President, Vivian Ching,

Get Connected Hong Kong

Get Connected Hong Kong

and our fantastic Chapter Committee and, of course, our panel members: Mickey Ko, Martin Cerullo, Andy Li and Susan Khua.  I’d like to thank them all again for their support.


Update from Hong Kong


📥  International

Find out what happened when alumna Vivian Ching (MSc Management) met with the Foreign Office Minister in Hong Kong

Vivian Ching (middle row, second from left) with the panellists who met with Mark Field, the UK Minister for Asia

On 24 August 2017 I was honoured to have been invited by the British Council to an Exclusive Roundtable Discussion with Rt Hon Mark Field, who is a UK Member of Parliament for London and Westminster, and also the Minister of State for Asia Pacific.

Field was in Hong Kong for a few days, and he was interested to learn more about the prevailing attitudes and opinions of young people in Hong Kong. As one out of ten young emerging leaders from a wide range of industries selected to join the panel, the event offered a unique opportunity for us to share our thoughts with Field with regards to building improved UK foreign policies that benefit the future of Hong Kong.

The roundtable touched on a wide array of social, economic and political issues. We discussed how young people in Hong Kong tend to perceive themselves in relation to China and the world, shared our opinions on the impact of economic integration with mainland China, as well as Hong Kong’s status as China’s “world city.”

Given the diversity of the panellists at the event, we also shared our views on how our respective education has helped shape who we are today, and what can be done to improve the current education system in Hong Kong. This topic actually triggered a deeper discussion on the importance of nurturing creativity among the younger generation.

As a doctoral degree holder, a business professional working at a Global Fortune 500 company as well as an artist, I talked about my experiences as an example of the benefits that Hong Kong students can gain from a more diverse curriculum that promotes innovation and experimentation beyond traditional career paths.

Overall, the roundtable was a success and we were able to openly exchange ideas with Field, as well as other British Consulate General and British Council staff who were also present at the meeting. Even though all panellists had come from differing backgrounds and specialties, the majority of our opinions were actually on a similar page, which was a fascinating finding to all those who were present at the event.

It will be interesting to see how our ideas can be integrated into existing foreign policies, and I very much look forward to new opportunities to contribute more towards enhanced dialogue between Hong Kong and the UK in the future.



Celebrating our 50th with alumni overseas

📥  Bath, International

I have been accompanying the Vice-Chancellor on a tour of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore to celebrate our 50th anniversary year with alumni. And bumping into an international rugby star along the way...

Saturday 2 April - The tour begins

We spend a lot of time celebrating how international a university we are, and I'm often heard citing how great it is that we have 100,000 alumni in more than 150 countries, but as I looked at my schedule before leaving the house this Saturday morning, I did sort of wonder - 15,000 miles in five days!

The Vice-Chancellor and I are going to celebrate the University's 50th anniversary, with alumni events in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, accompanied by a tag team of Events colleagues: Sarah in Dubai, and Laura in Hong Kong and Singapore - a big 'thank you' for all their help. Record crowds are expected in each venue.

Here's hoping for no delays, and luggage that stays with us all week - oh, and - channeling a previous correspondent - some decent coffee.

Saturday 2 April - Arrival in Dubai

A warm welcome was bound to await us as we arrived into Dubai at midnight, but I confess I was impressed with this set up in the hotel room - and it was edible too!

A warm welcome.

A warm welcome.

As for the Bath duck, was that genius irony, or does everyone get one? It's almost as though they have got their hands on our 50th memorabilia plans...

Dubai duck.

Dubai duck.

Saturday 2 April - Dubai event

One down, two to go. That went really well. A great spread of ages among the graduates, some locals, some expats, a warmly received speech from the Vice-Chancellor (and the technology worked - unlike during my rehearsal...) and we also launched our new Alumni Network here in UAE.

You can see more pictures of the event on our Flickr page.

Alumni event in Dubai

Our Dubai event

Monday 4 April - Celebrity spot

Sean Fitzpatrick, All Blacks legend, on the same plane. He's going to the Hong Kong Sevens; we're not. We shall be in Singapore by then.

As you might imagine, he was absolutely fascinated to hear how it's the Economics & Politics degree from Bath in 2003 that makes Steve Borthwick such an expert when it comes to cracking opposition line out codes. As a proud Scotsman it was difficult for me to wax lyrical about England's Rugby Union success in the 6 Nations, but a Bath graduate is a Bath graduate, and I'll take the opportunity to celebrate their achievements whenever and wherever (even at 39,000 feet above Chittagong if necessary).

Should have asked him what he thought about Luke Charteris (BSc Sport & Exercise Science 2005) touring New Zealand with the Lions next summer.

Neutral territory, the British & Irish Lions - not for "Fitzy" though!

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick

 Tuesday 5 April - Arrival in Hong Kong

Got to the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui a little before 11pm, a decent flight from Dubai. I can now understand why people have been telling me it's a good idea to break the long trip to the Far East with a stopover in the middle.

A great meeting with Dr Betty Chan (Honorary LLD 2015) among others today, then prepare for this evening's event.

130 alumni have registered for the reception, which could make it our largest ever alumni gathering in Hong Kong.

Lots of HK can make you feel that you're a long way from home, but then, en route from the MTR in Central, you realise in many ways it's just the same as Bristol really.

Harvey Nichols Hong Kong

Harvey Nichols

Except when you see the bamboo scaffolding...

Bamboo scaffolding

Bamboo scaffolding

Tuesday 5 April - Another successful event

Sir CK Chow (Honorary DEng 2001) is a great performer. To observe him working a room is to witness a master at work - definitely hope I can pick up some tips.

Cracking event tonight, fabulous location and venue, and a great crowd.

Another pair of excellent speeches, from the Vice-Chancellor and Sir CK. The biggest "ooh" definitely came for the pictures of student accommodation nowadays - I think we may have recruited quite a few postgrads just on the basis of wanting to return to campus and enjoy the modern comforts!

Student bedroom

Student bedroom

Student kitchen.

Student kitchen

Two events down, one more to go; both great successes. As Sir CK put it, if we have achieved this much in our first 50 years, just imagine what the next 50 could bring!

Off to Singapore at 8.30 in the morning, the penultimate (and shortest) flight.

Thursday 7 April - Arrive in Singapore 

The alumni tell us we need to improve our brand here in Singapore - don't tell the Director of Marketing & Comms. Perhaps we could amend our logo a little to pretend to be this one? I'm sure the United Overseas Bank wouldn't mind.

And I bet Martyn Whalley would love to have a crack at persuading the Bath planners that a neon logo on a 50 storey building would be just the ticket in our 50th Anniversary year!

United Overseas Bank logo

United Overseas Bank logo

Thursday 7 April - Singapore event

Here's the calm before the storm (a phrase you can say a lot in Singapore, although actually we haven't been caught in the rain yet).

The High Commissioner's residence

The High Commissioner's residence

That's the third and last event done - another success. Now there's just the small matter of 300+ follow up emails to send, conversations to pursue regarding placements, mentoring, donations, research partnerships, visits back to Bath, and everything else you try desperately to retain having had hundreds of conversations. Thank goodness for business cards and the visual cue they can give.

Only one fly in the ointment - the High Commissioner's visitors' book revealed that we somehow managed to let a Bristol graduate through the net! I'm all for GW4, but really, that's a bit much...

The visitor's book

The visitor's book

Fly home tonight, land at 5.10 tomorrow morning in Heathrow. I will be out training the U10 boys and girls rugby by 9.30 - looking forward to it. It's always good for the soul when the little terrors reveal quite how unimpressed they are by where you've been in the last week - puts it all into perspective.

A great trip, though, real enthusiasm for the University, for the roles that alumni can play to support us, excellent venues, record turnouts, money raised, and no technology hiccups.

My thanks to Laura Andrews and all the team back at the ranch in DDAR for helping to make it all look so easy - it's not, and the people who matter know how much work goes into it.

I'll shut up now - that's more than enough blogging from me...


Meeting Bath's finalist at the British Council International Alumni Awards

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📥  International

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins and Professor Tony James have just returned from a whirlwind tour of Turkey, where they attended a Medical Biotechnology Workshop at at the TUSSIDE Conference Hall, TÜBİTAK Gebze Campus from 17-18 February 2016.

The workshop is part of the UK-Turkey year of Science and Innovation sponsored by the UK Science and Innovation Network and the British Council. The aim of the workshop was to build networks with the aim of applying for both Newton-Katip Celebi and Horizon 2020 funding.

Tony writes:

During our visit we attended the prestigious British Council International Alumni Awards Ceremony in Istanbul at the British Consulate. We had the pleasure to meet Erdem Aydin, a PoLIS alumnus and reporter on the International News Desk at CNN Turk, who was a finalist for the ‘Professional Achievement’ category.

Erdem was exceptionally positive about his time in Bath and grateful for the excellent support he received during his for his time in Bath. Toby - a keen cyclist - was happy to hear that one thing Erdem particularly missed from Bath was the cycle ride to the University. The traffic in Istanbul currently prevents him from cycling.

When we bumped into him he was busy getting updates about the then-breaking news about the Ankara bombing. He is a true professional reporter, more concerned about the news than worrying about the award ceremony.

While Erdem did not win the category, he is an exceptional alumnus who will continue to spread the good word about Bath as he excels in his journalistic career.


Alumna becomes first female Sri Lankan civilian officer to earn military qualification

📥  International

University of Bath alumna, Jeevanthie Senanayake, is a civil servant in Sri Lanka. She completed her MSc International Public Policy Analysis (MIPPA) in 2012, and has since gone on to be the first female Sri Lankan civilian officer to earn the military qualification Passed Staff College (PSC).

Countries including the UK and Sri Lanka have joint staff colleges to train their military and civil servants. Jeevanthie’s college provided her with essential military training, a theoretical basis for war fighting, an exposure to the policy of war, all of which which helped her to attain this qualification.

Jeevanthie Senanayake

Jeevanthie Senanayake

Jeevanthie said of her achievement: “I feel proud of myself. It is not easy for even a military officer to obtain this qualification. It involves a lot of hard work.

“To be the first female civilian to have earned this qualification is something to be proud of. I also won the prestigious ‘Golden Pen’ award for the best research at the Defence Services Command and Staff College last year. That was the first time a civilian officer had won that award.

“Before I started my masters I was an officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, which is equivalent to the civil service in many other countries. I was attached to the Ministry of Defence in Sri Lanka before I studied for MIPPA, and my duties involved working with the Department of Police. After MIPPA I went back to the Ministry of Defence and was posted in the Development Division. Whilst there I worked with the military educational institutions including the Defence Services Command and Staff College and the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

“MIPPA gave me a very good overall understanding of policies in different countries and regions of the world. In addition, it gave me the basic understanding of different approaches to policy analysis as well as the importance of evidence based policies. All of this has helped me to shape up my thinking process.”

Jeevanthie hopes to be part of the defence set up and policy community of Sri Lanka to assist in defence of the country from future threats.

Congratulations to Jeevanthie on this great achievement from all of us at the University of Bath.


Bath graduate translates award-winning Syrian Journalist

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📥  International, MA Interpreting & Translating

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp completed the MA Interpreting and Translating programme with German and Russian at the University of Bath in 2004. Soon after graduating, Ruth was employed as a linguist and researcher in the UK civil service where she added Arabic to the languages she translates from. She is the co-translator (from Arabic) of The Crossing: My journey to the shattered heart of Syria, an account of the ongoing war in Syria by exiled Syrian writer Samar Yazbek, 2012 winner of the International PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage prize.

The Crossing has been described as ‘one of the first political classics of the 21st century’ by The Observer. Author Samar Yazbek, spoke to the Guardian about her powerful and moving account of her devastated homeland. She tells how she risked her life to cross illegally back into Syria, and how she has been an eyewitness to the unfolding chaos and misery. Read the article here.

Ruth Ahmedzai

Ruth Ahmedzai

Ruth commented, “It was a very difficult book to work on: because of the time-sensitive topic - the worsening Syrian crisis - there was a very tight deadline, which was tough with such a complex, lyrical text. But above all, it was emotionally challenging: it is a book laden with heart-breaking scenes, with shocking brutality but also much poetic beauty.”

“It has been a privilege to contribute to British readers’ understanding of what is going on in Syria, and I am glad that Syrians are finally being given a voice internationally. The book has led to other opportunities to translate Samar’s writing, including a comment on the refugee crisis for the Guardian.”

Ruth has run a successful freelance business as a translator and editor since 2009, working mainly with commercial, government and NGO clients, but increasingly in publishing. She is also the translator (from Arabic) of The Bride of Amman, a novel by Fadi Zaghmout and a book she is promoting this autumn. Ruth has a number of possible books in the pipeline for the future, and she is currently translating an academic text (linguistics).

She explains, “One thing I love about translating is that I never know where the next contract might take me. I’d be very happy if the next book is non-fiction, particularly history or politics. I love not knowing what’s round the corner, but it’s reassuring to know that with three languages (Russian, German and Arabic) covering so many countries, and particularly as a translator of German, there is always plenty of well-paid commercial work to fall back on.”


Getting reconnected with Bath


📥  Get Connected, International, Uncategorized

Action for M.E. CEO and Bath alumna, Sonya Chowdhury, recently volunteered her time and expertise at one of our ‘Get Connected’ events. It was the first engagement she’d had with us since she graduated in 1998, but within 24 hours of the event she had booked plane tickets to attend the World Health Assembly summit as a guest of the CEO of the largest cancer fighting organisation in the world. Read her story below. 

Being asked to speak on a panel at the ‘Get Connected’ event in London about working in the charity, NGO and policy sectors not only gave me a chance to share my experience, but opened doors that I would never have expected to be there for me.

The Chair of the Panel, CEO of the Union for International Control of Cancer and alumnus [and recent honorary graduate], Cary Adams, spoke with me after the event and invited me to Geneva. Little did I know that 24 hours later I would have plane tickets booked and four days at the World Health Assembly summit at the United Nations in my diary.

Sonya Chowdhury

Sonya Chowdhury

This was an incredible opportunity for me to develop a greater understanding of how policy and decision-making happens at a global health level. From a personal perspective, the insight and learning was immense and I couldn’t possibly have got as much from just reading about the systems or structures in place. Alongside this I received a masterclass in CEO networking from Cary (who was phenomenal to watch in terms of ‘working the room’) and benefited from being introduced to a number of influential and inspiring individuals.

I don’t know how much you know about M.E., but it’s an illness that quite literally steals lives; a long-term neurological condition that affects many of the body’s systems and leaves children and adults with extreme, persistent exhaustion and a range of nasty symptoms including cognitive dysfunction, sleep difficulties and pain amongst many others. Many of the 250,000 people in the UK will M.E. describe being trapped; existing but not living.

Politically, M.E. has a very low profile in the UK (it’s different in the Netherlands and the US) so finding a way to mobilise people and significantly increase the profile of M.E. is critical. Having the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how we might do this through engagement at World Health Assembly level, and exploring how to build networks and create a bigger collective voice, will ultimately benefit people affected by this devastating illness. Supported by Cary, I am now developing a proposal for a five-year plan to achieve just that, and build on the collaboration work we are already undertaking such as establishing an International Alliance of leading charities across the globe.

The Panel was my first real engagement with Bath Alumni since I left in 1998. I am surprised and delighted by what it has offered me, personally and professionally, as well as the potential for people with M.E. and the charity that I run. Hopefully, there will be more to come!


Galapagos Island trip


📥  International

PhD students Elisabeth Grey (Department for Health), Becky Mead and Dana Buchan (both Department Biology & Biochemistry) are doing evolutionary related research at the University, and have just returned from a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Dana and Becky’s projects are investigating the teaching of evolution in schools as part of the GEVOteach (Genetics & Evolution) teaching project, whilst Elisabeth is looking into how evolutionary messaging can be used in diet and health advice.

Their trip to Galapagos was arranged and fully funded by Bath alumnus Dr Jonathan Milner, who is already funding their PhDs and has just donated £5 million to the University to establish the Milner Centre for Evolution, the first evolution science centre in the UK.

You can read the accounts of their life-changing trip below.

We are lucky enough to have the Evolution Education Trust (EET), headed by Jonathan Milner, as our PhD scholarship sponsor. The EET was formed to promote a greater public understanding of evolution, and as such it is also involved with the Galapagos Conservation Trust, an organisation that supports scientific, educational and cultural initiatives aimed at conserving Galapagos (the famous archipelago that was an inspiration to Darwin’s theory of evolution). Dr Milner was keen for us to see the fantastic work of the GCT and arranged for us to join them on a 2 week trip to Galapagos.

The first week of our trip was spent visiting several of the eastern islands in the archipelago. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the great variety of environmental conditions on the different islands and how this is reflected in the species that inhabit them. Many of the animals we saw are unique to Galapagos, including, of course, the famous finches. It was possible to get very close to a lot of the animals since, having no natural predators, they are relatively unfearful of humans. Swimming side-by-side with wild sea turtles, was a particular experience we’ll never forget!

This tour also introduced us to some of the threats to these unique islands. We saw many invasive plants, such as blackberry, which have been introduced by man and are fast eliminating the endemic vegetation on which certain animals have come to depend. The sea-life is also at risk: among our fellow travellers were a couple of marine biologists who conducted bio-surveys of the sea water in different locations. In all the samples we found a high number and range of vital plankton, but also many microplastics.

Elisabeth Grey is completing a PhD Research Programme in Health

Every moment spent in the Galapagos was mesmerising, thought-provoking and life-changing. As soon as we arrived we were inundated with wildlife that showed no fear (and often took no notice) of humans. On landing at San Cristobel Airport I initially thought I had flown back through time: in the sky a huge, black, almost pterodactyl-like bird was circling above us. I was to see many other frigatebirds during my two week stay on Galapagos.

Male Frigatebird

Male Frigatebird

To follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and visit the Galapagos had been a distant dream but, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Jonathan Milner and the Evolution Education Trust, I have just returned from the trip of a lifetime. Along with two of my PhD student colleagues from the University of Bath I joined the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s (GCT) Supporter Cruise and spent time on Santa Cruz Island learning about GCT-funded education projects.


Seal basking in the sun

Life on board the Majestic was truly wonderful. We sailed by night, visiting a different island each day. Every island was unique with its own spectacular landscape and fascinating flora and fauna. I soon became accustomed to marine iguanas hiding among the black volcanic rocks, sea lions basking in the sun, Sally Lightfoot crabs with their startling orange shells bright against the dark coastal cliffs, and the finches, mockingbirds and lava lizards which all appear similar, yet vary between islands. It is easy to see how Darwin’s visit here helped shape his views on evolution.

I have so many amazing memories, but those prehistoric-looking frigatebirds really encapsulate the wonder, mystery and magnificence of the islands for me. Seeing the male frigatebirds on Genovesa Island, their mating calls reverberating through their enormous red throat pouches, is something I shall never forget.

I learnt to snorkel in the brilliant turquoise ocean. I entered a new world where I immediately became engulfed in schools of fish and then found myself the centre of attention of curious sea lions playfully darting around me. Snorkelling around Kicker Rock we were treated to turtles, sea lions, rays, sharks, an octopus and - somewhat tingly! - jellyfish. But perhaps the most poignant moment was seeing a turtle eating a plastic bag. Even in these glistening, remote waters, the impact of humans is inescapable.

Becky and tortoise

Becky and a Galapagos tortoise

On Santa Cruz we visited a school and an eco-club. I felt honoured to participate in a teacher workshop which included tortoise tracking in the highlands. I was impressed with the dedication of the teachers and trainers to the environment and sustainability. I was particularly encouraged by the positive attitude of teenagers at the eco club who viewed conserving nature as their responsibility. It gives me lots of hope for the future of these islands and really highlights why funding from organisations such as the GCT is vital.

I have been so inspired and motivated by this incredible adventure. I am very grateful to my sponsor, everyone at the GCT, those on board the Majestic, and those who I met during my time on the islands: you all made me feel so welcome and opened my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. I hope I can use this experience to improve my research into how evolution is taught in UK schools, and I look forward to working with the GCT in the near future to develop teaching resources.

Becky Mead is completing a PhD Research Programme in Biology

The Galapagos education system currently serves just over 5,200 primary and secondary students through a network of 20 public and private schools on the islands of Santa Cruz (9 schools), San Cristóbal (6), Isabela (4), and Floreana (1). Some of these schools are extremely small and isolated.

Tomás de Berlanga School

Tomás de Berlanga School

During my second week in the Galapagos Islands I was extremely privileged to visit Tomás de Berlanga School on the Island of Santa Cruz. This fee-paying school offered bilingual primary and secondary education to approximately 130 students in a rural forest setting.

The school was situated four miles from the centre of town on the road to the highlands. Children and staff were bused in and out from the fairly remote site every day. The school itself was made up of several single story blocks integrated into the forest. The blocks (pairs of classrooms, art, administration/reception, canteen, toilets, music and library) were separate but close together and linked by crushed lava pathways lined with trees and shrubs.

The classrooms were fairly basic by UK standards, just desks and chairs, a white board and a few posters on the walls. There was no air conditioning, just fly screens in the windows. Resources seemed to be very limited but were reported to be much better than most other schools on the Islands. As a consequence of the school’s location the constant dampness meant that paper resources perish quickly. There was no evidence of any science equipment or lab in the school and so probably only taught in theory.

Pupils at Tomás de Berlanga School

Pupils at Tomás de Berlanga School

I was given access to 24 students in two classes (grades 6 and 7) ranging from 10 to 12 years old, who had not been taught about evolution. Evolution education in Ecuador is carried out in the 9th grade (13 years old). This is comparable with the students in the UK before the changes in the Primary National Curriculum were introduced in September 2014.

Both classes were given the same translated questionnaires I intend to use to collect data from year 6 students in the UK. The questions were selected from a large scale American study, part of the AAAS Project 2061 (Flanagan and Roseman, 2011). This research will form part of my thesis and allow me to compare the evolutionary knowledge of children from the Galapagos Islands, the USA and UK.

Dana Buchan is completing a PhD Research Programme in Biology



Interpreting and translating alumni triumph at United Nations


📥  International, MA Interpreting & Translating

The United Nations interpreter examinations are renowned for being incredibly challenging, rigorous and highly competitive. They aim to single out the best in the interpreting world.

So when we heard that MA Interpreting and Translating alumni Katherine Nield and Jaya Mishra had passed the UN interpreting exams just two months after graduating, we were excited to share their success. Out of the 25 entrants (approx.) who sat the exam in Geneva in January, only four passed the challenging assessment.

This means that Katherine and Jaya can now interpret for the United Nations in Geneva on a freelance basis and have this prestigious accreditation to their names. We asked Katherine and Jaya about their experience, how they prepared for the exam and what advice they have for future Bath MA Interpreting and Translating alumni.

Katherine’s experience…

The main thing I did to prepare for the exam was to use the UN webcast to stream speeches for practice. It has quite an extensive archive of speeches and you can filter them by language, country, meeting etc. As the UN test is a lot longer than the Bath exams, I made sure I built up my stamina, so I could manage three ten-minute speeches per language. I also tried to read up on some general background about the UN in Geneva, so I could recognise the titles of committees and treaty bodies.

The exam was obviously very nerve-wracking as there was a panel of five people listening and making notes on what you say. However, it was good to have an ‘audience’ and a live speaker as opposed to listening to a recording and being recorded, as it makes the experience more realistic. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive throughout.

It means a huge amount to pass the exam! I have always been really keen on becoming an interpreter so it’s great to have the accreditation and be able to work for the UN on a freelance basis. I’m now looking to gain as much experience as possible on the freelance market.

Katherine Nield

Katherine Nield

Katherine’s advice…

If you think you’ve made a mistake or missed something, don’t dwell on it and keep going! I certainly didn’t do a flawless job and they don’t expect you to be perfect.

The MA Interpreting and Translation programme at Bath was excellent preparation, not only the programme itself, but also because I had the opportunity to go on placement to the UN. This meant I had more of an idea what interpreting at this type of organisation looks like, and it confirmed for me that this was really what I wanted to do.

Katherine Nield (MA Interpreting and Translating 2014, French and Russian)

Jaya’s experience…

To prepare for the exam, I practised as much as possible by using the UN webcast and Treaty Bodies website which broadcast live meetings and speeches. I would try to use these web resources for at least an hour every day in the run up to the exams. I also ‘dummy boothed’ for two weeks at the UN in Geneva which was invaluable because, not only did I get two weeks of exposure to the kind of speeches I could expect in the exam, but many staff interpreters were at hand to listen and offer advice.

Sitting the exam was obviously a very daunting experience. The most important thing is not to view your nerves as something that set you back, but to use them to your advantage as a form of adrenaline.

The exam was split over two days. If you did not pass the French on the first day, you were not asked to take the Russian exams the day after. On both days, there were three ten-minute speeches per language. There were roughly three to five people on the panel listening to my interpretation and one live speaker delivering the speech. Given how nerve-wracking the experience is, I felt that all the members of the panel understood this and tried their best not to add any extra pressure – their smiles and nods of the head were all very welcome to me!

After being informed that I had passed, I felt a mixture of elation, pride and relief. I had never let my expectations get too high because I was always aware of just how competitive the tests were and how it is very common for people to fail the first time they take them.

I now hope to establish myself as a freelance interpreter in Geneva. It is important to remember that passing the exam is by no means a direct or immediate entry into a career as a UN interpreter. A lot more hard work is required to show that I am capable of interpreting at the highest level.

Jaya Mishra

Jaya Mishra

Jaya’s advice...

The most useful piece of advice for me was to breathe! Taking deep breaths is so important in calming your nerves and clearing your mind.

Without the programme at Bath it would have been virtually impossible for me to pass the exam. Prior to enrolling on MA Interpreting and Translating I had no experience whatsoever of interpreting. I simply thought that it would be a good way for me to use my languages. I did not know how challenging and rewarding a career it could be so I shall be forever grateful to Bath and, in particular, Elena Kidd for running such a fantastic programme.

Jaya Mishra (MA Interpreting and Translating 2014, French and Russian)

You can also read ‘How to become a UN Interpreter,’ written by Bath alumna Helen Reynolds-Brown on behalf of the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/15/russian-french-un-interpreter

Written by Louise Andrews, Marketing Officer, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences 


A chance encounter in Singapore

📥  International

Our international network has grown beyond measure over the last few years. So whether you’re travelling for work or pleasure, the chance of bumping into a fellow Bath graduate is growing. However, when our Director of Development & Alumni Relations, Gavin Maggs, hosted an alumni reception at Raffles Hotel, Singapore, and met three graduates who were, quite by chance, holidaying there at the time, he asked them to write a blog entry to share the coincidence with the alumni community.

Our thanks to Peter, Jane and Alan. We hope you enjoyed the rest of your holiday.

There I was, relaxing in our hotel on our once-in-a-lifetime holiday in New Zealand, downloading email to check on my ageing father back home, when a message popped up about a University of Bath meeting in Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

"Now, if that had been when we are passing through on our way home," I said to my wife, "we could have gone."

"What date?" she asked.

We checked our schedule, and it was right in the middle of our three day stopover.  What a coincidence. So we went.

I graduated in 1973 in engineering, so I didn't think there would be much chance of meeting anyone from my year, let alone anyone I would remember. But there was another 1973 graduate there, also holidaying, and a group of 1974 engineering graduates. We must have crossed paths many times in the corridors of 4East, although we did not recall each other.

My wife feared a dry and stuffy talk, but not at all. Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, justifiably trumpeted the successes and current high regard that Bath enjoys; it was good when I was there, but it has achieved much greater standing since. And Professor Gareth Jones, our new Dyson Chair of Design Engineering, talked with enthusiasm and interest about innovation and its importance both in education and in industry with examples from his own background.

If you weren’t there, you missed a good evening.

Peter Fosker (BSc (Hons) Engineering 1973)

I left the Bath alumni reception at the Raffles Hotel full of good wine, great canapés and benevolent feelings for the University. I also had a homework assignment from Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations: explain how I ended up at an alumni get-together in Singapore with my freshman roommate, Liz, from Bath, when I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

The story is simple.

Liz and I met in 1970 at Freshers’ weekend and shared a room for the winter term. She then left for another university while I stayed at Bath. We kept in touch, but met only very occasionally.

Liz’s eldest son now lives in Singapore, and as I wanted to travel in the Far East, I suggested that the next time she and her husband were visiting him we could meet up – unfortunately this never happened.

As I am a signed up University of Bath alumna, I get the emails, and one announced a get-together in Singapore while Liz and I would both be there. So I signed us up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I made friends for life at Bath. It’s also where I met my husband. He and I were professionally successful because of our four degrees from Bath. I was lucky enough to have a Bath undergrad intern at my company for a summer. I also donate (modestly) to the scholarship program because I couldn’t have had the education I had without grants which are no longer available.

Professor Gareth Jones - the speaker at the alumni reception in Singapore - was great, and I am so glad that a technical university appreciates the power of the creative mind. I was married to an architect, and architects have always had to merge artistic creativity with a technical foundation.

Jane Morgan (BPharm (Hons) Pharmacy 1973 and PhD Pharmacy & Pharmacology 1978)

My youngest daughter, Ellie, lives in Australia and has recently started a new career teaching in Perth. I visited her in January and spent two wonderful months in Western Australia.  On my way back to the UK I spent two weeks in Phu Quoc - an unspoilt island off the south coast of Vietnam (look it up on Google!) - and then stopped over in Singapore before my return journey.

Whilst there, I went to Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar - a must on any tourist visit to Singapore. As I was sipping my cocktail I noticed a sign for a University of Bath Alumni reception in the East India rooms. I was an undergraduate on the social sciences degree course in 1976, so thought, ‘I'm in!’

And what a wonderful evening I had.

Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, gave a fascinating talk on how Bath has developed to become a leading University not just in the UK, but the world.

An equally inspiring talk followed, given by Professor Gareth Jones, Bath’s new Dyson Chair of Design Engineering, on innovation and the success the University has had in this respect.

How wonderful it was to feel such a connection after all these years, and to know how the University - which was only ten years old when I attended it - has prospered in the space of fifty years to become a world class university.

Good luck to all of you, particularly my classmates.

Alan Ormerod (BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 1979)

If you have any stories you would like to share with the alumni community, please email us at alumni@bath.ac.uk