Parade Profile: Keren Paul (MSc International Development 2003) 

Posted in: Humanities & Social Sciences, International, Parade profiles, Postgraduate

Alumna Keren Paul credits her master’s degree in international development as opening the door to her future career path in NGOs around Southeast Asia. As an international student from India, Keren was keen to explore the UK during her degree and found herself thriving in Bath's multicultural community. 

A woman with dark hair in a pink dress smiles on a boat.

Why did you choose to study at Bath? 

I was interested in a master’s in international development and heard that the University of Bath had a course that was on par with some of the other well-known universities that I knew of. When I did my homework about Bath, it also looked attractive in terms of its overall reputation and rankings.

Additionally, when I applied, I was offered a place on the course I applied for, whereas the other universities I applied to offered alternative courses rather than the exact one I wanted. 


Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?   

Yes, I wanted to work in the development sector, which is why I chose a course in international development. However, at the time, I was not very clear about what exactly I wanted to do within the sector.  


Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?   

I loved studying at Bath! My class was incredibly diverse, and I made friends with people from different countries and continents. I learnt about a range of issues and places and cultures, not just from my classes and seminars, but also from my classmates.  

The year I was at Bath was also the year the UK and its allies went to war against Iraq so that was hotly debated within the university and community – I remember attending a public debate at Bath Abbey – and many from the university travelled to London to participate in a massive protest against the war. 

Bath is a beautiful city and whenever I travelled elsewhere in Britain and returned to Bath, it always reminded me of how unique and special it is.

One of my favourite memories is of attending the Advent candlelight service at Bath Abbey. I think there were eight or nine choirs and the choral music by candlelight in that historical setting was divine! 


What was your experience as an international student studying in the UK? Do you have any advice for others?   

I met many other international students from different countries, which was an educational and enriching experience for me. My friends introduced me to Mexican music, Japanese food, and of course the British custom of socialising at the pub.  

The University also organised short one-day trips for international students to places like Oxford, Salisbury and Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Cardiff, which gave us an opportunity to learn more about historical places in the UK.  

I would advise international students to keep a spending budget in mind while studying abroad. Everything was a lot more expensive than in my home country of India, so I kept accounts to make sure I was being judicious in my spending. 

My advice for others is to be open, get to know people from different cultures, engage in different experiences, and make the most of this unique opportunity! 


Describe your career journey since graduating.    

As part of my course, I did a placement with an NGO in Sri Lanka while working on my dissertation. I loved my time in Sri Lanka and went on to find a job in the development sector (in programme management) and worked there for over six years.

I then returned to India before moving to Myanmar, working in programme funding and project management jobs in NGOs.  

I currently work in an international NGO in a programme management role on a regional programme in Southeast Asia and have been based in Thailand for the past two years.  


What is a typical day like in your current role?  

My work varies a lot, and on a typical day, I would likely have a few meetings with colleagues from our country teams across the region related to programme strategy or development, planning, or budget management. I would also work on some writing related to projects that I lead or support.  

I would also enjoy some time connecting with my colleagues less formally over lunch or around the office to learn more about what they are working on or just life in Thailand in general (including learning about Thai culture or some new Thai phrases).  

I also get to travel to the other countries where we implement our programme, which is one of my favourite parts of my current role! 


How did your studies help you to develop? 

Professionally, my studies gave a me a strong foundation in terms of understanding development concepts that has been useful in my work as a development practitioner. It also gave me some exposure to different stakeholders in the sector and understand how they work.  

Personally, it was a time of growth as I learnt to interact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, while adjusting to living in and navigating a new culture, which expanded my own perspective. 


Tell us more about your placement experience. 

I took part in a placement with an international NGO in Sri Lanka for three months after the taught part of my master's and worked on my dissertation on child soldiers while I was there. This gave me an opportunity to learn more about the issue in Sri Lanka, speak to people working on it, and made the topic come alive.  

I also did other work for the NGO, which was a chance to learn about something new. Being in Sri Lanka also meant that I was able to apply for and get a job there. I went there with a return ticket and ended up staying for over six years, which were some of my best years both professionally and personally!

I doubt I would have had the opportunity if it hadn’t been for the placement. 


What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?  

If prospective students are interested in the development sector but not sure of which area, I would say a master’s in international development is a good general, foundational look into working in development. 

However, if you’re interested in a specific sector or area, I would advise you to find a course specifically related to that area. The development sector now is much more specialised than twenty years ago when I did my master’s, and a more technical or specialist degree would be valuable if you have an idea of which area of development you would like to work in.  

In terms of studying at Bath specifically, I would say it is a wonderful experience. The University has a diverse and vibrant community, with opportunities for engaging in a wide range of activities, and there are great facilities too.

Bath is beautiful and a fantastic setting while you’re studying, while also being well-connected if you’d like to explore other parts of the UK. 

Posted in: Humanities & Social Sciences, International, Parade profiles, Postgraduate

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