SOAS University of London

Cristina Alderighi, MSc Environmental Economics (2016)

I enjoyed the fact that I could first enroll on a postgraduate certificate and eventually upgrade it to a MSc, while at the same time starting the programme in one country and finishing it in another.

Cristina Alderighi

Programme Officer - United Nations

Why did you choose SOAS?

Prior joining SOAS, I studied Economics and obtained a Masters degree in Human Development and Food Security. However, as I was working for the United Nations in Cabo Verde, I was planning to complement my academic background with postgraduate distance learning courses in the field of environmental economics, which is a key issue, especially when dealing with a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) subject to vulnerabilities such as climate change.

In addition, not being a native English speaker, I was wished to challenge myself by undertaking a programme at a high-profile anglosaxon institution such as SOAS. Furthermore, the distance learning programmes offered by SOAS perfectly matched my needs, both in terms of content and flexibility. More specifically, I enjoyed the fact that I could first enroll on a postgraduate certificate and eventually upgrade it to a MSc, while at the same time starting the programme in one country and finishing it in another. I also liked the opportunity of better shaping my field of expertise by choosing and adding some elective modules to the core ones.

Why was distance learning suitable to your situation?

Working in an international organization often involves frequent duty travel as well as living in different countries for prolonged periods. This constant instability is, on the one hand, an extremely enriching experience but, on the other hand, might also have repercussions on mid to long term aspirations such as further education. Therefore, as I was planning to enroll on another Masters degree in the field of Development, I started to explore distance learning opportunities, focusing on universities with a huge network of centers, especially in developing countries. Distance learning provided me with sufficient flexibility to study at my own pace anywhere in the world, combining continued education with other activities as well as work and family commitments.

How did you manage to work and study?

Working and studying at the same time is not an easy task so I believe dedication, organization as well as the support of my family and friends were key elements in succeeding! From my enrolment, I tried to study on a regular basis and to organise myself around SOAS’ timetable to avoid commitments during examined assessments as well as exams period, usually scheduled for September/October.

How would you describe your learning experience?

I would definitively define this experience as challenging but also rewarding…. once completed! The topics covered by the modules were very interesting and I believe the programme provided me with a sound understanding of environmental issues. Furthermore, by interacting with both the module coordinator as well as with other students, I had the opportunity to further research specific issues which were relevant for my work. Moreover, I must say that the opportunity to liaise and share information with peers through the platform was extremely useful since we sometimes solved bottlenecks together or created specific working groups to prepare for the exams more efficiently.

What difference has your University of London qualification made to your career?

SOAS definitely provided my with an additional qualification in the field of environmental economics, which is considered a crosscutting issue when employed in the development industry. This degree adds value to my career as it allowed me to progressively acquire more responsibilities and be involved in more technical work.

Have you been able to apply the knowledge gained to your work?

Indeed, I have been able to apply the knowledge gained in my studies to my work. Some modules such as Economic Principles or Project Planning and Management were more relevant to my daily work, considering my current role as Programme Officer. However, other modules such as Climate Change and Development and Economics of Natural Resources allowed me to have a better understanding of the specific issues I was working on.