SOAS University of London

Luminita Cuna

I researched many online programs in US, Canada, and UK, but I found that the SOAS CeDEP Master of Science is the one that suited my needs best, in terms of quality, content, flexibility and finances.

MSc Sustainable Development (specialism: Environmental Management) 

I was born and raised in Romania and I obtained my bachelor degree in the US. On graduation I took on an IT project management job with Citigroup. However, curiosity and childhood dreams took me to South America. I visited and lived with a number of indigenous communities: the Quechua and Huaorani in the Amazon region of Ecuador, and the Matses in Peru. I developed close relationships with these three indigenous communities and we have built friendship and mutual trust.

These communities are confronted with incredible issues that affect their livelihoods, human rights and the environment in which they live. I started helping these communities the best I could, with modest means and at a grassroots level by providing medicines and school supplies (that had been collected from friends in the US), and by improving community initiatives such as the making and sale of handicrafts and eco-tourism. I soon realised that if I wanted to have a more significant and sustainable impact I needed to work on a different level, and acquire both knowledge and credibility.

Although I have a bachelor’s degree in International Economics and work experience in IT which was useful, these were  not enough to understand and tackle the complexity of the human and environmental issues affecting these indigenous communities in the Amazon.

I researched many online programs in the US, Canada, and the UK, but I found that the SOAS CeDEP Master of Science is the one that suited my needs best in terms of quality, content, flexibility and finances. It had all the characteristics I was looking for in a programme and I liked the idea of being able to study while working and I found it intriguing to be able to study from any part of the world.  This way I can accommodate my studies to any schedule I want. I really enjoy the course material and the academic team goes a long way to help distance students plan their schedule (which is one of the more challenging parts of studying remotely).  Also, having classmates from different backgrounds, many are currently working on relevant projects to the subjects we study is enriching my experience because we can share real life experiences that complement the course material.

In November 2011, I started Maloca, a grassroots organisation to support indigenous people in the Amazon to preserve their land, culture and environment. At Maloca I work directly with communities and we try together to build strategies to respond to their diverse needs. I hope to get a larger network of friends to help these indigenous communities establish self-sustaining strategies for their future.