When Hannah Sansom was looking for the right postgraduate degree for her, our MSc Refugee Studies stood out as particularly appealing. Having spent a year volunteering on the Thai/Burma border as a Human Rights Researcher with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), she was looking for a course that would build on her already considerable experience.
"I'd been working with refugees who had experienced grave human rights violations," said Hannah of her time at the Thai/Burma border. "It led me to conclude that I wanted to focus on refugee rights and that a Masters in the subject would help me progress my career in that direction."
LSBU offered exactly the course that I was looking for. The focus on gender was also important for my career plan, as was the reputation and experience of the LSBU lecturers. An associate of mine had spoken very highly of the course, so it really was the best option for me.
Advocacy, advice and support
Hannah continued to volunteer throughout her studies, working for the British Red Cross.
"I worked initially as a Refugee Women in Crisis Caseworker and then as a Refugee Women Support Group Facilitator," she said.
"I applied for the Caseworker position because I believed it would complement my degree, develop my practical skills and enhance my productivity. Shortly after joining, I was asked to help facilitate the Refugee Woman's Support Group. That involved providing advocacy, advice and support to refugee women and co-ordinating educational and psychosocial workshops."
Course Director's Prize
It was an approach that proved hugely beneficial to Hannah's career plan. The skills and experience she gained from her voluntary work complemented her studies perfectly, helping Hannah to win the Course Director's Prize for the course.
"The course itself provided me with a theoretical understanding of the interaction between forced migration, gender and sexual violence, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge practically," she said.
"It also taught me to conceptualise and critically analyse information, which is a vital part of successful programme design, implementation and management."
Towards the end of her course, Hannah secured an internship that would play a huge role in launching her career, securing a placement with the Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (Egypt).
"The internship later led to me securing a paid position within the organisation," explained Hannah.
My first position was as a Sexual and Gender Based Violence Officer and my LSBU experience really helped when it came to getting the job. Through my lectures and seminars I had developed an in-depth knowledge of refugee law, types of forced migration and the relationship between gender and migration. This was a big help in job interviews, because I was able to demonstrate a strong understanding of those subjects.
Hannah has since progressed in her career and now works as the Gender Based Violence Programme Coordinator for the American Refugee Committee in Thailand. She oversees GBV programmes in five refugee camps along the Thailand/Burma border to prevent violence and raise awareness in refugee communities.
With her career up and running, Hannah is quick to recommend LSBU to those looking to follow in her footsteps.
"The lecturers were excellent and highly knowledgeable about their subjects," she said.
"The other students on the course came from diverse backgrounds; some were refugees while others had valuable fieldwork experience and many had studied relevant topics during their undergraduate degrees. This made debates really interesting and challenging – I learned a huge amount from my lecturers and the experience of my fellow students, which stood me in good stead for starting my career."