Case study – Kristina Hagen

What is your nationality?kristina hagen new

I am American.

What/when did you study at Durham?

BA in Politics and Sociology, 2006-2010

What are you doing now?

I am the Caucus Services Director for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.

What does your job involve?

I work directly with the offices of the 19 Democrats serving in the Virginia Senate. I provide communications and press support through our legislative session and strategic support through the campaign season. This is an election year in Virginia, with all 40 Senate seats up for election, so I am working with our candidates to recruit staff and build campaign plans to ensure that we can win back the majority in November.

How did your time at Durham help you to succeed?

I gained a solid academic foundation through my BA program but I also learned a lot outside the classroom. My degree in Politics and Sociology was a great platform from which to grow, and through my work with my JCR and with the DSU I learned how to organize and lead. This is what makes me an effective political operative.

What advice would you give to current students?

Get involved! There is nothing stronger for a recent graduate’s resume than Durham’s combination of academic excellence and opportunities for civic engagement.



Case study – Delaney Chambers

What is your nationality?Delaney new


What/when did you study at Durham?

I did a BA in Philosophy and Arabic between 2008 and 2012.

What are you doing now?

I am working for The Atlantic magazine as a Product Manager.

What does your job involve?

I’m a journalist in a broad sense, but more specifically, I work on digital products like interactives and redesigns for The Atlantic’s website. I manage a team of developers, designers and editorial interests and help facilitate collaborations between the different interests. Basically, I act as a translator among all kinds of different aspects of projects to try to tell stories in new and interesting ways. The most recent project I worked on was The Atlantic Photo.

How did your time at Durham help you to succeed?

I work at an intellectual magazine surrounded by very highly educated people, many of whom also studied philosophy at major universities. Without the curiosity and general work ethic instilled in me by a Durham education, I wouldn’t have got as far as I have!

What advice would you give to current students?

I would tell current students to keep in mind what they want to do, and most particularly where they want to be. I would have loved to stay in England, and I didn’t take seriously enough how hard it would be to come back.

Iynna in New York

Name: Iynna HalilouIynna

Nationality: Cameroonian

Durham degree: BA, International Relations

Post graduate course: MA, International Relations and Affairs with a specialization in International Security

Institution & country: New York University, USA

Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate studies overseas? First of all, I have always wanted to study in the United States, and particularly in New York City. One of my future goals is to enter the United Nations, being close to the headquarters would only maximize my chances of being hired by this organization. Moreover, I am very passionate about security issues and American institutions are known for providing a top education in this field. And lastly I chose specifically NYU because of its reputation worldwide, and the values the university upholds.

How did you research postgraduate study options? I have known for eight years that I would integrate a grad school to further my knowledge (no matter what course I would be doing – long studies have basically always appealed to me). Since my very first year I have been looking into potential schools that would be interesting for me – and in my final year I divided between schools that were more oriented towards research (leading to a PhD) and those with a professional focus (classes taught by practitioners that would really train me to become a diplomat) – my choice became very easy.

What did the application process involve? The first thing to note is that the application process can be very daunting but actually with a bit of organization it works out perfectly.

It involved a CV and unlike most firms, grad schools do accept 5-page resumes that cover your travels, potential gap years, besides your educational background and professional experiences.

The GRE: I would really recommend you start revising at least three months before submitting your application to grad school. I agree it is a lot but there is a whole list of things you need to do before practicing for the tests. For example, learning the words known as the GRE words that I advise you to know (by heart ideally) because it is 99% certain that these words will come up during the test. Durham University Careers Centre has some useful resources for test preparation and the advisers also provided useful tips regarding my cover letter.

Getting used to the format of the test: with practice you will soon realize that the test is not as hard as it seems to be because the same type of questions come up (whether in the mathematics section or the text analysis one). There are few tricks and tips that you should know too, and this will make your life so much easier.

Does the teaching style differ to your Durham experience?  NYU is definitely different than Durham. NYU is very famous for being extremely quantitative. In my field of International Relations at Durham we tended to write a lot of essays which is why I am very comfortable when it comes to writing. However at NYU I am confronted with quantitative analysis and statistics all the time which I think it is really good. The professors at NYU really encourage us to attend talks and conferences as part of the learning experience. Moreover, seminars, also called recitations are completely different to the seminars at Durham. At Durham they reinforced what was taught in lectures, whereas at NYU they aim to use of a different approach to the same question.

Why did you decide to study this particular course? 9/11 and the rise of terrorism drastically change my perception of the world and human nature and I am passionate about understanding the roots of terrorism and aim to act as a policymaker in order to deal with this global threat. However I chose to study security issues because new challenges are not only about countering terrorism, and I am also very interested in conflict resolution and nuclear nonproliferation.

How will this course help your career plans? My professors are all experts in the field I am interested in. Moreover I wish to work within the UN framework and I think it is definitely a good thing to be so close to the headquarters. 

What advice would you give to students considering postgraduate study overseas? Go for it! It is an amazing and enriching experience. But you must think about it very early, because the process to apply in the USA is long, taking 12-18 months and it takes time to know what you really want and investigate the options. If you are unsure about grad school be cautious because it is about specialization and is extremely challenging and competitive. Therefore you must LOVE what you are doing. 

Phil succeeds at Ernst & Young

Name: Philip O. Sarthou

Course: MSc Corporate and International Finance

Graduated: 2009

Nationality: USA/Haitian

Employer: Ernst & Young, London

Current position: Assurance Associate, Mining, Oil & Gas and Utilities

I currently work for Ernst & Young in London. I work in MOGU (Mining, Oil & Gas and Utilities) as part of the Assurance team and am studying towards the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) ACA qualification.

The main reasons why I picked Durham were the collegiate system and the campus atmosphere. Durham is a fantastic place to study and the experience I had was wonderful. I went to Hatfield College and it really allowed me to integrate and get a feel of British culture and make lots of friends. I can’t speak highly enough of my college experience.

My course involved quite a lot of contact hours compared to other courses. The Durham Business School academic staff were very approachable and being able to speak to those that had written the theory we were applying was an excellent experience. I always felt I could ask questions when I didn’t properly understand something which was very useful for subjects such as econometrics.

Durham University provides endless opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities. I was a committed member of Hatfield College Association Football Club. I also tried out new activities such as the Clay Pigeon Club and learnt how to shoot (not very well though). In addition I was part of Durham University Investment and Finance Group, taking part in the Fund Team. This was great fun while also being instructive as we managed a portfolio of £7,000 that our sponsors had provided.

Ernst & Young’s fantastic reputation attracted me to apply. Although I had offers from other “Big Four” firms, I picked EY because of the people I met during my assessment centre. I felt that it was an environment in which I could really learn and grow to be an exceptional professional. Finally, EY is, in my opinion, the most internationally integrated “Big Four” firm, especially thanks to the EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Area) structure. Having an international background myself, I found that particularly interesting.

As an audit associate I spend most of my time ensuring that the financial statements of my clients show a true and fair view of their financial position and performance. The first year was quite intense as you are thrown in the deep end and have to juggle work and studying. However, the second year is much more enjoyable as you start to gain a better understanding of what you do and get the opportunity to take on more challenging work as you audit more challenging accounts and get involved in the actual planning of the audit.

My experience at Durham helped as it meant that I had a much better understanding of the cultural habits in this country. Also, because Ernst & Young is very keen on hiring Durham graduates, I have met quite a few Durham alumni here and this has helped me develop my network further. In addition, the theoretical knowledge that I acquired as part of my degree has helped me understand the bigger picture and how the work that I perform fits into our audit strategy. Overall my Durham experience provided me with strong evidence for the rigorous selection process which included a first interview, assessment centre and a final partner interview.

I advise current students to get involved in as much as possible and to make the most of their free time because you’ll miss that when you start work! Getting any sort of experience managing something is very useful when it comes to graduate applications, so I would definitely recommend leading a society of some kind.

Atiya at Accenture

Name: Atiya Kalim

Course: BA Hons History

 Graduated: 2008

 Nationality: UK/USA 

Current position: Analyst at Accenture

I came to Durham University at the very end of September 2005, having just turned 18 and never having lived anywhere but home. I was the very definition of a fresher. My suitcase weighted down with text books and a new winter coat I came to live out my dream of wandering around the beautiful city of Durham, studying history in the shadows of the medieval castle and cathedral. I arrived excited for the adventure of the three years ahead.

Looking back to those days I would never have imagined that my module choice of Britain as an Economic Superpower would not only lead me to taking a special subject focused on Ecomomic History (London as an International financial centre), but eventually see me working in technology consultancy at Accenture with a bank for a client. The beauty of a history degree, especially one at Durham is that it opens up so many opportunities. The subject is highly analytical and teaches one to quickly get through a high volume of information and also encourages analytical ability. The excellent teaching and support from the professors really lets you explore your own personal interests.

The excellent communication with and support from my professors, as well as the amazing student body that Durham attracts all combined to make Durham an incredible experience. Whilst studying took place more often in the modern library than next to the Cathedral in the end I learnt invaluable life skills. The attention to detail, the time management, the ability to collaborate and respectfully disagree with contemporaries (as long as you have the right support for your point of view) are all tools I use everyday even though I graduated over 3 years ago!

Apart from the department, and the welcoming and encouraging atmosphere therein, I was also a University Rower. As anyone who has been in a boat at 6am can tell you this is a very difficult sport that requires passion and commitment. I met some of my best friends on a freezing cold River Wear, and with determination we went from terribly mal-coordinated to winning the ‘Boat Race of the North’ against Newcastle university. This to me is characteristic of my Durham, anything can be achieved there with effort and support.

Michalski Makes the Moves

Name: Derek Michalski 

Degree: MA Marketing

Graduated: 2011

Nationality: American

Current position: Buyer, General Mills Worldwide Sourcing

Attending Durham Business School opened many doors for me and allowed me to accomplish many exciting things. In my year at Durham I was able to study alongside a very worldly cohort and be introduced to eager young professionals from all over the world.

On the international stage, I found out immediately that a Durham degree was very sought after by many different kinds of professional fields. Every week there were major multi-national companies on campus for recruitment engagements. I knew immediately that the place I was studying was special, and would be very helpful when it came time to begin my professional career.

There are no shortage of activities on campus, and all are welcoming to new participants. There is seemingly endless space to take advantage of the outdoors– with the university’s many playing fields and courts, wooded trails, and recreational facilities. I was fortunate enough to participate on the University Men’s Lacrosse Team with an incredible group of young men, and represent the University in winning a BUCS National Championship. This will always be one of my fondest memories of my time in Durham.

Upon completion of my studies at Durham Business School I was able to land a job immediately with a Fortune 100 company and one of the world’s largest food companies at General Mills. It is my belief that my experience living internationally and conversations regarding my postgraduate studies abroad is a major contributing factor to what made my story unique from other prospective candidates. For that, I am very appreciative of the program and look forward to the day that I will be able to return to Durham.

If you are an overseas student looking for a challenging course of study in an environment that is both very different than what you are accustomed to and unsurpassed in terms of its scenic beauty and historical significance—than look no further than Durham University.