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News > Careers > Corrie Sissons PGS 1998 - 2005

Corrie Sissons PGS 1998 - 2005

A love and aptitude for languages led Corrie to a career in overseas humanitarian relief and development. She has worked in more than a dozen different countries!
3 Jun 2021
Written by Corrie Sissons
Careers
Corrie Sissons
Corrie Sissons

Looking back it really does feel like only yesterday that I was sitting my ‘A’ levels – anxious to leave my school friends behind for what seemed like an incredibly daunting university experience. My time at Pate’s had been a whirlwind of learning, complimented with many formative experiences such as the China exchange, the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and multiple years of House public speaking! 

Fifteen years on and I can see very clearly the skills and experience which Pate’s instilled in me that has led me along my chosen career path and I wouldn’t change a day of it (apart from perhaps the day I was evacuated across a lake in the Congo to get away from a military coup and the boat almost sank……). I work as a Humanitarian Food Security Advisor, a role which I have had in various forms for the past eight years. I’ve had the privilege of living in more than a dozen countries over the years, learning new languages, meeting new people and realizing as I go how incredibly fortunate I have been to be afforded the opportunities I have. 

I studied German and History at the University of Nottingham after having a love of languages drilled into me by various wonderful teachers in the Pate’s Modern Foreign Languages Department. I chose German (possibly spurred on by the fantastic Frau Barsby!) and realizing after my year abroad that immersion in another culture was the quickest way to adopt another language, decided to start teaching myself Arabic.  After university I was offered an internship with Christian Aid in London, during which time I travelled to support Christian Aid partners in Palestine – and thus my love of the Middle East was cemented. 

It would take me another four years before I worked there full time, but I decided to apply to the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to do an MSc in Development Economics and Arabic Language. After completing this I decided I needed field experience and would go wherever I could get a job!  I took up a role based in Darfur (to use my Arabic) as an entry-level support staff with the UK NGO Tearfund, but my visa was rejected a few weeks before I intended to fly - I was devastated.  Fortunately my years of French at Pate’s came in handy and when an alternative role in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was offered to me I jumped at the chance. I was asked if I spoke fluent French, and clearly the years of Monsieur Carnal allowing us to watch endless Truffaut movies paid off and I tentatively said….oui!  A bumpy few months followed, with much wild gesticulation and me frantically plumbing the depths of my memories of French grammar but I muddled through and eventually spent two years in Eastern DRC supporting food security and water and sanitation projects for conflict affected households in South Kivu. 

From here I moved to West Africa, working in Burkina Faso (where military coup number 2 of my career took place a week after I had arrived), Mali and Guinea for the Ebola crisis in 2013.  I moved to Oxfam in 2014 to take up their Iraq Food Security Co-ordinator role, during the fall of Mosul to Iraqi armed forces from the Islamic state – which was an excellent opportunity to finally use my Arabic! Since then I have designed and managed humanitarian food aid programmes for the Boko Haram Crisis in Chad, the European refugee Crisis in Greece, the Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh and most recently, the Venezuela Crisis in Colombia. 

One day I hope there isn’t a need for jobs like mine but I absolutely love what I do!  I would never have predicted that fifteen years on I would be doing something so far removed from my German studies, yet so linked to my skills and interests.  Whilst travel is on pause right now with COVID-19 I’ve decided to learn another language – Spanish this time - and who knows what adventures that will take me on in the future?
 

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