My name is Keith Mattingly and I am a graduate of the Master’s Programme in International Humanitarian Action, a joint programme given by the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA).
I chose this programme because I had some experience within the humanitarian sector from volunteer work with UNICEF Spain, where I was inspired by the work of my colleagues and other volunteers dedicating time to addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. I was also interested in the possibility of studying and carrying out research in different geographical locations. The cost was much lower than a Master’s programme in the US or UK, and I visited Uppsala University before beginning my programme and enjoyed the campus, the city, and the snow. Additionally, I was generally interested in living in Sweden and the Nordic region.
The best things about studying at Uppsala University were the lack of hierarchy between students and professors, the general feeling of respect instead of competition between students, and the diversity of international students (although there is always room for improvement). I also appreciated having the opportunity to attend interesting lectures and events outside of my courses. I would describe the atmosphere as welcoming, friendly, and comfortable, with less pressure than one feels in other academic settings. I would add that there is an emphasis on academic modesty which I appreciated, and having such a strong and consistent focus on gender issues was somewhat new and highly enlightening for me, and something which has stuck with me since. During my time as a student I took part in some extracurricular activities and was also active in a few different nations.
After graduation I first got a quite random summer job as a salesman for the Hop On Hop Off buses and boats in Stockholm, before finding a short-term project to work on at Doctors Without Borders, also in Stockholm. I then spent two years working for the Church of Sweden’s humanitarian team in Uppsala, and now I work for the Swedish Red Cross where I have a permanent contract. I have been here for one and a half years and am excited about all the future opportunities which lie ahead within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Studying at Uppsala University prepared me for the workforce because a lot of the material in my courses was highly useful and similar to things I have done in my work after graduation. In humanitarian work it is easy to become cynical and disillusioned, and I feel that my academic background sometimes serves as an important reminder of the ideals we are working for and the bigger questions which we should regularly ask ourselves. The contacts I made within the NOHA programme were also of great help in finding a job.
If I could do my time at Uppsala University again, I would try to somehow appreciate even more the amount of free time and flexibility which one has as a student and may not have again for a long time. My advice to anyone wanting to follow in my career footsteps is to take advantage of every opportunity, make lots of connections, take initiative, and don’t have unrealistically high expectations.
Read more about the Master Programme in International Humanitarian Action