Sally Robinson graduated in 1984 having completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education.
Why did you decide to study at Swansea University?
The University had a good reputation for the PGCE course and it also contained a higher than average level of teaching practice.
What did you enjoy most about your course at Swansea?
It was a very good quality learning environment and I liked the balance of theory and practice.
What are you doing now career-wise?
I am the Country Director in Tanzania for the British Council. I am responsible for the strategic planning and delivery of all British Council relationships and activities in Tanzania: in education, English and sport. This includes liaison with the Government of Tanzania and the British High Commission, developing appropriate programmes, delivery of UK exams and the provision of high quality English language teaching.
How has Swansea University and your course helped you with your chosen career path?
From gaining the teaching qualification at Swansea, I was able to take a post overseas. This experience strengthened my commitment to working in development. My work at the British Council has been almost exclusively in a development context, including Eastern Europe in the 1990s to South Asia and now back to Africa. My background in education means that I can contribute to education policy dialogue with governments with understanding and credibility.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Understanding people! It is relatively easy to get to know most people, but equally easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on partial understanding of their background and culture. Developing a deep knowledge and understanding of a culture and of individuals, whilst avoiding the stereotypes, is a constant challenge, but an exciting and rewarding experience.
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
The people I work with. It’s a bit of a cliché but nonetheless it’s true. Working with people whose lives are being changed positively by your interventions, and working with inspirational people who are positively transforming the lives of others is incredibly motivating, whether it is the student who is now able to attend school regularly or a member of staff who has delivered an excellent piece of work, or the public figure who talks about their vision or experience.
What was the best careers advice you were given?
Don’t give up. If you want something enough and put enough energy into it, you’re likely to succeed.
What advice do you have for current students and new graduates?
Working outside your own culture gives you the opportunity to learn and grow in ways you never anticipated if you are open to the experience. You learn about your strengths and your weaknesses. You’ll probably gain much more than you give, but do take the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and do something different, whether it is volunteering for a local good cause or working in another culture.
What are your plans for the future?
I love doing what I do. I would like the chance to keep working in Africa for a while longer. As long as I still feel I can contribute something worthwhile and I am still being challenged and still learning, I’ll be very happy.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
I have helped make positive change happen. It’s hard to pinpoint a single event, but these three examples sum it up: seeing a child finally understand fractions; securing agreement from the Government of Kyrgyzstan to adopt a more people-friendly social assistance programme; seeing groups of teachers motivated and encouraged to go back and do the best for their students as a result of training we have delivered.
What are your favourite memories of your university years at Swansea?
Too many to count and lots centred around the Mumbles mile and the parties at our house in Hendrefoelan!
And finally, describe yourself in 3 words…
Tolerant, determined, happy.