Alfred, a BSc Geography graduate, shares insight into his career at the European Commission

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Alumni/careers, Geography and Global Development, Undergraduate | 0 comments

Alfred Varnik, Trainee at the European Commission. Graduated from our BSc Geography programme in 2022.


Why did you originally choose to study Geography at Manchester?

I chose to study Geography because I believe it provides a student with the most near-complete overview of how the world works as the approach is from an interdisciplinary viewpoint from both the physical and human perspectives. It is a brilliant subject to study in order to broaden your horizon and to find a topic that suits you best from the plethora of subcategories of Geography.

More specifically on the choice of The University of Manchester, I fell in love with the staff, their approach to teaching and the city during the Welcome day and that sense of love never left.

Tell us about your career so far

“After graduation, I worked in sports management in both the Estonian Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association.

For the past four years now, including during my studies at Manchester, I have worked remotely for the European Olympic Committee in the field of Sports Education and Culture.

However, my current primary job is working in the European Commission as a Trainee in Director Generate MOVE (Mobility and Transport) in the Unit for Sustainable and Intelligent Transport. My main responsibilites are policy analysis and creation.”

How did your course prepare you for your current role?

“My career has taken wild turns ever since I graduated which perfectly shows what a fantastic course Geography is. I am of course incredibly happy about my job in the European Commission because I can actually contribute to discussions and meetings with the knowledge that I gained from university.

“I am working in the field that I did my dissertation on: “Mining Cobalt for Electric Vehicles Batteries: The socioeconomic and environmental effect on DRC”. And now I work on policy regarding electric vehicles and alternative fuels. The dissertation topic choice definitely helped me with securing the job I wanted most.” 

Before you started your studies did you have a specific career route that you wanted to pursue?

“I did not have anything specific in mind before starting studies, however, I did think I was going to work in a consultancy or in policy. The Geography course helped me achieve this with the knowledge and skills it provided, ranging from policy analysis and writing skills to critical thinking and researching. Although I am very happy with my current situation with my job, I am disappointed that I did not utilise the fantastic Career Services of The University of Manchester during my studies. I believe it would have helped me a lot.”

What was the most surprising takeaway from your course?

“The most surprising takeaway was probably the confidence to discuss a huge range of topics in a variety of fields. Geography in that sense provides a fantastic platform of knowledge which I would even consider a superpower. I feel comfortable and even confident about talking to experts in almost any field here in the European Commission.”

What advice would you give to a student looking to start your course?

“Definitely using all the possible services that the University provides you, such as the Careers Services, the non-compulsory expert talks that the School of Environment Education and Development organises and the Manchester University Geography Society (MUGS) etc.

Another piece of advice I have given to Geography students at Manchester, through the PASS mentorship programme and as a Student Ambassador, is to ask lecturers questions about everything and sometimes just going to the lecturers’ open hours for a chat about their field of expertise. I did that and benefited from it greatly for both inspiration and academic assistance. You need to remind yourself that these lecturers you bump into every day on campus are the absolute experts in their respective fields and it is genuinely an incredible feeling to have the opportunity to just go and chat with them.

It is very easy to overthink a variety of aspects about your choice of university, your course, your studies and even every one of your assignments. Staying confident in yourself is the key. You can make it easier by surrounding yourself with the right people. Never be afraid to ask for help.”