MA English & History, 1999
From Aberdeen to Academia
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
Both my parents went to Aberdeen University and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I loved English and History at school and couldn't choose between them for my degree, so the Joint Honours option was perfect.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I fell in love with Russian history at the University of Aberdeen and studied it in third and fourth year. There was a group of us who really enjoyed Russian history so we set up our own Russian film society and went to see Moscow Circles at the Lemon Tree.
The other major highlight was getting the opportunity to go to Washington Navy Yard on a history internship. Nine of us went during the Easter holiday of our fourth year and we had a brilliant time.
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Always say something in class - even and especially if it's to say 'I don't understand'. And seize every opportunity that the University presents to you. Go to every and any talk on offer, go to film screenings, take advantage of the amazing library and read widely, join student societies - and if there isn't one that appeals to you, set up your own - and if it's possible travel as part of your degree.
Did you undertake any co-curricular activities while at Aberdeen, e.g. Aberdeen Internships, Career Mentoring, STAR Award?
These are all new initiatives since I left Aberdeen! I did take the opportunity in fourth year to become a tutor on the university's English access course. I knew I wanted to be a teacher of some kind by that point and it was a great way to learn some teaching skills and get some practical experience.
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Lecturer in history at the University of York for three months, covering the sabbatical of the permanent lecturer.
What did your first role involve?
My very first post was as a temporary lecturer in Russian and Soviet history, teaching second and third years. I planned and delivered classes which were all seminar-style and I marked the students' essays and exams.
What is your current job title?
I am a University Teacher at the University of the Highlands and Islands. I have also just published my first novel, Blackbird's Song, which is set during the first Russian Revolution of 1905.
Who is your current employer?
The Centre for History at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
What is your current role?
I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules.
Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
From York University, I went to Belfast to work as a lecturer at Queen's University. I stayed there for twelve years teaching Russian and Soviet history. Having started a family, I returned to Scotland and took a career break. I now split my time between being a University Teacher at the University of the Highlands and Islands and being a writer.
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
My degree was absolutely essential. I discovered my passion for Russian history at Aberdeen which set me down the road of learning Russian and completing my PhD in Russian history. Studying English fed my love of literature and, ultimately, helped me when I began to write my novel.
One Top Tip
Do what you love. I know that's not easy or simple, but keep at it and you will get there in the end.