- Ella Ritchie
What did you do after you graduated? Following my graduation in the summer of 2022, I took some time out of education and employment to travel around central America and Mexico. On my return home I was successful in securing a Planning Trainee role within the Transport Strategy and Programmes team at Aberdeen City Council. In this role I am involved with a variety of projects all related to transport but most notably trying to encourage more sustainable and active forms of travel within the city. This ranges from behavioural change projects aimed at increasing the prevalence of walking wheeling and cycling as modes of transport, to infrastructure related projects such as cycle locker schemes. I was hired in a trainee capacity meaning that part of my role will involve undertaking the necessary training to become a chartered town planner. This was an aspect that attracted me to the role as it allows me to specialise in the topics I enjoyed at university while in employment.
What did you enjoy about your Geography degree? One of the most beneficial aspects of the course was the array of subjects on offer to study. Over the years I studied a whole number of topics including urban geography, glaciology, GIS and even at one point wine! The varied structure of the geography degree allowed me to get a taste of a wide range of subjects and let me pick the topics I enjoyed to study in more depth. I really liked day to day life on campus with the library becoming one of my most used and favourite places. I also found the geography staff helpful and accessible which enhanced my overall experience. Without a doubt the opportunity I enjoyed the most was my exchange semester at the University of Victoria in Canada which would not have been possible without Aberdeen University’s international ties.
How did your Geography degree from Aberdeen University help you in your career? While studying for my degree I was introduced to the subject of place and most importantly sense of place. I ultimately do not think I would be working in the field I am now if this had not been the case. This subject resonated with me because it combined various topics like the built environment, transport and heritage and related it to peoples experience of their spatial settings. Sense of place is integral to the national guidelines on town planning and so having a solid understanding of this helped me secure my job. In addition, I based my dissertation on a sense of place topic, and this gave me a wealth of primary data handling experience that I was able to reference in the job application process. Aside from specific subject knowledge, some of the more general skills like critical thinking, teamwork and time management have been invaluable in my career this far.
Writing essays and reports gave me the confidence to be analytical and make informed decisions. This skill is advantageous when working in a local authority which is open to scrutiny. In addition, within my role I work with several partners such as, NHS Grampian, Nestrans and Sustrans so being able to communicate and work effectively within a variety of teams is important. Time management and being able to gauge your own productivity as well as recognise when your workload is unhealthy is also an important skill when entering the world of employment. Through balancing the needs of course work with extra-curricular activities at University I was able to develop this skill. Moreover, the Geography Department at Aberdeen University has a dedicated careers advisor who initially introduce me to the idea of a career in town planning after discussing my interests and experience with me.