When I first started studying Sociology, I promised myself that I will use my knowledge to help my community and improve the lives of Turkish speaking Cypriots. This year, as part of my professional training placement, I have had the chance to work with the longest running environmental NGO in the Turkish speaking Cypriot community, Cyprus Green Action Group (CGAG), which was established in 1988. Its aim is to increase environmental awareness and harmony. CGAG has participated in many projects, such as recycling and wildlife projects, as well as undertaking short film contests, cultural festivals, and producing reports on energy, environment and infrastructure.
I am a part of a team that has designed the first ever questionnaire on environmental awareness and recycling in Cyprus. It has been a unique and exciting experience, which has helped me to put my knowledge about social research, developed during the first two years of my Sociology degree, to good use. Although it was a challenge at first, because of the lack of previous studies in this cultural context, I have contributed significantly to the project and have received very positive feedback. Because of this, I am more confident in researching social phenomena and I am happy that I chose the University of Surrey, a university which has given me the exceptional advantage of learning how to do research and also the wonderful opportunity of taking a professional training placement year. I wouldn’t feel that my education had been as fulfilling, if I had chosen another university.
It is not just research that I am carrying out with CGAG. I also contribute to recycling projects, short film contests, festivals and other environmental and cultural activities that I have known about and followed before. I have been interviewed and interviewed others on national television and had meetings with mayors and government officials. As a result of my education at the University of Surrey, I feel more confident to go out and try to help people as much as I can.
Through one of the CGAG projects that I have worked on, ‘Cans of Hope’, which is funded by the EU, I am in contact with EU officials on the island, as well as Greek speaking Cypriot Civil Society Organisations. It is one of my career goals to work on bi-communal projects to improve living standards and encourage sustainable development in areas previously in conflict. This year, whilst on my placement, I have started my career in this respect and I want to continue to improve my knowledge and contribute more to sustainable development and peace on my island.
I am confident that my professional training placement year has given me very relevant practical experience which has, combined with the knowledge I have gained so far on my Sociology degree at Surrey, given me the right combination of skills to develop my career in sustainable development in the future. The fact that the University of Surrey allows and encourages their students to go out and practice what they have learned is an outstanding opportunity for any student who wishes to become successful and lead in their chosen field.