What it did for me...

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Four people explain why geography has been so important to them

Libby Mansell, 26, studied geography at Oxford and works as a lawyer with a major City law firm. "I always enjoyed geography because I liked both science and arts, and because you can see it all around you, it isn't just something you learn about from books. It also challenges you because it's so varied. You can be doing anything from meteorology to social geography. And I think sometimes other people at university were a bit jealous of our field trips! We went to Crete and South Africa, which was fantastic.

"I was always looking to start off in a City environment, so after I graduated I went for law. Having a geography degree certainly didn't hinder me - 50 per cent of people who go into the law don't come from law backgrounds, and there are a fair number of geographers among those who don't. What they are looking for is that you can reason and think logically.

"I loved studying geography and I still read geographical magazines and do quite a bit of work that is Africa-related. And I love to travel. Geography is something you can always take with you as you go forward in life."

Eliza Cook, 25, studied geography at University College London and works as press officer for the Royal Geographical Society. "I grew up in the Forest of Dean and went to a local comprehensive school where the geography teaching inspired me to take it at university.

After I finished my degree I did an MSc in quartenary geography, which basically meant studying climate and environmental change during the last two million years. I got to study ice core records from the British Antarctic Survey, although I didn't go to the Antarctic. I also worked at the environmental change research centre at UCL, which was good because I saw how geographers went out and did fieldwork.

"I then wanted to go and do press work, so I worked for a train company for a time, to get some experience, and then moved here, which has been great.

What the RGS does is so varied, and I use my geography all the time. I love it. It's a subject that's so involved in everything in life, right down to really basic things like where you get your food from."

Nick Baker, 28, studied geography at Leeds and now works for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. "I went to a small private school in Bishop's Stortford and had a fantastic geography teacher, one of the best teachers I ever had. I went to university to study geography but then switched to do joint honours with Spanish, as I'd done my gap year in Ecuador. This meant my degree took four years, and I was able to spend a year in Bolivia working with street kids. A year after graduating I joined the Foreign Office and spent a year on the Bosnian desk, and then three years in Cameroon where I was second secretary and had a really varied job. I did a lot of project management and worked on community and sustainable development projects, as well as promoting the London Olympics, and running a scholarship programme, and reporting on the presidential election.

"Now I work in the area of corporate social responsibility. A lot of things from geography relate to my job. I'm a generalist, so its broadness appealed to me and I feel lucky to have studied something so useful.

Geography doesn't lead to any particular vocation but I think that's a strength."

Paul Howard, 33, studied geography at St Andrew's and is a freelance travel and environment writer. "I went to a local comprehensive in Ilkley where the teachers always made geography interesting, although when I went to university I did both geography and French, mainly because it gave me a chance to live in France. After I graduated I went to India for a time, then I did law for two years before going into journalism. I write about environmental issues and sustainability for the construction press, although I also write about cycling and if I go somewhere I'll tack on some travel writing either for the national papers, or walking and cycling journals.

"Geography fed my enthusiasm for foreign places. It opens your mind to how the world works and allows you to approach other cultures in a broad-minded way. I think it undersells itself as what it gives you is a different perspective for looking at the world, based on the practicalities of interacting with the environment, physically, socially and economically.

People who say 'Oh it's an A-level in colouring-in' just don't realise what it's about."

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