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Alicia Caley

Global Politics and International Relations BA

When she graduated from her BA in Global Politics and International Relations at Birkbeck, Alicia Caley said she didn’t feel like a new graduate stepping out into the ‘real world’ for the first time.

‘I don’t feel like it was correct to consider me a recent graduate, because I already had three years working in the corporate sector on my CV by the time I finished my degree,’ she said.

It was this opportunity to combine full-time work and full-time study which brought Alicia to Birkbeck. Upon approaching the end of her schooling at New College Nottingham (NCN) High Pavement, the Mansfield-raised student was torn about where to study politics – a subject which she had excelled at and was keen to pursue.

She said: ‘I was flipping between going to Sheffield and London. Sheffield was very close to home and good for politics. But then there’s London – if you want to be in politics, then it’s probably the best place to be.

‘And Birkbeck allowed me the flexibility to work as well. Realistically I wouldn’t have been able to stay here in London if I couldn’t work. It was a hard decision to make the big move to the ‘Big Smoke’ and create a life here, but I haven’t regretted it for a second.’

Alicia was the first of her siblings to consider university, and so getting her parents on-side with her move was initially a consideration – though a fleeting one.

‘When my mum came with me to my interview at Birkbeck, she could see the building and how animated I was after my interview. She could see how my brain was really awakened. That’s when she saw that this was where I should be.’

During her three years at Birkbeck, University of London, Alicia held a number of busy and increasingly high-responsibility jobs – starting as a roaming PA, then working in recruitment for Michael Page, before moving on to a financial consultancy where she took up a position in sport sponsorship.

Combining work and studies 'is never easy' she explained, but during her three years, she had almost perfect attendance.

‘That’s not just because I wanted to be a “good student”,’ she said. ‘I just found that there was never a reason or excuse not to go to a lecture. I mean, on average, my lectures were three days a week, and a few hours in the early evening during a time slot when otherwise I would have been at home watching telly.’

On the work-side, Alicia found no resistance to the fact she was undertaking a degree simultaneously.

‘Your studies can work in the company’s favour too. For example, if I’m trying to sell to an older businessman who is knowledgeable about the world, it’s useful to have an employee that can spark up a conversation about, say, politics in the Middle East,’ she said.

Alicia now plans to pursue a career in politics, though her academic ambitions aren’t completely fulfilled yet – she is now enrolled on Birkbeck’s Government, Policy and Politics MSc, which she will study part-time over two years.

Reflecting on her journey with the Birkbeck thus far, Alicia said: ‘It’s weird because I always thought I would do my degree, then go on to work hard and earn money. But coming to the end of my degree, my brain wasn’t ready to let go of learning more. So my undergraduate degree has really stretched my ambitions. I never would have dreamed I would do a Master's.’

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'My undergraduate degree has really stretched my ambitions. I never would have dreamed I would do a Master's.'