Charlotte Dixon working in Sierra Leone

Cambridge graduates enter a wide range of careers but making a difference tops their career wish lists. In this series, inspiring graduates from the last three years describe Cambridge, their current work and their determination to give back

Studying at Cambridge teaches you how to think on your feet and work under pressure

Charlotte Dixon
Charlotte Dixon (Churchill), BA (2014) Modern and Medieval Languages
Since graduating I’ve been working with the Department for International Development (DFID). I started on the one year Graduate Scheme, working in London, but in 2015 I went to Sierra Leone as part of the Ebola crisis response. My current role is Policy and Programme Manager at DFID Ethiopia.
I've only been in Ethiopia for four months, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Day-to-day life can be challenging at times but it’s definitely worth it. No day is ever the same, so I never know quite what to expect when I head to work in the morning. When I arrived, the security situation here was quite unstable, so I haven't been able to see much of the country yet, but travel restrictions have just been lifted so I’m looking forward to being able to explore a bit more.
What Cambridge did for me
I first heard about the DFID Graduate Scheme through the Cambridge Careers Service. After going along to a talk they had organised with alumni already working for DFID, I knew it was the career for me.
Studying at Cambridge has helped me because it teaches you how to think on your feet and work under pressure. I studied French, Spanish and a bit of Portuguese. I don’t use them in my day-to-day job, but the fact that I have studied languages in the past has definitely helped me to pick up Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia). There are quite a lot of opportunities to use languages in international development - I hope to work in a French-speaking part of Africa in the future.
Outside of work, learning languages has definitely enriched my life, giving me a greater understanding of other cultures and, most importantly, giving me an excuse to travel to countries like Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala.
My motivation
I always knew that I didn’t want to pursue a conventional career in the corporate world - I wanted to do something that would make a difference. I also knew I wanted a career that would allow me to travel.
Applying to Cambridge
I was lucky that quite a few people I knew from my school were also applying to Cambridge, so it didn’t feel quite so daunting, but I still remember it being a long and stressful process. The college I went to, Churchill, had a really good mix of people which made it really easy to settle in.

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