My name is Rozan Khalifeh, and I currently work in Sudan as a Country Director for RedR UK. For the past 12 years I have worked in the field of development and humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and North Africa, dreaming of establishing an organisation focusing on accountability and the values of citizenship and active political participation in the Arab region.
I did the Master Programme in Humanitarian Action and Conflict at Uppsala University. I made a career shift after six years of working in the areas of development and youth empowerment in Jordan, and as a response to the continued humanitarian crises in the Middle East, I joined the humanitarian sector. I chose this programme because I needed to build my academic background to better serve the sector.
Learning about the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) Master Programme in International Humanitarian Action, a lead humanitarian studies programme, allowed me to learn about Uppsala University. However, I was keen to do a one year Master’s programme as I couldn’t get away from the field for more than one year, and this programme had a length of two years. Then, Uppsala University introduced the Master Programme in Humanitarian Action and Conflict for the first time, with a duration of one year, and it was a perfect match for my interest and situation.
The best thing about studying at Uppsala University was the international student community, which was a great chance to meet young people from all over the world and learn different perceptions to standard issues. The university’s facilities were perfectly suited to students’ needs. Also, the fact that the city is relatively small and compact allows students to focus on their studies. There were many parties for the students indeed, but for me, a student in my early thirties, I appreciated that the city was calm, with no massive distractions to disturb my study and research.
During my programme I was the student representative for the Programme Admission Committee, linking the student body with the programme administration body. This allowed me to experience many transparent conversations, engage in representing the students’ inputs, and influence decision-making regarding our programme. The atmosphere in class and on campus was generally very supportive. The programme was still new (in its first year), so the room for learning and improvement was wide. The programme administration body was very helpful and eager to listen and act.
Classes were very interactive, students were impressively engaged and passionate about the subjects, and lecturers encouraged collaboration and introduced excellent teaching techniques. The campus was accommodating and very well equipped. There was always room to study, heat your homemade meals, eat together, enjoy a sun bath, and work on group assignments.
After graduation I joined RedR UK as a Country Director. I moved to Sudan, and have been living here for the past year and a half. I am committed and devoted to my very challenging and demanding job. I find it particularly difficult being a young, female, Arab professional.
Through the discussions in the classroom, my studies at Uppsala University helped me to see that different opinions do exist and can be valid. This was something I didn’t personally acknowledge before. My participation in the Programme Admission Committee also taught me a lot about transparency and engaging affected stakeholders in decision making. The academic knowledge I gained through my studies is something I go back to when working on developing strategic work and arguing important issues in coordination meetings with government officials or partners from other organisations.
If I could go back and do this programme again I would be more engaged in student events and entertainment activities. I would also take the chance to visit other areas of Sweden.
My advice to other students interested in having a career like mine is this: This sector is very fulfilling, as you can touch people’s lives every day and be a reason for their improved livelihood, which is the best reward you can ever get. But do you think this reward is for free? You need to be ready to work hard, and to be highly ethical and respectful. Most importantly, you need to build up a reputable path, so that when you grow in this field and reach decision making positions, you will be able to stand on a foundation of an ethical background. You must be able to make very difficult yet ethical and compassionate decisions, in a context that pushes you to do the very opposite.
Read more about the Master's programme in International Humanitarian Action