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Alumni testimonials

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Gillian McFarland

BA (2008), French and German

Programme Officer, United Nations Children's Fund

I studied French and German at Cambridge from 2004-2008 and now work for the United Nations in the field of International Development. After completing the MML course I pursued further specialized study at Masters level and worked with a community-based youth organization in London before moving overseas. As a Programme Officer with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) my current role - Child Protection Officer in Islamabad, Pakistan - is broadly focused on working alongside the provincial and federal Governments to strengthen the local systems to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation. The work is quite varied, but my contributions are mainly in the area of strengthening the policy and legislative environment and local institutional capacity to deliver protective services. In any given month I might be involved in a range of projects: for example, reviewing methodology for quantitative and qualitative research; working with colleagues to develop a work plan; preparing and delivering a training for local government counterparts; or conducting a field visit to monitor programme implementation. In the photograph I am with a local colleague in a rural area of Sindh province in Pakistan: we are interviewing community members who are involved in a UNICEF-funded project to learn about their perspectives of the project progress and barriers to implementation.

Looking back now, I think that the MML course at Cambridge provided a strong preparation for the work I am involved in at the moment. It enabled me to develop a solid grounding in literature, history, philosophy and language and also to strengthen core skills such as communication, analysis and time management. Consequently, it was a good base on which I could build further knowledge and skills required for the International Development sector. In addition, the rigorous language training received at Cambridge has meant that I have been able to use my skills on a regular basis to communicate with French and German speaking colleagues, donors and Government representatives and allows me to work in a range of different locations in the future.