Teaching and humanitarian assistance

After graduating, my main desire was to improve my language skills so when the opportunity came up to be part of a teacher training exchange between Sheffield and Donetsk (Ukraine) universities, I jumped at the chance, and joined the philology department of the State university of Donetsk in November 1991 as a teaching assistant. I taught English grammar, language and culture to six groups of very eager 18-22 year olds, as well as giving private lessons to children as young as 10 and adults up to 30. 

At the end of that assignment a chance encounter led me to CARE International in June 1992. They were setting up a huge operation to bring in food and medical supplies in response to wide-spread shortages across the former Soviet Union. After a very brief training course in Moscow, I was sent to Dushanbe in Tajikistan to run an office in charge of the receipt, storage and distribution of huge amounts of food and medical supplies on their way to Dushanbe from the United States. This was complicated by the worsening security situation in the country. As we worked to complete the programme, civil war was breaking out and after four months, we had to close the office and move out quickly as fighting reached the capital. After this, I did a stint in Baku, Azerbaijan then moved up to Moscow to join a much larger team as a monitoring coordinator. Here I was responsible for overseeing the 30-strong group of monitors checking on the distribution and use of food aid, baby food and milk powder.

In August 1993 I took a break to travel to China, and came back to CARE for another assignment at the end of 93/beginning of 94. By this time I realised that the humanitarian aid world was not for me (at this time) so I started to look for another career direction.

First break into communications

I applied for a job as a press assistant at the European Union Delegation to Russia and got the job. For the next 15 months I worked under Mr Michael Emerson (head of delegation) and Ms Catherine Magnant (head of press and information) as a press assistant. This job gave me my first impressions of both communications and the European Union. 

At the Delegation I worked on publications, press relations, small-scale events and a number of cultural projects. I was also involved in the editorial team of a magazine-style television programme, "Window onto Europe"

Key contacts

Catherine Magnant (catherine.magnant@eu.europa.eu); Tamsin Rose (tamsin.rose@gmail.com) 

Study and consultancy

A Master's degree is an important asset, so after working in the Delegation, I decided to apply for a Master's degree in Communications at one of the UK's leading centres for journalist training. I entered the one-year programme and graduated in September 1996.

I worked briefly in London and then got my first consultancy job - working as an expert on an EU-funded project in Moscow. I worked for six-months before a call came to join a new team and a new project in Brussels. Thus began a new phase and chapter in my career.