Aliya Sorgen

MA in Intercultural Communication, Class of 2010/11

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     Hi, my name is Aliya Sorgen, I completed the Masters of Intercultural Communication in 2011 and... Why did I choose IC? I had always wanted to do a Masters but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do it in, so I typed some keywords of things I was interested in into Google, and up popped Intercultural Communication which, to be honest, was not something I actually knew existed or was a field that I could study. And I researched various IC programmes all over the world and... Of course there are many in the States, [but] I felt that if I was going to be studying other cultures and communicating with people from different countries it would be better to do that outside of my native country, which is why I left! And why I chose Sheffield in particular was that the IC programme here was very much linked with language and linguistics which was something I was very interested in. And from the beginning I saw that there would be a lot of possibilities to go into other departments and share subjects that could be related to Intercultural Communication. And when I decided to do the Masters I had no idea what job I would do after, I didn’t know where it could lead; I just knew that this was something really important that seemed really interesting and I wanted to study it – and I’ve never looked back!

And the reason I chose the Town and Regional Planning module of International Development and Planning was because at that particular semester I didn’t feel that there were enough IC classes that gave a wider perspective of Intercultural Communication. So in consultation with my supervisor, I decided to take the International Development and Planning course, which was really interesting, number one because I didn’t know that much about International Development and even less about Planning. But what I found was that it was so linked to Intercultural Communication; and there were several reasons for that. First of all, it was really interesting to be [...] in this particular class, as all of the other students were Planning students and I was the only Intercultural Communication student, so every seminar that I came to and every reading that we were given, I approached it with an Intercultural Communication hat – which was a different perspective than my peers in the class were coming out it with – so that provided a lot of really interesting discussions. And I’ve realised through this that although Intercultural Communication seems like such an obvious thing to me – it’s so important, it spans all industries and all fields – it wasn’t that apparent to students who were in Planning because they’re focussed on Planning and there is more than enough information that you need to learn in that. But I saw a great link between the two, and actually there were many points during the [...] TRP course where I thought ‘Hm, this could be a perfect setting to do intercultural training’ so already through the course I was seeing a lot of opportunities for collaboration between both fields. And what I found really interesting was that, you know, in Intercultural Communication we talk about large cultures and small cultures, and this was really apparent in International Development, of course; when you’re looking at two large cultures, so say Western planners going into a developing country, and both of those cultures trying to create positive change... And there is a lot of conflict and issues that arise because of that, that I could already see was really linked to Intercultural Communication. And from a small culture perspective, when we look at the individual fields of planners, they have their own set of values and interests and needs when they go into developing countries, and it’s something that also needs to be taken into account and I think that Intercultural Communication is a way to kind of bridge all of those elements.

There is a quote that I really like, from a woman named Leonie Sandercock who’s really big in the International Development and Planning world and... From an article of hers entitled “When Strangers Become Neighbours”, she talks about when Western planners face cultural practices, they do not fault their own values. And I remember reading that particular quote and thinking, ‘This could be something that I was reading for Intercultural Communication classes!’ So basically this is just to kind of describe how closely linked they all are to each other. I think in Intercultural Communication one of the biggest issues is managing cultural expectations because clearly we can’t all know everything about every country that we’re ever going to work in or people that we’re going to work with. So it’s a matter of understanding how to approach those different cultures and different people that we’re working with – and this is something that people working in International Development and Planning do on a daily basis. So there’s a lot of synergy there.

My current job is working in international projects and partnerships. And while it’s not specifically linked to International Development and Planning as such, there’s a lot of transferrable skills that I feel I gained through taking both the Masters in Intercultural Communication and the Planning module. And that is really about understanding the need to manage different cultural expectations between different large and small cultures. And I feel like that has been invaluable for my current job.

[...] I saw such synergy and collaboration, and I think that having a joint Masters programme would be fantastic! And even if someone wasn’t necessarily going to be working in International Development or thinking about becoming a planner per say, I still think that the Masters would provide such a fantastic range of transferrable skills that it would really be applicable to anyone that’s interested in both fields because I think they’re really related.
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(March 2013)

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     Since January 2012 I work as an International Partnerships and Project Leader at Doncaster College, and thus I am the project manager for a caseload of education-based projects with international partners throughout the EU, North Africa and China. I develop and maintain international partnerships through overseas travel and I coordinate international trips for students to participate in work placements abroad and gain intercultural skills. I also organise staff mobilities to partner institutions to share best practice and gain an international perspective on their field of expertise. Furthermore, I plan and coordinate programmes for international visitors to Doncaster College, including external site visits to local community organisations within and around Doncaster.
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(March 2013)

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