The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Elifnaz Aslaner

Elifnaz Aslaner

I am originally from Turkey, but my interest in exploring new cultures, especially after my AFS exchange year in the US, have urged me to live abroad at many points in life and to eventually call myself a global citizen who is interested in helping people who are in need.

Before my Master’s in Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) at the DPU from 2017-2018, I completed double majors in International Relations and Psychology at Koç University in Istanbul from 2012-2016. In the meantime, completed my honours project in fall 2017 and started an internship at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in New York Representative Office for six months. I was excited about my next destination to UCL and begin my master studies.

Being a science major in high school and taking humanitarian courses in my undergrad triggered me to seek for a master’s programme that would enable me to combine my multidisciplinary background. ESD Programme has been the perfect match with my past studies and my future goals in health and development sector.

Generally, ESD Programme has been a year with full of eureka moments for me. In the first term, the individual portfolio activity helped me to gain not only the various perspectives towards socio-environmental development but also to focus on my personal development throughout this program. This includes adopting a critical understanding of sustainable development theories and practices, and being aware of what I am learning during every activity I have done related to ESD.

During the Windsor workshop, I was able to experience a simulation of a real-life experience in Medellin, allowing me to see how collaboration creates change in our environment, regardless of the situation and status. There is a difference between reading this statement and experiencing it with one’s own eyes.

Moreover, my studies in ESD opened my eyes to look at the same situations from different angles and gain understanding at different levels. During the two-week of field research in one of the informal settlements in Freetown, I realised that numbers are not always deterministic, such that ‘two-weeks’ in the field can be bigger than ‘six-month’ of desk-based research to understand root causes of the risk cycle more comprehensively. My first hands-on experience in Freetown taught me to question the remote stage of my research, and go deeper with the reasons behind the urban problems and its potential risk traps. This as well helped me to realise how much hidden information maps can reveal, including power relations and dynamics in a society.

I was also a fellowship student at ESD as my dissertation topic aimed to contribute to the DPU research in progress. My focus was on environ(mental) health within the context of urban development and planning. It was a fantastic experience to research on the multiple area of my interests and notice how this combination is a new understanding in urban design and planning.

After finishing my studies, I started as a Strategic Development Intern at Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA), a small UK-based charity aiming to assist refugees and migrants via its social services to help them free from the feeling of isolation and encourage their social integration within the British society. Currently, I am involved in Women’s Project that offers training to women refugees in a range of areas, from education and healthcare to legal advice and other international services.

Besides my work at ACAA, the ESD course has highly contributed to my cross-sectoral research and communication skills necessary for many job prospects, as well as being able to work with a diverse team who eventually become my life-long friends.

When I look back to my year in this programme, I feel grateful in every aspect!