IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Career insights: Reem Shammout

6 July 2018

We spoke to Reem Shammout who used her Education and International Development MA as a stepping stone to get to her current role as an Education Specialist at Norwegian Refugee Council.

Reem Shammout

What were the highlights of your studies at the UCL Institute of Education?

Definitely meeting like-minded people with the same passions about education, gender, human rights, and international development. Not only were we lucky enough to meet instructors who have been published in the field, but also fellow students who had vast experiences to share. I liked the level of independence given to us in preparing for the sessions and the space given to choose our assignment topics.

The highlight was also the breadth in which we delved into certain issues and the possibility to follow up on areas of interest either through informal student mentoring groups, going to the well-resourced library to learn more or having a coffee with one of your professors. 

Although researching for and writing the dissertation was laborious, we received adequate supervision in order to deliver. There was definitely an 'a-ha' moment during that process where my supervisor (the lovely Elaine Unterhalter) had helped me pull everything together and translate all the hard work into a useful piece of writing.

Last, but not least, spending time at the student union getting psychosocial support from friends and making new connections was the cherry on top.

How has your career developed since you graduated?

The MA helped me change careers. I was a student guidance counsellor in schools before I decided to join the Institute. Now I am a humanitarian aid worker doing what I am most passionate about.

I have to admit, going into aid work for me was quite a coincidence as I always imagined myself working in development on education policy in my country of origin, Jordan. I knew that I wanted a job that will allow me to make a difference in people's lives.  I am now an international aid worker with field experience in four conflict affected countries.

I started as an officer working on the education in emergencies project with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Jordan responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. I have since held positions with NRC as education project coordinator, gender-based violence project coordinator, education project manager, and education specialist in Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran respectively.

I consider having this career a privilege, one that should not be taken for granted, that allows humanitarian aid workers to serve the communities affected by displacement. 

How important is it to develop a strong professional network?

As Davide mentions in his profile, the world of those who work in humanitarian settings is very small and even smaller for education in emergencies. You very often meet and work with the same people. Working for NRC has helped me grow and develop my professional network. However, developing strong networks for me was about seeking support from others who experience the high level of stress doing what we do on daily basis, mission after mission, country after country. It is those human connections that keep us driven to do our best.

What drives your passion for your work?

I believe that education is a human right. It should be available to all children and youth especially those affected by displacement. It also gives me hope that the world can one day be egalitarian.

My education changed my life and I want every girl, boy, woman, and man to have the same opportunities.

Education opens minds and equips people with knowledge to make their own choices. It protects children from the effects of war. That is what drives my passion for my work and for moving from one country to another. 

What are your plans or goals for the future?

I would like to keep working as a humanitarian aid worker. I am living my dream, so it is hard for me to set a long term goal. One day I would like to go back to university to build on the knowledge that I gained at the IOE and throughout my career.

Reem has volunteered as an alumni mentor and you can ask her or any of the thousands of other mentors for advice by joining the UCL Alumni Online Community. All UCL students and alumni can search the directory for a potential mentor from our pool of experienced alumni, make new connections and join a professional network.