From environmental sciences to ethical finance and meeting King Charles III

Mariam in a suit at the British Council offices in London. She looks very smart and is smiling. In the background there is a blurred image of tables and chairs.

Mariam at the launch of the British Council headquarters in Stratford, London.

GREAT scholar Mariam from Nigeria completed her master's in climate change finance and investment at the University of Edinburgh in 2022. She shares her journey from environmental sciences into ethical finance, her love of the practicality of UK teaching methods and the time she met (now) King Charles III in London.

'I started learning about ethical finance while working at the Nigerian Stock Exchange'

I studied wildlife and tourism management at the undergraduate level, but soon after - when looking for jobs - I moved into financial services. Financial services are one of the largest employers in the country.

As a graduate trainee, I joined the Nigerian Exchange Group (Nigerian Stock Exchange), where I started learning about ethical finance. I found it interesting and started exploring my options for doing further studies.

'Edinburgh is a very beautiful place'.

'The University of Edinburgh is highly-ranked and I found a master's programme that was perfect for me'

The University of Edinburgh came out top for me when deciding which university to attend. It is highly-ranked, has an amazing reputation for research and the master's programme in climate change finance and investment was exactly what I was looking for.

What's more, I found out that they offered a GREAT Scholarship for sustainable futures. And I heard that Edinburgh (and the rest of Scotland) is a very beautiful place.

'Visiting Royal Kew Botanical Gardens in London on a trip down for the GREAT scholars' event'.

'The GREAT Scholarship gave me the chance to make new friends'.

'The GREAT Scholarship helped me afford a high-quality education in the UK'

Getting the GREAT Scholarship helped me study something that interested me, not because I had to but because I wanted to. The scholars' welcome event in London gave me the chance to see another part of the UK and meet other scholars. We went to the Kia Oval Cricket Ground, which I enjoyed. We also received some inspiring presentations, including by Anabela Chan, founder and CEO of Anabela Chan Joaillerie. Her story of going from studying architecture to fashion struck me.

Anabela Chan wearing a pink suit and smiling while she presents at the GREAT scholars' event in London in May 2021.

'At the GREAT scholars' event in London we were inspired by world-famous jewellery designer, Anabela Chan'.

'There isn't one path to success. Try out a few things and find what you're passionate about'

There isn't one path to success. What's most important is to try out a few things and find what you're passionate about. Anabela's story is similar to mine. I went from environmental sciences to finance. To begin with people asked me what I was doing, but I found a relationship between environment and finance, which, so far, is working for me.

Mariam presenting to (now) King Charles III at the launch of the Global Youth Letter.

'I met the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) at the British Council offices in London'

During the launch of the new British Council headquarters in London, I was invited as a GREAT scholar to attend. As a sustainable futures scholar, I contributed to the 'Global Youth Letter' launched on 9 September 2021. It is a call for action from young people globally, directly addressing the leaders attending COP26 – the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, in November 2021.

I presented some of the findings to the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) Charles and shared my thoughts with him. When I shared the photos with my friends and family back home, they couldn't believe it.

'My courses went beyond theory. The teaching was very practical and brought everything to life'.

'In one of my modules, I had to build an equity portfolio from scratch and decarbonise it'

One thing I loved about my courses at the University of Edinburgh was that they went beyond theory. I wasn't just reading about things on paper but managing them. It was very practical and brought everything to life.

In my sustainable finance module, I worked independently on building an equity portfolio from scratch and decarbonising it. I was provided with data from the S&P 500 (Standard and Poor's 500) - a stock market index - to get me started. Then I had to build the portfolio to reduce the carbon intensity and justify the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Finally, I had the opportunity to give recommendations and implications to asset managers in relation to what I built.

'People from other organisations would come into the classroom and speak to us about their work'

Beyond everything we read in textbooks, I enjoyed that people from other organisations, like McKinsey, would come into the classroom to speak to us. They shared their real-life experience working in the sector and made it easy to imagine how it might look and feel to work in this sector in the UK and internationally.

'The teachers believed in us and there was no such thing as a "silly" question'

The teachers were very open as well. You could always seek them out and ask them anything - without worrying about 'silly' questions. Everything was ok, and they believed in us. It made me happy to have the support and backing of experienced professionals and academics. And it helped me and my coursemates grow in confidence.

'I loved looking over the water in Ayrshire on my trip and the sunsets were stunning'.

'Glamping in the Scottish countryside'.

'I went glamping in the Scottish countryside'

I had the opportunity to go to parts of Scotland outside of Edinburgh. One of my favourite memories from my master's was when I went glamping in Ayrshire near Kelburn Castle. I loved looking over the water and the sunsets were stunning. the colours were so beautiful. And I met a couple of other people when I was there. It was an adventure.

'Music was my therapy'

During my studies, whenever I was looking for comfort, I'd turn to music. Music was my therapy. If I was thinking, I'm so far from home. Or - I don't know anyone yet. I'd put on my music. It has the power to elevate my spirits and make me feel so much better.

I have a collection of tracks that I can turn to. When I put them on, there are some songs that I remember where I was the first time I listened and what was happening at that time. So when I hear it again, I can look back, remember, and be grateful for how far I've come.

'Keep perspective: being driven by passion motivates me to act, even when I don't feel like it'.

'Remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing'

It is very helpful to remind myself why I'm doing this. Remembering that it was from a place of genuine interest and desire made it easier to keep going, even when it was challenging. I’m also a Christian, and I found my faith to be a comfort to me throughout my academic journey.

Student at GREAT Scholarships scholar's event in London 2022 - The Kia Oval

GREAT Scholarships

GREAT Scholarships offer students from 14 countries across the world the opportunity to have £10,000 of their tuition fees paid at a UK university for a one-year taught postgraduate course.

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GREAT Scholarships for climate change

GREAT Scholarships for climate change are for students who want to study at a UK university for a one-year postgraduate course.

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