Darwin College - Sir Cam
A passion for learning - Alexandros Pamnani
Alexandros Pamnani (Darwin 2015) shares how he went from dropping out of school to working for the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg.
The opportunity to be taught by world leading academics was something I never took for granted and has provided me with a passion for learning that I value beyond Cambridge.
After dropping out of school following the loss of my mother, attending university seemed like a remote possibility. Instead, I began training to be a car mechanic with the aim of learning a valuable manual trade.
My mother and father moved to the United Kingdom from Cyprus and Tanzania. Neither attended university but they taught me the value of education from an early age. Raising four children, they worked multiple jobs while fitting in night courses to train as bakers. Despite barely making ends meet, my parents still found the motivation to make education a priority. Accordingly, they hoped I would also make education a priority. However, this was difficult.
I attended a state school in Croydon, south London, where neighbourhood crime was high and access to higher education was poor. Many smart youngsters I knew ended up down the wrong path, some with tragic consequences. This changed my perspective and I began to think about what could happen to me if I followed the same path. I was determined to make a change.
Making a change
Fuelled by this, I enrolled at my local college to complete my school education whilst working full-time. It was a challenge, but I never gave up and went on to receive straight A grades and was awarded the Ironmongers Merit Scholarship to study engineering at university. As an undergraduate, I tried to broaden my experience by completing internships and getting involved in student life. This included serving on my university’s governing body and on the National Higher Education Academy’s Advisory Forum. After four years of study, I graduated top of my class and received the Spirit of London Education Prize and was listed in the Courvoisier Future 500.
I was immediately interested in applying for the Technology Policy Master’s at Cambridge. The course looked like a great opportunity for me to develop the skills required to meet the challenges of integrating technology, economics, policy and law. I knew it would be extremely competitive to gain admission and I remember warning myself, throughout the application process, not to get too optimistic about my chances. After an agonising wait of several weeks, I was notified that I had received a place and a merit scholarship. The whole experience felt somewhat imaginary, and it did not seem real until I arrived in Cambridge for my first day.
Life at Cambridge
My time at Cambridge passed quickly and was full of lectures, library revision sessions and great memories with new friends from around the world. Cambridge’s atmosphere was unique, and there was a great sense of inquisitiveness, debate and openness among everyone. I got involved in a number of societies and sports such as the Cambridge Union Society, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The course was everything I had hoped it to be. From working with the World Bank on an economic project in Jordan, to analysing the technical and legal aspects of government policy, the programme was highly interdisciplinary. The opportunity to be taught by world-leading academics was something I never took for granted and has provided me with a passion for learning that I value beyond Cambridge.
Looking to the future
During my Master’s, I took a European Union policy module which involved visits to the various EU institutions in Belgium and Luxembourg. I decided to apply to the EU’s financing institution, the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg and after several interviews, I was offered a role. My job is extremely interesting and I work on investment projects for the Western Balkans countries that are candidates to join the EU. In my role, the Master's has helped me understand the strategic importance of complex social, economic and political issues, and I make use of the skills I learned daily.
The opportunity to study at Cambridge also provided me with a strong desire to help others. Since my undergraduate days, I have served on a number of organisations tasked with improving educational outreach to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am extremely interested in politics, and going forward, I hope to get more involved to give back to the community and country I grew up in. Whatever the future holds, I believe Cambridge has provided me with the knowledge, skills, and experience to help achieve my long-term aim of making a meaningful contribution to the world.
Alexandros Pamnani obtained an MPhil in Technology Policy and attended Darwin College.