Hassan Raja, a History finalist from Fitzwilliam College, was born and raised in East London before coming to Cambridge. He discusses his work with the social enterprise UPside, and shares how his photography is helping him build creative career skills
I work on marketing for UPside, a social enterprise dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential by succeeding in academia
Lots of our projects are focused primarily on helping students with their uni applications and widening access to Oxbridge. Some of our most recent initiatives have included Oxbridge mock interview days, drop-in clinic sessions at Havelock estate, and a bi-weekly newsletter dedicated to bringing opportunities to young people and plugging information gaps. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve moved all of our services online and launched a number of new digital initiatives which I helped bring to life.
creating photography has been amazing in that it’s given me a deep understanding of how different social media platforms operate
In my spare time I’m into photography
Before coming to uni, my favourite photos to take were portraits, so this lent itself quite nicely to event photography and doing headshots for different societies which was a really nice way to meet people and make some extra money on the side. I would say my favourite style of photography now is photojournalism, and I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore that as well, working with Varsity as a photographer and going on to be their photography editor in my first year. Getting to document historical events such as this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd ties my passion for photography to my interest in history. The photo featured in this piece gives you an insight into the anger and pain felt by those who showed up to the protests across the world. Overall, I’m not sure it’s something I’ll pursue beyond Cambridge (in a commercial sense), but I feel like having it as a skill and a hobby definitely gives me an edge when it comes to approaching creative career fields. In terms of my own career choice (comms and PR with a focus on social media), creating photography has been amazing in that it’s given me a deep understanding of how different social media platforms operate. I love taking photos when I’m on holiday and collecting cameras, and I don’t see that changing ever!
Taking up running during the first lockdown really helped me to manage my time and find motivation to get out of bed in the morning
This term was unusual to begin with, and has become even more difficult with the second lockdown
Taking up running during the first lockdown really helped me to manage my time and find motivation to get out of bed in the morning, so keeping that up since coming back to Cambridge has been really helpful. I’ve also learned to value time to myself in my room in college by creating a really nice space for myself where I can just chill and listen to music. I think having Easter term taken from us so suddenly last year made me panic a little bit in terms of realising how little time I had left here. I was tempted to take on loads of extracurricular activities for my final year but decided against that in the end, and I think that was a good decision as it has allowed me to really engage with my degree content in a way I never have before. I’m finding that really fulfilling.
Having completed an internship in comms and PR at a social media-focussed startup this summer, I’m now firmly set on a career in this sector
I had an amazing time working with the team at Battenhall. It’s a career that allows me to utilise my creative skills in many different ways, and one that constantly presents new challenges which is what I want from a career.
I’d say that I’m now making sure that most of my extracurricular work is contributing, in some way, to developing skills I’ll use in a comms career once I graduate. I’ve been working on some articles about different marketing-related topics to develop my writing skills and show off my understanding of these areas to potential employers that might come across them. I also love the idea of living abroad at some point in the near future, so whether that comes in the form of a job or postgraduate study that’s another avenue I’m hugely excited to explore.
My advice for first year students with similar ambitions to mine…?
Get involved with societies you’re drawn to as a Publicity Officer, as this gives you the chance to manage an organisation’s social media pages and be creative in coming up with ideas to market the society. Adding your work and achievements to your LinkedIn profile is also hugely helpful, both for potential employers but also on a personal level for reflecting on the things you’re learning and skills you’re developing. LinkedIn is not just for the corporate hacks, there are so many amazing industry creatives to connect with and learn from on there.