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  • INSMS International Network for Students of Migration Studies

Consultant and freelancer

This week Gabriella gives us an insight into the world of a freelancer consultant! This job gives a lot of flexibility but she also points out people should take into account the social and practical aspects of the work. She says the migration field is very diverse also when it comes to academic backgrounds, which is sometimes challenging to navigate.

Gabriella is 27, and has graduated from EMMIR - The European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations. This is a two-year Erasmus Mundus programme where she received a joint diploma from the seven partner universities. She currently works as a consultant and freelancer, doing communications for social impact work. This job enables her to combine her background in communications with her academic and personal interests in migration and humanitarian contexts. She has worked with small, medium and large organisations to design and implement communications and fundraising strategies and campaigns.

Her usual workday depends on the contracts she is working with:

“For example, in 2021, I was working on 3 consultancies simultaneously which added up to around 10+ hours of work per day. Those days were quite hectic! Now, I am only working at two consultancies which are part-time, and so my days are a lot more relaxed. Since I work "for myself" and from home, I can create my entire schedule and design my day however I'd like to.

Today, I woke up at 8:30 (which is "sleeping in" for me), and now I'm sitting at a cafe in Oslo checking emails before diving into my tasks for the day. I'll be working on a communications and fundraising strategy for 2022 which I'm almost done with. Then, I have some social media graphics to design about gender and gender transformative approaches in development work. I have to check on some online ads that are running, and I also have two meetings. I'll finish my day with some online volunteer work that I do for the Erasmus Mundus Association, a student and alumni association for Erasmus Mundus programmes.”

Going with the flow and expanding horizons

Gabriella says that this is definitely not a job she would have imagined herself doing after finishing her bachelor’s in 2016. After graduating, she took a gap year because she was not sure what she wanted to do:

“Very typically at that age, I was confused and lacked purpose. Sorry to say to everyone who is going through the same: I don't have it all figured out yet. :)“

She used her gap year for travelling and meeting new people, which is how she learned about migration studies and the Erasmus Mundus master’s programmes. She applied to the programme very close to the deadline, and was accepted quite late in the year, which meant she had to suddenly pack and move to a new country with two week’s notice. When she started her studies, she had no idea what she would end up doing but being exposed to different people and experiences inspired some ideas, and set her down the path she is now.

She says it’s a good idea to think about the type of work you want to do after graduating, and try to get some experience already while studying. Having a bachelor’s in Journalism and Communications, she started working part-time during her master studies, volunteering, and also doing an internship that combined her background and academic interests. She points out, however, that this path of specialisation is not necessarily the best for everyone:

“I encourage people to go out of their comfort zones and try different things, just to see if they like something they might not have even known about before! Take the opportunity to talk to people who are doing a variety of work in different fields, go to as many workshops and take as many electives as you can. Expand your horizons.”

Consider the social and practical aspects of the work you want to do

During the process of writing her master thesis, she started an intensive, full-time internship with a large international development organisation, and she continued working with them after her graduation until her contract ended. After that, she received another contract-based role with a research centre. Having two consulting jobs right after graduation got her more into consulting and freelancing, rather than having a traditional 9-5 desk job.

“I don't think this type of work is for everyone: it's not easy to manage yourself and work alone from home right after graduating. I think I could have benefited from a normal office job before going into consulting, but in general I'm happy with the path I'm on.”

Gabriella was thus working from home even before the pandemic, which made it fairly easy for her to settle into the lockdown requirements. However, having the pandemic isolation coupled with working for herself, not having an office to visit occasionally or some colleagues to complain about the situation made it even more isolating.

“It was a lonely period for me. I encourage people who are interested in freelancing and consulting to consider these more social and practical aspects of the work before diving right in.”

Since she has the opportunity to work flexibly from anywhere, and is what one might call a digital nomad at this point, she is currently between several locations. Due to her international childhood and upbringing, coupled with a very international master’s programme, she says she doesn’t really have a home in a typical sense, but she can definitely see herself settling down for at least a few years in the near future.

As far as her experience of working abroad is concerned, she points out to her privilege:

“As for my experience working abroad, I would have to say that I'm extremely lucky and privileged to have a European citizenship which has allowed me to live and work in many different places. I wish that my colleagues had the same opportunities that I have had.”

Diversity also in knowledge backgrounds

Regarding the migration field in general, she says that one thing she learned after working with migrants and within the field is that there are many people working on the topics from many different backgrounds, having very little common background. She has worked with people who studied political science, international relations, or even business and economics, and they all have different understandings and approaches to migrants and migration.

“There are definitely challenges that arise when it comes to working in such an interdisciplinary environment. I don't know what the solution is, but there are definitely times when I have wished that more people could have taken a "migration 101" course which helps to get everyone on the same page when it comes to finding solutions for real global challenges.”

Tips for success

“While on one hand, migration studies is quite specialised, there are still SO MANY paths you can go down after your studies. My colleagues have ended up all over the world, either continuing their studies and life in academia with a PhD, or working for large governmental and international organisations, doing really important work. With a degree in migration studies, there are so, so many things you can end up doing, and I am happy that the INSMS network can shed some light on these opportunities for students and graduates.”

*INSMS is always looking for interesting career paths of former migration students. If you would like to share your professional history with the network, please contact us by email:, Subject: P2P campaign

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