Back in October, we spent some time with Geog Soc’s very own Pres: Isobel Vernon-Avery, and asked her the questions that really matter. Find out about what drew her to Geography, her future plans, and her spirit fruit.
Tell me more about your personal background?
I grew up in a little village in Lingfield about 45min away from Victoria. I’ve never moved house, but I went to several different schools. I went to a “Steiner” school, so I wasn’t allowed to read or write until 7 years old, and was banned from the library until the age of 12. The idea is that you have to learn about yourself before you learn about the rest of the world and it has made me what I am today. Then I went to a mainstream school, where I realised I was a bit of nerd, which is really sad!
Tell us more about your Journey to Geography?
It probably started at my “Steiner” school, where we were taught all the processes. One year we had to understand everything behind a bread and jelly sandwich: grow and mill the wheat to make the flour and therefore make the bread, grow and cut the strawberries to make the jam. We had to go through the whole creation process and it gave me the curiosity I have now, about how everything works and what we don’t see. Also my mum always wanted to study geography and she didn’t, so growing up with the combination of the two (and a really good geography teacher as well), guided me in this direction. I’m not super sure about what my niche is yet but I worked in the construction sector in my gap year and I became interested in the urban environment. I love sciences as well, so I want to do my dissertation on how climate change will shape architecture and urban design, with a focus on Bangladesh, due to the issues there.
What did you do during your gap year?
I spent 5 months working in a high technology construction firm, and 3 months volunteering in India, on a government-sponsored project, leading women’s-division self-help groups. Then I went travelling in South East Asia to party, and that was a lot of fun!
As the President of the Geographical society, why did you apply for this role and tell us more about future plans?
Fundamentally I really like organising people and being bossy! I really enjoy arranging events and having a big workload. But also, I have to say, I have amazing friends in the department and I would love to make this society slightly better for the department. It’s maybe a little selfish – I enjoy doing things and challenging myself. Things that are coming up: the winter ball (to be announced soon), and Movember for the men. There’s something for the women, but you know, might as well just support the lads…?
What’s the most important lesson you have learned so far from your experience at university?
Most important: to breathe and smile! It’s instantly easier. On the practical level, ask questions and go to office hours, which I never do enough of. Don’t be afraid to be bold with reading and research.
On a personal level, what makes you angry and happy?
What really makes me angry is non-commitment. When people say they will do things, but don’t. I am passionate about education – about sharing and being open to having new people, which is crucial with ongoing refugee problems.
What makes me happy?
CHOCOLATE and spending time with my friends and family. Oh, and ticking things off my lists!
Tell us more about your time in London?
Compared to home, London is really busy, as I basically lived in a field with a post office! My favourite spot is “Drink, Shop, Do” near King’s Cross. I also love Borough Market, but I can’t afford to shop there! I really like Regent’s Park, just to be in this amazing space with loads of people.
What would be your dream life in 5 years?
I want to live abroad, but I only speak English, so that’s a limitation! I would love to learn a language and live in Australia – I really enjoy surfing and sailing and I want to get better at it. I would love to go back to India again, and probably stay a few years there.
If you were a fruit, which one would you be?
Passion Fruit: because of the pips inside, as I love going from one activity to another, while still staying in one perfect yummy shell.
Images courtesy of Isobel Vernon-Avery.