Get to know: Shibani Datta

As every geographer will know, a map and some colouring pencils are not the only tools in our arsenal. We spent some time with Shibani Datta, a second-year Economics and Geography student at UCL, to see how she’s getting along combining reading, writing and arithmetic.


What is your personal background and future aspirations?

My parents are from India but they moved here when they were very young, so I was born at the Royal Free in Hampstead, London, and I’ve always lived here.

My aspirations? I would love to go out and really make a difference in the world but also make some money! Essentially I want to do something which has an impact on the bigger picture rather than something with quite localised results, you know, achieve things! I want to make sure that I’m always being challenged, and making the most out of each day really.

What is Econ-Geog and what are the challenges, and advantages of this course? 

Economics-Geography is a joint honours degree and it’s technically 50% Geography and 50% Economics so plenty of fun. I chose it because I wanted a much broader degree. I’m really interested in some aspects of human geography but I also wanted something quite challenging and quantitative, which is the economics part. I think the challenge is that the geography comes much more naturally to me as I studied it at A-level, whereas I hadn’t studied economics before starting university. So yeah, it’s a bit of a struggle, a lot of people are super smart and I do occasionally fall behind…

However it’s a great degree for the skills you gain – on the one hand, you have your essay writing skills from Geography and on the Economics side you have more problem-solving skills. I would definitely recommend Econ-Geog, especially if you’re competent at maths and enjoy being challenged. Geography is a constant weight on my shoulders, because the work is endless, whereas with Economics, once you’ve completed your assignments you’re free!

What do you do away from studying?

I’m the Social Sec of the UCLU Jazz Society, so I organise all the social events, including our weekly meet-ups, our annual weekend away (this year was Cardiff!) and lots of other fun events! I’m also a member of the hockey club, where I train on Mondays, but since I don’t have loads of free time, I haven’t been able to play many matches. Those are my main extracurricular activities alongside the usual shenanigans; meeting friends, spending time with my family. Oh and I’ve recently discovered cooking so packed lunches are now a daily adventure.

Any future plans for this summer? For the next 5 years?

I’m currently applying for internships in the corporate sector and touch wood I find something! I’m also planning to travel with some friends I met last year in Peru. I went with AIESEC where I stayed with a host family and did some volunteering there which was a fantastic experience I’d recommend! In the longer term, my ideal ambition would be to go into corporate social responsibility, which involves advising corporations on more sustainable development paths. It’s quite a niche sector though, so I’ll probably start in something broader and specialise later.


You’re already halfway through your degree, what is one of the most important lessons you have learned so far?

The most important thing would be to go to your lectures, do your assignments in time, put in the study hours, I’ve started attending all my lectures and it’s genuinely transformed my confidence about exams coming up.

What makes you angry? Some core passions you want to talk about?

Unfairness makes me angry: when you put in the time and effort with someone who doesn’t reciprocate can be frustrating – it applies to sharing work, tasks and chores around the house. I don’t like people who are two-faced, life is too short! If you don’t like people, don’t spend time with them.

The second, and more important thing, is MAN-SPREADING. Man, I don’t understand! A guy sits down next to you on the tube and sits with his legs spread so far apart, and I’m like “hellooo, I’m a human being too!” Just because I’m small doesn’t mean I deserve less space on the tube! It really frustrates me!

Man-spreading got Shibani like…

If you were a fruit, which one would you be?

I would be a garlic – wait that’s a vegetable! So, maybe a pomegranate because they’re exotic and colourful.

– Interview by Victoria Lebegue, 2nd year. All images courtesy of Shibani Datta.

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