Alumna Natasha Giannousi-Varney recalls her time at Lucy and how it helped her prepare for her career and life in England
I arrived at Lucy in September 1994 ready for an adventure. Home was Athens, Greece and for the past 22 years I had been living at the family home as most young adults do in Greece. Having finished an Economics degree with Honours at the American College of Greece and a Law degree at the University of Athens I was, as you would say, a high achiever at least academically. However, I wasn’t really expecting to be accepted for a Master’s degree in Finance at the University of Cambridge, so needless to say I was delighted and raring to go.
Life at Lucy exceeded my expectations. Although it was hard to get around the college system at first, I could certainly see how a college serves as a hub to ground you and make it feel like home away from home. Formal halls were fun, everyone was incredibly supportive, even back in those days when mental health was not de rigueur. I was homesick but that soon got better. Accommodation was brand new, all the women in my floor had interesting life stories and the in-house academics served as mentors as well as being there for study guidance.
The MPhil course was extremely challenging, I remember being in awe of the high level maths and statistics and always trying to relate the course work to everyday tangible concepts in the financial markets and the economy rather than staying in the abstract, as some econometrics course books would have it. I loved the mental gymnastics but at the end of the day the goal was to find work in this field, and Cambridge was incredibly supportive. There were so many opportunities everywhere only waiting to be had. I interviewed for a few financial power players in the City and the experience was incredibly useful. But the experience that really struck at my heart was spending a week working in the Financial Times as an assistant reporter in the Global Markets section. I just loved the buzz of the newsroom and the vibrant personalities of the journalists and that was something that stayed with me and later affected my life choices.
Back in Greece, my academic laurels served me well. I applied for a Unilever job and was one of 3 in 650 candidates that were successful. Even I was surprised. But I suppose, looking back at it, that those exams and interviews were a piece of cake compared to Tripos week and interviewing for Goldman Sachs. Then after a couple of years at Unilever I got itchy feet, as the FT had shown me what my true calling was. I interviewed for a financial reporter job at Greek newspaper Athens News and that kicked off the next very happy 15 years of my life. The media world was perfect for me, and I loved every minute of it. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work in a newsroom. There is a quiet urgency, a camaraderie and a surge of creativity around that you never really meet anywhere else. Gradually I started covering other types of stories as well, very tentatively at first, but also with the tenacity of a Jack of all Trades. At some point I was writing 2,000 words a day, every day.
Eventually I got to edit my own financial pages, became acting picture editor and even designed the lay-out every day for 3 years. Then I took that to a larger scale by editing weekly and monthly magazines; I even did a stint working for the Greek edition of Harper’s Bazaar. I was curious about the world, and that certainly showed in my professional choices. My best years were working for the weekly glossy Sunday magazine (‘Eikones’) of a prestigious newspaper, because I could cover a variety of topics from the economy to interviewing writers and painters, and even the occasional Hollywood media junket.
When I left Greece around 10 years ago, my stint at Lucy had unwittingly prepared me well for that too. For I was moving to England, where my partner hailed from. But I already knew what life in England was like, and I knew more or less what to expect (British weather anyone?). I found it something of a ‘life joke’ that I was moving to Oxford, after studying at Cambridge, but there it was. I started working as freelance writer for a variety of publications and media outlets, including BBC, ITV and Fodor’s Travel, but somehow having a very young family seemed to take priority for a while.
These have been mostly very joyful years, which saw my son Alex and my daughter Anna being born, my love of cross country running (which was actually inspired at Lucy; I still remember my housemate Fiona arrive in the hall with muddy shoes and flushed cheeks every Sunday morning) being reaffirmed and me finally obtaining a dual British-Greek citizenship. So many of these seeds were grown at Lucy, and for that I am ever grateful.
MPhil Finance 1994-1995