19 May 2021

A University of East London (UEL) journalism graduate has seized an opportunity to make her mark with a leading media brand after long pandemic months when she began to wonder if her career would ever get started.

Rolhat Zen-Aloush, known as Lulu, has landed a prestigious six-month internship with the Financial Times - and now she has her foot in the door she’s intent on proving her worth - and staying there.

Despite leaving education at the height of the lockdown, and having to earn a living as a waitress, Lulu fought her feelings of despair and kept on believing. More than that, she worked up job applications and listened to a work coach who gave her advice.

I remember him telling me to apply for the FT internship. I really didn't think I'd get it - I mean the FT is one the most popular names in the trade. Anyway, I applied and the next thing I knew I was asked to attend an interview.

"I was so excited, but I also didn't get my hopes up as I knew it would be competitive. Nevertheless, I tried to be confident at my two set interviews, where I think I showed them what I'm capable of bringing to the FT,"

Lulu (real name Rolhat Zen-Aloush), UEL graduate in journalism, said.


Before that change of fortune, life had been tough.

"I was working as a temporary waitress for roughly three months before lockdown in November and it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The whole pandemic made things difficult, even finding a basic job felt impossible at one point.

Good news

"I did feel hopeless. I felt as if I studied for no reason because journalism has always been so competitive, so finding a job in the industry isn't always easy especially as someone who is newly graduated. But I was applying for jobs constantly."

And then came the good news.

"When I first received the offer, I couldn't believe it, I was in utter shock. I was over the moon to have finally found a job that related to my degree. I felt all the hard work over the years had finally paid off.

"The best thing was getting back to what I love doing, which is writing. But also, I've been in contact with some brilliant people in the industry. The Financial Times is an amazing workplace. It's very diverse and they always offer brilliant support and help for those who need it. 

"I work closely with the FT Pensions Expert platform. I'm asked to write articles for the site. I feel really happy at work at the FT - there is a big sense of belonging and everyone is just so lovely to work with. I have already had articles published. Only two months in and I'm very proud of myself.

"I would love to stay with the FT, and I hope that this will happen when my internship finishes around September. In journalism, it's not always easy to bag the exact job you want so it's important to be open minded about the type of work you do while staying optimistic that the dream job will come if you really work for it."

Lulu has set her sights on a career in international reporting. She was brought up in the UK but is originally from Kurdistan. Ultimately, she'd like to become a Middle East correspondent, giving voice to the suffering of the Kurdish people.

Student life at UEL

Lulu graduated in the summer, and she maintains fond recollections of studying at UEL. "It was so much fun," she said. "I honestly had the best experience as a university student and that's mainly due to the amazing lecturers.

"Throughout the three years of my course, I always had enormous support and my lecturers always tried their best to ensure that our education was a priority. The modules I studied were most definitely insightful and helped me understand overall what it takes to be a professional journalist."

And her advice for anyone thinking of studying journalism?

"Try to build a portfolio of your own work as part of getting a journalism degree. For instance, try blogging, writing articles, pursuing your own stories, all these things can really help.

"The hardest truth I found when leaving university is that not many companies will take newly graduated students unless they have some work experience. I would really encourage students to try to take advantage of opportunities that UEL offers."

Lulu's former lecturer Simon Miles said, "Lulu won't mind me saying that when she arrived her written expression was pretty poor. But she worked and worked, first as a reporter and then as an editor, and her current achievement is down to her perseverance and determination.

"Good journalism is vital to a healthy democratic society. At UEL we don't just want to teach skills, we want to instil a commitment to one of the great professions. It's having that attitude, together with the skills, that will give a graduate the edge. And Lulu had that attitude."

If you are thinking of a career in journalism, see our website course pages

Related topics