Meet our graduates: Zara Zaman
Having graduated in 2021 in Arabic and French, Zara is the co-founding Director of the Inspire Launch Grow Awards emerging enterprise finalist, Edventure.
It’s been a productive summer for 2021 graduate Zara Zaman. As well as completing her MA (Hons) degree in Arabic and French, she has been recognised by Edinburgh Innovations for her work co-founding Edventure.
Established by Zara and fellow students Ragnor Comerford and Fynn Comerford in 2020, Edventure is already the largest pan-European university venture builder and accelerator, working with 77 different companies and students from more than 26 universities across Europe to translate research and ideas into real-world start-ups.
In July 2021, the company was a finalist in the Emerging Enterprise category of the Inspire Launch Grow Awards which celebrate enterprise and entrepreneurship at the University of Edinburgh.
We spoke to Zara about how studying languages in an innovation-focused university provided the perfect platform for getting involved in growing successful start-ups.
Communication and collaboration
The Edventure team works entirely remotely - Zara is currently based in Sarajevo, having previously lived in London, Dubai and Edinburgh, where she originally came to study English Literature.
Her path to a joint degree in Arabic and French began with taking both subjects as outside courses in Year 1 and enjoying them so much that she decided to change programmes at the end of her first pre-honours year.
Asked about how languages helped her get where she is now, Zara says “Studying Arabic and French was not just about learning a language, although that was a big part of it. My studies at LLC undoubtedly shaped my worldview, and made it clear to me that communication and collaboration would have to be at the heart of anything I do going forward.”
“The blended approach of learning a language together with culture, politics, history, and literature gave me a wide range of skills that I believe have enabled me to stand out in an ecosystem where humanities students are underrepresented.”
I would encourage any LLC students interested in startups to go for it. Although it can be daunting when you don’t see many people with your background in the space – our unique blend of skills are very much needed to build great companies.
A melting pot of everything for building a great start-up
Asked what inspires her or keeps her going, Zara says “I am continually inspired by the people around me in the university ecosystem. I’m a big believer in the power of entrepreneurship as a tool to solve the world’s most pressing issues and Edinburgh is truly a hub of entrepreneurial activity, particularly social enterprises.”
“Universities are a melting pot of everything necessary for building a great start-up: fresh ideas, diversity, tenacity, and an understanding of what is going on in the world – with just enough optimism to believe it can change for the better. I see that optimism in the people I work with every day and those in the wider ecosystem on campus, and it truly inspires me to see their determination to make a positive change in the world.”
As for the city itself, Zara has fond memories of the place she lived in for two years before her Year Abroad in Jordan, and a final year spent studying remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It gained a special place in my heart and will always be home to me. I love the city’s dynamic blend of old and new: the architecture steeped in history, an ancient volcano (Arthur’s Seat), rows of independent coffee shops and cafés, cutting-edge research labs and numerous landmarks with stunning views of the city. Even better, the beautiful community of kind and friendly people, always willing to help.”
Edventure is one of 100 companies started by Edinburgh students and recent graduates in 2020/21 with support from Edinburgh Innovations.
Are you interested in studying languages at LLC?
We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university, including all six official languages of the United Nations, and eight of the languages of the European Union. We also offer an extensive range of joint degrees, for example, two languages, or a language with another humanities subject.
Studying one or more languages demonstrates that you're a good communicator, a resilient problem solver, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence. Beyond the language skills you'll develop on our programmes, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of other cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year honours degree from the University of Edinburgh shows high-level intellectual strength and flexibility.
Don’t feel that a lack of technical expertise should prevent you from applying to technical entry-level jobs. The transferable skills you gain from a humanities degree give you an advantage in certain areas, and many employers help you train on the job in specialist subjects.