Alumni

Alumni profile - Teona Mango

Studying at Queen Mary taught me that changes are possible and social change is a team effort. I may not be able to change the world but changing the mindset of a small group of people is still a success and one step closer to the end goal.

(Politics and International Relations BA, 2019)

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As an international student from Macedonia, what attracted you to London and Queen Mary for your studies and why did you choose to study BA Politics and International Relations?

The main reasons for my choice were the UK’s higher educational system, the ranking of Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations, and the location. London is a place of world events, and it was interesting to start my education in politics and international relations right after political changes were announced in the UK in 2016.

What did you enjoy most about your degree and was there anything that surprised you in your studies?

The three years at Queen Mary were some of my favourite and most special years of my life. Some of the things I enjoyed most included studying in a very international environment and meeting and connecting with people from all over the world, being taught by world-renowned professors and regularly being pushed to think critically and assess current and past problems. I also enjoyed the freedom of choosing different modules and exploring different fields of politics and international relations.

What surprised me was the very friendly study environment, having conversations and discussions with my tutors/lecturers, and being able to reach out for help at any time.

What was it like studying and living in a different country and what advice would you give to prospective students thinking of studying in another country?

It was definitely intimidating at the beginning; the whole concept of moving to a new country where you have no friends or even acquaintances, studying higher education in a language that is not your native language etc. but Queen Mary is such an international university, with so many students in the same position as you, so I made life-long friendships from the very first day there. Getting used to the educational system, which is very different to the Macedonian one, was challenging at the beginning, but after the first few months I got the hang of it. My advice would be, don’t be scared to take the leap, you won’t regret it at all.

Can you describe your career path to date and touch on your current role?

After graduation I took a gap year that I had planned to spend traveling and figuring out what I wanted for my future. Unfortunately, a global pandemic happened so my gap year took a different turn.

Due to all the uncertainty, I decided to defer my master's studies which I was supposed to do at King’s College London in SeptemberPhoto of alumna, Teona Mango, with her Beyond Green merchandise 2020. Around that time, I got a job offer to work for the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of North Macedonia in the department of International Relations and International Cooperation. While working there, I launched my eco-friendly brand and ecological platform, Beyond Green, that I had been working on for months. After six months I decided to quit my job and focus completely on Beyond Green. My current role is founder and CEO of Beyond Green as well as a fashion and lifestyle blogger.

One of the main reasons I wanted to start an eco-friendly and sustainable brand was because I was aware of my social media presence and the influence I have in the “online world.” I wanted to use that influence to inspire and promote positive changes to those that follow me.

Can you tell us more about Beyond Green and how you came up with the idea?

Where do I start? For me, the easiest way to answer this question is by addressing the elephant in the room first. Eco anxiety was the reason. For a long time, I was thinking of starting my own personal project that would have a positive impact on the environment, but also represent me and my beliefs. Due to the pandemic, I returned to Macedonia and living back home, I noticed how little action was being taken regarding ecology and sustainability, and how poorly the issue was being handled in general, focusing only on the dark and negative upcoming scenarios without giving any solutions for the problems. That is how Beyond Green was born, a platform that will create and promote eco-friendly things; firstly, by encouraging interest in positive solutions for our world and the environment we live in, but also by providing a solution that only requires making a small change.

How does the work that you do have a positive impact on others and on the world more generally?

The whole concept of the brand is in being eco-friendly and sustainable in all aspects, from production to marketing to sales. All our products are produced in factories where employees are paid fairly and are working in good working conditions, we make sure that the factory has all the ecological and working certificates; we choose materials that are not just eco-friendly and sustainable but have been sourced ethically and have the lowest carbon footprint, are biodegradable and/or fully recyclable. All the packaging for our products is made from recycled paper and biodegradable materials, and we strive for minimal packaging to reduce waste.Photo of a candle by Beyond Green We support local businesses and entrepreneurs and choose materials from them over buying materials from large manufacturers. For example, our hand-poured beeswax candles are made by a very talented girl from Macedonia, and the beeswax is sourced from local beekeepers. We are aiming to be green in all aspects and be very transparent in terms of sourcing, production, and sales.

You are a blogger and influencer with over 18K followers on Instagram. What are some of the challenges and rewards of being in the spotlight?

One of the main reasons I wanted to start an eco-friendly and sustainable brand was because I was aware of my social media presence and the influence I have in the “online world.” I wanted to use that influence to inspire and promote positive changes to those who follow me. So, having an outlet to raise your voice and speak up for topics you find important and at the same time, have people that will listen to you, is one of those rewards. As for challenges, there are always people who will comment negatively or try to find a needle in a haystack, but with time, you get used to them and learn to ignore them.

Have you had any life-changing or stand-alone moments where you’ve realised that you’re doing a job that you really love?

I am still trying to figure out what I want to do in life and where I see myself in the future. My last regular 9-5 job made me realise that I don’t see myself working for other people, I would rather work for myself and build something that is mine, and according to me, meaningful. Currently I am in a phase of exploration and figuring out what I want. For now, Beyond Green and my blog are my focus, however, this is not definite as I am still very much figuring out what I would like to do for my future career.

How did your studies and time at Queen Mary prepare you for your starting your own business?

Through my studies at Queen Mary, I saw that changes are possible through advocacy and lobbying, especially if there is a clear end goal. Oftentimes we would touch upon ecology and environment and how that is (unfortunately) directly connected to politics and state governance. Studying at Queen Mary taught me that changes are possible and social change is a team effort. I may not be able to change the world but changing the mindset of a small group of people is still a success and one step closer to the end goal.

What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments?

There are many moments and memories from my years at Queen Mary that I will always cherish and remember, but two moments that I can pick out are the day I arrived and moved into my dorm room on campus - I was so lost, confused, sad, happy, excited and scared at the same time. That whole moment felt very surreal to me. It was such an overwhelming feeling. The second is my graduation day; it was such a bittersweet moment. From one side, I was beyond happy, and I felt a huge sense of satisfaction that I was graduating from a prestigious university, I felt all the stress and anxiety regarding exams, coursework and my dissertation being lifted from my back and felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to stress about it anymore. But at the same time, I felt this huge pang of sadness that my university days were over, because as I said, those three years were definitely life changing for me. I loved attending lectures and seminars, doing coursework and reading (although I did complain about it!), so I was sad that there would be no more of that.

What advice would you give to prospective students considering the course you studied and Queen Mary?

It’s a challenging yet rewarding course. If you are interested/passionate about politics and international relations, then it is definitely the right choice for you. I really liked the module selection and the ability to pick modules not just from the Politics and International Relations department but also from other departments. The ability to tailor the modules you take based on your interests and preferences is a big plus, and provides you with a great opportunity to explore different fields of politics and international relations.

What are your hopes and plans for the future of Beyond Green and your career?

Right now, my plans are to focus on building and expanding Beyond Green. We already have a couple of new products lined up that will be launched over the course of the next few months. We plan to focus more on educating people about ecology, sustainability and recycling, using our website and social media accounts. Hopefully soon we will be able to introduce international shipping as well.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Teona or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.