From Berwickshire to Beijing
Heriot-Watt University prides itself on its global reputation and international reach. We're proud of the environment we've created to nurture highly motivated students, allowing them to realise their potential and develop their ambitions.
Halla Mohieddeen, a graduate from the School of Management & Languages, is an inspiring example from our ambitious internationally-focussed Heriot-Watt alumni.
A Lebanese father, a Scottish mother, a degree in Languages (Interpreting and translating) with French and German and now a job working as a Weather Presenter on Chinese TV, Halla is definitely what you would call a "woman of the world".
Halla grew up in Berwickshire, in the south of Scotland, and studied at Heriot-Watt University from September 1998.
She was also the Students’ Association President from 2002 to 2003. This was a time that she particularly enjoyed and she recalls some of her time in this role: "I was immensely proud of getting people to talk about issues. We once organised a general meeting to debate the war in Iraq and over 100 students turned up.
"I also fought hard to reinstate the Women’s Officer post as a full time position in the Students’ Association. To date, this position is still in place, which I am really proud of."
Bringing politics to the student population was also something that Halla championed and the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2003 presented an opportunity for politicians such as Kenny MacAskill to visit the campus to speak to students.
Halla and her team assisted many students in becoming registered voters and ensured that this group of young voters was helped through what was, for many, their first election experience.
A global career
After university, Halla started work for a robotic engineering firm, ICE Robotics, which specialises in automating the dairy industry. Halla’s position as Marketing Assistant allowed her to work on an international level and to attend conferences abroad frequently. She regularly translated marketing materials into French and German.
In 2005, keen to broaden her experience base, Halla moved to London and, soon after, on to Beijing. After six months teaching English in a school, she engineered an internship with True Run Media, a publishing company where she wrote for their two biggest titles, Insiders Guide to Beijing and a lifestyle magazine called That’s Beijing.
I get the occasional person asking me if I’m the Weather Girl. It’s all quite flattering but I don’t think that I’ll be troubled by the paparazzi just yet!
Starting as a copy editor she soon rose up through the ranks to become editor of the Travel, Fashion and Shopping sections of the monthly magazine, as well as a regular contributor to the online edition.
Although she wrote her stories in English, she needed a grasp of Mandarin to conduct interviews. But, with Halla’s proven ability to learn new languages, she found that she soon rose to the challenge.
As with many of her Beijing experiences, the weather presenting role came into view as much a result of luck as anything else. The job was advertised on TV and, given a brief involvement with the BBC back in 2003 (where she went through the open auditions to become a presenter, only to be denied a position due to a lack of formal meteorological qualifications) she went ahead and called the number on the screen.
After many screen tests, interviews and meetings, Halla was offered the job! Today, she is presenting the weather show through the Chinese Meteorological Administration, which is then broadcast on CCTV9, Chinese state media’s English language channel watched by an estimated daily worldwide audience of 45 million.
In addition to this, her political and current affairs interests still play a part in her life, as she presents a news programme on a web TV show called BON Live which specialises in presenting Chinese news stories to the rest of the world.
When asked if all of this had made her a celebrity in Beijing, Halla laughed,"I get the occasional person walking up to me when I’m out, asking me if I’m the Weather Girl. It’s all quite flattering but I don’t think that I’ll be troubled by the paparazzi just yet!"
The journey from Heriot-Watt to globally recognised face has been eventful, challenging and exciting. Halla’s career will no doubt lead her to many more parts of the world and will have plenty more interesting twists and turns.