FROM Hatch Warren Primary School to Helmand Province – that’s the journey made by a former Basingstoke schoolgirl.

Sima Kotecha, is the current US reporter for the BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat programme, and in December last year she spent two weeks embedded with the US Marines in Garmsir to cover the war in Afghanistan.

Based in New York, she has also covered all the recent major events in North America, including the election of President Barrack Obama and the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

But the 29-year-old grew up in Basingstoke, attending Hatch Warren Primary School, Richard Aldworth Community School and Queen Mary’s College.

She told The Gazette: “I really enjoyed being in Basingstoke because as a teenager I thought it was great – going clubbing in Martine’s or hanging out in the bowling alley.

“I come back all the time – about four times a year – as my mum and dad still live in Kempshott Rise. I get annoyed when people diss Basingstoke because it was where I was born and raised.”

After getting her A-Levels, Miss Kotecha went to the University of Surrey in Guildford and did a Masters degree in media and communication at Goldsmiths College in London.

After spending a few years working as a parliamentary aide in Canada and as an English teacher in Europe, Miss Kotecha returned to Basingstoke and landed a job with BBC Radio Berkshire.

From there, she contacted BBC staff around the world asking for a job and got a reply from the organisation’s New York bureau.

She went out to America in 2005, and went on to work for the BBC World News Talking Movies television programme before getting her current role.

And Miss Kotecha has advice for any Basingstoke youngster who wants to become a journalist.

She said: “I think you have just got to have guts really and take those opportunities. You only live once – but never forget where you are from either.”