Category Archives: College

Ten traditional Diwali dishes to celebrate the festival of lights

Aditya Mukherjee, BA Global Politics and International Relations student, shares his recommendations for what to eat during the Diwali celebrations this week. 

One of the most popular festivals in India, celebrated all over the world, Diwali, or Deepavali as it is known, is a festival of light that brings family and friends together. Taking place in November (based on the lunar calendar so dates change every year), it is the time of the year that many look forward to, as it brings families together. It is the time when households are lit with ‘diyas’ (traditional Indian lamps) in the evening to mark the victory of good over evil, and to welcome the Gods home. 

In addition, it is also the time when people purchase new clothes, home items, electronics, and cars. More importantly, gifts are given to loved ones.  

Food is an important aspect of the celebration, and many types of delicious dishes are made to celebrate every evening. Let’s discover some of the well-known foods that are almost always prepared during this festival (caution – most of them are desserts and deep fried, so if you have a sweet tooth, you are in for some cravings!) 

1. Jalebi  

“If you haven’t tried jalebi, you have not lived.” (Quote by an ancient Indian scholar) Deep fried spiral shaped batter covered in sugar syrup. This is not for the faint hearted. 

Jalebi

2. Gagar-ka-Halwa (carrot halwa) 

A delicious pudding made form slow cooked carrots simmered in milk along with a lot of jaggery (organic sweetener from sugarcane) and sugar. It usually has cardamom, cashews and raisins for aroma and flavour. 

Gagar-ka-Halwa

3. Gulab jamun (rose water berry) 

Another sweet confectionary and a must have in any Indian celebration. Milk and cheese solids dough heated over a long time, later fried and soaked in sugar syrup. 

Gulab Jamun

4. Kheer (rice pudding) 

Rice slowly cooked with milk, sugar, saffron and cardamom, creates the classic Indian pudding known as kheer. Cooked only on special occasions, it is a must have at a Diwali party. Nuts and dried fruit are also added for stimulating the palate. 

Kheer

5. Burfi (fudge)  

Burfi’s are fudge, that can come in various textures and consistencies depending on the ingredients and spices used. Naturally, Indian burfis come in a pantheon of colors and flavors so there is always something for everyone when it comes to this desert. My all-time favourite is mango burfi and the regular or natural flavor (doodh) milk burfi. 

Mango barfi

Moving on to the savories, the contenders are: – 

6. Samosas  

A staple that is synonymous with Indian identity, samosas are triangular savoury pastries that are irresistible because they are crispy, yummy, spicy and, naturally a must have during celebratory events. Quite literally, a fried or baked pastry with a savoury filling such as a spiced potato mash with onions, lentils and peas. They are often eaten with condiments like mint and tamarind chutney (usually a choice of one sweet and once spicy chutney) for those who aspire to have the authentic experience. 

Samo

Samosa

7. Chakli (spirals) 

A very popular Indian savory, these are made of rice and/or gram flower, that is of course deep fried along with spices and lentils, thus available in many different variations and flavours. Although commonly available and eaten, this is one of those snacks that is a favourite and finds its way onto menus for parties and celebrations very easily. 

Chakli

8. Pakora (spiced fritter) 

Having several variations , pakoras are quintessential, easy to make and, have a lot of variety in flavours depending on the vegetables used that are coated in a gram flour batter, and totally deep-fried to the heart’s content. A mix of vegetables and spices may be added to diversify the palate but the most common are pieces of cauliflower, eggplant (aubergine), potatoes, and mixed vegetables. To enjoy, these are eaten with condiments, such as a mint or mango chutney on the side to fire up your taste buds. 

Pakora

9. Puri – bhaji 

A traditional Indian dish, puri meaning deep fried rounds of flour, and bhaji meaning a potato vegetable, eaten together is an enjoyable and recognizable dish eaten during celebrations and auspicious occasions. Also known as a comfort food, the spices used in the bhaji vary from mustard seeds, onions, turmeric, coriander leaves, salt and pepper, which all  blend to create the perfect mouthwatering vegetable dish. 

Puri – bhaji

10. Papdi chat  

Papdi (deep fried dough) along with potato mash, chickpeas, onions, chutneys, tomatoes and spices, served with spices covered in yoghurt is known as papdi chat. As vibrant in its colour, as it is in its flavour, it is an enjoyable combination of sweet, savory, spices, crunchy and smooth textures to be enjoyed during the festive season. 

Papdi-chaat

Now don’t get me wrong, not everything is about eating!  

Diwali is also an occasion where the art of ‘rangoli’ is made, usually in front of the main door of a house, or perhaps in a prominent place (can be indoors and outdoors as well) in order to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. ‘Rangoli’ are traditional Indian designs made by using coloured powders, that are attentively applied on the surface using all but 3 fingers to moderate the flow and fall of the colored powder to create exquisite designs, and are often accompanied with flowers and diyas. Some designs are passed down from generation to generation and it is definitely one of the most unique aspects of Diwali. 

Rangoli

Evenings are marked with ‘pooja’ (prayers offered to the Gods), and thanks are given for all the good fortunes in the past and wishes made for the future. Later the night sky is lit up with firecrackers. So, out with the old and in with the new. This is a festival of lights, joy and togetherness. Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali. 

 

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Birkbeck’s largest cohort of international students treated to a welcome reception

international students seated in a hall

Students from dozens of countries around the world were treated to a welcome reception at Birkbeck’s main campus earlier this month. The event offered the new students, who are part of Birkbeck’s largest cohort of international students, an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with their peers and other members of the College community.

The reception also gave the students an opportunity to hear from the organising team for the College’s One World Festival- a programme of free events which celebrate Birkbeck’s diverse, international culture- and the programme of extracurricular activities planned for the 2022/23 academic year. Colleagues from Academic Schools and Central Services were also on hand to warmly welcome the new international students.

students in lecture theatre

Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), Professor Kevin Ibeh said, “The reception offered an excellent informal occasion to welcome international students who have joined the College’s global family as we count down to the kick-off of our long-awaited bicentenary celebrations. I heartily congratulate these new students on their admission to Birkbeck and would like to assure them of our collective commitment to availing them of excellent learning experience and great memories.”

Another highlight of the Welcome reception was an informative presentation on culture shock led by Counselling Service Manager, Aura Rico. This session shared practical tips on how international students might best navigate cultural challenges and opportunities associated with their new international environment.

Many of the attendees commented on the “best part of the event”- an interactive networking session which closed the day.

A video of welcome remarks by Professor Ibeh and other Birkbeck staff can be viewed here.

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Bringing education and learning opportunities to groups underrepresented in higher education

Laura Bradnam, Senior Access Officer for the Adult and Community strand of Birkbeck’s Access and Engagement department, shares details of the new programme that the team have been working on.  

People in a classroom taking in a presentation by a workshop leader


As the Adult and Community strand of
Access and Engagement, we work with grassroots groups, voluntary organisations and statutory services to deliver learning in community settings and provide advice and guidance which supports resident priorities and local needs. It is part of the department’s aim to bring education and learning opportunities to groups underrepresented in higher education.  

The Pathways programme is a new pilot that we’ve developed in collaboration with the Mary Ward Centre, and funded by Uni Connect. The programme is a holistic, strengths-based workshop series, which aims to increase participants self-awareness, find their energising skills and action plan their next steps into education, work or volunteering. What’s special about the Pathways Programme is that it challenges the ‘deficit discourses’ that tend to dominate the employability sector, which often responsiblise an individual for things like a ‘lack of confidence’ or being ‘low skilled’. The programme we have developed considers the whole person and their life experience when figuring out their skills, strengths and next steps. 

Approach
Working with the career coach from Mary Ward ensured activities were interactive and created a safe and supportive space, starting from where people were. Sessions are structured, but with room to explore the needs of each attendee, and build a pathway to sustainable options for volunteering, training and learning opportunities. A certificate of participation is awarded on the day. Community partners advised that this may be one of the first opportunities participants have to be recognised in such a way, so it can be a special moment. 

Two people working through a sheet of paper with prompts and images on it.

Which element are you? Self-reflection activity. 

Participants lives are a rich tapestry, woven from threads connecting caring responsibilities, spirituality and faith, different languages and skills, and being active their local community. These provided valuable sources of inspiration and lived experience. In recognition of this, it was important that the workshops were a whole day – having a bigger chunk of time is necessary to give guests space to think outside of the everyday, and work in a way which cultivated the values outlined above. We wanted to challenge the idea that these aspects of people’s lives are only a barrier – harnessing the Birkbeck ethos that this is valuable experience and life cannot be judged by single exam marks. 

A table covered in small pieces of card with various 'strengths' written on them and a hand sorting through them.

Sorting through strengths cards. 

Part of this approach means we physically go to the participants – for example we did an extra session at Skills Enterprise, tailoring the workshop to fit in with the centre’s activities and making sure it was accessible. All resources were designed for a range of needs including supporting worksheets for those at the earlier stages of learning English; different methods to share ideas for those new to a classroom environment (from pair share to online quizzes); and enough staff so the coach could lead the session and 1-to-1 support available for those who needed it. We are fortunate to have members of the team who are trained in various facilitation techniques, including making spaces safe for people who have special educational needs, which helped elevate the offering of the workshops. 

Participant Feedback
“I thought the exercises in the session were good. They really made me think about myself and what I would like to do for work and opened me up to studying again.”

“This is an eye opener on steps to take to achieve my set goal as well as identifying my strengths, learned behaviours and weaknesses and how to gradually drive my weaknesses into learned behaviour. The workshop is really impressive and time valued.”

A group of people sat in a class room watching someone lead a workshop

Participants at Skills Enterprise in Newham. 

Future
This pilot is only the beginning! Due to the success and positive feedback received, we are continuing to run this programme funded by Mary Ward Centre. The next iteration of the programme will be in January 2023 at Kentish Town Community Centre, and May 2023 with community partners in Newham.  

If you’re interested in getting involved with Access and Engagement’s work in the community, email the team via getstarted@bbk.ac.uk.   

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“The Pioneer Programme was absolutely phenomenal”

Susan Christine Wachera, MSc Organisational Psychology student and winner of 2022 Pioneer Award for the Best Business Pitch, tells the story of her business, Black Talanta, as well as sharing her experience of taking part in Pioneer, a Birkbeck programme that helps students and graduates develop the knowledge and skills they need to start a business.

Susan Wachera

What is your business about?
Black Talanta supports Black students and recent graduates in accessing highly-skilled employment, mentorships and internships.

Did you always know you’d be a businesswoman?
From the age of 10 my whole life had actually been geared towards becoming a doctor. I studied BSc Medical Biochemistry and received an offer for a place at medical school. However, I knew I also had this other side of me that was very entrepreneurial and business-minded. I’ve always had side hustles going on. I thought for a while I could balance being a part-time doctor with my other businesses. Everyone thought I was crazy!

Why didn’t you end up pursuing a degree in medicine?
During my undergraduate degree, I founded a business that helped secure students medical internships and work placements. By doing this, I realised I had a talent in supporting people write CVs and build their personal brand, and I wanted to explore this career path further. I made a big and brave decision to give up my place in medical school, the year before I was due to start. I wanted to find out who I was when medicine wasn’t involved – because my whole identity at that time was wrapped up in medicine.

What did you do next?
I discovered Birkbeck’s MSc Organisational Psychology course and I was mind blown. I never knew that I could combine my love for business and my love for psychology. I started the course in October 2020 and haven’t looked back. Black Talanta came about through my lived experience and my desire to help other Black people secure opportunities and achieve their goals. It has taken off in recent months, with the help of Birkbeck’s Pioneer programme.

Susan Wachera presenting at the Pioneer Awards ceremony

How did Pioneer help you progress your business idea?
Pioneer was absolutely phenomenal. It helped me move from concept to product in only three months, which is almost unheard of. I was focused on applying everything I learnt on the programme, and I was taught how to set up a business in the right way, so I managed to set the foundations for my business quickly. I really appreciated all the Pioneer workshops, mentors and resources – it definitely helped me get opportunities, such as working with the Deputy Mayor of London, Silicon Valley, and the United Nations. I would definitely recommend the programme to other students.

What are your plans for the next few months?
For Black Talanta to really work at the scale I want it to, I’m looking to develop more partnerships with employers, so I can bring in as much talent into the workforce as I can.

Further information

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Meet Astrea: Julie Crofts, Director of Academic Standards and Quality & Deputy Academic Registrar

Julie Crofts smiling for the camera.Astrea is Birkbeck’s staff network for women and non-binary people in professional services. We talk to Astrea member Julie Crofts about her career journey.

Can you tell us a bit about your career journey so far?

I’ve worked in and around education and universities for over 30 years now. I studied English Literature (with some grammar and old English thrown in) as an undergraduate and I followed straight on with a Master’s degree in the days when the British Academy would support students to take an MA. I started a PhD on Angela Carter’s work in the early ‘90s. There wasn’t much of a support framework then for PhD students and I think I felt a bit thrown in at the deep end. I really liked the teaching I did as a PhD student and afterwards at Birmingham University, but I didn’t really have the confidence or single-mindedness to pursue an academic career. It gave me an early brush with quality assurance as I was both a postgraduate student rep and also a teacher whose class was observed in the 1994 Teaching Quality Assessment process.

I learned to type when I was 18 – my mum’s legacy – which meant I could start temping in offices when touch-typing wasn’t a universal skillset. It gave me quite a lot of work experience in multiple sectors. In higher education, I’ve worked at or studied in (or both) around 15 different institutions across the country in my career.

My first permanent job in London was at the Royal Society for Arts (if you ever see FRSA after someone’s name, by the way, that means they pay to be a Fellow) working on a project supporting accreditation for work-based learning through volunteering. It was a fantastic introduction to the city and to work from drug rehabilitation to Theatre Peckham. It also prompted a career in arts education and twenty years working in conservatoires. I made an active choice to work in dance and spent five years at the Council for Dance Education and Training which accredited professional dance programmes. I helped to set up the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (created with HEFCE support in 2001) moving from a project officer to its Executive Director and from there to RADA as Secretary and Registrar. I also spent some time at City, University of London. Small institutions don’t always offer the complexity of bigger universities but do offer breadth. At RADA, along with the directors of education/training, we were switching between being the leadership team making decisions about the strategic direction to problems with a shower not working. I don’t think there is a ‘right’ career route; just opportunities to keep learning and developing your experience and judgment.

A few summers ago, I was working on two team restructurings: one at RADA and one at City. I learned then that it’s never the thing you think that will really be difficult, always the one you think will be easy.

I’ve known Birkbeck since I came to London and have always admired its ethos and the opportunities it provides for people. My role as Director of Academic Standards and Quality & Deputy Academic Registrar (surely the longest job title of anyone in the College) is ideal for me at the moment. I’ve got a lovely and talented team and work with great people in Registry and across the College. I’ve enjoyed working more closely with departments, learning more about the programmes we offer and getting to know people. I’m especially pleased to be on campus a bit more now and meeting people I’ve been working with for 15 months but am only now meeting in person.

What are some tips for success?

I’d like someone to tell me! But my personal guiding lights are:

  • Do something that interests you and perhaps scares you a little bit.
  • Serve the work, not the person: that really means do the best you can by the work you’re doing rather than play politics or try to undermine someone else. Try to be straightforward, don’t withhold information, work for the team. Be ambitious for your work, not for your status.
  • When they go low, we go high (Michelle Obama).
  • Be kind.
  • Not everyone will like you, and that’s ok.
  • Always say thank you.

What advice would you give to someone starting your career/field?

Quality assurance is about standards, about consistency and above all about good learning experiences. I think it’s really helpful for someone working in a ‘central’ quality team to have had experience working in a department or somewhere like student advice, basically having had day-to-day contact with our students and also the people who teach them.  In a variation of serving the work, remember that you’re backstage not the main show. Your job is to support the education offered and that’s an essential role, but if you’re doing it well, most people won’t notice. I’ve been on the academic path and I’m married to an academic and it’s a good reminder of what we’re here to do.

What was the last thing you read/heard/saw that inspired you?

Here’s a photo of a bench by the artist Jenny Holzer I saw at Easter in the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice:

Image of the words: savor kindness because cruelty is always possible later

Otherwise, I listened on Audible to Dr Julie Smith’s Why has nobody told me this before.  Her tip for stopping ruminating is to put your hand out in front and say ‘Stop!’ And it works! Try it.

Finally, I’ve recently re-read South Riding by Winifred Holtby. A book as much about the machinations of committees and local government as anything else. Heartily recommend.

What do you do to unwind after work?

Apart now from saying Stop!, in lockdown we took to playing Bananagrams as a reset for the end of the day. I love reading and I’ve knitted my way through a great many box sets. Now the weather’s better, I’m tending my balcony plants and looking forward to my Emily Brontë rose finally flowering. I’m not entirely sure I’m much of an unwinder, except of knitting, though.

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Meet The Finalists | Pioneer 1.0 Programme 2022

Meet the early-stage entrepreneurs who will be pitching live at this year’s Pitch & Awards evening, competing for Best Business Idea and Best Business Pitch.

We are excited to introduce this year’s Pioneer 1.0 finalists who have been shortlisted to pitch their business ideas live in June in front of an esteemed judging panel and invited audience.

After two turbulent years which transitioned the Pitch & Awards evening to a virtual event, we are delighted to be back in the room to celebrate the fifth year of the programme.

Over the last five years, the Pioneer 1.0 programme has supported over 500 budding entrepreneurs at Birkbeck and continues to champion ambitious students and recent graduates who have innovative ideas that will make a difference.

Since kicking off in November 2021, participants have taken part in seven monthly workshops to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed in business, learning from a range of entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other to turn their ideas into reality.

The six finalists are in with a chance of winning either the Best Business Idea or Best Business Pitch award, each worth a £1500 cash prize to support their business, along with a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and promotion.

This year, over 100 students and recent graduates have participated in the programme and their achievements will be celebrated at the pitch and awards evening on Tuesday 14 June at BMA House in Bloomsbury.

Meet the Finalists

Portrait of Annabel Ola looking into camera.

 

Annabel Ola

  • MSc Culinary Innovation Management
  • Business: BEKIRI

BEKIRI exists to expand the boundaries of modern luxury patisserie. The fusion classic recipes and African ingredients will offer a new dimension of cultural discovery and appreciation for customers.

 

Ella Snell smiling for the camera.

 

Ella Snell

  • MA Philosophy
  • Business: Art School+

Art School+ is a service which connects early-career and underserved artists with unique paid commissions. It further aids both artists and organisations by providing bespoke training and 360 support.

 

 

 

Picture of Kacey Ibirọ̀gbà

Kacey Ibirogbà

  • Bachelor of Law
  • Business: Kọ silẹ

Kọ silẹ (koh-see-leh) is a compounded social bookmarking platform, simplified and designed with the adaptability of restoring structured balance into every aspect of our lives.

 

 

Picture of Sonja

Sonja Bacinski

  • FDSc Computing/Information Technology/Web Development
  • Business: Zolibri

Zolibri is an online platform that finds, validates and brings together the best of ethical & eco-friendly cosmetics from numerous online shops so you can find them all in one place.

 

 

Picture of Susan Christine Wachera smiling

 

Susan Christine Wachera

  • MSc Organisational Psychology
  • Business: Black Talanta

Black Talanta is democratising access to equitable high-skilled employment by pairing internships with black heritage students and recent graduates enabling them to make an informed career decision about the professional pathways that best suit them.

 

 

 

 

Picture of Wunmi

 

Wunmi Adebowale

  • MSc Coaching Psychology
  • Business: The Whole Woman Initiative

The Whole Woman Initiative is the social cause working to end domestic violence against women in Nigeria by providing psycho-social support and building a safe space community.

 

 

 

 

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Chasing Chevening Dreams

Paraguayan Maureen Montania Ramirez, an MSc Health and Clinical Psychological Sciences student at Birkbeck, tells us about her experience applying for the Chevening scholarship.

pic of maureen montania ramirez

Maureen Montania Ramirez at Durdle Door

When I decided to apply to Chevening I was at a point in my career where the training resources in my country were no longer sufficient for the dreams and goals I had in my head. I wanted to bring something different to my country and I felt that the only way would be to study in a first world country with the best universities in psychological research, that was for me the UK.

When I took this decision, I received immediate support from my boss who is also a born dreamer who had left the country for training and knew very well the longing I felt at that moment. She offered me her unconditional support and became my sole mentor from start to finish. This was the first and only time I applied to Chevening, I didn’t have high hopes of getting the scholarship because I knew thousands of stories of people who didn’t make it until the third attempt, or never. These were people I respected a lot and considered excellent professionals, so I said “I’m going to try, to at least gain experience and make it the third time”.

My mentor helped me to reflect in my essays who I am, what I dream of, how I move in this life and what I see on the other side of the horizon as a leader and social fighter. With her help, I was able to put all this into words, thanks to which I received the first great joy: the mail of being pre-selected for the interview. It had been a long time since I had felt so much hope, I started to believe in myself, that I could make it. I could already see myself at my university, making friends, learning in a lab and gaining thousands of experiences.

I feel that being charged with so much hope was the key to performing well in the interview. It’s worth noting that in March, when I was interviewed, I was going through one of the worst times of my life. My father was hospitalised for covid with his life hanging by a thread. I barely had a head to think. However, I knew that my dad, more than anyone else, believed that I could make it. A mixture of homage and hope led me to be energised and carry on a 40-minute interview that felt like 15 minutes to me. I had so many things to say, one idea led to another and I answered the questions with words that flowed on their own. The strength that moment gave me has no name. To this day I remember how complete I felt after the interview, when everything else in my life was falling apart.

Immediately afterwards I called my dad to tell him. It was a unique moment that I treasure to this day.

pic of Maureen Ramirez and family

Maureen and family

Shortly thereafter my dad returned home. The recovery was slow and challenging, but steady. Little by little he regained the light in his face, I did not leave his side for a second. So it was that when I received the mail saying that I had finally been selected, he was by my side. We jumped with emotion, we hugged, we cried, we screamed. I felt more alive than ever. I thanked him and my mom for everything they gave me, for having raised me with wings to always fly wherever I want, because without them I am nothing.

Maureen Ramirez holding the Paraguayan flag

Maureen proudly displaying the Paraguayan flag

Months after the preparation of papers, suitcases and emotions, I had to say goodbye to my family at the airport, with a huge smile, hugging my Paraguayan flag and raising my arms high as if to take off once again, with the support of my pillars in this life. It filled me with joy to see my father’s face full of life, completely back, next to my mother and my brother. I boarded the plane with a suitcase full of dreams and hopes.

pic of Maureen Ramirez on first day in UK

Maureen’s first day in the UK

Today, almost a year after that interview, I still feel I have to pinch myself to remember where I am. What was a dream yesterday is now a constant reality. My life here is wonderful. Every day I learn something new- academically and socially, I discover new friends, new places, new lives. I am immensely happy and grateful. Chevening gave me everything and more than I expected. It transformed me.

Further information:

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In their own words: Tips from our Chevening scholars (Interview – part 2)

We’ve asked Birkbeck’s 2021 Cheveners to share their experience applying for the prestigious UK government scholarship. In this second instalment of the series we hear from Chevening scholars from Africa, Europe and Latin-America.

pic of handshake

“It is very important to be sure of oneself, to be convinced of what one has written in the essays and to know how to defend the ideas behind them. You should not focus on memorising information but on being genuine, you know why you are applying, you just have to defend that and show that you have a good profile. It is also not essential to be too formal, sometimes that makes us act robotically, just be yourself.”- Maureen Magali Montania Ramirez, Paraguay

pic of maureen montania ramirez

Maureen Montania Ramirez

“The preparation for my Chevening interview was centred around the project I had submitted in the Chevening application. This involved working on how I would orally and convincingly showcase myself and my project as worthy of the Chevening award. Of course, I also worked on the tips which were provided on the Chevening website and social media, but my focus was on my personal story as a Chevening candidate. In other words, I put enough thought and work into how I would present my project and myself during the interview as an authentic personal story, and not as a copy of someone’s else. Hence, I think that this is vital to acing the Chevening interview.

Think about what makes you unique as a Chevening candidate and about what makes your story original. This implies having a clear vision of why you applied in the first place and of what you aspire to achieve with your master’s degree. And if this vision is not clear in your mind yet, this is where you need to start the preparation. I believe that if you can communicate this vision clearly and convincingly during your interview, you will be able to answer the other points related to it, such as your leadership skills, your ability to function in the academic and cultural environment in the UK, and your short- and long-term goals.”Rachid Meftah, Morocco

“For an interview, I would advise you to tell only about 1-2 the most successful examples of leadership and networking from the many good examples you certainly have, and describe them in more detail. It is better to use the STAR method for this. It is especially important for the commission to see exactly how you show your qualities in challenging situations, and not that you often had to face problems.

I would also advise you to be sincere in the interview and remember your highest goal, for which you apply for Chevening. Remember what you want to achieve thanks to the scholarship, and dedicate your entire story to this general idea.

Try to follow a clear structure of the story and not go into unnecessary details. Do not go away from your thoughts to the side and do not engage in third-party reasoning and explanation of the context. At the same time, try to describe your own contribution and your motivation in as much detail as possible.”Emma Terchenko, Russia

pic of Emma Terchenko

Emma Terchenko

“I read all the blogs written by Chevening and also by other Chevening alumni. I prepared an answer for every possible question trying to always convey my passion for making a change in my country and my leadership and networking skills. After, I asked my family and friends to listen to my answers and to give me feedback. Finally, I practiced as if I was in a real interview with other candidates from different countries.
My advice would be to prepare and practice to the point where the answers come to you in a natural way. You will be nervous on the day of the interview but knowing that you have rehearsed your answers will make you feel comfortable even if they ask you something you were not prepared for.”- Virginia Nuñez, Guatemala

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“Not all Deaf people know sign language and not all sign languages are the same”

Psychology student, Silvia Janickova discusses how inclusivity and accessibility have got considerably better but there is still a long way to go.

a pic of Silvia Janickova

Silvia Janickova

1. What are your thoughts on the significance of popular culture, especially film, in representing the experiences of deaf and hearing-impaired people?

One thing I would like to see more of is the representation of Deaf and hearing people interacting more with each other. CODA (the Oscar-winning film) and other films with Deaf or hard-of-hearing characters often portray hearing and Deaf communities as largely separate entities with the conflict revolving around the gap between them. I feel this is not reflective of the life richness that goes way beyond deafness versus “hearingness”.

2. What is the biggest misconception people have about people from the deaf community?

One of the misconceptions is that we are excellent lipreaders. In reality, lipreading is hard and largely a guesswork. Face masks during the pandemic have made the already precarious lipreading art even trickier.

There is also a gap between how many Deaf and hard-of-hearing people perceive themselves and how we are perceived by the society. Deafness is often seen as a “deficit” or impairment, but for us, the real issue is communication barriers and lack of inclusive environment.

Another misconception is that all Deaf people know sign language and all sign languages are same. For example, when doing my BSL courses in London, BSL used in Manchester had such a different accent that at times it felt like a whole new language for me!

3. Do you feel things have got better for deaf people, when it comes to understanding and inclusivity?

I think inclusivity and accessibility have got considerably better compared to even just a decade ago. That said, there is still a long way to go.

For example, and related to the film theme, cinema screenings often come unsubtitled so we cannot go and see the films we would like to watch.

Deaf people are also underrepresented in professional roles and there are persisting barriers in the job market.

Social events can be also difficult. In the end of the day, we are all humans and above all, we all want to feel that we belong. Many of us have learnt to be great pretenders and nod and smile at the right places. Simple things such as facing us, speaking clearly and typing things when it gets too noisy around can make a big difference.

4. What’s your own personal experience as someone who is deaf?

As a Deaf person who grew up entirely in the hearing world, finding way both to the hearing and the Deaf communities as an adult has been a journey for me. It has often been difficult, but it has also enabled me to meet many amazing people, both Deaf and hearing, and gain and wealth of experiences. Ultimately, all of this has shaped who I am, as a solution-seeker and a lifelong learner, not only in the academic sense, but also in terms of always learning something new about myself and other people.

5. What support have you received from Birkbeck?

As a substitute for spoken aspects of lectures, I use captioning or transcription and electronic note-taking. Studying as a Deaf student can be harder, since DSA (governmental funding scheme for communication support) only covers partial expenses for Deaf students. The pandemic has brought increased accessibility due to widespread use of automatic subtitles, but also additional challenges. However, the Psychology Department, where I study, and my disability team have been absolutely fantastic and really went extra mile to ensure the great studying experience for me.

The diversity of the student body has been also very attractive for me as a Deaf mature student. I am now in my final year and loved my Birkbeck experience so much that I am hoping to continue here for my Masters.

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“British Sign Language is receiving far more recognition”

Ari Laughlin, Psychology student, offers a perspective as a Deaf student, including praise for Birkbeck’s “high quality” and “versatile” disability services.

Pic of Ari Laughlin

Ari Laughlin

– How does popular culture, especially film, represent the experiences of deaf and hearing-impaired people?

I think that popular culture is extremely significant for representing the experiences of D/deaf and hearing-impaired people, especially since most hearing people have never met or have had to interact with a d/Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing or hearing-impaired person before. Popular culture forms a significant gateway for learning about groups of people. “A Silent Voice” is a very accurate representation of many deaf people’s experiences because it demonstrates how little sign languages are generally known by the public, and shows how Shoko Nishimiya, the deaf character, struggles to hear in most situations with just her hearing aids and needs Japanese Sign Language to be fully immersed in social interactions.

– Can you share the biggest misconception people have about people from the deaf community?

That there is only one, singular Deaf community with one sign language and culture across the globe when there are thousands of Deaf communities with their own individual cultures, sign languages and regional dialects. These communities and sign languages, particularly those from other countries in the Anglosphere, are often misperceived as belonging to American Deaf cultures, which, on the other hand, receive a lot of media and pop culture coverage. In contrast, British Sign Language and British Deaf cultures receive little representation and coverage. Rose Ayling-Ellis’ appearance on “Strictly Come Dancing” is probably the most exposure British Sign Language and British Deaf cultures have had so far in popular culture and in the media.

– Do you feel things have got better for deaf people when it comes to understanding and inclusivity?

For British d/Deaf people, yes and no. Yes, since British Sign Language is receiving far more recognition today than it was before and Deaf psychology – particularly the clinical, counselling and neuroscience fields – is gaining traction and breaking barriers for d/Deaf people. However, schools for the d/Deaf across the UK are shutting down and more d/Deaf children are having to attend mainstream schools. Deaf education is still highly stigmatised and most d/Deaf children, including those with cochlear implants, struggle significantly in mainstream schools where they cannot hear their teachers and classmates or may not even understand English itself. Teachers of the Deaf, who use British Sign Language, form bridges to the curriculum for d/Deaf children because English is largely inaccessible for many of these children since they cannot hear it. British Sign Language is fully accessible to d/Deaf children and acts as a steppingstone for the acquisition of English skills. D/deaf children often cannot have this highly specialist support in mainstream schools and many have very poor English receptive and comprehension skills because of this.

– What’s your own personal experience as someone who is hearing-impaired?

I can only really speak as a deaf person who was brought up as oral with exposure to Deaf cultures and British Sign Language much later in life. Although I had to attend mainstream schools – which I struggled significantly in – I was lucky enough to be able to eventually attend a school for the d/Deaf and largely receive the support that I needed. Regarding Deaf communities, my own experiences have varied vastly. Despite having experienced awful racism from some Deaf people about my partial East Asian heritage, many others have taken me under their wing to teach me British Sign Language and their cultures. I think that that is down to the general lack of accessibility, which pushes Deaf communities and d/Deaf people to the very edge of society and consequently shuts them off from the wider world. I was also very fortunate to be able to receive psychological therapies from Deaf clinical psychology services, which are very scarce throughout the UK.

– What support have you received from Birkbeck?

I have received specialist electronic note taking for the d/Deaf and live captioning support. This support meant that I could transfer very easily to online learning and that the pandemic had no negative impacts on my studies. Seminars and lectures became far more accessible and inclusive for me. The disability support that I have received from Birkbeck has been the highest quality and the most versatile for my needs so far. I cannot further express how phenomenal Birkbeck’s Psychology Department, Disability and Dyslexia Service and Mental Health services have been throughout my studies.

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