Tag Archives: international student

Celebrating the Lunar New Year and Year of the Dragon with friends and colleagues at Birkbeck  

Zhuoxin Han is a second year LLB Law student. In this blog they share their experience of attending the Lunar New Year event held by the university.  The Lunar New Year is the most important festival celebrated by many countries in Asia. The influence of the Spring Festival has been spreading worldwide; for instance, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US have begun to join in this celebration. You may have noticed the huge number of red lanterns and decorations in London’s Chinatown if you happened to pass by recently. Or maybe the red celebration signs on the street -screens, as well as dragon illustrations on newspapers or magazines? The Evening Standard, for instance, printed a super cool red dragon as its cover on 10th Feb. 

The Lunar New Year is associated with old myths and traditional customs. Every family undergoes a thorough cleaning while approaching the new year, meaning they are ready to sweep out bad things or moods and be ready to accept the incoming good fortune. In the past, people would practice calligraphy and write their own versions of couplets; today people tend to purchase ready-made couplets. Another custom is using red paper cut outs and couplets to decorate windows and doors respectively. These pretty ornaments make people feel content and joyful. 

This year, the Lunar New Year event was jointly held by Birkbeck Global Recruitment Team and La Yong Jackson, from the International Student Administration team. As student Ambassadors, Ziyao and I were appointed to assist this event.

Before Birkbeck participants arrived, our team members cleaned and decorated thelocations where the celebrations were due to take place in the main Malet Street building, the Canteen on the fifth floor, and the George Birkbeck Bar on the fourth floor. We also managed to create a ‘photo corner’ for guests who wish to take pictures, using our phones or Polaroid instant cameras provided by staff for everyone to use. 

The most popular custom during the Spring Festival must be the Red Pocket! The bright red reminds people of the warmth of family, the way everyone once gathered around, talking at the fireplace. I’ve sometimes wondered if that’s why Santa’s hats are red. 😊  

This year, Birkbeck prepared red pockets containing a free lunch voucher, golden chocolate, plus a delicate Birkbeck College badge for everyone who registered for the celebrations. As an international student, I found myself impressed by all these thoughtful details. It was probably a time-consuming task to prepare, and felt special. I was also impressed by the canteen staff, who had a really busy day, preparing food for both the regular daily menus and also the extra Asian cuisines for our celebrations. Sammie, Yunmeng, Ziyao, and I helped with guest check-in; everyone looked surprised and happy when they received the red pocket. It was nice to witness their genuine smiles. After lunch in the canteen, we moved to the George Birkbeck Bar.

Here we enjoyed three main activities: red paper cutting with traditional calligraphy or painting, voting for the best dresser and finally a quiz with prizes to be won! One girl drew a vivid dragon and received compliments with people taking pictures of her painting, and she even won a prize for it. Another lady who dressed in a traditional long dress with a beautiful pearl necklace won the best-dressed prize. She looked surprised when she received the award and gave a big, charming smile.

The quiz session was exciting; questions were related to customs and special products of different countries. It was a well-balanced quiz that included single choice, multiple choice, and matching. Each question had a strict time limitation which added to the excitement; everyone was holding their breath. When the results were released, I was a bit shocked to realise I had won! To be honest, I had guessed some of my answers! My colleague was searching for the mysterious winner: Han, which is my shortened nickname. She moved through the room super-fast, and I was chasing her, trying to explain that I was the one she was looking fo. Finally, she turned around and noticed me chasing her, which made everyone laugh. s There were two others who had come in with high scores, so as the three winners we gathered and had our picture taken. After this, lots of students stayed longer to socialize with each other, and we took lots of photos to remember the happy memories!

The Lunar New Year marks the end of the cold, dark winter and celebrates the beginning of a hopeful spring; it is a symbol of the final rest after a busy or tiring year; a chance to reunite with family members and recharge energy. People use this opportunity to catch up with those dear to them, preparing and getting ready for the next following year. This event which created a sense of community and togetherness, really helped capture these feelings.

As a final note from me, I wish you all a happy Lunar New Year! May the Year of the Dragon bring you good fortun! 

龙年吉祥!1 龍年吉祥!2 

Below is a list of well wishes for the lunar new year in a variety of languages, so feel free to spread the well wishes in your own language!

Albanian: Le të sjellë Viti i Drakonit fat për ty!

Arabic: “مهما جلب عام التنين لك من الحظ السعيد!” (mahma jalaba ‘aam altinin lak min alhaz alsaeid)

Bengali: “ড্রাগন বছর তোমার ভাগ্য আনুক!” (Ḍrāgana bôshara tōmāra bhāgya ānuka!)

Bosnian: “Neka godina Zmaja donese sreću tebi!” (same as Croatian)

Croatian: “Neka godina Zmaja donese sreću tebi!”

Czech: “Ať ti Rok Draka přinese štěstí!”

Danish: “Må Drageåret bringe dig held og lykke!”

Dutch: “Moge het Jaar van de Draak je geluk brengen!”

Estonian: “Loota, et Draakoni aasta toob sulle õnne!”

Filipino: “Sana’y magdala ng suwerte sa’yo ang Taon ng Dragon!”

Finnish: “Toivotan sinulle onnea Lohikäärmeen vuonna!”

French: “Que l’Année du Dragon vous apporte bonne chance!”

German: “Möge das Jahr des Drachen Ihnen Glück bringen!”

Greek: “Ας φέρει το Έτος του Δράκου καλή τύχη σε εσένα!” (As férei to Étos tou Drákou kalí týchi se eséna!)

Hebrew: “שנת הדרקון תביא לך מזל טוב!” (Shnat hadrakon tavi lecha mazal tov!)

Hindi: “ड्रैगन का वर्ष आपको शुभकामनाएं लेकर आए!” (ḍragan kā varṣ āpako śubhakāmanāeṁ lekar āe!)

Hungarian: “A Sárkány Éve hozzon neked szerencsét!”

Icelandic: “Má Drakársárinn koma þér heppni!”

Indonesian: “Semoga Tahun Naga membawa keberuntungan bagi Anda!”

Italian: “Che l’Anno del Drago ti porti fortuna!”

Japanese: “龍の年があなたに幸運をもたらしますように!” (Ryū no toshi ga anata ni kōun o motarashimasu yō ni!)

Korean: “용년이 당신에게 행운을 가져다 주기를 바랍니다!” (Yongnyeoni dangsinege haeng-un-eul gajyeoda jugireul barabnida!)

Kurdish: “Salê Şahmaran ji we re şans bidin!”

Latvian: “Lai Drakona Gads atnes tev veiksmi!”

Lithuanian: “Tegul Drakono metai tau atneš laimę!”

Malay: “Semoga Tahun Naga membawa keberuntungan kepada anda!”

Nepali: “ड्र्यागनको वर्ष तपाईंलाई भाग्य ल्याउनुहोस्!” (Ḍr’yāganakō varṣa tapā’īnlā’ī bhāgya lyā’unuhōs!)

Polish: “Niech Rok Smoka przyniesie ci szczęście!”

Portuguese: “Que o Ano do Dragão traga boa sorte para você!”

Romanian: “Anul Dragonului să îți aducă noroc!”

Russian: “Пусть год Дракона принесет вам удачу!”

Serbian: “Neka godina Zmaja donese sreću tebi!” (same as Croatian)

Spanish: “¡Que el Año del Dragón te traiga buena suerte!”

Swahili: “Mwaka wa Joka ulete bahati njema kwako!”

Swedish: “Må Drakens år bringa dig lycka!”

Thai: “ขอให้ปีมังกรนำโชคดีมาหาคุณ!” (kh̄ xih̄ pī mạngkrnăm chŏkh dī mā h̄ā khun!)

Turkish: “Ejderha Yılı size şans getirsin!”

Ukrainian: “Нехай Рік Дракона принесе вам щастя!” (Nekhay Rik Drakona prynese vam shchastya!)

Vietnamese: “Chúc năm Rồng mang lại may mắn cho bạn!”

More Information: 

 

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Meet the Chevening Scholar: Felix Hollison

Felix is from Soloman Islands, and studying LLM Pathways (Law and New Technology). Find out more about him, his remarkable path to Birkbeck, and his hopes for the future in the below Q&A.

What is your academic and professional background?

I am a lawyer by profession, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Law (LLB) at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 2014. From 2015 to 2019, I worked as a Senior Crown Counsel in the Attorney-General’s Chambers in Solomon Islands. I was part of the litigation team within the chambers, and represented the Solomon Islands Government mostly in civil cases in the Magistrates Court, High Court and the Court of Appeal.

I joined the Central Magistrates Court of Solomon Islands in June 2019 as a Principal Magistrate and I still work there. Mostly, I deal with criminal cases such as robbery, burglary, assault related cases, sexual offences, human trafficking, theft offences, domestic violence, public disorder offences and other wide range of criminal offences.

Why did you apply for Chevening?

I applied for Chevening because I think this prestigious scholarship will be the vehicle for me to gain a world-class academic learning in the United Kingdom. It will also be a chance to enhance my leadership credentials, and the qualification will no doubt increase my marketability and employability globally.

What are your long-term plans after studying?

One of my goals is to help develop the jurisprudence of my country through my judgments, assist in law reforms where necessary and help Solomon Islands modernise its laws for the betterment of the country. Should I be given the chance to become a judge in the superior courts in the future, it will be a humble opportunity to be more influential in terms of the development of our jurisprudence.

Why did you choose Birkbeck for your studies?

I selected Birkbeck because it is a renowned university located in the heart of London that has transformed many lives for around 200 years already. More importantly, it provides the LLM with Pathways that I wish to study. It has a strong tradition of research across its departments of Law and Criminology with their internationally distinguished staff. The phenomenal changes that have taken place in technology will transform the way society operates in many ways that will have consequential effects on the law around the globe. My country is susceptible to the adverse effects of technological changes such as the erosion of democracy, climate change, cybercrime, biotechnology, political radicalisation and automation to name some.

Birkbeck is the ideal place to gain the necessary academic and professional knowledge to assist my country navigate through these uncertain times. Modernising my country’s laws to keep abreast with the technological and normative changes is a must, and I wish to be an agent of change in my country.

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Changing careers: from working in law to becoming a football agent

Iddi Yassin is one of the 21 Birkbeck 2024 Chevening scholars. In this blog Iddi shares his dreams about the future and the place Birkbeck will play in helping him achieve his goals.

Iddi Yassin

I’m from Tanzania and I’m studying MSc Sport Management at Birkbeck. In 2016, I was admitted to the Tanzania Mainland Bar Association, and I practised law as an Advocate of The High Court of Tanzania.

Chevening as a first step to a new career

I applied for Chevening in 2023 because it’s arguably the most prestigious scholarship programme with remarkable scholars and alumni from different social, economic, and political backgrounds.

My long-term plan is to become a football agent and manage young athletes in Tanzania to fulfil their career ambitions on the global stage. I hope the extensive skills and rich network acquired from my postgraduate studies will help me achieve this.

Why Birkbeck?

I chose Birkbeck due to its great reputation and popularity in the sports industry, as well as its great staff equipped with understanding of management, governance, and regulatory issues within the business of sports. Furthermore, studying in a cosmopolitan and business-oriented capital city such as London will give me exposure to a wide range of sports businesses, football clubs, and football regulatory authorities.

I’m confident that having the opportunity to study this course will help build my skills, competence, and expertise and provide me with a strong foundation as a football agent and sports consultant. I plan to participate fully in various long-term sports programmes including raising awareness to the public, writing articles, and publishing them. This includes being actively engaged and collaborating with the government and other stakeholders in capacity-building programs.

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Meet the international student: Ekhomalomen Inegbenose Pierre, from Nigeria

Recipient of the International Excellence Scholarship, Ekhomalomen Inegbenose Pierre came to Birkbeck to study MSc Information Technology. Here he shares more about his background and experience, and even gives tips to future Birkbeck students. 

Ekhomalomen Inegbenose Pierre

Discovering myself at Birkbeck and beyond 

Birkbeck wasn’t just a college to me; it was a revelation. Nestled in Bloomsbury, this esteemed institution gave me more than just an MSc in Information Technology – it handed me a kaleidoscope through which I saw the vibrant hues of life, both academically and personally. 

My Birkbeck and London love affair 

I vividly recall my first evening class at Birkbeck; the room echoed with a medley of accents, reminding me of London’s cultural symphony. Conversations shifted from coursework to personal anecdotes, from hometown tales to shared dreams. In that diversity, I found camaraderie. Beyond Birkbeck’s walls, London became my playground. From spontaneous weekend trips to Brick Lane for its famous curries to late-night study sessions at quirky cafes in Shoreditch, every corner of this city whispered stories and secrets. 

To all future Birkbeck international scholars 

Dear future Birkbeckian, dive headfirst into everything! That small seminar you’re thinking about? Attend it. The group from class planning a walk along the river Thames? Join them. Each experience, no matter how trivial it seems, adds a brushstroke to your London canvas. 

Trials, tribulations, and triumphs 

Juggling coursework, London’s allure, and bouts of homesickness wasn’t always a walk in Hyde Park. The UK’s academic approach, emphasizing self-study and critical analysis, often overwhelmed me, but I knew it was an important learning curve. My coffee-fueled nights, deciphering complex IT problems, were punctuated by Skyping family and sharing laughs. A tip? Embrace every challenge; they’re often veiled lessons.  

Hidden gems: my sanctuaries in the city 

There’s a small nook in the British Museum, away from the usual tourist buzz, where I often lost myself among ancient scripts. It became my thinking spot, my refuge from the rigours of coursework. 

Outside Bloomsbury, the quaint bookshops along London’s famous South Bank became my haven. Nestled with a book, against the backdrop of the Thames, I found serenity amidst the city’s bustle. 

Internships and insights 

Midway through my course, I stumbled upon an internship opportunity with a tech startup during a Birkbeck mixer. As a Junior Systems Developer, I wasn’t just coding; I was imbibing the entrepreneurial spirit of London’s tech scene. That startup environment, with its blend of chaos and creativity, its failures and triumphs, taught me resilience and innovation. My MSc journey at Birkbeck, intertwined with London’s charm, has been a rollercoaster of emotions, experiences, and epiphanies. It’s a chapter of my life I’d reread endlessly, cherishing each word, each memory.  

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Meet the Chevening Scholar: Awa Toure, from Mali

The first female from Mali to be granted a Chevening scholarship, Awa Toure joined Birkbeck to study MSc Management with International Business and Development as the sole recipient for the 2022 Chevening scholarship intake from her home country. Here we get to know more about her background, her hopes for the future, and her experiences of both Chevening and Birkbeck. 

An enriching path to Birkbeck 

At the age of 15 I left Mali to pursue my studies in Canada. In Montreal, known for its diverse population, I had the opportunity to attend the prestigious high school, College Jean de Brebeuf, and obtain a Bachelor’s degree in International Business from the Écoles des sciences de la Gestion from the University of Quebec. Living in such an international environment allowed me to interact with people from many backgrounds, broadened my horizons, fostered acceptance of different perspectives, and deepened my understanding of diverse cultures. Additionally, during my undergraduate years, I participated in the ERASMUS university exchange program in Madrid, Spain where I attended the Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros. Wanting to continue my path of enriching education, I decided to study MSc Management with International Business and Development at Birkbeck, to enhance my technical expertise and nurture my global network at a prestigious institution.  

With great aspirations also come great responsibilities  

I recognize that vicious cycles of internal and external systemic shocks can perpetuate poverty and hunger in a nation. I also recognize that this can be made worse by inadequate government systems and firmly believe that valuable and sustainable development solutions lie in the collaborative efforts of individuals, communities, and markets. So, yes, I aspire to become a powerful international businesswoman, but I also want to serve as a role model and make a positive impact in Mali’s journey towards economic independence and self-sustainability.  

When adaptability is a superpower 

I believe the role I play as a young female in bringing positive change to Mali, must be equally multifaceted as the challenges facing my nation. Understanding the complex and inter-sectoral challenges facing my home country and wanting to serve as well as do well for myself, I have become something of a polymath. My academic and professional experiences have married the disciplines of international business with social enterprise, communications, storytelling, gender rights development, digital access, and transformative justice. What matters most to me is understanding and platforming the trajectories of Malian economy, the stories of its communities, its women and girls, the able-bodied and ability impaired, the rural and urban, the old and young. When public systems fail, we must ask: how have they coped up until now? What do they need to survive and thrive? And how can we support communities in developing and maintaining their livelihoods outside of weak public structures?  

The role of Chevening in my aspirations 

Before applying to Chevening I was unaware of its existence.  During a heartfelt conversation with a friend, who coincidentally happens to be a former Chevening alumnus, we embarked on a discussion regarding the development trajectory of Mali. It was within this enriching exchange that my friend enlightened me about the Chevening program, expressing her conviction that it would be an impeccable match for my aspirations. And now, I find myself standing proudly as a member of this amazing community, to which I am eternally grateful.  

For anyone thinking about studying at Birkbeck: don’t hesitate!

The level of study and intellectual stimulation at Birkbeck has been truly outstanding, with engaging lectures, thought-provoking discussions, and a supportive learning environment. The faculty members have been highly knowledgeable and passionate, offering valuable insights and guidance at every turn. I enjoy every seminar I attend, and know that the learning outcomes from these will follow me for the rest of my life. If there’s anyone out there thinking of studying at Birkbeck, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to take the leap. Birkbeck also offers a flexible and inclusive learning environment, making it an excellent choice to pursue higher education while managing other commitments. I love the flexibility offered by the university to balance work, personal life, and academic pursuits and I am sure you will too. Do not hesitate! 

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An international student’s life changing experience of living, studying and interning in a law firm in London

Eucharia Chikodi Egemole came to the UK from Nigeria to study LLM General Law at Birkbeck. Here she shares her experience so far, including highlights, tips and things she wished she knew before coming to the UK.  

Eucharia looks into the camera. Behind her the Thames is visible and in the distance, Tower Bridge.

Exploring London

When I decided to do a Master’s in Law, I chose to do so in the UK because of the quality of education and also because the legal system of my home country, Nigeria, was largely developed from the English legal system. What better way than learning the law directly from the source? 

I applied to Birkbeck because, amongst other qualities, it was an evening university that allowed me the freedom to intern at a law firm during the days to gain legal experience. After being offered a place, I was swiftly issued with my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). Compared to the experiences my friends had when they applied to other universities, getting my CAS from Birkbeck was a very smooth experience.  Below is my account of how it’s all gone so far – hopefully it can be helpful for any other international students!  

The visa process
For international students wishing to study in the UK and in need of a visa to do so, time is of the essence. It is advisable to apply for a visa at least three months before the course commencement date. This allows enough time for you to get the visa, plan for any delays and prepare for travel. It’s also essential to submit all required documents as not doing so could lead to visa delay or denial.  

Moving to London
I arrived in London on 6th October 2022, excited to be in the great city and ready for new experiences. It was my first time in the city and I’d never left my country before. My accommodation is in Chiswick, an area of West London, and I found it with the help of a fellow student who I met in a Facebook page created for Birkbeck international students called the ’Pre-departure Lounge for BBK 2022 International’. The page was very helpful as it gave information on how to collect the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), open a bank account, the times and dates of study events, and a lot of other helpful information for international students.  

Living in London
Living in London so far has been quite amazing. I thought I would feel homesick, but that is far from the case. London is so multicultural that even though it is miles away from your country, the chances are that you could meet someone from your background on the street or even bump into someone that speaks your language while strolling in the park. It is a home away from home.

Eucharia stood on the concourse of a station with a sign reading St Pancras behind her.

About to ride the tube for the first time at London St Pancras

Here are some highlights for me:  

  • Sightseeing: there are so many famous landmarks and places to visit, like London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace or any of the museums and galleries.  
  • Food: London has an exceptional offering of different cuisines from all over the world including African, Chinese, Italian, and not forgetting English dishes too! I love good food and any time I am about to have a good multicultural food experience, I borrow the biblical verse and tell my soul to “eat and be merry”.  
  • Transport: the public transport system of tubes and buses is commendable. The network is designed so that a person can connect to anywhere across the city quickly and with ease.  

While there are opinions that London is quite an expensive city to live in, I have found a way to manage my expenses and still have a good time. I have Railcard and an Oyster card that offer me discounts on transport; I try to do my shopping in stores that are having clearance sales; and I also prepare many meals at home. I am having an amazing time in London on a minimal budget.  

Things I wish I knew before I travelled
If I were to prepare to travel all over again, I would not have packed and paid for extra luggage of foodstuffs. I could have got the same items in any African shop in London (there are many!) and at affordable rates too, saving myself the trouble, time, and money.  

The native clothes and attire I brought with me also ended up as decoration in my suitcase, because I don’t wear them. If I knew, I wouldn’t have packed them as they mostly don’t suit any occasion here in London.  

Eucharia looking into the camera with the London Eye visible just behind her

At the London Eye

Another big thing is timekeeping. For an African like me, an hour or two past the agreed time is still within time. But that is not so in London. An appointment fixed for a particular time starts at that time and not a minute later.  

And finally, in the UK, people queue up for services. In my home country, there are hardly any queues as a person takes their turn depending on how sharp or smart they are, or if they can pay their way.  

My experience at Birkbeck so far
The learning experience at Birkbeck has been a highlight. Courses are taught by class discussions and lectures, and I have found this to be a great way for me to assimilate and retain information. It has also honed my communication skills.  

The staff have been amazing, especially those working for the Student Advice Service. They are always available to listen to students, decipher their problems, and offer lasting solutions, which I have benefitted from. 

Another highlight has been interacting with my fellow students. Chatting with them and hearing about their diverse cultures and backgrounds is fascinating and adds to the whole experience.   

Conclusion
Living in London for me has been a life-changing experience. Meeting and interacting with people from diverse cultures has contributed to my personal growth and development – I now understand more about the world and myself. I had the challenge of coming to a new country and meeting new people, and I rebuilt myself to do this. Now, I am all I was before, but I have also acquired the confidence of a Londoner. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.  

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“I would encourage anyone thinking of studying at Birkbeck to go for it!”

 

Kelvin Omuojine, an MSc Sport Management, Governance and Policy student from Nigeria, tells  us about his experience as an international student at Birkbeck.

Tell us about your education before Birkbeck.

Before Birkbeck, I did a Master’s degree in Sports Law from Nottingham Trent University, in 2008/09; prior to that, I had my undergraduate education in Nigeria, where I studied law and was called to Bar.

Could you tell us about your career before starting your study at Birkbeck?

I started my career as a practising lawyer. I have worked in commercial law firms and as a Public Prosecutor at the Delta State Ministry of Justice in Nigeria. My passion for sport led me to work with the Nigeria Professional Football League, after completing my first postgraduate programme (in sports law). So, up until I started studying at Birkbeck, I was working at the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Why did you decide to study at Birkbeck?

Working in the sport industry in Nigeria, with the benefit of my background in law, I realised that the bulk of the problems impeding the development of the industry were governance related – there are people with knowledge and skills and there are regulations that are fit for purpose, all already existing, but the governance framework just did not seem right. So I wanted to learn more about not just sport management but also about sport governance. The programme at Birkbeck is unique as it effectively covers governance and policy as it relates to sport. This option was perfect for me based on my career path and progression.

How did you find the application process?

The application process was quite simple and straightforward and the officials at Birkbeck were always helpful, with enquiries and all through the process. I successfully applied for the partial scholarship for international students and was awarded £3,000, which was helpful indeed. Despite the difficulties caused by Covid-19, there was always sufficient information to guide planning.

What’s it like living in London?  

Having lived in Lagos, Nigeria, I knew I could cope with how busy I had heard London was. I found the city to be vibrant, diverse, with lots of opportunities and attractions. It is a busy city with people constantly on the move, and fast-paced too. If the right opportunity presents itself, I would be happy to live in London.

Can you tell us about the programme you are studying?

As a result of my interest in sport governance, I opted for the Sport Management, Governance and Policy programme. I found the lecturers to be quite nice and accommodating. Quite naturally, the Sport Governance module is a major highlight for me. However, I also particularly enjoyed the Sport Economics and the Design of Competitions module, as well as the Sport Events Management module. The former because of the exposure to economics of sport and the factors that go into competition design; and the latter because I am opportune to be working at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Did you take advantages of additional support and activities?

I appreciated the support services available – from one-on-one sessions with tutors, skills workshops such as on dissertation writing, to the many learning resources available both internally within the library and externally such as LinkedIn Learning. It is impressive that students can gain a lot from these resources and even get to watch recordings of both pre-class sessions and live online classes.

What are your plans for the future?

My studies at Birkbeck have equipped me with a broader understanding of the framework of sport management and governance, as well as transferrable skills in areas such as research and analysis. I’m now looking to explore career opportunities, preferably in the sports or a related industry.

What advice would you give other people thinking of studying at Birkbeck?

I would encourage anyone thinking of studying at Birkbeck to go for it! Not only does the programme have unique specialist features and is rich in content, but it is also a plus that studies are in the evenings, offering you time to get some other things done earlier in the day.

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My work placement experience at Europe’s biggest Chinese film festival

Shanshan Wu, MA Film and Screen Media student, shares her experience of studying at Birkbeck and finding a work placement. 

For the past four months, I have been doing my work placement at ‘Odyssey: a Chinese film season’, hosted by the non-profitable organisation UK-China Film Collab (UCFC). Thanks to Birkbeck and the placement host, I am leading the marketing team of Europe’s biggest Chinese film festival.  

A New Start 

After finishing my bachelor’s and my first master’s degrees in Filmmaking in Australia, I went back to China for work, and became a tutor of film training courses for young people. Then I realised I wanted more – I wanted to know more about the cinema market, film distribution, film curating, and, of course, film festivals. The world of cinema is so vast, and I wanted to expand my vision to different areas of the film industry in different parts of the world. 

Becoming a Birkbeck Student 

When researching film programmes in London, Birkbeck was my top choice. Its perfect location in the heart of Bloomsbury was a selling point, but so was its well-designed course modules in MA Film and Screen Media, which offered a wide range of options – from film curating to memory studies – all introducing and exploring cutting-edge topics and debates in the field. One of the things that interested me the most was the chance to do a work placement at a film or media related organisation. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to get hands on experience in the film industry to help start student’s careers. International students like me are often underrepresented in the professional circuit, so these kinds of opportunities are extremely precious to us.  

Securing the Placement 

For most of our fellow students, our tutors would listen to their work placement needs, and then match them with suitable placement hosts. I went through the same process, but I had also started looking for placements of my own accord too – I was really keen! My tutor, Dr Dorota Ostrowska, was so understanding and helpful in this process. When I said that I had been offered the voluntary Lead of Marketing role at ‘Odyssey: a Chinese cinema season’ film festival, she carefully considered the details. She wanted to make sure the work matched with my needs and really would be a beneficial placement for me. After the consideration, all the paperwork was signed, and the placement was secured!  

A Rewarding Journey 

Odyssey: a Chinese cinema season was held from May 10 to June 10.  With more than 60 films screened both online and in-person, and audience numbers over 2600, it is the biggest Chinese film festival in Europe this year. My placement has now ended, and I have learned so much and met so many great colleagues and friends.  

I’m so grateful to the festival and to the Birkbeck tutors for the support and insight they gave me on this journey. I now understand in detail the process of holding a film festival and discovered a new interest in film marketing and film distribution, which I had never thought of before. I’m sure this is just the beginning of another journey for me, and I can’t wait to explore more wonders of cinema.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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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