Tag Archives: student life

Uniting as a community to support bisexual awareness and visibility

With Bisexual Awareness Week running from 16 to 23 September 2022, Birkbeck Students’ Union LGBTQ+ officer, Tonya Moralez (Xe/Xem), talks about why it’s an important week, and what their plans are as LGBTQ+ officer to support the bisexual community.

Bisexual Awareness Week (also known as Bi Week) is an important part of the LGBTQ+ calendar and is different from Bisexual Awareness Month, which takes place in March. It was co-founded in 2016 by charities GLADD and BiNet USA to celebrate bisexuality and bring awareness to bisexual or bisexual plus (Bi+) people within the LGBTQ+ community. As well as celebration, the aim is to educate about obstacles faced by the bisexual community and to encourage positive action and policies.   

One of the well-known challenges unique to individuals identifying as Bi+, is that those who ‘accept’ homosexuality can still be prejudiced or condescending towards Bi+ people by not taking their sexual orientation seriously. 

Examples of this include Bi+ people being told that they’re ‘greedy’ for ‘wanting’ more than one gender, or that they must be ‘confused’ about their orientation. Often these types of comments come not only from conventional heteronormative, cis-gendered people, but also from members of the LGBTQ+ community itself. In my early years within the community, I regularly heard people claim with mocking frustration that they wouldn’t date bisexuals, out of fear that Bi+ people couldn’t be monogamous or loyal due to having multi-sexual interests. Without question, this sentiment is Bi-phobic. 

The fact that Bisexuality has often been fetishized in the media does little to help this. Often portrayed as changeable, overtly attractive, desirable and trendy, Bi+ characters are either reduced to sexual objects or plot devices. This sort of reductive portrayal can contribute to the false idea that Bi+ people’s challenges are trivial, and make it difficult for them to feel truly seen and accepted by both sides: ‘straight’ and ‘gay’. 

I think most LGBTQ+ people can agree how patronizing and invalidating it is to be told that you don’t actually know who you are, or that you should be something else. To hear these sorts of comments still regularly directed towards Bi+ people from both outside and within the LGBTQ+ community, is not only annoying, but deeply saddening. Enough of this repeated invalidation of your identity over time, can start to take its toll emotionally and psychologically. That’s why Bi-visibility Day and Bisexual Awareness Week are so important; those identifying as Bisexual, Omnisexual or Pansexual, should be visible and listened to in the LGBTQ+ community. 

I personally feel that the LGBTQIAA++ community is reaching such a large and diverse scale, that sections within the community need to have sub-groups and communities to support each category’s individual needs as much as possible. Bisexuals (along with all other identities) have their own unique social needs and issues to be accommodated and considered. Part of the solution, in my view, is to have Bi+ specific events, educational channels, and spotlight whenever possible, to raise awareness of these needs. The hope is that these activities will not only empower Bi+ people with words, resources, and information allowing them to find their voices and express their sexual orientation and identity with confidence, but also create plans for positive social action.   

As the LGBTQ+ officer at Birkbeck, I will organize events to celebrate each sub-group within the LGBTQ+ community, and ensure that a healthy portion of these are focused on Bi+ specific themes. I will work with requests and feedback received from Bi+ students within the LGBTQ+ network at Birkbeck to host Bi-visibility focused events, workshops that are shaped collaboratively and sensitively. I will also ensure I use Birkbeck Student Union’s LGBTQ+ platform to create Bi+ awareness content, to increase understanding within the LGBTQ+ community itself. 

Let us work together to ensure our Bisexual students feel as visible and supported as others within the community, let us work together to have Bisexual voices amplified by the LGBTQ+ community and allies at Birkbeck and beyond. 

More information   

Share

How to start your studies in the best way possible  

BA Global Politics and International Relations student, Aditya Mukherjee, shares his top tips on how to get stuck into your studies at Birkbeck.  

It feels great to receive an amazing grade that reflects all the hours of study and hard work that goes into preparing for an exam or creating a piece of course work. Often, however, starting a new course can feel a bit daunting: the 24 hours we have in a day slip away faster than we’d like, and study tasks and assignments can easily build up. Sure, studying something you’re enthusiastic about can help with not making it feel like an uphill trek, but every now and then, we could all do with a helping hand. So, here are my top tips for studying that will hopefully help you hit the ground running, so you can get the most out of your course.   

Strategise your time 
Planning ahead and creating a strategy for how to use your time makes the time you invest in studying more likely to pay off. Knowing how much time you have available to you and allocating it into specific sections and priorities can make a big difference. It stops tasks feeling daunting and encourages efficiency. This includes planning in advance for assignments and deadlines. Having a long-term schedule for a specific topic or assignment rather than a hyper-concentrated last-minute rush helps me produce my best work compared to working under the stress of a looming deadline. I say, you’re halfway to success already if you have a robust time management system in place.  

Colour-code your notes
One of my best friends has aggressively color coded her notes ever since school, and gets great results. Colors are not only stimulating, but they can help your brain understand at a glance what is important, what belongs to which category, and so on. So don’t be shy about unleashing your inner artist and adding colour to your notes!  

Find a study space
Finding a suitable space to study to help concentration is essential. Ideally, you want somewhere quiet and with no distractions. If you don’t have this at home, you can always find study spots at the Birkbeck Library or even in the British Library (which is a stone’s throw away from Birkbeck) to have a distraction free power hour.  

Group study
Working in groups that involve active participation and discussion can enhance your comprehension and motivate you to contribute your knowledge or theories. It’s a great way to help consolidate what you’ve learned, learn from your peers, and get the most out of your assignments. Of course, digression is part and parcel of group study, so it’s important to make sure you’re not totally distracted when this happens. Having regularly scheduled breaks can help with this, so that group sessions are concentrated bursts of collaboration. Which brings me onto the next point… 

Allow yourself to have breaks
This is something I am still learning myself. Breaks are good for the mind and body; they help relax you and can leave you feeling rejuvenated after a long studying session. I find that they work best in short, sharp bursts, as the longer you break for, the more concentration you need to get back into a studying mindset. 

Read submitted assignments for perspective 
Similar to group study sessions, reading the submitted work of your peers can really help broaden your perspective and deepen your understanding of the topics being covered in class. Chances are, you’ll learn something that you can apply to future assignments yourself. Likewise, someone could learn from your work too, so don’t be afraid to share your work – sharing is caring! 

Make use of Birkbeck’s Online Library / Subject Librarians
Did you know there is help available for students needing further source material for assignments? Birkbeck’s Subject Librarians are available for guidance and support in accessing the best library resources for your particular subject, and can be spoken to both in person, and online via a chat function! Databases and Online Resources Guides  are useful for accessing articles, books or journals online. 

Make friends with someone who is good at taking notes
Having a friend who is motivated to study is likely to make you better at your studies too! Their attention to detail will always be welcome when comparing and contrasting lesson notes, and if you ever miss a lecture because of illness, your friend can help you catch up. Together you can help each other find inspiration and energy to stay motivated, inspired and supported.  

 More Information:  

Share

“I never expected to gain this much from my studies and practical experiences”

MA Film and Screen Media with Film Programming and Curating student, Riley Wong, talks about some of the experiences and opportunities she had whilst studying at Birkbeck.   

Stepping out of my comfort zone 

Many of us were influenced by the pandemic, including me. After graduating from my bachelor’s degree, I was stuck in Hong Kong and worked in a design company for a year. I liked my job, but my passion for films and dream of studying abroad was so strong that I started looking at courses and applying. When I got the offer to study film and screen media at Birkbeck, I couldn’t believe it. I knew this was a special opportunity, so I quit my job and started my journey to London.  

Why Birkbeck? 

I came to Birkbeck for several reasons. Firstly, Birkbeck is the only university I found which offers a film and screen media course with specific insight into film programming and curating. Secondly, there’s always a wide range of course-related activities and opportunities offered to film students. For example, in February, thanks to my place at Birkbeck, I found out I could join the Berlin International Film Festival as a student accreditation holder. This meant I could watch unlimited screenings and attend different masterclasses at the festival.  I had so much fun and gained valuable experience and knowledge from it. In addition to this, two months after the Berlin International Film Festival, I was honoured to be given a chance to work for Raindance Film Festival as a festival programme viewer, where I reviewed and commented on films that were submitted to their competitions.   

Work placement  

The work placement is an accredited part of the MA programme, where your tutor matches you with a suitable placement. I was initially worried that not many organisations would be interested in my profile, because I had no background with films before studying. But I didn’t give up, and nor did my tutor who was working hard to find a suitable match for me. Eventually I received an offer from UK-China Film Collab. Founded by Dr. Hiu Man Chan, UK-China Film Collab (UCFC) is an independent non-profit organisation, supporting a wide range of film-related collaborations and debates between the UK and Greater China. 

My ‘dream come true’ moment 

Supported by UCFC, I developed and organised a curatorial project in one of London’s most historic and important independent cinemas, The Prince Charles Cinema.  The programme was called “The Heroic Mission: Johnnie To Retrospective”. It featured three screenings of Hong Kong films, and conversation panels with the filmmakers and other associated experts. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. Not only did I experience how a film festival programme is curated, I also learned how it’s organised logistically from start to finish. I also got an important insight into all the different stakeholders involved in a project, and how to communicate with them. Reflecting on my time at Birkbeck, I almost find it unbelievable. I had high hopes, but I never expected to gain this much through my studies and practical experiences. I feel like the passion that brought me to London, to study films, at Birkbeck has been strengthened, and going forward, I’d like to bring more Hong Kong film culture and directors in front of a UK audience. 

More Information:  

Share

10 tips on how to meet people and make friends as a new student in London

 

A group of four students sat on the grass in a park on a sunny day

BA Film and Media student, Valentina Vlasich, knows first-hand what it’s like to be a new student in London. Here, she shares her top tips on how to find opportunities to socialise and bond with classmates.  

You just moved to London after being accepted into university, a lot of exciting new experiences are on the way. But worry about meeting new people and making friends starts to set in. Never fear, here are some tips on how to overcome that concern.  

1. Know that you are not the only new person around
Even though it may seem like it is you against the world at the beginning, keep in mind that most new students are in your shoes as well. Almost everyone is a bit lost at the start of their university experience, so try bonding with others over being new and discovering London together.   

2. Start Conversations
As a shy person myself, I understand it can be difficult to come out of your shell and make the first move when meeting people. However, if you try talking to others, you will quickly realise that everyone is very approachable and eager to make new friends. A really good way to overcome shyness is to join activities that other students are organising, which leads me to my next tip… 

3. Join others to socialise after classes
Being in the heart of London gives students plenty of opportunities to go out after class and you’ll find that many students fancy going out for some drinks or food. If you have the opportunity, definitely join them – it’s a great way to learn more about your classmates outside the academic environment! 

4. Join student clubs and societies
Birkbeck has many clubs and societies for students to join, from the film society to the international student’s society, there is something for everyone. Joining a society will help you find people who share your interests and come from similar backgrounds as you, they’re great for building a sense of community. These societies are free to join, and you can join them via the Student Union website 

5. Attend events
Another fun tip is to attend one of the many cultural events offered by Birkbeck and other central London institutions. Going to events such as the film screenings at Birkbeck, or the special exhibitions at museums and galleries around London, opens the door to meeting new and interesting people.  

Valentina stood in the doorway of an gallery room about to enter

Valentina exploring one of the many galleries in central London.

6. Explore by yourself
It might sound a bit strange to recommend going solo as a tip to making friends, but you should not deprive yourself of new experiences and discovering all that London has to offer, if you have no one to join you yet. By exploring the city by yourself you will discover quirky locations, fun events, and meet new people. Going out by yourself is better than staying in your room, and one way or another, you will meet someone on your adventures.  

7. Join WhatsApp group chats
For most classes and modules someone will create a group chat to exchange information. Using these chats to talk to others and propose activities outside class is a simple way of breaking the ice with your classmates.  

 

8. Volunteer
If you don’t have a lot of spare time for socialising, volunteering is a fantastic way to use your spare time effectively and still be social. By volunteering you meet new people while dedicating less hours than you would at a job, and it is also plenty of fun. What’s more, it’s rewarding, and you are also expanding your resume at the same time.  

9. Cultural excursions
This tip is specifically for international students, but everyone can benefit from it. Birkbeck regularly offers cultural mixer activities for international students, which are a great way to meet and bond with lots of international students from different universities. Recently, for example, they offered a tour around Greenwich which was a huge success. It’s a great idea to take part in these cultural excursions, which are a great way to both meet new people and see the city!  

10. Be yourself
Finally, even if it does sound a bit cliché, you should always be yourself. Do not try to change who you are to make friends. The right people will come along and making fake friends or having to put on a façade for others will not bring you joy. London is so diverse that you will always find people who are the right fit for you, so don’t be afraid to be you. So, go out there and see what London has to offer while people join you along the way.  

More Information:  

Share

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.

Further Information:  

Share

“Being able to function and cope well in a new academic and cultural environment has been a fulfilling and exciting experience”

Rachid Meftah, from Morocco, is a 2021 Chevening scholar. In this blog he talks about his Chevening application journey and studying Language Teaching/TESOL (MA) at Birkbeck.

How was your Chevening application journey?

Reflecting back upon my Chevening journey, I find it a rich, exciting, and fulfilling experience. I consider this journey to have been smooth – despite all the challenges – for this one main reason: I knew what I wanted to study and what to do with it.

As a teacher, I had always been looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge and expertise in the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Having been introduced to this area through a short audit class had given me insights into what I could gain from doing a full-time master’s in it, and of how this could impact my colleagues and community. So, the vision had been clear in my mind: I wanted to gain valuable qualifications in TESOL that would help me to bridge the gap between practice and theory as a teacher, and to enable me to bring change to education in my community and country through teacher training.

Thus, when the Chevening opportunity came, all I had to do was to put my clear idea into words, and to showcase it as a project worthy of the Chevening award well enough throughout all the stages of the application process. Not only did this vision help me win the scholarship the first time I applied, but it also gave me enough motivation and positivity to surmount all the obstacles.

Why this course and why Birkbeck?

My choice to study at Birkbeck was guided by two things: the nature and the quality of the course and the reputation of the college. After searching and comparing Masters online, I chose TESOL at Birkbeck for these reasons:

  • The course suits my academic and professional goals since it was designed for English language teachers who already have an experience in the classroom and who want to develop their career opportunities
  • It offers me the opportunity to expand my knowledge in the field of applied linguistics and develop language awareness and analysis of English as a second language
  • It offers me the opportunity to conduct research in the field of second language acquisition

My choice of Birkbeck college was based on the search I did and on advice from a former professor. I wanted to do my master’s in central London, the hub for an international and vibrant scholarly community, and Birkbeck offered me that. In addition, a former professor advised me to choose Birkbeck for the quality and academic excellence of its research. Now that I’m conducting my research dissertation, I could see the benefits of being a part of the Birkbeck scholarly community.

Being able to function and cope well in a new academic and cultural environment has been a fulfilling and exciting experience for me.

Can you tell us about your experience as a Chevener?

My Chevening journey has been an exciting and a rewarding experience in every aspect. I feel I have gained much academically, personally, and culturally studying at Birkbeck.

My course has offered me an excellent academic experience so far! I’ve been introduced to a research oriented and positive environment where professors consider us their colleagues, not their students. This has helped me gain an intellectually stimulating content and research skills that will enable me to conduct my own research.

As a Chevening scholar at Birkbeck, I could connect with many Cheveners and with other international students through the events organized at Birkbeck. This has offered me the opportunity to network and socialize with students from different professional and cultural backgrounds.

Further information:

Share

A day in the life of a postgraduate student

MSc Politics of Population, Migration and Ecology student, Sorrel Knott, shares a day-in-the life account of her experience as a full-time postgraduate student at Birkbeck.  

You might be wondering what a day in the life of a postgraduate student looks like. To tell you the truth, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to that question. Birkbeck has an incredibly diverse student body, bringing together people from a variety of professional backgrounds with varying daily responsibilities. Alongside my studies, I work as a part-time marketing assistant and researcher, as well being a student ambassador for Birkbeck. My part-time professional role is completely remote; as a result, I have been able to cultivate a flexible routine, and evening study at Birkbeck has enabled this. So, here is a day in my life as a full-time postgraduate student. 

8am: *Insert irritating iPhone alarm sound effect* 

Typically, I wake up at 8am. I’ll stretch, make my bed, and get ready, before attempting my daily Wordle with breakfast. As my job is remote, I don’t commute to work unless I am working as a student ambassador at an event for Birkbeck. Therefore, I’m lucky that I can have a laid-back start to the day.

8.30am: let’s work 

I try to get started quickly. I try to get started early, helped along by the to-list that I make every Sunday, that sets out all my tasks for the week. My work includes posting on social media, academic research, compiling bibliographies and writing reports in order to build my company’s platform 

12pm: student commute 

At 12pm, I’ll have another coffee before packing my bag for university, being sure to include my laptop, chargers, headphones, notepad, pen, water bottle, reusable Tupperware and cutlery, mask, hand sanitiser and a trusty lip balm. I usually catch the bus to Euston Station and walk eight minutes past Gordon Square to reach Birkbeck’s Malet Street campus. If the weather permits, I ride my bike, as there are plenty of bike racks on campus. I tend to avoid the tube to save money, though there are convenient tube stations located at Russell Square and Goodge Street. 

1.30pm: arrive in time for some free food on campus 

If you arrive before 3pm, you can normally catch the Hare Krishna group handing out cooked food, bread, fruit and, if you are lucky, home-made cake! I will normally pick up lunch from them in my reusable Tupperware before heading to Russell Square or the green space on Birkbeck’s Malet Street campus. There are also other squares to choose from – sometimes I sit in Gordon Square by Birkbeck’s Arts building. I enjoy visiting Birkbeck’s surrounding squares as I think it’s important to visit green space when working on a laptop all day. Plus, I might get lucky and see a cute dog (or six)! 

2pm: become a bookworm in Birkbeck’s library 

After lunch, I head to the library located in Birkbeck’s Malet Street campus. Usually, I sit down in the group study area, but there are silent study areas too. I watch pre-recorded lectures, complete my pre-reading for my seminar and make notes. I’ll ensure that I understand the topic of the seminar, which might involve watching documentary clips, keeping up with the news and emailing professors with any questions. If I have an assignment, I’ll work on that after my seminar preparation, including my dissertation research. If a friend is on campus, we’ll go for a coffee at Terrace 5 on the fifth floor of Birkbeck’s Malet Street campus. Sometimes, you can get a discounted hot drink through the Twelve app! 

6pm: it’s seminar time (normally) 

On the evenings where I don’t have a seminar, such as the summer term when postgraduates only work on their dissertations, there might be a Birkbeck event, which I can work at as a student ambassador. During term time, my seminars start at 6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and last for around an hour and a half. 

In the Department of Politics seminars are very collaborative, involving group discussions surrounding the pre-seminar readings and materials. My intellectual progression has been enriched by the diversity present in the seminar groups, and I have enjoyed having my viewpoints constructively challenged by others. The seminar is also an opportunity to ask your professor to clarify the pre-seminar lecture or readings, as well as an opportunity to discuss a particular topic with a Birkbeck academic. 

7.30 – 9pm: let’s go home 

If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, I finish at 7.30pm. If it’s a Thursday, I finish at 9pm because I have two seminars back-to-back. When you choose your modules in the Politics department, you’ll be able to see the days of the week when a module is taught, as well as having the option to choose between a 6pm or 7.30pm start time for your seminar. This has given me the flexibility to avoid clashes between two modules that are provided on the same day. 

Regardless of time, I’ll either catch a bus or cycle home. Sometimes, other members of the class will head to a pub or bar for a post-seminar drink. I don’t drink alcohol, but it’s enjoyable to attend these casual post-seminar events in order to socialise. 

The rest of the evening: time to relax 

When I arrive home, I’ll make dinner with my partner, take a shower and relax. I think it’s important to dedicate time towards your family, friends and loved ones, as well as taking time to reflect after your day. My partner and I talk about our day, watch a TV series or play video games. I’ll also complete any daily chores, like the washing up.  

 This is the time to rest and recuperate before another day, as well as checking in with yourself to see if your body is bringing anything to your attention, both physically and mentally. Sometimes, I realise that my body needs more sleep, so I allow myself an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes, I realise that my body needs some alone time, so I might read a book for an hour. I’m lucky that the combined flexibility of my professional role and evening study at Birkbeck enables me to pay attention to my own needs. 

So, there you have it! 

This is what a typical day in my life looks like; it may not be representative of every student’s time at Birkbeck, but it really works for me. It’s a stable routine that enables me to balance my professional and academic work. Other student’s days might include attending a university-related event, such as a cinema showing in Birkbeck’s Arts building or a guest lecture. Those after even more of a social student life can join a society and attend their meetings and events outside of seminars and work hours. Some students might even visit one of the galleries, museums and exhibits which the Bloomsbury area is famous for. It’s the additional experiences that are available at the university and in the surrounding area that bring a little extra joy to your life! 

More information:  

 

Share

Five top tips from a student on how to save money

MA Applied Linguistics and Communication student, Charlotte MacKechnie, shares money-saving tips to get the most out of your student loan or monthly budget whilst studying at Birkbeck.  

  1. UNiDAYS 

UNiDAYS is a free service that you can sign-up to using your student email address that ends in .ac.uk, at myunidays.com. After signing up to the website, you will have access to ongoing and limited discounts. My favourites include £10 off £75 at Ikea, discounted Pure Gym memberships, and a 6-month free Amazon Prime Student trial (then 50% off Amazon Prime).  

I love UNiDAYS because… you can use your UNiDAYS ID on your phone to access discounts in store. No more being caught out by not having your student card with you! 

  1. Tesco Clubcard 

This free loyalty card for the British supermarket, Tesco, allows you to unlock in-store and online discounts that are exclusively available for Clubcard members. Not only do you unlock deals, but you also collect points every time you shop; you can turn these points into Tesco vouchers, or you can put them towards rewards such as vouchers for Pizza Express, the RAC, and Disney+. Sign up at Tesco.com. 

I love Tesco Clubcard because… I love the scanning my Clubcard prior to paying in-store, so that I can see how much money I have saved! 

  1. Download Microsoft Office 365 – for free!

To download Microsoft’s entire Office suite for free, you’ll need to sign up using your .ac.uk student email address at Office.com. After logging in, you’ll be guided through downloading and installing the software, plus you’ll also get 1TB free OneDrive online storage. 

I love Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive because… I can save all my files on OneDrive, and access them from any device! 

  1. Purchase a railcard and save a third on eligible fares

If you anticipate travelling whilst at university – perhaps visiting friends at other unis, or even going home – then I’d definitely recommend getting a railcard. I travelled 300 miles away to attend university, so I started saving after my first return trip home! If you go to thetrainline.com, their railcard finder will help you decide which railcard that is right for you – there’s a card for every age. Added tip: if you sign up to Student Beans, you receive an exclusive discount on student railcards. 

I love having a railcard because… it makes visiting family and friends more affordable! 

  1. Discover free counselling and listening services

University can be a stressful time, and we want you to know that there are free counselling and listening services out there. For example, Samaritans are there for you, 24 hours a day, to help you face whatever you are going through. Also, Birkbeck offer a free, non-judgemental and confidential counselling service, as part of their student well-being services offering.   

I love knowing about the free services available to me because… I know that I am supported! 

More information 

 

 

Share

What does Bandhi Chhor Divas mean to you?

On 4 November, Sikh people around the world will observe the Day of Liberation: Bandhi Chhor Divas. With the celebrations often coinciding with Diwali, the Festival of Light, celebrated by Hindus and more widely recognised around the world, the annual Sikh festival holds a special place for the community, with distinct personal observations on its significance. Here, Bayparvah Kaur Gehdu, Birkbeck PhD student, shares some of these.

Bandhi Chhor Divas, in English and traditional Sikh spelling

credit: Bayparvah Kaur Gehdu

Reflections on Bandhi Chhor Divas, the ‘Day of Liberation’

“Bandhi Chor Divas is not about light for Sikhs, it’s about self-reflection and seva (service), a reminder of our commitment to stand for social justice as forged by our Guru Sahibaan.”- Jasmeet Kaur (she/her), Secondary Education professional, writer, and disabilities advocate.

“[It] is a reminder, to me, of our responsibility, as Sikhs, to fight oppressive systems- ALL systems of oppression in a spirit of solidarity, but one that is understood and driven by our history, our faith, our gurbani (speech), and our radical/revolutionary love.”- Sharanjit Kaur (she/her), PhD (cand.) UBC, History, Sessional Instructor of History, UFV and co-curator Sikh Heritage Museum, National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple, Abbotsford, B.C.

“For me, Bandhi Chhor Divas is a reminder of our continued struggles and how they are interconnected with critical and compassionate approaches to social change. Together, we can stand against those stripping others of their humanity and we can walk side by side, or open space for those who have had their humanity taken from them. Together, we can take steps towards liberation.”- Shuranjeet Singh (he/him), PhD candidate and mental health advocate.

“Bandhi Chorr Divas is celebrated on the same day as Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and is sometimes also interpreted as a day commemorating the existential journey from darkness to light. However, Bandhi Chorr goes way beyond this literal symbolism, and for me, it symbolises the fight for justice. It symbolises the need to take a stance against injustices and having the moral and spiritual strength to defy oppressors. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji waived the opportunity to his own freedom while the 52 rajahs imprisoned with him were not granted theirs. This incident is a graphic depiction of being defiant against oppressors. Currently, the farmers of Punjab are battling the same injustices, and Bandhi Chorr Divas takes on renewed significance about the fight for justice.” – Dr Gursharan Kalsi, Research Manager, King’s College London.

“Bandhi Chorr Divas happens to fall on the same day as Diwali. Every year when Diwali comes around people exchange greetings and wish each other well there is less mention of the festival Sikhs celebrate, known as ‘Bandhi Chhor Divas’. I remember at a very young age I learned the story of what the significance was of the day. The story of Bandhi Chorr Divas, to me, represents freedom over oppression. After being released, Guru Ji went to Amritsar to celebrate Diwali and that, to me, represents what Sikhi is primarily about: Unity.” – Amandeep Kaur Bhurjee (she/her), student and mental health advocate.

“My interpretation of Bandhi Chhor Divas falls into two areas. Firstly I think it was about the guruji giving the 52 rajas salvation from literally being released from imprisonment at that actual time in history. But secondly it might also be perceived that by being led by guruji, we seek freedom from our own metaphorical imprisonment from being within darkness and not knowing, to be enlightened from the knowledge, learned and gained.”- Kulvir Singh (he/him), Learning Design Officer, Warwick University.

“Bandhi Chhor Divas means the day of liberation. Guru Hargobind Sahib liberated 52 soldiers from prison to freedom. For me, Bandhi Chhor Divas signifies that Guru Sahib is there to liberate us from our internal and external fears and vices. It also teaches us to accept hukam and place our trust in Guru Sahib’s hand.  Guru Sahib had an option to just leave the prison alone, yet he decided to free the other kings, teaching us an important lesson about selfless sewa.”- Sarbjot Kaur (she/her), audit and risk management professional and disabilities advocate.

“This is what Bandhi Chhor means to me: The key message is the focus on the ‘inner light’ and not the external representation we are used to seeing. This is something that’s pure and eternal. The guru dispels this darkness of ignorance and ego with this light of understanding. As a result we realise ourselves, everything around us and the oneness of the creator god- Waheguru. – Taree Singh Bhogal (he/him), IT support engineer.

“From the outside, we see this part of Sikh history as our Guru Ji made prisoner to the Mughal empire, later being released. However, this is not the case. In reality our Guru Ji is the one who frees us and releases us from bondage. So, for this reason any of the Sikh Gurus could never be imprisoned. The display we see is Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji had a reason to enter that prison of their own free will. Guru Ji went there to help those who needed saving. This is a lesson for Sikhs and those who believe in the Sikh Gurus, that when we are in trouble and need help our Guru Ji is always there to stand with us and help free us from the many forms of prisons we are trapped in.”- Vickramjit Singh, Business Intelligence Developer.

What is Sikhi (Sikhism)?

An image depicting the true essence of Sikhi- Oneness, with the number 1 written in Gurmukhi script and One written in English script underneath. The writing is centred in the middle of a orange circle.

An image depicting the true essence of Sikhi- Oneness, with the number 1 written in Gurmukhi script and One written in English script underneath.

Sikhi (the authentic term for Sikhism), is the ‘revealed path of Enlightenment’ as taught by the Gurus from 1469 to 17081. The Sikh Gurus were ‘revered as spiritual teachers, as warriors, poets, emancipators, and as sovereign rulers2. Sikhi is fundamentally based on the premise of Oneness; humans are all equal as there is ‘no religion and God has no chosen people’1 (ref Top Ten Questions about Sikhi 2021; Singh, S. (2021). SatGuru Bandi Chhorr Hai — National Sikh Youth Federation).

 

Background to Bandhi Chhor Divas/Day of Liberation

According to tradition, the long imprisoned Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, the sixth Sikh Guru, was released from Gwalior, India, taking with him 52 Rajas, also political prisoners.

The Emperor Jahangir said that those who clung to the Guru’s coat would be able to go free. This was meant to limit the number of prisoners who could be released. However, Guru Hargobind (Guruji/Guru Ji) had a coat made with 52 tassels attached to it so that all of the princes could leave prison with him. This act of defiance demonstrated the concept of ‘Oneness’: how we are all equal and interconnected with our struggles, pain, and oppression but also in our love and joy.

On Bandhi Chhor Divas, Sikhs celebrate the freedom and human rights associated with this history. While the day often falls on the same day as Diwali, they are two distinct festivals with the Day of Liberation falling days before, on occasion.

Share

Taking on the challenges of the pandemic to embrace a world of opportunities in London

Flexibility and daytime freedom are what led Oghenemine Djebah to choose Birkbeck to study an MA/LLM Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. In this blog, the Nigerian student shares his journey so far with us.    

Oghenemine Djebah

Oghenemine Djebah

After obtaining an LLB from the Delta State University, Oghenemine Djebah enrolled at the Nigerian Law School, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and was subsequently called to the Nigerian bar. Since then, he has been in active legal practice in Nigeria.

He worked for two notable law firms (Rotimi Jacobs & Co. and Zatts Law Chambers) and volunteered to give free legal services through a registered NGO (Fundamental Rights Enforcement Enlightenment and Defense).

During a 2019 visit to London, Oghenemine fell for the culture and diversity of the city. So, when his desire to gain more in-depth knowledge of the workings of the law inspired him to pursue an LLM he naturally focused his search on universities in the capital. “I started searching for an institution that would be flexible enough to let me work or volunteer while I studied. I found out about Birkbeck on the internet and the evening lectures tallied with the type of institution I was looking for, so I applied and was given admission into the School of Law.”

As the pandemic took hold around the world, Oghenemine considered deferring his admission by a year. “Because of the financial challenges caused by COVID-19 it was quite a challenge getting the initial deposit in time. The management of Birkbeck recognised this and made the concession of reducing the initial deposit by 90% for all international students, which gave me the opportunity to meet all of the requirements and enroll for the 2020 session.” In recognition of his potential Oghenemine was subsequently awarded a Birkbeck International scholarship and a School of Law Postgraduate Award.

The pandemic’s impact was not only financial as, first the Autumn, then the Spring terms were moved online. Oghenemine embraced the challenges and attended online orientation, public lectures as well as the international student’s virtual event at the beginning of the academic year. He reflected: “The international student event was really helpful for me in understanding my role as an international student, including the benefits and how to tap into them.”

Oghenemine has also been making good use of the online services available to students: “The Birkbeck Careers platform is great and enables students not only to see available jobs and apply but also to help teach them how to prepare for interviews and tailor their CVs and cover letters to meet professional standards.”

With a few months of studies under his belt, the Nigerian student assesses his time learning online. “This is actually my first time doing any course via virtual learning. It is quite challenging because I do not get to meet with other students and make good connections which is also part of the university life. However, the lectures have been going great, better than I expected because we are provided with pre-recorded videos for each lecture. The COVID-19 pandemic has made everything different, from living, to studying. Not being able to meet physically and always being indoors has made this period a bit difficult. I look forward to having the opportunity to meet physically with my fellow students and lecturers before graduating from Birkbeck.”

More than anything the Law student sees and embraces the positives studying in London and at Birkbeck can bring: “London is well known for welcoming international students globally, including from Nigeria. Being a student in London enables you to be a part of a well-integrated international and diverse community. London is a city with a lot of opportunities for everyone beyond academic programs. I advise all Nigerians who wish to study internationally to study in London and join a diverse community and tap into the available opportunities.”

More information:

Share