Category Archives: College

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

International students across Birkbeck came together last week to catch up and discuss the responses of their home countries to the pandemic. Professor Sanjib Bhakta, Assistant Dean (Internationalisation and Partnership), writes about the successful event in this blog. 

Professor Sanjib Professor introduces Professor Ulrike Hahn. Photo credit: Harish Patel

An afternoon tea at Birkbeck on Thursday 25 November was attended by international students from a variety of Schools, including ScienceArts, and Business, Economics and InformaticsProfessor Nick KeepExecutive Dean of the School of Science, inaugurated the session by welcoming the students and sharing how the School has nurtured a long-standing international culture. He explained how the school has created many fruitful cooperatives through building international alumni networks over the years.  

Professor Sanjib Bhakta, Assistant Dean (Internationalisation and Partnership), highlighted the importance of sustaining cultural roots while studying at Birkbeck. He also spoke on how the planned international students’ experience events throughout this academic year aim to enrich further diversity in Birkbeck’s life-long learning environment.  

Students shared their personal experience of the COVID-19 period in relation to their home countries; how economies, administration and politics have continued to play a crucial role in policy making and implementation of these policies towards tackling the ongoing pandemic differently in various parts of the world. This discussion was prompted by the question – ‘What lessons have we learned from this pandemic so far?’ Everyone enthusiastically participated in the active conversation which was followed by watching an interview with Professor Ulrike Hahn, Professor of Psychology, on the COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook and Wiki. The handbook was published with the aim to demystify the myth of COVID vaccinations and solve the challenge of vaccine hesitancy. We re-enforced how the world is still in the midst of a pandemic and vaccine uptake in London particularly is lower than many other cities in the UK. Everyone appreciated the significance of such an outreach initiative.  

On a lighter note, everyone also shared their hobbies outside their own curriculum and continued chatting while taking sips of tea. Harish Patel, Technical Services Manager in the School of Science, demonstrated his passion for photography and shared his knack with students. All participants were appreciative of such event that created the opportunity for them to interact with other peers in-person.  

Professor Nick Keep said of the event: “It was nice to hear the diverse experiences of students coming from different countries and regions.  Sanjib did a great job of opening up friendly and insightful discussion.” 

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Celebrating the winter solstice at Birkbeck

This month, Birkbeck’s International experience committee and Chinese Students and Scholars Association (BBK CSSA), hosted a networking event to mark “Dongzhi”, the winter solstice. The event gave Chinese students from the broader community the opportunity to share their experiences of studying in London.

In this blog, Di Luo, Chair of BBK CSSA, discusses the importance of the festival to Chinese people and how attendees marked the occasion.

Students in  classroom with masks on, the people in the front row are holding up a branded bag with an orange owl on the front

In Chinese, the winter solstice is called “Dongzhi”, which literally means “the arrival of winter”. The Dongzhi Festival is one of the most important celebrated by the Chinese – as important as Chinese New Year, in fact. It is a time families come together and bond over the preparation of a symbolic dish.

The winter solstice occurs when either of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). In the Northern region of China, to celebrate Dongzhi, people eat fatty dumplings that contain meat and high Yang warming herbs such as ginger and garlic. In the Southern region of China, people gather together to make and tangyuan, a Chinese dessert made with glutinous rice flour, which symbolizes family unity and prosperity.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s celebration at Birkbeck had to be adapted. Nevertheless, we were pleased to see over 25 students from Birkbeck, SOAS, Queen Mary University and Goldsmiths University, who enjoyed the wonderful event. Attendees were served traditional British snacks and Bubble Teas, courtesy of guest Xiaoyu Chang, from Ying Tuan.Hula hoops, cheddar cheese packets and bubble tea on a table

The afternoon included a question-and-answer session with an introduction to the College’s facilities. There was also a session on how to study more efficiently, and fun things to do in London, as well as games and quizzes, such as the “who is undercover” game, and a talent show. Zoe Stephens, an MSc International Security and Global Governance student at Birkbeck, introduced herself in SIX different languages, including; English, Mandarin, Korea, Japanese, German and Dutch! It was very entertaining, and congratulations to Zoe on winning one of the prizes. The event was filled with laughs and the sharing of good wishes for 2022 from attendees.

BBK Chinese students and scholars’ association, hereby, on behalf of all Chinese students studying at Birkbeck and our alumni, wishes everyone a happy and warm winter this year, and the very best of the new year of 2022, which will soon be upon us!

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Welcome to Birkbeck for 2021 Chevening Scholars

International culture and exchange are once again celebrated with the new cohort of Chevening scholars; and all are encouraged to ‘leave their mark’ on both Birkbeck and wider society.

2021 Chevening scholars

On the 9th of November 2021, the International team held a Welcome event for the 2021 Chevening Scholars. The Scholars this year hail from 23 countries: Paraguay, Ethiopia, Iraq, South Africa, Nepal, Uganda, Sudan, Russia, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Dominica, Bolivia, Albania, Montenegro, Georgia, Morocco, Santo Domingo, Tunisia, Peru, Ukraine, Guatemala and Laos. The International diversity of the Chevening Scholars is a pivotal part of Birkbeck’s success and this was demonstrated during the event.

Professor Kevin Ibeh, Pro Vice Master (International) opened the Welcome event by highlighting Birkbeck’s achievements over the years and emphasized to Chevening scholars the importance of leaving their mark. Professor Kevin Ibeh said: “Birkbeck will be celebrating 200 years as an institution in 2023, and you we all be part of it as you are the 198th  year of students at Birkbeck University.”

There were also speeches from academics from several of the Schools including Professor Sanjib Bhakta from the School of Science, Professor Alexandra Beauregard and Andrea Williams from the School of BEI, and Dr Ali Guven from the School of SSHIP. The academics shared knowledge on their expertise. Professor Sanjib Bhakta discussed the significance of diversity and encouraged everyone to always embrace their different cultures.

The event celebrated the rich diversity of the Chevening Scholarship recipients through a Welcome to Birkbeck presentation by the international team and gave the scholars an opportunity to learn about each other’s talents, goals, and aspirations through a fun group activity. To conclude the event, the scholars enjoyed light refreshments and shared with their student journeys and advice they would give to future international students wishing to study at Birkbeck.

Nina Perunovic from Montenegro spoke about the benefits of studying at Birkbeck: “Getting to know other international students, their culture and share experiences and different approaches to the same problems is quite interesting to me”.

We look forward to celebrating and sharing more stories from our 2021 Chevening Scholars.

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