Tag Archives: graduate

“I flew to the other side of the world to study at Birkbeck, leaving my family and children behind”

Shernette Edwards-Rowe left her home and family in Jamaica to pursue her life-long dream of studying in the UK. This is her #BBKgrad story.

Shernette Edwards-Rowe on her graduation day

Shernette’s fascination with England started from a young age. She was drawn to the UK for its history, architecture and fashion, and in 2006, during her first degree, she visited London to see it all for herself.

That was when her love affair for London truly began. She came back as often as she could, every few years, and made it her mission to study in the city one day; “we model the British education system in Jamaica so I know how high a standard the British education system is and I wanted to experience it for myself.”

Shernette’s career path has not always been straight-forward. She undertook her first degree in business administration in Jamaica. Despite being encouraged by her teachers and peers at school to become a counsellor, at the time she felt it wasn’t for her. She worked in business for a few years, but soon decided she desperately needed a career change and a job where she was directly helping others. This led her to enrol onto a BA Counselling course at Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica in her late twenties, where she studied for four years. When she finished her Counselling degree, Shernette began working in a school with children up to aged 12. She has worked in a number of different schools ever since.

Her desire to undertake a Master’s degree in England and expand her career opportunities never went away so when the opportunity for her to study in London came in 2019 she took the plunge and flew across the world to London, leaving her two boys (now aged 10 and 7) and her husband behind.

Shernette Edwards-Rowe with her family on her graduation day

A year and a half later, Shernette reflects on her experiences of being at Birkbeck and in London, “I’m so glad I pursued my life-long dream of studying in the UK. I’m really proud I fulfilled my dream, but I did face more challenges than I expected, including several illnesses and the anxieties that came with the global pandemic and being away from my family. My academic tutor offered me tremendous guidance and support which I am hugely grateful for.

“My son recently said to me how proud he was of me battling my illnesses and never giving up. This really melted my heart and made me so happy. I wanted to show my children that whatever dreams they have, they can accomplish them with hard work and perseverance.”

Shernette moved back to Jamaica when the borders re-opened in May 2020, getting the first flight home to Jamaica to be back with her family and finish her degree remotely. She cites the degree as really opening her horizons and giving her the confidence to work with older children. She is now searching for a job in a secondary school and is excited for what the future holds.

Further Information

Share

Changing career paths: from working in criminal justice to lecturing at a university

Janet Omondi studied for a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education from 2019 to 2020 as a tool to aid her career transition from working in the National Probation Service to lecturing at a university. Here is her #BBKgrad story.

Janet Omondi’s story of what led her to study at Birkbeck showcases perseverance and courage after she underwent a complete career change a few years ago, taking the leap to pursue her passions of educating young people about health.

Janet first began her career as a Probation Service Officer for the National Probation Service after completing her first degree in BSc Business Computing. She held the position for seven years but in 2009, she was faced with no option but to give up her job to become a full-time carer for a family member. During this challenging and emotional time, Janet came to the decision that she wanted to change her career and follow her dream of lecturing about health at a university.

In 2012, she began studying BSc Health Promotion at the University of East London, followed by an MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 2016, she took up a teaching position as a Lecturer in Health Sciences at the University of East London. She came to study a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education at Birkbeck in 2019 to develop her skill set and knowledge further.

When asked about her experiences of studying at Birkbeck, Janet said: “I quickly developed rapport with my fellow students. I found sitting and learning with a cohort of people that were so passionate about the course too really inspiring. The best thing about Birkbeck is the diversity of students who come from all walks of life, which brings a rich wealth of viewpoints and perspectives, as well as the sharing of cultures and experiences.

“The pandemic hit the UK mid-way through my course, so I had to adjust to the new way of learning online quickly. At first I felt a bit apprehensive, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and my classmates and I didn’t experience much technical difficulty at all. The lecturers have been so dynamic, supportive and understanding throughout. Birkbeck responded remarkably well to the pandemic and the transition to online learning was seamless. I now feel very comfortable being on camera when I’m in an online lecture!”

In her spare time, as well as looking after her three children aged 10, 18 and 22, Janet is a Trustee of Riana Development Network, which promotes and delivers community programmes for young people in the UK and overseas. Janet provides crucial guidance by contributing to the charity’s culture, strategic focus, effectiveness and financial sustainability.

In the future, Janet aspires to continue learning and her words of encouragement to others are that “we should continue to learn in all aspects throughout our lives”.

Further Information

Share

“Without Birkbeck’s disability service, I wouldn’t have finished my degree”

Ryan Wilson recently graduated with a First in BSc Economic and Social Policy, after overcoming a number of adversities, including leaving school with no qualifications and becoming seriously ill after a drug trial went wrong. Here is his #BBKgrad story.

Ryan Wilson

Ryan was born and raised in Islington and describes his background as “working class and economically deprived”. He came out of school with no GCSEs. In a bid to earn money, he took part in a drug trial in 2006 which went catastrophically wrong. Suffering multiple organ failures, as well as loosing parts of his fingers and toes, Ryan now faces his legs being amputated in the future. Ryan explains, “I felt at the time my whole life had been wiped away from me, and I’m still not over it and to be honest never fully will be. I had planned for years to become a plumber and could no longer pursue this career path due to my injuries.”

A few years later, in 2012, Ryan had a son. He describes this as a pivotal moment: “I just wanted to prove to my son that anyone can change their life circumstance if they try hard enough. I believe everyone has potential, just for a lot of people its untapped. I’d been wanting to study economics for a number of years but hadn’t had the confidence to and being a student was a different world to the one I knew. I started researching how to become an economist and saw I had to get GCSEs, A Levels and a degree. So, in 2012, I started studying for my GCSEs. I managed to obtain an A* in English and a B in Maths so I progressed onto study Economics A Level. I’d never studied so much in my life but my hard graft meant I achieved an A. I had the most amazing teacher, who encouraged me to apply to Birkbeck, saying that they’d consider my application.”

In 2016, Ryan started his part-time BSc Economic and Social Policy degree, alongside working as an independent prison monitor, ensuring the decency of prisons and humane treatment of prisoners. He explains: “I had textbooks glued to me throughout my degree and entered a wormhole of reading. I worked so hard and loved the lectures – my favourite modules were Economics and Public Policy, and Macroeconomic Theory and Policy. I struggled in my second year with studying for my degree and overcoming some personal hurdles, but the support I received from the disability team and the mental health service really increased my confidence and drive to succeed. Mark Pimm, the Disability Service Manager, gave me hope in a sea of uncertainty. He encouraged me not to quit and without him and his team, I wouldn’t have completed my degree.”

Ryan graduated in November, winning the prize for the best final year Economics and Social Policy student. Describing his future plans, he says, “I want to work in politics and next week I’ve got an interview for my dream job in the civil service, working for the Department of International Trade. I’m busy writing a book about my life journey and how policy impacts the lives of people. In the future, I want to get into motivational speaking because I want to help others and be a voice for the under-represented groups that I’m part of.”

Further Information

Share

Birkbeck Graduate Research School Relaunches

This post has been contributed by Rima Amin, Registry Officer at Birkbeck.

To Brexit or not to Brexit, that was the question posed to students and speakers at the Birkbeck Graduate Research School’s (BGRS) “Relaunch” event on Monday, 23 May. The event hosted a Brexit debate followed by a drinks reception and an informal group discussion on the development of the Research School.

The BGRS is a network providing resources, skills workshops and social events to support students during their time at Birkbeck. These are currently provided through the BGRS website, academibirkbeck-entrance1.jpgc workshop calendar and email communications.

The BGRS is currently revising the services it provides, how it communicates and seeking further ideas on how it can be improved to meet research students’ needs better.

In his welcome speech Pro-Vice Master Julian Swann said “Tonight is about engaging in debate on Brexit which is an event of great topical interest to us all. Development of the research school is a priority for Birkbeck, so along with the debate tonight we look forward to having you give us your views about how to create a stronger community for research students.”

Chaired by Professor Rosie Campbell from Birkbeck’s Politics Department, the debate began with Ben Harris-Quinney from the Leave side making his case saying: “Research students are a crucial group who can find great opportunity in Brexit as they are people ready to engage in the world with ideas.”

He said that Britain is a bigger contributor of academic research opposed to its European counterparts inferring that research students are currently giving more than they are gaining.

Next was the turn of Lord Richard Balfe from the remain side who began by criticizing campaigners on both sides of Brexit who treat the referendum as though Britain is going to end if they don’t get their way.

Lord Balfe spoke of Britain in the 1950’s where racism was rife and signs saying “No dogs. No Irish” were visible on the streets. He said that Britain had come a long way since then and migrants have played a key role to the current well-functioning economy in Britain.

The students raised challenging insights to both speakers. Lord Balfe was questioned over the lack of transparency over decision-making in European Parliament compared with British Parliament.

The conclusion from the remain drapeaux européensside: “One person’s red tape is another person’s working rights- we should be proud of what we have achieved.” And that from the leave side: “With champagne receptions and lobster dinners, the EU can appear glamourous, but when you see through it, you realise democracy is more effective when local.”

The Chair of the debate thanked the speakers and the questions from the students calling the contributions “a much richer discussion than what we can find in the papers.”

Research student Ekua Agha said “The debate was extremely innovative and provoked a lot of thought on the issues. The informal setting but formal discussion was struck at a nice balance.”

Birkbeck Graduate Research School would like to thank Ben Harris Quinney, Lord Richard Balfe and all attendees.

It’s not over.

If you couldn’t make last night’s debate, we still want to hear your thoughts on how we can develop the research school. Here are the questions we asked research students at the event. Please send your thoughts to researchstudentunit@bbk.ac.uk. 

1. What do you want the Graduate School to be/do?
2. What’s the best thing about studying at Birkbeck?
3. If you could change 1 thing about your time at Birkbeck, what would it be?
4. How do you want to find out about training & events?
5. What do you think about tonight’s event?/Ideas for future events?

Share