Tag Archives: Master’s degree

Life as an Indian scholar in London

MA Journalism student Vimal Chander Joshi found studying in London a totally immersive experience, so much so he wrote a book about it. Here, he uncovers his own story and shares perspectives on the differences between the media in the UK and India, with a personal take on the COVID-19 pandemic news coverage. This is his #BBKStory.

Vimal Chander Joshi

In 2020, Vimal published his first book though he refutes any notion of being the main character in the story: “I am not Ajay but our experiences are closely linked and all the places Ajay visits are places I’ve either visited or lived in.”

Gentlemen: Stories from London tells the story of Ajay Vashishth, a young man from Delhi who comes to London and lodges in different parts of London including Bexleyheath, Ilford, Southall and Golders Green. Even with the exclusion of the Bloomsbury location, where Vimal would have spent much of his time while studying at Birkbeck, you’d be forgiven for assuming he and Ajay are one and the same.

However, Vimal insists not and divulges the details of his own upbringing, sharing aspects of life within a middle-class family, having a lawyer for a father and a grandfather hailing from Punjab, with family members keen for him to follow a ‘conventional career path’ in either law or medicine. With gentle resistance and with more creative inclinations, he pursued his undergraduate studies in commerce at the University of Delhi then decided on journalism at postgraduate level.

In 2019, his academic transition took him to Birkbeck and a city he’d never visited before. “It was the first time I’d been to London. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit places. I would see people wearing a coat and tie with office bags and a newspaper in hand.”

He accepts that the pre-pandemic period presented him with his best chances of socialisation saying, “I attended all workshops and events which were either very relevant or marginally relevant. I would go and meet people from other departments and would attend most of the events. I never skipped any classes. I would go out with friends. I went to the library as much as I could, including at Christmas. I even met friends from my country.”

Studying an MA in Journalism was a logical choice. He’d always liked writing and was fascinated by India’s booming television industry and the increasing acceptance of a career in the media. Prior to his studies, Vimal had spent ten years working in the media, primarily in India.

He has noticed subtle differences between the news in the UK and India, “The biggest difference is the way in which newspapers are heavily subsidised in India. I couldn’t imagine spending the two pounds or so on a newspaper in India. Of course, the newspapers in the UK can be found across the world but Indian newspapers are less likely to have that international reach.”

With a pandemic still in effect and with India having faced the brunt of it earlier this year with the Delta variant of the virus, Vimal shares his own personal reflections of how the media has handled the coverage: “I felt really pained watching the Covid-19 news. I was there when Delhi had one of its earliest lockdowns and I watched how the media covered the evolution of the virus and the spread of the variant. The media has an important part to play in exposing the pandemic but there needs to be accountability and the true picture should always be reflected. But we should also balance that because the reality of the situation can also spread panic.”

Further information

Share

Never betray your dreams, they are yours!

Aygun Badalova recently graduated with an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology. This is her #BBKStory of growing up in a low-income family in Azerbaijan, and how she taught herself fluent English to fulfil her life-long dream of studying in England.

Aygun Badalova

My desire to study abroad in England started when I was studying at school in Azerbaijan in a small, tiny town called Lerik. It is located in a mountainous region where there are only three secondary schools, and there were families around us whose children could not go to school at all. At that time, many girls in our district only went to school until aged 15 or 16, because of financial issues and social and cultural problems – most parents are still reluctant even now to let their girls leave for university. However, despite all the challenges, my mind was different and I always believed that I didn’t belong there. I had only one goal and mission: to study hard and leave my hometown for a better future.

Coming from a low-income family struggling with financial issues and hardships, my dream to leave felt impossible. There were days we couldn’t even have dinner. We used to wear our relatives’ clothes and when my father could buy something that was celebration for us. Because my father was our only breadwinner, he used to work all day and night just to cover our basic needs. My mother was brilliant housewife, despite our poor lifestyle she always taught us how to be brave and encouraged us to keep our heads high no matter what happened. Because I had four younger siblings, I knew I had to be their role model and I was like another parent to them. I am truly happy that I had a great family and a strong belief in a better future!

When I used to say “one day I will study in England”, everybody around me smiled at my naive desire. But there was a feeling deep-down in my heart which made me work very hard. My passion for England and the language made me study English – no one could believe that I became fluent by myself. I still remember the hard days: on the cold winter nights, with the dim light of a lamp, I used to open my books and believe. Believe in my dreams…

After finishing high school I left Lerik to study at a university in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. At university, my love for the English language presented many fantastic opportunities for me. I worked as a translator for many important events and internatonal companies. Later, I taught English to professionals and I even wrote an English book for self-learners when I was working at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) as a research assistant and interpreter.

Years passed, and many things changed, but my desire was always the same. Two years ago and after hundreds of struggles, I finally arrived in the UK to pursue my dream. It was a period of my life when I was working back at home and my family did not want me to go away. They thought I didn’t need to go, and they also were not comfortable that I’d be alone and far away from them. It took a while to make them agree to my decision.

Studying for a Master’s degree in the UK and getting my degree was not easy. My field of study required strong mental and physical strength and there were financial needs which I needed to fulfil by working. Learning about how the brain functions and how it changes in different mental disorders was really breathtaking and interesting. I also worked in healthcare settings and got a chance to see patients who suffered brain disorders. Moreover, I made many great friends who always supported me.

During my studies I met a lot of experts, amazing people and the great environment at Birkbeck has made me who I am today. Our professors’ approach to us was really impressive – they explained everything and were always willing to answer questions. My supervisor Dr Eddy Davelaar was one of these people who always supported me. I have been influenced by such great people and have become a better listener, as well as kinder and less judging.

After lots of research, unfamiliar topics, sleepless nights, weekend library days and assignments I have finally graduated! I would like to thank Professor Nazanin Derakhshan who constantly motivated us to achieve. One of her favourite quotes was: “Don’t look at where you are, look at where are you came from. Then you will see how far you have come.”

My aim for the future is to be a well-known neuroscientist and neuropsychologist and contribute to the treatment of Alzheimer’s and anxiety disorders in future. I am living in London now, doing my research and working in healthcare settings. I am also a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Counseller, working with people with different mental problems and I love my job. I’m also pleased to say that all my siblings went on to achieve degrees from prestigious universities.

I’d encourage others to never give up on their dreams! Don’t let anyone or anything make you to feel that you are not enough. Believe me, if I can pass thousands of miles and come for my dreams, you also can. I am just at the beginning of my amazing life.

Further Information

Share

From one GCSE to a Master of Science degree

Shekira Malcolm had a five year plan which has landed her a ‘dream job.’

In 2013, Shekira Malcolm sat down and wrote a five year plan that would transform her from a 33 year old with one GCSE to a Master’s degree holder and enable her to have the career that she’d always wanted. Yesterday, Shekira celebrated achieving her Master’s in Human Resource Management at Birkbeck’s graduation ceremonies.

Difficulties during her teenage years meant that Shekira didn’t always pay attention to her education and as a result she left school with just one GCSE.

She went on to gain experience in HR in the public and private sectors and then worked for her husband’s business. But without any qualifications, Shekira always felt that she was at a disadvantage in terms of her career.

In 2013, Shekira started an Access to Social Sciences course at her local FE college, before studying history at undergraduate level and then going straight onto her full-time Master’s course at Birkbeck. She says: “It was hard work. I had several setbacks during my Master’s – including my teenage son being robbed at knifepoint twice, and having to care for my grandmother in the last months of her life.”

Shekira describes her postgraduate degree as a very different experience to her first, as at Birkbeck there were students of all ages, backgrounds, and with varied career histories – a diversity which Shekira really enjoyed. Although many of her classmates were working, Shekira stresses that they were not given an easy ride by the tutors. She says: “The academic level is high – luckily Birkbeck tutors understand that people are juggling university with other aspects of their life and also that many students haven’t been in formal education for several years, so there is support available.”

Shekira also credits her husband for helping her achieve her goals. “He’s had to take up some of the slack at home, so it has been a team effort. At first he was a bit unsure when I told him I was going to study for five years, but he really supported me and is very proud of me now.”

Shekira was the first person in her family to ever go to university, but having seen the satisfaction that studying has brought to their mum, her daughter has now also enrolled in a degree in economics and politics at Loughborough and her son, who is currently studying for his GCSEs, also plans to apply to university. Shekira says, “I was able to help my daughter with her application process and with getting to grips with university-level study. If I hadn’t been to university myself then I would have felt totally out of my depth trying to support her.”

Five years of hard work has paid off for Shekira, who is now the proud owner of not one but two degrees from the University of London. On top of this, gaining her Master’s degree gave Shekira the confidence to apply for jobs that she would never have considered before and in April she was offered her ‘dream job’ in the HR department of a local authority.

Further information:

Share

Survival story: Jodie was diagnosed with cancer four times while studying

For Jodie Cole, who graduated on Thursday 2 May with an MSc Organizational Behaviour, the path to graduation has been longer and harder than she could have envisaged when she applied to study at Birkbeck in 2012, 16 weeks before being diagnosed with stage four cancer. Given a 23% chance of survival, Jodie was determined that she would get the degree she’d always dreamed of having.

For most Birkbeck graduates, receiving their degree represents the culmination of many months or years of hard work.

For Jodie Cole, who graduated on Thursday 2 May with an MSc Organizational Behaviour, the path to graduation has been longer and harder than she could have envisaged when she applied to study at Birkbeck in 2012, 16 weeks before being diagnosed with stage four cancer.

Since then, Jodie has undergone four rounds of cancer and treatment, and will this month be celebrating not only her graduation, but 18 months cancer-free.

In 2012, Jodie had been working in HR for over two decades, and had a college diploma from her native Australia. However, she felt what she describes as a ‘burning passion to obtain this elusive piece of paper, in order to quiet that saboteur voice inside my head and prove to myself that I was as good as everyone else’.

Jodie, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, explains: “I was the single mother of two teenagers. I never had the time or finances to further educate myself before that – it was poured into the children’s education. Once I was finally able to, in late 2012, as my teenage daughter applied to universities, so did I.”

A few months later, in early 2013, Jodie’s application was forgotten about, as she was diagnosed with stage four cancer; cancer in the breast, liver, ovaries, lymph nodes and bone. She says: “As I lay on the sofa feeling ill from the chemotherapy treatment, an email popped into my inbox stating the university had accepted my application for the Master’s programme.

“What was I to do?  This meant so much to me, and was something I had wanted so badly for so long. I was finally being offered a position at university and the possibility of achieving a major goal – a dream – of mine. How can I do this, yet how can I not?!”

So, despite having no hair, feeling sick, and having cancer, Jodie pressed the button that said ‘accept’.

In October that same year, after 18 weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and still in the middle of her treatment, Jodie arrived in London as a university student for the first time, for the first weekend workshop.

“I turned up with a gleam in my eye and pride in my heart. I had made it this far, been accepted, got through cancer and was sitting there in a real university lecture hall. The feeling was exhilarating.”

During that first weekend, Jodie met fellow students whose friendship and support was invaluable during that year.

Unfortunately, Jodie’s breast cancer returned before the second year commenced and she had to defer her studies for another double mastectomy and more treatment. Most of her friends continued their studies and went on to graduate without her. Disheartened to be left behind but still keen to complete the programme, she was in the process of enrolling once again the following year when she was diagnosed for a third time with breast cancer. Her studies were deferred again. It took her many months to recover from this round as a more radical double mastectomy was required, followed by weeks of radiotherapy. When she thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel, her fourth diagnosis revealed she had liver cancer again.

She remembers: “I was becoming a broken record at the university admissions department. ‘Sorry, I have cancer, can I please defer?’ That piece of paper felt like it was getting further and further away from reality for me.”

It was in October 2017, while still on chemotherapy that Jodie says she: “threw caution to the wind and re-enrolled for my final year, determined to remain cancer free and complete my Master’s. That piece of paper was like a shiny beacon in my world. I wanted it, I had to have it, I was determined.”

The reality of studying while on chemotherapy was tough. Jodie describes it, saying: “the chemo was addling my mind, making me tired. Plus, I was now working on this alone at home, with no more comrades in arms like my first year. I was distance-learning, logging in remotely to listen to lectures and study at hours that suited me (and the doctors’ schedule). Sitting exams was the toughest part for me as my memory was not what it used to be at all, and then there was the research and writing of the dissertation. I am absolutely sure all of my girlfriends and family were just as pleased and relieved as I was the day I mailed in my dissertation paper.”

When Jodie received her ‘confirmation of award’ letter from Birkbeck it was a moment of intense emotion. She says:  “To me, the piece of paper represents survival. It represents crossing that finishing line and being given the gold medal – for everything I’ve been through in the past six years, and for being alive. That piece of paper means believing in myself, in achieving my goals and that I CAN do anything. That piece of paper is success.”

Further information:

Share