“I’ve grown to love the UK just as much as Barcelona”

Alex Jimenez Mendoza is graduating this week with a BSc Business Psychology degree. This is his #BBKgrad story. 

Alex Jimenez Mendoza

The first time I visited the UK in 2008 I instantly fell in love with the country – it’s diversity and its tea and coffee drinking culture. I decided to move to London in 2012, to continue my job as a technician for Formula One but instead be based in the UK rather than Spain.

I loved my Formula One job and the travelling around the world that came with it but after a short time I decided I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a student at a university in London. I vividly remember wandering around the streets surrounding Birkbeck and seeing students coming in and out of the buildings, wishing I was one of them, but worrying that I wasn’t good enough.

In 2016 I decided I should put aside my fears and I applied to study BSc Business Psychology (part-time). I was convinced Birkbeck was the right university for me as I could work and study at the same time and gain a prestigious University of London degree. Soon after I applied, I was offered a place – this was definitely one of the most exciting times of my life.

I started my degree in October 2016. The first year was quite challenging due to the language barrier, but I was so motivated to learn. The lecturers were very supportive and the quality of teaching was always excellent. Throughout my four-year part-time degree, I managed to balance working in luxury retail and studying, and I also learned to better manage my disability (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

I loved my time at Birkbeck so much I’m now enrolled onto a Master’s degree – MSc Management with International Business. I’m only a few weeks into the course but I’m already finding it is helping me to broaden my knowledge and open my horizons to future careers. I would advise international students considering studying at Birkbeck to go for it and not be put off by the language barrier – instead it should motivate and inspire you. Also, Birkbeck is so diverse – you will meet such a range of people. I’ve definitely grown to love the UK just as much as Barcelona, if not more!

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Student Circus and Tier 4 Employment

In November, Birkbeck Futures delivered two workshops for international students to set them up for career success.

November proved to be an informative month for Birkbeck’s international students, with Birkbeck Futures offering two key employment events.

Birkbeck Futures is a one-stop service that combines the Careers Service, Enterprise Pathways and Birkbeck Talent to support our students and graduates in their future lives.

On the 5 November, Jenna Davies spoke to a bustling audience about Birkbeck’s Student Circus initiative.

Presenting an insightful and inspiring workshop detailing the British job market, Birkbeck Futures encouraged all international students to explore entrepreneurship. Among other topics, this workshop presented students with an overview of the employment environment in the UK as well as tips and tricks for Tier 4 students looking to a begin their professional careers.

Following the Student Circus event, Lucy Robinson then led a session on Tuesday 19 November which outlined employability for Birkbeck’s Tier 4 students.

In her role as head of the Enterprise Pathways scheme, Lucy shared her insight into student employability and the many ways in which work can support students’ evening studies at Birkbeck, from meeting new people to getting a foot in the door of your future career.

Alongside work, she reminded students of the many extracurricular opportunities at Birkbeck, both in their Departments and delivered by the Students’ Union.

Lucy advised students to plan ahead and work out how many hours they can commit to work and other activities in order to get the most out of their time at university.

By seeking to enhance students’ entrepreneurial skills and to help develop business ideas, Enterprise Pathways provides bespoke support for those looking at starting a business.

For further information about the Student Circus initiative, and all other divisions of Birkbeck Futures, please visit the Birkbeck Futures website.

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Birkbeck student graduates with a first after a coma left her unable to read or write

Odessa Hamilton is graduating today with a first class honours degree in BSc Business Psychology after recovering from trauma that left her comatose. This is her #BBKStory.

I ran a successful business in New York, but that all changed when I suffered a trauma and went into a coma.

The doctors did not expect my recovery, but when I woke, I had lost the ability to move from my mouth down. Speaking, reading, walking: I had to re-learn it all. As if recovering from that wasn’t enough, I then decided to apply to university.

The first year was tough. Having to re-learn how to read meant ordinary tasks presented a real challenge. Initially, I couldn’t decipher between words like ‘cite’ and ‘site’, never mind get to grips with complex vocabulary expected of you as a university student.

Birkbeck gave me the platform to do what would not have been possible anywhere else. Evening study meant I could continue to go to my countless hospital appointments for treatments, tests and therapies during the day. Lecturers and all other staff at Birkbeck were always incredibly supportive and willing to help wherever necessary, which proved invaluable!

My lecturers truly encouraged me to continue my studies, and facilitated such by supporting my applications. After graduating with a first class honours degree at Birkbeck, I chose to study a combined Masters in Psychological Sciences as part of the Brain Faculty at UCL to secure my BPS accreditation. Thereafter, my studies shall continue with a doctorate in psychoneuroimmunology.

My unsolicited advice for anyone considering university with a disability and/or a chronic illness is ‘don’t be afraid to be vulnerable’. We often fear being different or being seen as less than, but your condition is not something to overcome – it just is. No different from someone having to wear prescription glasses. If I can study and do well in my situation, anyone can. All it takes is tenacity, diligence and resilience [and perhaps a dry sense of humour to help you along the way].

I don’t make comparisons and I don’t feel sorry for myself: I just get on with doing my best.

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Surrey resident graduates with sixth university degree

A Surrey man claimed his sixth university degree this week when he accepted his Master’s in European History from Birkbeck.

Dr David Sutherland

Dr David Sutherland

On Tuesday (19 April), Dr David Sutherland took to the stage at the college’s formal ceremony in Senate House, Bloomsbury. The day marked the achievement of his third degree from Birkbeck, and his sixth overall, across an eclectic field of disciplines ranging from the physical sciences, to language and history.

The 69-year-old Limpsfield resident took his first step on the road to academic success in his native Scotland when he completed a BSc in Physics from the University of Dundee in 1969, followed in 1975 with a PhD in Physics. Well into his career in IT – working for the likes of ICL (now Fujitsu) at the European Space Agency – Dr Sutherland returned to his studies, attaining an MSc in Internet Technology from Queen Mary College in 2002.

From then, he began what is now a hat trick of degrees at Birkbeck – London’s only specialist provider of evening university study – graduating with a BA in German in 2007, and an MSc Bioinformatics in 2012.

Reflecting on his study experiences across the decades and this most recent degree – an MA in European History which he undertook part-time over two years ­– Dr Sutherland said the main difference is the “wide range of fellow students”.

He said: “In Dundee, I was with my peer group and there were very few ‘mature students’. In Queen Mary College I was very aware of being the oldest in the class. Birkbeck has people of all ages and backgrounds so it was easier for me, as an older student, to fit in. However, that is not to say the Birkbeck is only for older students, rather, it is for people of almost all age groups. I believe that this is good for both students and teachers.”

He said that although he initially underestimated the amount of effort required to do course work at postgraduate level, he was able to adjust to the pace.

He especially enjoyed researching and writing his dissertation, which focused on the Scottish Continental herring trade in the ‘long 19th Century’ – a topic which is linked to his family history.

He said: “My ancestors came from Wick in the North of Scotland, and it has been fascinating to find out how their livelihoods depended on a trade that extended far into continental Europe – to Vienna, Moscow, Romania, and even Odessa.”

During the process of writing the 15,674-word dissertation, he was delighted to discover how different the study of history has become thanks to the internet.

Dr David Sutherland

Dr David Sutherland

He said: “In particular, the availability of a wide range of government documents from the 19th century, and of newspapers from the same era, made it possible to gather information much more easily than would have been the case in the past. It is also much easier to collate information gathered in this way.”

This week, Dr Sutherland joined more than 150 fellow postgraduate students from the college’s School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy at a morning graduation ceremony held in Senate House’s Beveridge Hall. He was joined on the day by his wife Sheila, who also graduated in the same ceremony with an MA in Comparative Literature.

Also in the audience was his brother-in-law John Walker, Reader in Reader in German Intellectual History at Birkbeck who first encouraged Dr Sutherland to enroll at the College.

In terms of his plans for the future, Dr Sutherland is now setting up a website based on his dissertation (www.scottishherringhistory.uk).

He said: “This website will not only tell the story, but will also present statistics from that period in graphical form. I am hopeful that it will stimulate further research. There has been a lot written about the Scottish side of the story, but this big, important industry would not have existed without logistics, traders and customers on the Continent.”

As something of an expert on the topic of undertaking a university degree, he had some words of encouragement:

“Study – at any age – can be both demanding and rewarding. Do not underestimate the effort. Plan ahead and do not leave everything to the last minute. You will get the greatest benefit from what you are studying if you attend regularly and participate in the work of the class. You will find that the lecturers are glad to help you, and often even a limited amount of guidance can go a long way. Most of all – enjoy what you do.”

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