Tag Archives: youth

Overcoming an initial language barrier 

Originally from Italy, Martina Innocenti chose to study an MSc in Childhood, Youth and International Development at Birkbeck because of the in-depth course content and the flexibility evening study afforded. From being incredibly worried that her language skills might hold her back academically, to winning multiple prizes for her dissertation, this is Martina’s story.  

pic of Martina Innocenti

Martina Innocenti

I kept saying to my tutor, ‘I’m not good enough to do a Master’s 

I moved to the UK one year before starting my Master’s. At the time, I couldn’t speak English well.  was taking language classes and working with early years children as Montessori early years educator. When I got accepted into Birkbeck, I was happy but I was also very worried about the language barrier, like I wasn’t good enough to do well in my studies because of it. I kept saying to my tutor, ‘I’m not good enough to do a Master’s – maybe mentally I’m ready to do it, but practically, I have this limitation.’ She encouraged me every step of the way, eventually suggesting that I convert to studying part-time rather than full-time, which made such a difference.  

Being a part-time student was amazing 

Being a part time student was amazing! It allowed me to continue working and gave me the vital time and space I needed to gain confidence in my English. I had time to really explore and deeply understand the specialist subjects I was learning about. It meant that I could actually enjoy the process of studying. 

My language proficiency did not represent my intellectual capability 

Now, when I consider that I was conducting evening interviews with youth in Peru, reviewing 50-page transcripts in Spanish then translating them to English and analysing data, all whilst working, it makes me feel quite proud. I was able to speak, work and think critically across two languages, neither of which were my native tongue, to gain very insightful data about something I’m passionate about. When I found out I won the Children, Youth and International Development prize for my dissertation, I couldn’t believe it! Then when I also won the Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality prize, I saw it as proof that my language proficiency did not represent my intellectual capability. 

I felt like a proper researcher! 

I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to do my master’s over two years, and Birkbeck’s approach to structuring my course options was brilliant. I had room to grow at the pace I needed to become fully knowledgeable about my area of study and approach my dissertation with the attention, intensity and critical thinking it deserved. I felt like a proper researcher! Having a part-time structure to do all my literature reviews, data collection and analysis, and write the dissertation was empowering; I felt like I was able to give my best. 

It was all just a matter of confidence 

I realised through my Birkbeck journey that I’m a competent and multi-skilled professional, it was all just a matter of confidence. It took a while, and multiple strategies, to build this confidence. For instance, I made an effort to see my classmates in non-academic settings, so I could get more comfortable with listening to and speaking English. I also reached out for help whenever I could, asking my friends, housemates and tutors to review my writing style and feedback wherever possible. And I shared my thoughts and frustrations with my dissertation supervisor, who was a source of great inspiration and support. In the end, my determination combined with the support I got, meant that my dissertation was a uniquely valuable intersectional contribution to literature and research about Latin American working children.  

Further Information:

Find out more about studying MSc Children, Youth and International Development 

Find out more about being an International Student at Birkbeck  


‘Riot From Wrong’ Film Screening

This post was contributed by Fraser Alcorn, an LLB Law student and member of the Birkbeck Law Society.

The media coverage of the riots that swept through London last August may have decreased in the past few months, but the realities of many of the social injustices that brought them about are still being felt. ‘Riot from Wrong’ is a documentary film created by a group of 19 young people that intends to get to the underlying issues that led to the widespread social unrest and to challenge the perception and media representation of those involved. Birkbeck Law School and student Law Society hosted a screening of the film and a Q&A with the filmmakers at the Birkbeck Cinema on Saturday 24 November.

Primarily focusing on the local community in Tottenham where Mark Duggan’s shooting at the hands of police began four days of mass civil disobedience, but bringing in stories from across London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, the documentary is unique in gathering perspectives from those involved in rioting and looting alongside interviews with politicians and journalists. The filmmakers have succeeded in producing a slick and insightful examination of the complex realities behind the riots, moving the focus away from the rhetoric of a ‘feral youth’ and onto the unfair and prejudiced treatment of whole communities. Citing the 75% cuts to Youth Services budget, police mistreatment and stereotyping of young people through ‘stop and search’ procedures, as well as tracing the Thatcherite obsession with the individual to the detriment of society, the film provides a strong condemnation of the short-minded policies that produced and continue to produce a young population with few opportunities. That BBC News had commissioned the young filmmakers to produce a piece for broadcast – the first time this has ever been done – should stand testament to the quality of their work.

L-R: Teddy Nygh, Alex Simpson, Kye Taliana, Philli Glenn, Eddis Ozcelik.

Four of the team involved in making the film kindly joined us for a Q&A after the screening; Alex Simpson, Kye Taliana, Eddis Ozcelik, and Philli Glenn, along with director Teddy Nygh. Feedback from the audience was resoundingly positive and the team proved to be an engaging and thoughtful bunch to talk with. Considering that they experienced the beginning of the riots first-hand while filming, and put the film together as blame was being piled upon an unfairly demonised youth, their level-headed and considered opinions were heartening. That’s not to say they shied away from demanding that the powers that be need to take responsibility for their actions, and with around 30 screenings under their collective belts, including one at the Houses of Parliament, their direct approach is making waves in the right places. Far from resting on their laurels though, they talked about their desire to get more young people motivated in their cause with their ‘Million Youth Movement’, together with plans to shoot a new film explaining how to get involved in local politics with the intention of giving more voice to young people in Britain.

The ‘Big Society’ is a horrible term that suggests that people need to be reminded to care about our own communities. It too easily takes ownership of the positive work of a few and claims it as proof of the value of a valueless government initiative, where in fact that work has happened despite the absence of state support. This film is the product of a group of young people coming together in the most positive way possible to create something truly informative and perceptive, and it would be quite wrong for it to be held up by government as an example of how the young ‘should’ behave; Britain’s youth should hold it up to government to demand to know why they are having to address and resolve issues they had no hand in creating.

The next public screening is at The Salisbury in Tottenham on Sun Dec 9th. For more information follow the team on Twitter @UKFullyFocused & @RiotFromWrong . Watch the trailer here.

Follow Birkbeck Law Society @BirkbeckLawSoc or contact us at birkbecklawsociety@gmail.com