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Case Study: Marjan's Story

Marjan's Story

Marjan's Story

"Now I am not at all afraid of my disability”

 In 2005, Marjan Kalanaki broke her back in an accident in her native Iran, resulting in limited mobility which dented her confidence in ever finding her dream job. Ten years later she won a scholarship to study MA Computer Science at UCL, which she describes as a life changing opportunity. After graduating in 2016, she won a one year internship at Total Gas & Power and says: “I am now certain that my physical limitations can never prevent me from being a productive member of society.” This is her story.

Two years ago, studying at UCL was only a dream for me.

I knew I’d be competing against many talented students from around the world. I graduated with a first class bachelor’s degree from the University of Hertfordshire in Sound Design Technology; however, mostly due to my disability, I could not find a job. With my degree I could become a sound engineer, but employers expect a junior sound engineer to do some physical activities - such as microphone positioning and carrying devices - for which I could not make a good candidate. Additionally, most recording studios are not wheelchair friendly. I believed that I had the talent and knowledge; not being able to make use of them was disappointing. Following this realisation, I really wanted to study postgraduate Computer Science. I was pretty confident that I could become a programmer based on my result in a programming module I did in my undergraduate course and, more importantly, programming only requires a computer and doesn’t involve any physical activity beyond my capabilities. Almost all companies need to hire employees for their IT department, and so finding an employer who is wheelchair friendly would no longer be such a challenge. 

A second chance

After filling in the UCL application form, I searched for scholarships for which I could be eligible. The deadlines had passed for all except one called the Brown Family Bursary. It was actually the best one as it would cover the whole cost of the tuition fee plus some living costs. There was one day left to the deadline and I had to rush not to miss it. I barely imagined that I could be selected for this scholarship but thought that applying would bring me no harm. A few months later I received the offer to study at UCL. I was very happy but then all the banks I approached refused my request for a loan because without a job I had been unable to build credit.I did not want to lose my chance of studying at UCL. I was thinking of deferring my offer to the next year while I tried to find a basic job in order to save money. All of a sudden, miraculously, I received an email from UCL saying that I was selected for the Brown Family Bursary. I couldn’t believe it and there was no one around me to express my feelings to, so I had no choice but to keep screaming for a few minutes! I’m sure that moment will stay with me as one of the most remarkable of my life.

Studying has changed my life

Studying in UCL has brought me more than I expected. It has changed my life. I am now a different person. I am not at all afraid of my disability. I am very confident that I will bring value to each company I work in. My communication skills have dramatically improved thanks to all the teamwork projects I’ve been involved in at UCL. I have been to several job interviews and could see that it was my knowledge being considered, and not my physical weaknesses. One very fortunate outcome was that I have been given a one-year internship offer from the company Total Gas & Power, fulfilling a dream of mine. I began my internship in June this year and am experiencing some of the best times of my life. 

I hope that I have got over the hump and will be able to climb the ladder of success more smoothly. In any case, I am certain now that my physical limitations can never prevent me from being a productive member of society. In September 2016 UCL will launch a major new philanthropy and engagement Campaign to raise more money than ever before for student scholarships & bursaries and to support projects to improve student experience, such as the new student centre.