Volunteer Stories: Luna Irshaid
From mentoring to chairing the first Arab alumni association at UCL, we're celebrating alumni volunteer Luna Irshaid this Volunteers Week.
6 June 2019
“My time at UCL gave me a lot more than just my education. I had a great time here, I got the chance to explore things through clubs and societies, and to meet amazing people. That all shaped who I am. So I’ve always had this love for UCL and I like to come back and add value where I can and how I can.” Luna Irshaid - Chair of the UCL Arab Alumni in London Association
As well as furthering your knowledge and skills, life at UCL provides a platform for making lifelong friends and fostering far-reaching contacts, which can potentially open up career opportunities long into the future.
Luna Irshaid came to London in 2008 to study Mechanical Engineering and Business Finance. But it wasn’t just the course which brought her here. She says: “UCL is a very international university, so I thought it would be a great place to come and study. London itself is a very international city as well – I feel like it’s the centre of the world.”
She may not have known it back then, but Luna would eventually go on to make her own significant contribution to London’s cosmopolitan academic culture.
Luna graduated in 2011, then completed a masters in Project and Enterprise Management. She went on to work as a project manager for the Mayor of London, then took up a role at a Qatari/French investment company before starting her own business dealing with the UK real estate market. But having volunteered in various capacities while studying, Luna was keen to keep her link to UCL alive. And three years ago, she thought of a great way to do it.
“I noticed that there wasn’t a single university in London that offered an Arab alumni association,” she says. “I think that there’s a lot to explore when it comes to Arab culture and Arab business. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to set up the UCL Arab Alumni in London Association, for anyone who’s interested to join.”
Through social and networking events including business talks, career mentoring and panel discussions, plus gallery events, film screenings, a book club and more, Luna’s group has fostered community spirit, increased understanding of Arab issues and helped create many useful connections. But in the spirit of inclusivity, Luna hasn’t just restricted the membership to UCL alumni. She explains: “Because it is the only Arab alumni association in London, we’ve opened our doors to include alumni of other universities. We have members from Kings, Imperial, SOAS and University Of London. Overall it’s been a very enriching experience.”
Running the UCL Arab Alumni in London Association has made Luna a key spokesperson, and over the last three years she has talked fondly of her UCL experiences and shared invaluable advice at the International Student Orientation Programme events – helping almost 6,000 students in total to prepare themselves for life at university. She is also part of the Alumni Online Community, acting as a mentor to a number of real estate, economics and finance students.
And while giving up her time for free has undoubtedly helped many others, Luna also feels she gets a lot of benefits in return. “I think it’s great to volunteer with UCL,” she says. “There are so many different ways in which you can do it. And when you add value and put in effort, you see the value that you’ve put in.
“Volunteering with UCL gives you the opportunity to give and teach, but also to learn, and it’s a network that never stops creating opportunities.”
To find out more about volunteer opportunities and to join the UCL alumni online community, visit uclalumnicommunity.org.