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Q&A with Sumaiya Khan

Coming to the end of her Education Studies BA degree, UK student Sumaiya looks back at her university experience and her next goal of qualifying as a primary school teacher.

Hi Sumaiya!

What were your first impressions of UCL?

I was quite nervous as I come from a small town where not many people attend prestigious universities. I had reservations of whether I would fit into UCL. However, I was really surprised to see the diverse student body. There was also a strong support system in place to help us settle in. 

We had transition mentors, who were able to share their experiences and give advice on adjusting to university life. We also had a personal tutor who continued to check in on us throughout the year. Although it was an overwhelming experience, I settled in really well due to the support of staff and peers who were also experiencing similar emotions.

What do you enjoy most about your degree?

Throughout the three years, I have enjoyed studying modules from different disciplines including sociology, psychology, law and philosophy. The multi-disciplinary nature of the programme is beneficial as it has allowed me to discover my hidden interest in policies and politics in the education system. I have, therefore, chosen to combine both my interest in policies and social justice in my dissertation.

My favourite module is Educating and Organising for Social Justice. Within this module, we had the opportunity to work with the charity, Citizens UK to develop our team-building skills and community organising practices. During the third term, we were able to put the skills into action. We developed and carried out workshops across schools in London to raise awareness of the governments' hostile immigration policies. We got schools, children and parents involved in the campaign. We also conducted research within the schools and produced a research report that was presented to the Department for Education.

Through this project, I felt that we were able to get some justice for the children, families and schools that are affected by these policies."

I also really enjoyed the module Media Education in Schools. We learnt how media, films and technology could be implemented within the curriculum more widely. We also had the opportunity to produce and edit a short film that was screened in the British Film Institute. We were truly able to be creative and step out of our comfort zone.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while studying?

Time management. In the first year of university, I found myself submitting essays minutes before the deadline. This was due to two particular reasons; my inability to use independent study time effectively and my lack of judgement on the amount of time required to complete an essay. Throughout the years, I have learnt the importance of setting small everyday goals and planning ahead to effectively manage multiple assignments, portfolio tasks, and presentations. I have also become better at using study breaks efficiently by dedicating time to focus on academic work as well as time to socialise. I am now able to balance university, part time work and social life. I definitely think you develop time management skills throughout the years at university. 

What do you hope to do after graduating?

I have chosen to do a PGCE at UCL next year to become a qualified primary school teacher. Selecting a profession was very difficult as this programme opens up a variety of career paths. In the second year, I spoke to the UCL Careers Consultant, who was very helpful in listening to my interests and discussing different career possibilities, and also had a one-to-one interview coaching session.

What has your experience of moving to and living in London been like?

London is very diverse. I have had the opportunity to study with people from all over the world. This is beneficial, especially when discussing the education system as everyone has different schooling experiences and different perspectives on issues. This has created interesting discussions and debates that have definitely broadened my way of thinking.

Another benefit of studying in London is that there are a number of libraries, museums, galleries, cafes and parks. The British Library, The British Museum and Senate House Library are just a short walk from the IOE. These are great places to study and have ongoing events and exhibitions throughout the year. I regularly like to change scenarios and discover different places to study. I come from a small town where we only have one museum and one central library; therefore, I have really benefited from the range of facilities available in London.

Which places on campus do you use the most?

UCL has a number of libraries that are specialised in each subject. I mainly use the IOE library as it has most of the books and resources that I need for assignments and exams. It is also quick and easy to find a space compared to other libraries, and the online website allows you to check the number of available spaces. Library and ICT staff are also available throughout the day and are very helpful in finding books, historical materials and resolving computer issues. IOE has also opened a new study area which I find perfect for reading. There is a more relaxed atmosphere; you can talk, eat and do work. The Student Centre is also a great place to study and meet people outside of your campus. 

The online UCL library catalogue has been my go-to search engine for the past three years. It has most of the books available online in the form of e-books; hence it is easy to access from anywhere and possible to highlight and annotate.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I work during the weekends at a retail store where I have gained transferrable skills. During the week, I regularly volunteer at a local primary school where I lead one to one and small group activities, organise the classroom and assist breaktime activities. This has allowed me to align some of the theoretical concepts that I have learnt during the programme to real-life practices.

Through volunteering, I was also able to discover my interest in teaching."

I also attend some of the events that are organised by the Islamic society. UCL has hundreds of societies to choose from and is an excellent way of meeting people from different degree programmes. Outside of university, I spend a lot of time exploring London with my friends and finding new restaurants to eat.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Due to the small number of students on the programme, I did not feel like a number, I really felt that my lecturers recognised me and provided personalised support. Also, as a student, I am given a voice to express any concerns and provide feedback through a variety of platforms that are available. Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the programme leaders have worked very hard behind the scenes to make changes to assessments to accommodate the current situation.