UCL News


Seven Questions with... Sam Fardghassemi

4 March 2020

This week we meet third-year psychology PhD student Sam. Here, Sam – who currently runs guided meditation sessions at the Student Centre – explains how meditation can help you beat exam stress.

Sam Fardghassemi

What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I am studying my PhD in psychology looking at why many young people are lonely today. I am interested in this topic because I have a passion for studying wellbeing and bringing happiness to people. We have discovered some really interesting findings about the causes and experiences of loneliness among young people today and my plan is to design interventions that can tackle loneliness and bring about happiness.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I would say my interviews with young people about their experience of loneliness. It was one of the most impactful experiences of my life because I had to interview young people from deprived areas and from lower social-economic backgrounds in London. Visiting them at their homes and hearing their stories had a huge impact on me. It made me see life through a different, broader lens. In addition, young people opening up to me about their sense of loneliness, insecurities and other feelings and challenges in life seeded a greater a sense of compassion in me that I have never experienced before. I would say, definitely my experience with conducting my research was the most interesting and unforgettable thing I have done.

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

I would say Café Neo on the fourth floor of the IoE. They have both hot and cold lunches and the price is usually about a pound cheaper than that of the main student canteen. They have food for people with any dietary restrictions (veggie, vegan, halal, etc.) and the staff are really nice.

Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

  1. Check out Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. It is like a small village-looking, colourful courtyard with cute indoor and outdoor cafes and restaurants. It is really pretty and full of atmosphere, and very much like a secret garden away from the crowd.
  2. There is Hotel Chocolat café in Covent Garden on Monmouth Street near the Seven Dials that makes lots of really tasty coffees and hot chocolates, such as hot dark chocolate, hot mint chocolate and lattes with different mixes.
  3. If you are into movies, check out Leicester Square’s Cineworld cinema. They have a 4DX cinema, which transcends the 3D experience. Your experience is maximised in that you really experience moments in the films you watch. For example, the chair you sit on moves in accordance with the action happening in the movie and if, let’s say, it’s raining, snowing or windy in the movie, you actually get little rain or snow drops on you or experience wind. It is really interesting. I would recommend trying it at least once.

If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do?

My study finds that many young people today are under a lot of pressure in terms of achievement, success, physical appearance, working, and acceptance and how others perceive them…and social media seems to magnify this sense of pressure. This is not healthy at all and puts many young people at risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. If I were the Provost for the day, I would definitely think about easing off this sense of pressure.

UCL should consider bringing in mentors, career guides and life couches to help students with these issues. It would be even better if these issues are tackled earlier before students fall into mental health problems. It would also be a lot more cost-effective when it is dealt with before the onset of the issue than having to treat it once it has passed to the stage of mental health problems. In addition to this, many young people’s lives are online on social media and because of the nature of these online platforms, social connections may lack depth and meaning. I would consider organising small face-to-face gatherings or meeting for students where they are exposed to activities that can bring a sense of meaning to them and they can share feelings, experience love and compassion and also be completely who they are.

Who inspires you and why?

Rumi inspires me. He was a 13th century Sufi mystic poet. I love his poetry; it is very inspiring and uplifting. For example, one of my favourite lines of poems by him is "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.”

What would it surprise people to know about you?

When I was 15, I jumped into a frozen-surfaced lake for a swim in the middle of a super cold winter in Northern Canada.