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Current MA Human Rights students Farah Khokhar and Laura Coe discuss their experience of the programme so far...

Laura Coe, MA Human Rights

Human Rights Student Sep 20/21

Why did you apply to Political Science, UCL?  

I knew I wanted to pursue further studies in human rights and the taught masters at UCL stood out as a great course. Due to my social science background, I liked the fact that this course belonged to a political science department (as some human rights masters elsewhere are in law departments) and that I would be able to select optional modules from other courses. There is such an exciting selection of masters courses in the political science department so you really benefit from being able to chose modules across masters programmes. It is also a great way to learn from students on other masters programmes too. I was also drawn to the practical aspects of my degree that seek to prepare you for a career as a human rights practitioner. This includes several advanced methods modules, carrying out your own research dissertation, and a variety of interesting coursework formats, such as a group project writing up a human rights NGO-style report on an issue that matters to you.

Why come to London to Study?

One of the main draws of studying at UCL is the chance to live in London which is such an exciting and global city. Even despite the ongoing uncertainty and restrictions of COVID-19, moving to London has been such a fantastic step. Especially as a postgraduate student it is a great way of finding a balance between living as a student but also finding your own way in London. Despite teaching being all online, there have been several in-person lectures and the library facilities are all open safely. I have loved using the library as a way to see the beautiful campus, have a different working environment and see other students. There is definitely enough going on in campus to make living in London a lot of fun, and hopefully things will begin to open up more and more next spring.

What were your first impressions of the department?

The political science department has been such a fantastic support throughout the application process and during the first stages of my degree. Because UCL is such a big university you can sometimes feel a bit lost. But the political science department has been an anchor during the application process and a key point of contact for any queries I have had. In particular, the political science postgraduate admissions team responded quickly to sort my problems with module selection and this support helps iron out any issues that may crop up as you start your studies at UCL. Since starting my degree, the department has been really supportive. Academic staff are encouraging and always happy to chat in office hours or by email. I have also found the other department services such as careers newsletters and events a huge support for planning the next stages of my career.

What is the rest of your cohort like? Have you managed to meet them?

My peers on the human rights programme are such a great bunch of people that really make the masters course so interesting. As there are a lot of discussions in seminars that draw upon people’s individual life experiences or examples from the countries they are from it has been amazing to see and learn so much as we have a really diverse cohort. Everyone is very friendly - we have WhatsApp chats for the course and for mini seminar groups so the cohort is extremely supportive of each other. There have also been a few small and safe socially distanced meetups, but I am hoping to meet more people properly when COVID restrictions allow.

What is online teaching and learning like?

Online learning takes some adjusting to, but not as much time as you would think! Initially it was frustrating at not being able to meet people on my course and I was worried I would miss out on face-to-face teaching. But in fact, I have found it to be quite effective and online learning allows you to have control of your day-to-day structure and manage your time in a way that works for you. Lectures are recorded in advance and delivered asynchronously meaning you can watch them when and where best suits you. It also gives you a chance to go at your own pace and rewind, something I have found crucial for some of the more demanding theoretical lectures. The format of lecture videos is also very engaging. Seminars are synchronous and delivered on zoom. They were initially daunting, but once I began to settle into my seminar group, I have found the sessions very useful as everyone is engaged and wants to contribute. Being online also suits shy people like myself as speaking in seminars online is much easier! They have definitely challenged my understanding and built on what I have learnt in lectures.

What do you like best about your course so far?

The human rights course is a really exciting introduction to a lot of new ways of thinking/approaching issues. Having read geography for my undergraduate degree, a lot of this masters course requires new skills. I have enjoyed the challenge of learning about law, reading cases and applying law to examples we discuss in class. I was worried that not having a background in law would make this tricky but we start from the basics, so this has been a great new skill to learn. As well as the legal side, I have had to engage with philosophical debates and ideas in our theory module. This has been challenging but rewarding and made me think and engage with materials in new ways.

Would you recommend your programme to prospective students in your home country and why?

I am a domestic student here in the UK but I have lived in Singapore for the past eight years. I would therefore recommend this course to any UK home student or overseas student because it is incredibly global in its outlook and has something to interest everyone. There is also a lot of scope to shape research projects depending on your own individual interests/areas of interest or expertise so I would highly recommend the course to anyone who is interested in human rights issues!

What are your career aspirations and how do your envisage your Masters helping with these?

I would like to pursue a career working in either a research, policy or advocacy capacity within the charity or non-governmental organisation sector. I am particularly interested in supporting migrant groups. This career aspiration was largely my motivation for taking this masters course as it perfectly equips you with the expertise and skills to be able to tackle human rights issues as a practitioner would. This real-world applicability of what we learn in the masters makes it a great option for anyone seeking to work in the charity sector.

Farah Khokhar, MA Human Rights

Human Rights Student Sep 20/21

Why did you apply to Political Science, UCL?

I really liked the course outline. I felt like there was a good mixture of international law and current human rights issues which have allowed me to get a full and extensive understanding about the functions of human rights in the world. 

Why come to London to Study?

London is such an exciting, wonderful and everchanging place. I come from a small town just outside of London, so the big city was a huge change for me, but one that I have absolutely loved. Whether that's wondering down tiny alleyways into lit-up tree landscapes, or finding an amazing independent Korean BBQ or an amazing vintage shop, London never fails to surprise you in the best way. 

What were your first impressions of the department?

I met with Kate Kronin Furman- the department Head for Human rights - before I even accepted my offer, and she was so welcoming. She spoke to me for about 45 minutes and allowed me to go through any questions, silly or not, and was really encouraging. I had never had such a warm reception from a prospective university and she really made me feel confident that this course, and UCL, would be the best place for me to continue my studies. 

What is the rest of your cohort like? Have you managed to meet them in these times?

Luckily, I am living with someone who happens to be on my course and that has been wonderful. She is from Egypt and we have been having cheese board nights and going out for dinners as much as we can. I also reached out to someone after a zoom call in which she detailed she lived in the same area of London as me and I thought it would be great to meet- we got on super well and ended up going to a pub quiz together! Of course, without Covid-19 we would have more chances to meet but we have still managed to meet people from the course in so many ways!

What is online teaching and learning like?

Initially I thought online teaching would be really challenging but in reality,  it has allowed me to work at my own schedule. Being able to pause lectures and jot down notes is a luxury we simply don’t have when a lecturer is speaking in real time. In this sense, online teaching has been a wonderful and arguably a more rewarding experience!

What do you like best about your course so far?

I really enjoy learning about the human rights atrocities that happen across the world. Whilst it may not the most positive or happy of subjects, I am so interested in how much change is needed and it keeps me motivated to study and practice human rights in the future. 

What advice would you give to other overseas students wanting to study in the UK? 

Come! The UK, even with a lockdown, has so much to offer. Whether that's eating at outdoor markets or just going for a really lovely stroll around any and all parks, London is a truly exciting city to be a part of. 

Would you recommend your programme to prospective students in your home country and why?

My masters is an eye-opening, constantly shocking, and intriguing subject and that is what makes it so wonderful. 

What are your career aspirations and how do your envisage your Masters helping with these?

I am planning on working in the civil service as a diplomat through the diplomatic fast stream. However, if I don't do this, I plan to work for a Human Rights organisation that strives for equality for women and people of all races.  I think my masters will have given me the academic foundation to actually analyse and understand human rights violations in a methodical and clear way.