Meet Syeda, one of our Aziz Foundation scholars. Find out more about her journey to UCL, her experience of applying to the scholarship and the opportunity it has given her.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am currently pursuing a Master's degree in Museum Studies at UCL, driven by a deep passion for contributing to the transformation of the heritage sector. My interest in this subject is rooted in a commitment to decolonizing museum institutions, recognizing the crucial role they play in shaping our understanding of history and culture.
My academic journey at UCL began with a first-class honours Bachelor's degree in History, an experience that laid the foundation for my exploration of diverse perspectives and critical analysis. Returning for my postgraduate studies reflects not only my commitment to academic excellence but also my desire to actively contribute to reshaping narratives within the cultural and historical landscape.
As a young British-Pakistani Muslim, I bring a unique perspective to my academic pursuits. This multicultural background has enriched my understanding of heritage, allowing me to appreciate its diverse dimensions. Inspired by the works of Edward Said, particularly his insights on postcolonial theory, I am keen on applying these perspectives to challenge traditional narratives and promote inclusivity within the museum space.
Beyond academics, I am an avid reader, delving into literature that spans a wide spectrum. This not only enhances my understanding of various cultures but also exposes me to critical theories and concepts that contribute to my academic and personal growth.
Tell us about your experience of applying for the Aziz Foundation scholarship
My journey with the Aziz Foundation scholarship began with a serendipitous discovery through a friend who shared insights into the Foundation's impactful work. Learning about the scholarships designed to support British Muslims pursuing postgraduate studies who wanted to contribute meaningfully to the Muslim community immediately resonated with my aspirations.
Motivated by the Foundation's commitment to empowering individuals and fostering positive change, I eagerly embarked on the application process during the first cycle. In my application, I articulated how my academic and career goals align with the Foundation's mission, expressing a deep-seated commitment to making a positive impact within the Muslim community.
Alhumdulilah, my dedication and alignment with the Foundation's values were recognized, and I received the offer—an affirmation of the shared vision I have with the Aziz Foundation in working towards the betterment of the Muslim community. This scholarship not only serves as a crucial support for my postgraduate studies but also represents a meaningful partnership in realizing our collective goals.
What opportunities has it given you?
The Aziz Foundation scholarship has opened doors to a multitude of opportunities, profoundly shaping my academic and professional trajectory. Primarily, it has provided the invaluable chance to pursue advanced education, equipping me with the knowledge and skills essential for my envisioned future roles. The financial support has significantly alleviated the burden of educational expenses, allowing me to focus wholeheartedly on my studies and professional development.
Beyond the academic realm, the scholarship has been a conduit to a broader community. Through the Aziz Foundation network, I have had the privilege of connecting with like-minded individuals who share a commitment to making a positive impact within the Muslim community. This expanded network has proven instrumental not only in terms of professional networking but also in fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.
Moreover, the support provided by the Aziz Foundation extends beyond the financial realm. The mentorship and guidance I have received from the Foundation have been invaluable, offering insights and advice that go beyond the classroom and contribute to my holistic growth as an individual and a future professional.
In essence, the Aziz Foundation scholarship has been a transformative experience, providing not just financial assistance but a supportive community, valuable networking opportunities, and mentorship that collectively enhance my educational and professional journey.
What attracted you to UCL?
My attraction to UCL can be traced back to my initial encounter during the undergraduate search process, particularly through the insightful experience of an open day. What captivated me about UCL was not just its prestigious reputation but the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere I observed on campus.
The warmth and assistance provided by the staff and students during the open day left a lasting impression, creating a sense of belonging and community that resonated with me. The visible diversity on campus further affirmed that UCL was a place where various perspectives and backgrounds were not only welcomed but celebrated.
Additionally, UCL's central location in the heart of London, a city renowned for its cultural richness and global influence, added to its allure. The prospect of being in a cosmopolitan environment, coupled with UCL's world-renowned status for academic excellence, convinced me that this institution was not only suited to my academic goals but also offered an environment that encourages intellectual exploration and personal growth.
Moreover, my experience with the History department during my undergrad, specifically the incredible staff, attracted me to continue to study here. Moreover, the commitment to diversity and helping BAME students, which I personally experienced through my role with the departments Awarding Gap project, convinced me to stay and pursue postgraduate opportunities.
What aspects of your studies do/did you enjoy the most?
I derive the greatest satisfaction from the research-oriented environment that UCL provides. The institution's emphasis on fostering individual research initiatives has been a cornerstone of my academic experience. UCL actively encourages students to delve into their own research pursuits, offering a platform where curiosity is not only welcomed but cultivated.
One of the aspects I find particularly enriching is the availability of incredible resources that facilitate in-depth research. UCL's extensive libraries, access to a diverse range of academic publications, and the access to a wide range of sources we have due to the universities museums and collections have empowered me to explore topics in depth and broaden my intellectual horizons.
The freedom to engage in independent research, coupled with the robust support system and resources at UCL, has not only deepened my understanding of my field of study but has also allowed me to contribute meaningfully to ongoing conversations within the academic community. It's this emphasis on research and the wealth of resources available that truly sets UCL apart and makes my academic journey here both fulfilling and intellectually rewarding.
What advice would you give prospective students coming to UCL?
To prospective students, I would advise you take advantage of UCL resources. UCL offers a wealth of resources, including libraries, research facilities, and academic support services. Familiarise yourself with these resources early on to make the most of them throughout your academic journey. Also build a network; connect with professors, classmates, and professionals in your field of study. Networking can open doors to opportunities such as internships, research projects, and future career prospects.
I would also highly recommend exploring London. Take advantage of living in one of the world's most vibrant cities. Explore its cultural attractions, historical sites, and diverse neighbourhoods. Attend events, exhibitions, and performances to make the most of your time in London. Also, embrace diversity! UCL is a multicultural and diverse institution. Take this opportunity to engage with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. It will enrich your learning experience and broaden your worldview.
What are your future ambitions and how do you think that being a UCL student will help you get there?
My future aspirations centre around a career in museums and the heritage sector, where my primary focus is on championing decolonization initiatives and fostering inclusivity by opening up institutions to a broader audience. The exceptional support provided by UCL Careers is a cornerstone in shaping my journey towards these ambitions. Through their comprehensive resources, workshops, and personalized guidance, I am equipped with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of the job market within the cultural sector. The tailored assistance from UCL Careers not only aids in honing my professional skills but also enhances my understanding of the evolving landscape in museums and heritage.
Moreover, the inclusion of a placement in my course at UCL is a valuable asset. This practical experience allows me to immerse myself in the day-to-day workings of the field, gaining first-hand knowledge and skills crucial for success in the sector. The exposure gained through this placement is invaluable in applying theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios, preparing me for the challenges and responsibilities of my future role. Beyond the formal structures, the support, advice, and connections fostered with UCL staff contribute significantly to my growth. Establishing relationships with knowledgeable and experienced professionals provides me with insights into industry trends, potential opportunities, and effective strategies for navigating the nuanced landscape of museums and heritage. This network not only broadens my perspectives but also opens doors to potential collaborations and mentorship opportunities.
In essence, being a UCL student is a dynamic and holistic experience that synergizes academic excellence with practical exposure and a robust support system. It is through these facets that I believe UCL will play a pivotal role in propelling me towards my aspirations of contributing to decolonization efforts and making cultural institutions more inclusive and accessible.
Describe your time at UCL in three words
Interesting. Belonging. Nurturing.
About the Aziz Foundation
The Aziz Foundation was established in 2015 by the Aziz family with the objectives of reducing inequality in education and addressing the social challenges faced by British Muslims. The foundation provides financial and professional support to aid career advancement and empowers recipients to bring positive change to their communities, industry and society as a whole.