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Student interview: Studying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK

ucypsga10 July 2018

Yingying Zhang and Lydia Hargreaves have just completed a year-long Mandarin Chinese PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education to become teachers of Mandarin in UK secondary schools.

The tuition on the course draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, a bilateral collaboration with Peking University (PKU) and the Affiliated High School of Peking University, supported by Hanban

We spoke to them to find out about their experiences studying at UCL, and what comes next.

What made you decide to train as a teacher?

LH: Teaching is something I’ve always had a great interest in. I was home educated so I’ve been interested in looking at different ways of education; comparing how I was educated with other perhaps more mainstream options.

YZ: Before I moved to the UK about five years ago, I worked in China, teaching English. I realised I wanted to explore a different culture so I moved to see what the education system is like, and hopefully make a difference.

Your course is coming to an end – how have you found studying at UCL?

LH: The course has affirmed my identity as a Chinese speaker in a way which it never has been before. It’s something I totally didn’t expect, but having native-speaking friends who have accepted me as a Chinese teacher has given me a lot of affirmation. I worried it might lessen my confidence, but it’s actually built it up even more.

YZ: I found it absolutely amazing being able to study at UCL: meeting new students, discovering the culture of different schools on our placements and working with other teachers has been great.

What first attracted you to the course at UCL?

LH: Looking at my options when applying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK, UCL honestly seemed to be head and shoulders above the other options. It was kind of a no brainer for me.

Another really big draw was that I’d be learning about supporting bilingual learners and immigrants to the UK who are developing their English language skills in the UK system.

Yingying, what have you found the main differences to be between your teaching experience here, and in China?

In China, it’s very much teacher-led, while in the UK, it’s very much student-led. Here, almost everything is student-centric – we think from their perspective. In China, most of the time the students follow the teacher’s pace and instructions.

What’s been your course highlight?

YZ: I think the support from our tutors. They gave us such good guidelines. Every time they visited us at our placements it was really encouraging. The environment in each school is very different but with their support it made a huge difference. One of the biggest benefits has also been the encouragement to think outside the box – critically, originally and creatively.

LH:  The sense of belonging and mutual support with the other people who were qualifying has been lovely. It was mostly native speakers of Chinese but also people like myself, and I felt really welcomed.

How does it feel to have both secured jobs in London secondary schools?

LH: It’s a really exciting time to be a teacher of Mandarin. The way in which Mandarin Chinese is being taught in the UK is still very much being shaped, and it’s great that in the years to come I can be really involved with that. It’s quite pioneering – many people from our course will be starting the teaching of Chinese for the first time in their schools.

YZ: The UCL IOE Confucius Institute played a very crucial role in helping us find jobs and my new job is from my first placement, at Harris Academy in South Norwood. Learning Mandarin is very new and popular, and I’m looking forward to helping more students get to know the language and Chinese culture.

Bartlett team hosts ‘Flash-back City’ architecture workshop in Riyadh

ucypsga23 May 2018

Flashback city workshop in RiyadhA team from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture has run its first interactive workshop for architecture students in Riyadh, at Al Faisal University, in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian art organisation Minhaj.

Co-organised by Director of Short Courses at The Bartlett, Sabine Storp, along with first year teaching staff and The Bakerloos, a collective made up of four Bartlett alumni, the ‘Flash-back City’ workshop explored the power of collaboration and collective imagination in urban architecture.

Explaining the structure of the workshop, Sabine said, “Through a gamified interface, participants collectively drew an urban fabric based on crowdsourced memories – creating large scale propositional, collaborative drawings through the collation of personal memories of a city or culture.”Architecture workshop in Riyadh

She added, “The co-founder of Minhaj, Fahad Al Saud, is a Bartlett alumni. Minhaj and I saw an opportunity to expand workshops and short-courses to Riyadh, where the local architectural education is becoming more diverse and exciting.”

Tailored to the unique historic context of Old Riyadh and Ad Diriyah, the workshop was well received by Al Faisal students, with one participant commenting: “It’s exciting and different to any workshop we’ve participated in locally before.”

As a result of the successful collaboration, Sabine and team are now planning a new series of workshops about art, architecture and design, to take place later in 2018.

Resilience, beauty and delicious food: My impressions of Fukushima, Japan

By Guest Blogger23 March 2018

Students on the Fukushima visit in March 2018By Connor Galbraith

I had to double take – tucked away near the bottom of the weekly UCL Student Union newsletter was a call for applicants for a funded week-long trip to Japan, to research and engage with the community recovering from the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima.

I’d visited Japan twice before several years ago as a tourist, and I couldn’t believe my luck that here was an opportunity to visit again in a more, shall we say, ‘useful’ capacity, and help strengthen the already significant ties between UCL and Japan.

After a quick interview in December 2017, I was delighted to be selected by the UCL Global Engagement Office and Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma, a native of Fukushima, who would act as our group leader. Less than a month later, I was on a plane bound for Tokyo – funny things can happen when you actually read your emails!

Intensely sobering

Reaching Haneda airport just outside the city, I joined other Masters and PhD students from the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, as well as students from the UCL Academy. We met a government official from the Fukushima prefectural government, who accompanied us on the four-hour coach trip to the prefecture.

He explained that during the week we would be visiting areas of the Fukushima coastline most severely affected by the 2011 tsunami, and other regions the Fukushima Tourism Association believed would interest international tourists.

We embraced every aspect of the trip – from the relaxing ‘onsen’ (traditional Japanese spa) to the delicious food and drink including ramen, tempura and sake.

This was my third visit to Japan and I have a decent grasp of the language, but I had only a limited knowledge of Fukushima beyond the media headlines that I had read back in 2011 when the world learned about the deadly tsunami.

Affected by a ‘triple disaster’, Fukushima was struck on 11 March 2011 by an earthquake, the resulting tidal wave, and an explosion on the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor.

Seven years have passed since the disaster, but I was still unprepared for what I saw. Pictures and videos in the media cannot do justice to the scale of the impact that day had, especially on the local residents. Moving through the evacuated areas was intensely sobering.

All around us, buildings had been ripped apart by the strength of the earthquake. In a town where the evacuation order is yet to be lifted, I saw through a house with the walls ripped off – you could still see a shelving unit in the hall with the family’s shoes on it, unchanged from seven years ago when they were forced to evacuate.

Environmental and social challenges 

On the trip we learned about the environmental and social challenges the people of Fukushima are facing, such as the underpopulated and abandoned areas of formerly thriving towns. Since then, thorough decontamination efforts have taken place to open the roads back up to the public, and strict food monitoring policies have been introduced to address the unfounded rumours of Fukushima’s produce remaining tainted by the nuclear fallout. An official at the nuclear plant in Fukushima

On the penultimate day, having worked until sunrise the night before to have it ready, I gave a speech in both English and Japanese to local businessmen, press, and government officials at our leaving reception.

It was so important for me to truly convey how moving each and every person involved in the reconstruction effort’s courage and determination to rebuild their lives was to all of us, and I felt doing so in their own language was the least I could do.

I spoke about how the whole community had inspired us with their strength, kindness and sense of humour. A strong local community is essential to disaster management and revitalisation, and we left with no doubt about the future of Fukushima.

Incredible resilience

Since the disaster, Fukushima has received a lot of international attention, focusing mainly on the problems the region is facing; this attention will only increase now Japan is hosting the Olympics in 2020, and I hope that the international press will start to cover the Fukushima that I witnessed across my five days.

The world should know about the delicious food, the beautiful scenery, and, most of all, the world should learn about the incredible resilience of Fukushima’s people as they respond to the disaster with a courage and vigour that should inspire us all.

Japan is more than just Tokyo; visit Fukushima, the prefecture will surprise you.

International Women’s Day: How gender equal is UCL’s student body?

ucypsga9 March 2018

On 6 February 1918, the UK’s Representation of the People Act extended the right to vote to almost all men, plus women who were over the age of 30 and able to meet minimum property qualifications. Ten months later, on 14 December 1918, 8.5 million women were able to vote for the first time.

Going back a further 40 years, in 1878, UCL became one of the first universities in England to admit women on equal terms with men.

This year, to mark these milestones in the march towards equality, UCL has been hosting a series of events and exhibitions. And here at the GEO, we thought it presented a great time to take stock of the progress we’ve made, and analyse in a little more detail just how well UCL is doing in terms of equality – as well as the higher education world more generally.

Steady increase in female students

Taking a look at the gender data graph provided by GEO’s Strategic Data Manager Alejandro Moreno and pictured below, it’s clear that UCL admits more women than men at both post- and undergraduate level.

Since 2007, the overall figure has grown steadily, moving from a 52% female-heavy student population up to 58% in the current academic year.

UCL gender data graph

While there are of course variations from faculty to faculty, the overall number of women studying at UCL is at its highest rate among postgraduate students. In 2017-18, for example, the percentage of female postgrad students is as high as 62%.

Record highs of women at university

The dominance of women at UCL is echoed across the wider UK higher education world. In 2017, record numbers of women in the UK went to university. According to a report in The Independent, the latest figures show that teenage girls are now over a third more likely to go to university than boys.

Data collected shortly before the current academic year showed that across the UK, 27.3% of all young men were expected to go to university this year, compared with 37.1 per cent of young women.

Clearly, the UK has come a long way since UCL first admitted women on equal terms with men. According to the BBC, the latest official figures show 55% of women entering higher education by the age of 30, compared with 43% of men.

Debate rages over the reasons behind this new high in the proportion of women in higher education, with everything from an exam system based on coursework to the underachievement of white working class boys suggested as factors. But taking a broad look at the higher education world indicates that the gender gap can’t simply be put down to a question of economics.

World gender data graph

In fact, more data collection from Alejandro shows that small island developing states are the most likely to see a higher proportion of women in HE (58.8%) in the world, followed by developed countries at 54.6%.

Room for progress

Of course, there is still room for progress. Recent reports show that despite the dominance of women among student bodies, there are still only 27 women vice chancellors in the UK (six in the Russell Group), and only 24% of professors are women.

In addition, as UCL’s Vice-Provost International and Gender Equality Champion Nicola Brewer commented recently in her speech, ‘In praise of difficult women’: “I’m aware that it’s not always a binary choice. And increasingly I’m trying to think about equality through a more intersectional lens.”

Echoing this sentiment and speaking following the launch of a diversity report from the Royal Society of Chemistry last month, Lindsay Harding, senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, noted that there’s a fundamental issue with the collection of gender data.

“Gender data has a big limitation in that it’s collected in a binary way,” she said. “Recent surveys show that 0.4% of the UK population don’t identify with binary gender. We need to look at how we gather gender data to be more inclusive.”

Speaking to UCL’s global student body on International Women’s Day 2018

ucypsga8 March 2018

To celebrate International Women’s Day, this month the GEO spoke to women from across UCL’s student population to find out what they make of studying at London’s Global University.

See the original series on Instagram: @UCL_Global.

Carly, MA Archaeology

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US, Carly says: “Before I came to UCL I went to Princeton which is quite cut off from things in New Jersey, and I much prefer studying here – there’s just so much happening.

“I’m from Atlanta which is also a big city, but one of my favourite things about London is the markets: Borough, Spitalfields, Maltby Street… I also live right by Regents Park, so I can walk to class in 20 minutes.”

Vandita, MA Computer Graphics, Vision and Imaging

Originally from Delhi, India, Vandita says: “I came to London back in September. I chose UCL because of the faculty of Computer Science: I’d heard a lot about the facilities here; the labs and the teachers.

“I love London! In the past few years Delhi hasn’t been the safest place for women, but here I have a lot of freedom of movement. I can come here at 11 at night and stay in the grad hub listening to music and doing my work and I love that freedom so much. I love being able to move around without having to worry too much about my safety.

“I feel like London is a global city. You meet people from all over the place: in my class I have friends from China, from Ghana, from Europe. It really is global! If I get a chance I’d love to stay.”

Risa, third year Anthropology

Risa is now in her third year of Anthropology. “This is my third year in London. Before moving to London I lived in Jakarta, because my parents are diplomats.

“I knew I wanted to study either in the UK or the States and I chose UCL because it has a big name, and for Anthropology it’s one of the leading departments.

“I really like London – other than the weather! I love that there are so many things to do here; you’re never bored.”

Saskia, third year Biomedical Science

Saskia is originally from Germany, near Frankfurt. “I chose London first, and then UCL! I just love to be in an international setting; it’s a great way to meet different people. I live with two French people and most of the people on my course are international.

“When I graduate I’m going to take a year off to do some internships and hopefully combine it with some travelling. My first internship is in Cyprus and I’d like to go to Barcelona. In Cyprus, I’m going to be working for a stem cell bank; they collect the umbilical cords from all over the world and extract culture the stem cells.”

Explaining her subject choice, Saskia said: “I was always into biology. I work in a lab where there are almost only women. My supervisor is a woman too.”

She also joked, “The last lab that I worked in had an internship at the Cancer Institute and there were only one or two men working there – I’ve been lucky!”

Afikah, second year Medicine

Asked what she makes of UCL so far, second year Medicine student Afikah says: “Well, it’s in London and I don’t think there’s a better city! It’s also one of the best places to study Medicine. The research here is innovative and beyond anywhere else – especially in neuroscience, which is an area I’m really interested in.

“I keep changing what I want to specialise in. In sixth form it was paediatrics. In my next year I’ll be intercalating and I’ve chosen oncology, so I don’t know what I’ll end up doing.

“I live in North West London. I love the multiculturalism in London. Being a person of colour, it’s so nice seeing other people from different ethnic backgrounds and being able to connect with them. The diversity is absolutely amazing.

“You can do anything you want here; everything is around. I’d love to travel – that’s something I’m really interested in – but London’s where it’s at!”

Pauline, MA Financial Mathematics

“I did my undergrad in France, close to Paris, at an engineering school called Centrale Supelec,” says Pauline. “There’s a joint diploma between my school and UCL and so instead of going back to my school for the last year, I decided to come to UCL.

“I’ve lived in London since September. What I like about UCL is how huge it is! It’s like a campus within the city. You always have loads of students all around and there’s such diversity. I love the fact that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; it’s completely different to France, which is a lot stricter. Here I like that I have more time to study by myself.

“I’d like to start my career in London and then eventually move back to Paris. In the industry I work in, finance, it’s moving a lot, and there are lots of opportunities here.”

Why I’m proud to be a UCL student making a difference on the world stage

zchaael27 November 2017

UCL student Abdul Elmi at the One Young World summit, ColombiaGrowing up, I never imagined that at the age of 21 I would be given the opportunity to fly to Colombia to join the likes of Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, and others to debate how we tackle world issues. Yet, a month ago I was honoured to represent not only the United Kingdom but also UCL at the ‘One Young World Summit’ in Bogotá, Colombia.

As the first generation of diaspora, born in the UK but with parents from Somalia, I feel well placed to represent the reconciled interests of both my motherland and my country of birth, and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with a similarly diverse group of people.

Championing the need for support of minority voices was one of the key messages I took from the summit. Sir Bob hailed the next generation as the key to solving global issues, while Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President of diversity and inclusion, impressed the need for young people to have a role model. They certainly hit the nail on the head.

Mentoring has made a real difference to me so I was thrilled to hear these inspirational voices talk about the value this can add to someone’s life. Having access to the support of community groups such as Bright Education Centre combined with sheer dogged determination lead me to the successes I have achieved so far.

I now work as an Outreach Manager for Bright Education Centre to encourage others to achieve their aspirations, by running educational workshops and coordinating university advice days. Crucial to this communal effort is providing young people with opportunities to maximise their potential, and provide alternatives to the culture of crime prevalent in so many London boroughs.

It is equally important to harness our fortuity to help those abroad. Just recently Somalia was hit with the most fatal attack in the country’s history. A truck bomb planted in the centre of Mogadishu claimed the lives of over 350 men, women and children with hundreds seriously injured. The scale of the attack makes it one of the worst terrorist attacks in the world. Rescue workers said a definitive death toll may never be established because the intense heat generated by the blast meant that the remains of many people will never be found.

Somalis are resilient against violent extremism. But this is different. Everyone in the city has lost someone or knows someone who was injured. Some of those who died were described as the breadwinners; as a result, many families are suffering. Two weeks ago, I led a fundraiser and I made a pledge along with many other young people that evening. I pledged to not only stand with those suffering at the hands of this horrendous attack but to also raise £1000 for the cause. The amount I raise will go towards African Relief Fund, a charity on the ground helping the sufferers recover from the attack.

So please join me in my attempt to help the victims of this senseless attack. Please share the following link and donate: https://www.gofundme.com/bvxx9p-mogadishu-attack-appeal 

It’s not an easy fact to acknowledge, but the truth is that millions of people across the world are looking to us for assistance. And although some may feel like our contributions could never be as far reaching as to impact those on other continents, I demand you rethink.

This collective effort requires individuals from every age, race, ability and walk of life. I am fully aware that the capabilities of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome.

Abdulkadir Elmi | @abdulelmi

UCL student opportunity: visit Fukushima in 2018

Sophie Vinter14 November 2017

Delegates at the 2016 UCL visit to Fukushima PrefectureUCL students with an interest in Japan can apply for a fully-funded opportunity to visit Fukushima during January 2018.

Fukushima Prefecture, with whom UCL has a longstanding collaboration, is inviting two students from any discipline to join a ten-strong delegation to visit from 15-21 January. Delegates will include staff from UCL’s Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, EPICentre and UCL Academy.

Students can find out more about the opportunity at a Q&A session with Professor Shin-ichi Ohnuma, UCL’s Japan Ambassador, on 24 November 2017 at 12.00-13.00 at UCL’s Confucius Institute (15 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS).

The prefecture will fully support the UCL team visit, including the cost of air fare, accommodation, meals and in-country travel.

The successful students will be asked to contribute social media and blog posts about their experiences while they are in Japan, as well as taking part in a group presentation about the visit.

Active collaboration

Tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011The Japanese islands face an extraordinary range of natural hazards – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides and tropical cyclones.

In 2011, East Japan suffered from a huge earthquake and tsumani, which killed many people along the coastline. The tsumani affected the Fukushima Nuclear power plant, which resulted in wide-level contamination by radiation. Many people in Fukushima are still suffering from this damage.

UCL decided to contribute to the recovery of Fukushima and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fukushima Prefecture in 2014.

How to apply

Students can attend the Q&A session on 24 November for further information about the visit.

To apply please email the below details by 2 December 2017 to Sofia Shamim in UCL’s Global Engagement Office with the subject title “Fukushima Fieldwork and Visit – YOUR NAME”.

  • Your full name
  • Status (staff/Phd student /MSc student) and stage
  • A one-paragraph biography
  • A one-paragraph research or study proposal
  • A one-paragraph impact statement.

Please also indicate:

  • Whether your passport has a visa requirement for entry to Japan
  • If the visit will contribute to your PHD/MSc research or your undergraduate study
  • Your level of Japanese language (although this is not a pre-requisite).

Please note students need to obtain permission from their course organisers.

Small world, big experiences: exploring student mobility at UCL

uclqjle19 October 2017

This week, the Study Abroad team is running its annual Study Abroad Fair, celebrating the breadth and variety of UCL’s outward mobility opportunities and encouraging students to take full advantage.

UCL has exchange agreements with over 250 institutions in 40 countries across five continents, including 48 of the world’s top 100 universities.

Data compiled by GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno, indicates that in 2016, UCL students participated in outward mobility experiences in destinations ranging from Los Angeles, California to Avarua, New Zealand.

The map below highlights the cities where these experiences took place:

Cities where UCL students have participated in an outward mobility experience

UCL Study Abroad also provides students with different exchange and mobility options. This pie chart shows the percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available.

 percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available

UCL students who have participated in an outward mobility opportunity – whether spending a year at a prestigious American university or a couple of months excavating historic sites in Israel – have recommended it as an extremely worthwhile experience.

Here are a few student testimonials.

Alexandra Willems, Law

“There is something very heartening about travelling halfway across the world and still finding people to complain about Eduroam with, in whatever language that may be.”

Alexandra Willems in ShanghaiAlexandra Willems was one of six UCL students to join the summer Study China Programme 2017 – an immersive three-week Mandarin Chinese programme.

Reflecting on her experience, Alex said: “The main aspect of the trip that has stayed with me was the high level of organisation. There was a clear system of support, as well as a timetable and a placement test for the Mandarin Chinese Advanced Level speakers.”

students and monks during temple visitShe added: “The programme included an afternoon of seeing the main sites in Shanghai, including the Bund, People’s Square and the Shanghai Museum, but much of our free time allowed us to explore our own personal interests in the city. My favourite place that I visited this time was the little-known underground Propaganda Art Museum, legally allowed but only in a restricted location”

“In all, the Study China Programme is an amazing opportunity that is organised to a very high standard. Many thanks to all those involved in making it the insightful and educational experience that it was, and I am only saddened that I cannot do it again. Someone else will have to live that experience for me in future programmes, and what a lucky one they will be.”

Eshitha Vaz, Population Health

“The course has shifted and tilted my perspectives as to what it means to be a student.”

Eshitha surfingEshitha Vaz was awarded one of the Study Abroad tuition fee free places at the University of Sydney.

At the University of Sydney, she got the chance to study Aboriginal Culture and History. Speaking on the impact of the course Eshitha said: “I feel I have become more culturally literate in the process and more aware of socio-political currents which have enhanced my career aspirations in turn.”

On her time in Australia, Eshitha added: “Certainly, the personal highlights of the time I spent in Australia were the friends I made and the places I got to visit. As recommended by our programme, I participated in a three-day ‘Surf Camp’ at Seven-Mile Beach in New South Wales where I learned how to surf. It was here that I formed my best friends throughout the trip, some of whom were studying at different Universities and schools in Sydney.”

“The landscape and natural beauty of Australia is undeniably powerful which is why I was so grateful that our timetable facilitated exploration. Two of my closest friends and I took a flight to Cairns, Queensland on a weekend and managed to go scuba diving and snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef: one of the seven ‘Natural Wonders’ of the world and the world’s largest coral reef – an experience of a lifetime.”

Moiz Paracha, Chemical Engineering

“From Penguin Colonies to roaming through the Hout Bay, there is so much to do.”

moiz paracha in cape townMoiz Paracha was part of the first UCL outward mobility experience to the University of Cape Town, where he joined the Sustainable Water Management in Africa course.

On his time in South Africa, Moiz said: “This was honestly an amazing experience, not just on an educational level but also on a personal one. The willingness and desire they have to genuinely make a change to the country is really what caught my attention. The experience, in general, is very eye-opening. The type of new people you can meet and the calmer pace of life is a great cultural experience.”

Reflecting on the landscape, he added: “The beauty of the country is phenomenal. Overall if you’re even vaguely thinking about applying, go do it because it’s something you won’t regret.”

To find out more about what opportunities are available to you and to read more student testimonials, visit the UCL Study Abroad website and follow them on Twitter @UCLcares.

Data visualisations courtesy of GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno

Hola Colombia!

zchaael17 August 2017

abdul-elmi_testAbdul is a fourth-year UCL medical student and President of the UCLU Somali Society

I’m sitting here writing my first ever blog thinking about where should I start. I suppose the logical place to start is the point at when this opportunity became a reality.

A few weeks ago, I was in Saudi, trying to withstand the blazing heat, feeling tired, fasting and doing all of this without Wi-Fi. I returned to my hotel room from the Great Holy Mosque of Saudi to an email notifying me that I had been selected to represent UCL at the One Young World (OYW) Summit in Bogotá, Colombia in October.

One Young World

Attending the summit has been a burning desire of mine this past year. One Young World brings together young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with this in mind I would like to take this opportunity to thank UCL for making this possible.

February Fundraiser

My desire to effect positive change in the world really took flight earlier this year when I became heavily involved in a range of fundraising initiatives and events to raise money for the Somali Drought Appeal. Through the February Fundraiser, a student-led initiative organised by Somali Youth for Integrity (SYFI) bringing together Somali societies from different institutions, including UCL, we managed to raise £120,000 for the Somali drought. The organisations united under a common goal, to provide aid to those suffering at the hands of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

UCLU Somali Society, in particular, organised a series of successful fundraising initiatives for the February Fundraiser. The highlight was Inspire, where we managed to raise £40,000, in collaboration with Elays Network and Bright Education Centre. After this event, I was surprised to see how many UCL students got involved with the cause.

The UCL BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) Students’ Network allowed the Somali Society to fundraise at the end of the Black Lives Matter events. As a result of this opportunity, we managed to raise an extra £2,000. This was an eye-opening experience as it allowed me to see first-hand the potential we possess as students and that if we work together we can achieve anything.

Copyright Human Appeal, which ran the provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people
The outcome

The money raised during the February Fundraiser, in collaboration with UK charity Human Appeal, provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people and host communities. It also provided clean and safe water to vulnerable households in Dolow and Luuq districts. The project will rehabilitate community owned water infrastructure to improve suitability and ownership as well as improve hygiene awareness and enhance the food security of vulnerable households.

One thing that is clear from all the amazing work done by students on campus is that more and more young people are discussing important global issues. Not only with regards to humanitarian affairs, but also political matters such as the current debacle regarding university tuition fees and the NHS.

The future

My hope is that I will return from the summit with a clear vision of how I would like to use my newly elected position, as the next President of the UCLU Somali Society as well as the Vice-President of SYFI, to start discussions regarding some of the world’s most pressing issues. I would also work to provide plenty of opportunities for individuals to make a difference.

I feel that it is of utmost importance to involve students in these discussions so they can provide a unique insight into potential solutions. I want to inspire students to do more for those in need. I would like more people to become motivated and involved. We are the generation that should solve a lot of the world’s issues so it is really important for us to work together effectively to make strides to overcome them.

Last but not least, I’ve enrolled myself onto a Spanish language course and have already started to practise my salsa dancing with ‘Despacito’ on loud. Hola Colombia, I’m ready for you!

Images © Human Appeal

Ask an academic: UCL Summer School

uclqjle26 July 2017

Hayley Gewer, UCL Centre for Languages & International EducationHayley Gewer (UCL Centre for Languages & International Education) runs a UCL Summer School module called ‘Global London: Contemporary Urbanism, Culture and Space’.

The course enables students from around the world to take a global city (London) as a pivotal concept from which to explore a range of considerations around contemporary cities, including their own.

Could you tell us more about the course?
The course was set up specifically for the summer school. It is a short three-week course that really invites students to look at urban complexities, urban contradictions and urban opportunities within a very short period. Students are invited to come and learn about London, to explore theoretical concepts and to practically engage with what the city has to offer in terms of contemporary urban processes.

We look at considerations around multi-ethnicities, transnationalism, inclusion and exclusion to understand how migration has shaped the city of London and how it represents the global world through one city. We look at considerations around urban culture, cultural production and urban change – looking at processes like gentrification, vernacular culture, ordinary culture and manufactured culture – to understand how London is currently a city of cultural diversity but also a city of cultural homogeneity.

How do students interact with the city?
The course really hopes to provide students with an opportunity to explore how cities have been shaped, who is involved in shaping them, who benefits from shaping them, and who doesn’t, and to take a critical lens to not only London but their own cities and cities all around the world.

Students are also given the opportunity to share with each other in the classroom; this is complemented by fieldwork where students are encouraged to use a range of research methods to explore the urban. It is quite experimental – they are encouraged to use sound and film as a way of engaging with specific places that we visit. They are also urged to really explore how the theoretical approaches that we do in the class room apply or don’t apply to the areas that we are visiting.

How does the course cultivate a global perspective?
The course uses ‘Global London’ as a pivotal concept to explore a range of urban considerations. We take the concept of global cities as a starting point where we explore the process of globalisation and the ‘world cities/global cities’ concept that has emerged from that.

Students are invited to critique the concepts and to think about the broader implications of these hypotheses. We then counteract the global cities hypothesis with more post-colonial considerations of cities around the world and all the time students are encouraged to reflect on their own cities, to share information and to learn from each other.

Students come from all over the world to study on the summer school and this course really invites them not only to experience, learn and think about London, but then also to go back to their own cities and hopefully to relook at their cities with new eyes, given what they’ve experienced on the course.

How has this been for you, participating in the summer school?
It has been a very enriching experience, because it is really invaluable to hear from a wide range of experiences, to learn from students themselves about their own unique urban spaces but also for them to share. Students are young so they are bringing in a lot of new information I might not have been exposed to and they are also able to create linkages between information I might not have been able to make. It’s a very rewarding experience.

I think for UCL as a whole it is great to have students from all the world, even for a short period of time, because students are able to see how well-located UCL is, the facilities that at here, the professionalism of the teaching and the environment that students learn in.

Even though some students might only be here for a short time, it might be that students return to do post graduate studies in the future.