Editor’s note – Widening access to higher education to the so-called ‘non-traditional’ students has become quite an important target for Universities in the UK. It is known to improve the outcomes and opportunities for people who would not otherwise get such chances. On the Aspiring Professionals Hub, we like to share inspiring stories about people from diverse backgrounds with interesting and inspiring stories about their experiences or career successes. In our latest ‘Reflections’ article, Anna shares her experience of higher education as a mature student and hopes her experience would serve to inspire others.
I am 46 years old and in my second year of an MSc degree in Social Work. I was one of 5 children raised by both parents who struggled financially due to unemployment. I left school at the age of 16 with two standard grades- Music and Art. I then went onto work in a shoe shop under the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). At the age of 17 in 1988 I started working in an electronics factory, this led me to working in international companies. However, as the electronic industry began to decline, with many people facing redundancies, I decided to take the step and go to college where I achieved a national certificate and higher national certificate (HNC) in social care in 2005.
In today’s study chat, Amara shares her discussion with Cynthia Ochoga, the President Elect of the Student Union at the University of Salford. Cynthia shares from her perspective as an international student and offers advice on managing the opportunities and challenges within Higher Education to maximise your experience. Enjoy!
APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?
CO: My educational pursuit began at Home Science Nursery and Primary School, Ikoyi Lagos. In 1998, I moved on to Queens’ College Lagos for my secondary school education.
In 2006, I attended the University of Lagos where I undertook a diploma in Cell Biology and Genetics. By second year it became apparent to me that science was not a field I wanted to pursue and then left Nigeria to Middlesex University (MDX) Mauritius campus in 2010 and studied Psychology and Counselling. In 2014, I went to Oxford Brookes University and did a conversion to Law degree (GDL) as my 2nd degree and in September 2015, I came to University of Salford for my MSc in Media Psychology and I’m half way through it at the moment.
I have worked in a number of different roles too. My first job was a three-month internship at Action Health Incorporated. In 2010, prior to moving to Mauritius, I followed my passion in journalism and worked as an intern at a radio station in Nigeria.
While studying at MDX, I was elected president of the International Students’ Society for Mauritius campus. I also joined AIESEC, an international youth development organization and rose to become Vice President of External Relations which I did simultaneously with my role as President. In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked for a month with the Mauritius Institute of Directors as part of a team that delivered an international conference.
After graduation, I went to Nigeria to participate in the NYSC programme. Since then, I have worked with BBC Media City as a research assistant for Mozfest 2015. I have also worked in a customer services role for Doddles Parcels in Manchester. I recently resigned to take some time out to prepare to take on my new role as the President of the Student Union at the University of Salford.
You started out your Higher Education journey in the Biological sciences, what spurred the switch to Psychology? Was it a smooth transition?
Recently, we featured an article on the Art of Acting by Shauna Blaize, an actress, model and film producer. In the article, Shauna shared her perspective and the “reality” facing budding actors in the film industry. In today’s post, Shauna reflects on how type and often race play a part in casting choices and how she is showcasing her own abilities as an actor and a producer.
We all have a type and when casting directors look at us they see the girl next door, the sassy girl, the best friend, the leading lady, etc and quite frankly it may not be what you or your friends/family see when they look at you. But again we are not looking at our personalities or our inner essence; we are looking at ourselves with a critical eye, knowing the type we fit into and how we can sell that type. In other words how our type fits in with the need they are trying to fill.
Type has a few branches; it’s not only if you have straight or curly hair, if you wear glasses, or if you are short or tall or have a “look” that is more on the “businesswoman” side versus a “hippie chick.” It goes deeper than that. For instance I need to know that as a Black woman I will be viewed for certain roles. Roles such as the neck twisting/”around the way” type girl. If you want to go even deeper, I am a woman of mixed ethnicity and “light skinned” so I will be viewed as that “pretty light skinned chick” from the projects that is considered a “prize” because let’s be honest, I have a lighter complexion.
We look at Kerry Washington (Scandal) and recent Emmy winner Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) and it seems that it’s all good for actresses of color but we are still quite far behind.
As the popular saying goes, ‘The only constant thing in life is change.’ It is essential as an aspiring professional to develop the capacity to manage change. Navigating through new ‘territory’ comes with challenges but it can provide opportunities for growth too. In this article, Hephzi, reflects on the first year of her laboratory based PhD and how she is managing her – not so common – move from an industry background into academia.
After 8 years of working in industry, I decided it was time for a different challenge. When I received news of being awarded a studentship to pursue a PhD program, I was obviously overjoyed. I had spent about 2 years searching and applying for a suitable PhD program and I had finally achieved my goal. Interestingly, the offer came with a BUT… The following clause had been included –“As your route to academic studies is a bit circuitous, it would be good if you could write a covering letter that states why you want to do a PhD after your time in industry.”
“How interesting,” I thought. The clause seemed contradictory to what I had heard at various conferences and workshops I had attended over the last few years while carrying out my research to inform my decision to pursue a PhD program. I had always thought that industry loved academic recruits and that academics would value industrial experience. Since moving into academia, I have come across academics looking to move into industry, with little success. It now seems to me that this is not the reality of the situation. Industry and academia are not necessarily viewed as two sides of the same coin.
Are you a researcher, masters, PhD or doctoral candidate with your fated ‘viva/defence’ looming? In this article, Dr Nadia Anwar reflects on her viva experience and shares tips making your viva a positive experience. Good luck!
The term ‘viva’ comes from the Latin phrase viva voce, which literally means ‘by word of mouth’ or ‘with living voice’. It is somewhat surprising that many people, although possess sufficient information about oral examinations and face to face interviews, have no substantial knowledge of the term viva voce and what really goes into preparing for it. The main reason for this is that popular terms used for viva in England are oral examination and post-submission interview or assessment. In countries like India and the US, the word is translated as verbal defence which has pretty much the same connotation as the word viva. The difference is that whereas the former is conducted in a form of seminar or presentation in front of a large group of specialists and non-experts – sometimes including colleagues, friends and family – followed by rigorous Q&A, the latter is done in the privacy of a room and under the critical eye and observation of examiners.