Having been born to Iranian parents in Denmark, I suppose I was bound to be somewhat of a cosmopolitan. Of course this meant that I always had an incessant desire to explore as much as I could from outside my country of birth. My interest in social justice led to an opportunity to become an exchange student in the US, and at the age of 15 I embarked on an experience, which would guide my trajectory towards a career in international politics. I’m currently in the third year of a BA in Politics with Business Management at Queen Mary, aspiring to go on to studying international human rights law. A lot of the afore-mentioned, particularly my parents being refugees, has led me in this direction. Crucially however, it’s the experiences I have had, especially while here at Queen Mary, that helped me on that path.
Besides the generous help received from the Students’Union in my first year when I endeavored to start a magazine venture tackling political apathy (Politics Made Public), the University’s Careers and Enterprise Centre helped me fund the development of ‘favourful’. Favourful, like most of my extra-curricular engagements, has a social purpose to fulfill; in this case, allowing for the exchange of services or favours, for gifts rather than currency. Working on favourful was invaluable, and proved very useful during my participation in the Cambridge Long Vacation Scholarship Scheme this summer.
Although the scholarship is given primarily for the purpose of conducting research towards one’s dissertation, I was eager to get involved with an actual human rights research project at Cambridge University. Having chased up a number of academics persistently, I got involved with an academic project called “The Whistle”, a digital human rights reporting platform, led by Dr. Ella McPherson at the Department of Sociology and the Centre of Governance & Human Rights, in its very early stages. I joined the project as an intern and developed the website thewhistle.org, and helped conduct extensive market research across the digital human rights sphere. Following the conclusion of the scholarship scheme, I was invited to stay on the project as a Research Assistant, and am still working with the project which has now received funding from a significant corporate partner.
One of the most noticeable things about Queen Mary is the abundance of opportunities, if students choose to get involved. Having served as the Humanities & Social Sciences Faculty Representative in 2014/2015 put me in the fortunate position of being offered to fly to Hong Kong to participate in the University Scholars Leadership Symposium. The symposium gave 1800 students from around the world the opportunity to engage with leaders in the sphere of humanitarian affairs, to work with issues such as poverty and refugees. Crucially, the sheer diversity of nationalities and cultures present gave a truly holistic perspective on the concerns and issues surrounding the topic, as well as a platform to share experiences, which would serve as the cornerstone of potential solutions. I have never been at the center of such international and high profile networking. And yet, all of us could come together in our experience of the depravity we experienced volunteering in Mong Kok. In the aftermath of the symposium, several of the delegates, myself included, maintained our contact with the leaders and peers we had met, and started collaborating with them on various social ventures.
As I look back at my experiences at Queen Mary in the midst of writing applications for US law schools and postgraduate programmes in human rights in the UK, they all culminate in two realizations: The importance of networks, built through getting involved and meeting new and interesting people at university; as well as not being scared of saying yes to an opportunity, however difficult or out of your league it may seem.