Tuesday, 28 January 2014

My year at IDS: Learning, friendship and an English winter

By Nadia Masood, MA Development Studies 2012-13

It all started during an official visit to Manila in December 2012 

After dinner my brother, who works for UNICEF suddenly asked me what my future plans are. I said, “What do you mean? I am working quite well and satisfied with my Government job in Pakistan.”

He said still, I need a foreign degree to polish my professional skills and this can be done best at IDS in the UK.

I thought he was kidding: me starting studies after a 6 or 7 year gap? No way. Plus, I am already too occupied with my new official project running successfully, that I thought perhaps this is not the right time to study. Anyway, after so many discussions, I decided to go to IDS for a Master's in Development Studies. Also, I knew this institute because of the work of Robert Chambers, and having a foreign degree from the UK is perhaps the most suitable option for international students from Asia.

I came here with lots of fear. First, as I will be studying after a gap of 6 years. I had completely forgotten academic writing, plus the education system is completely different in the UK, so coping with that was also challenging. The second concern was facing the rough, cold weather of the UK since I belong to warm country like Pakistan, where the temperature goes as high as 50°C. Dealing with winter in the UK is real trial, I must say. The third fear was living in a new place and adjusting to life in student housing with people from different backgrounds.

I landed in the UK and moved onto campus

My new flatmates, all Sussex students, helped me to adjust. Then at IDS, meeting James Prescott, the course administrator, my course convener Hayley MacGregor, and attending orientation sessions with Robert Chambers helped to lessen my fear. 

Finally, when I met my fellow students, most of them with experience between 5 and 15 years; the same as me, I said to myself “Yeah I am at the right place at the right time.” 

Gradually the year passed - which was mixed in terms of fighting with illness, struggling with assignment stress, and on a personal level, losing 5 close relatives. However, due to extremely helpful teaching faculty and library staff, and above all my lovely class fellows, I was able to keep going. IDS is an open space where every person is somehow an encyclopaedia. The more you talk with them the more you gain knowledge and information. I guess those practical discussions that IDS offers adds more value to your learning than anything else. In terms of the course, I liked how MA Development Studies offered a critical analysis of the theories, concepts and debates, and the best part was that during the second term it offers multiple course options, which helps one to choose their areas of interest, such as governance, politics, gender, and health.

After finishing my studies, I managed a smooth transition to London as I got job immediately. Although I always planned to work back in Islamabad, this temporary experience helped me to get an insight in to the work environment of the UK. Now, after spending a few months in London, I must say that Brighton is good for studies and student life, while for jobs London is best - though luck also plays a major role too.

Moreover, during this time I was also able to meet the new batch of students from Pakistan that joined IDS in September 2013. It was lovely meeting them, and I hope that every year the number of students from Pakistan will increase.

Now, the time of graduation and my time to leave has come

Yes, I am extremely excited to be awarded the degree. Hard work has paid off and I will be sitting among all those lovely people who came here with same nervousness and excitement regarding a new country, new people, and above all new studies. I am extremely happy that the purpose for which I came to IDS has been achieved and I am leaving on a happy note. Though I am going to miss my life at IDS, at the same time what I have learnt from IDS and my IDS family will surely add more value to my professional career in future.

Thank you once again, IDS.

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