Iffah joined Warwick in October 2016 as one of our first Singapore Trust scholars. Follow her blog below to find out how she's getting on!
On 24 July 2019, I graduated from the University of Warwick with first-class honours in Politics and Sociology! To think 3 years has flown by is surreal. – I felt so honoured and grateful to be celebrating my graduation with fellow friends and family. Without their support, I would not have come this far and the day was as much about celebrating their support as it was celebrating my success. I wore a traditional dress called ‘baju kurung’ as a homage to my roots and wider community back home, who have been pivotal to my success.
My family, including my immediate family, 2 aunts and 2 cousins, came down to the UK to witness my graduation. For most of them, it was their first time coming to the UK and I enjoyed showing them around my home for the past few years. While they enjoyed the sights of London, there was an unfortunate heatwave occurring during that week with temperatures soaring up to 38 degrees Celsius on some days! I brought them to local iconic sites like Portobello Market, Hyde Park and Bicester village.
It was a proud moment to celebrate with my friends as well. While it was a joyous occasion, it was also bittersweet knowing that we would be in different places in a few months. I definitely will miss having the luxury of showing up at friends’ houses in a moment’s notice. I also got to exchange some graduation gifts with friends. My aunt had kindly ordered some custom-made cookies to celebrate my graduation. I received some goodies like chocolate from Ecuador and Indonesian treats, which I enjoyed thoroughly! I even went to my favourite Asian restaurant afterwards to bid a proper farewell. I'm friends with the owner and it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the restaurant, which has been a major source of comfort over these few years.
In all honesty, graduating with a first-class degree was no easy feat. I experienced a myriad of challenges this year, which tested my patience and endurance. Over the Spring break (March & April), I was juggling 6 essays while experiencing some health issues. Mid-way through the break, I decided to seek medical help as I was at my wit's end. While I was thankful there was an explanation behind my condition, all the medical appointments were quite disruptive to my routine. I also had to be mindful of making sure I was taking care of myself. I’m thankful that I had a great support network to tap on to get me through a tough time and remind me to take care of myself.
Upon my arrival in Singapore, my mum greeted me with flowers! I also got to see the new Changi Jewel after seeing countless people post pictures of it on social media. Since I’ve been back, I’ve taken time to catch up with beloved friends and family. Moreover, I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with my supervisor from my internship last year and meet some alumni for career advice. I’ve taken time to reflect on my university experience this past few weeks. – I’m immensely grateful for the opportunities the scholarship has given me and the trust the trustees have given us. As one of the pioneer recipients of the scholarship, I’m honoured to have been picked as it means the trustees saw potential in me. I hope to be able to be in a position to give back in the future too, not merely financially but knowledge-wise or giving other people access to opportunities.
After my exams, I took a 5-day trip to Venice and explored the surrounding islands as well. I’ve always heard of how picturesque the city is and experiencing it in person is truly breath-taking. – I still find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that Venice is a city built around canals instead of roads and the city is built on a lagoon. I enjoyed exploring the city by foot and taking the vaporetto (water bus) around.
I went sightseeing at some of the city’s famous buildings such as Saint Mark’s Basilica, which is famous for its architecture. As the church lies at the Piazza San Marco, I took the chance to explore the surrounding sights like the Doge Palace. I also went to the Rialto bridge, which is the oldest of the 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. The bridge consists of 3 walkways and the wider central walkway has rows of small shops selling goods like jewelry.
I also took the chance to explore the surrounding islands of Venice. One of the highlights of the trip was definitely going to the Lido beach to enjoy the sunshine and heat. I’ve always found the sea calming so after a hectic year, I relished just being in the sun and not worrying about deadlines or work. I also took the chance to try out my new film camera that I got as a birthday present.
One of the perks of taking public transport everywhere on this trip meant I could splurge more on delicious food! One of my favourite dishes I had here was seafood pasta. Over the course of the trip, I had so much mussels, squid and prawns. Of course, I couldn’t leave Italy without trying their pizza and tiramisu, which were the best I’ve tried.
While I wished I had more time to explore other cities in Italy, I had to head back to the UK as I had an interview in London the following week. A recruiter had reached out to me during the exam period regarding an operations role with an asset management firm. After 2 rounds of interviews, I had a longer interview and tests at the firm’s head office in London. While I did not get the role, it was a good learning experience as it taught me how to sell my skills and practice my interview skills.
A day after my interview, I headed to Scotland to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend from Singapore, who’s now studying there. A group of us rented an AirBnB near Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Being in nature was such a refreshing break. – We enjoyed doing typical summer activities like having BBQs. It was lovely to experience a more communal living situation as 10 of us shared a house over a few days and we took turns doing errands like cleaning and buying groceries.
Over June, I made so many exciting memories with both new and old friends. One of the things I truly cherish about my time in university is having the ability to plan small trips with friends and having the freedom to explore new places together. While the prospect of my friends being in disparate places globally is exciting and sad at the same time, I will miss how international the Warwick community is.- This appreciation for diversity is something I hope to experience wherever I am in the future.
Looking back at the last few weeks of term 3, I feel relieved that I’ve conquered the essay deadlines and exams. Having to juggle back-to-back deadlines for 6 essays after Easter break and going straight into exam preparation was no easy feat. I definitely could not have done it without the support of my fellow peers and family.
The saying “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” encapsulated my journey this past term. I had to ensure I planned out my time wisely to ensure I had adequate time to finish all my assignments and preparation to the best of my ability while ensuring there was enough time for rest. The last thing I wanted to run into was rushing an assignment only to feel burned out afterwards and potentially affecting other deadlines. I relied largely on group study sessions and partnering up with course-mates to hold each other accountable and keep disciplined. I found collaborating together to share notes and exchange feedback on each other’s essays have been the most effective ways to study. All our hard work has definitely paid off and I’m happy to say I will be graduating from Warwick with first-class honours!
Now that exams are over, I’ve been pre-occupied with planning for my graduation- 7 members of my family will be coming down and for many of them, it will be their first time exploring the country so I am excited to show them around. Furthermore, I’ve also been busy continuing my job search and am currently in the midst of preparing for an assessment centre coming up.
While everyone has always told me time flies by in university, it is now that I truly understand what they mean. It is surreal to think I’ve now completed my undergraduate journey. While finishing up my final undergraduate essays, I’ve grown to realise just how much my ideas have evolved and matured over these past 3 years. Beyond the academic realm, being able to discuss and debate ideas with individuals from varied backgrounds have enriched my personal perspectives.
Over the past few weeks, I have been busy catching up with friends before they leave for their respective homes. Meeting friends and enjoying what’s left of university has truly made me cherish the experiences the scholarship has granted me with- Both the hardships and fun moments have shaped me to be the person I am today. Over the next few weeks, I will be travelling to Venice, Italy and Scotland- Can’t wait to get some much-needed relaxation after a hectic year!
Over the Christmas break, I managed to take a short get-away to Spain. It was my first time there and after hearing so many anecdotes about the beautiful country from my friends, I was excited to finally be able to travel there. Over the course of a week, I went to Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid with a dear friend from back home, who is also studying in the UK. While I was only in Barcelona for 2 days, I managed to soak in the country’s amazing architectural sites and visit their famous markets. Being able to tour the La Sagrada Familia, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, was definitely a treat. The building is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, which was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Admiring the stained glass while the evening light was shining through was a moment I’ll cherish forever. While walking to the church, we got to view another of his famous buildings- The Casa Milà, is a modernist building and there was an art installation occurring on the day we were there. As someone who has been practicing an art form, theatre for the past few years of my life, seeing the legacy of his works was inspiring. His dedication to his art and consistent focus is something all visitors can appreciate and take away, regardless of their backgrounds.
In Valencia, I got to visit the markets, which were especially busy leading up to the festive season. Walking around and soaking in the busy environment was so much fun on its own. Of course, no visit to Spain would be complete without eating their food. While visiting the markets, I got to try their fresh produce. We also had tapas and their seafood dishes were mouth-watering. One of the highlights of the trip for me was trying octopus for the first time! While we were in Valencia only for a few days, I was glad to be able to soak in the sunshine and blue skies before heading off to Madrid.
Madrid was our last stop- While I got to enjoy the Christmas markets and usual treats like churros, visiting the Sabatini Gardens was awe-inspiring. Following a Neoclassical style, the gardens had well-trimmed hedges and trees in symmetric geometrical patterns that look like a maze! The garden, which was adorned with a pool, statues and fountains, are part of the Royal Palace in Madrid. I enjoy being in green spaces during my trips so spending an afternoon just walking around was so relaxing.
My week in sunny Spain away from the chilly winter in UK was filled with beautiful memories of learning more about the country and trying their local cuisine. It also allowed me to catch up with a dear friend I rarely get to see and made me appreciate how much we’ve grown as individuals. The trip was a perfect way to end the year and reflect on the past year, 2018, before ushering in the new year!
It’s almost surreal to think I’ve just finished my last Term 2 at Warwick. As cliché as it sounds, time really does fly by! While I’ve been busy working on assignments and job applications, this term has truly been a memorable one. As I was involved in running Warwick ASEAN Conference (WAC) last year, I thought it would be a good idea to attend another student-led conference at Warwick. Since I had heard numerous good comments about last year’s Warwick Africa Summit, I decided to attend this year’s as a delegate. I was interested in the conference as like WAC, this was a region-based conference however, their scope extended beyond socio-political issues to include the cultural scene.
Over the 2 days, we were treated to a variety of panel talks from issues of governance to topics on innovation and the creative arts. I enjoyed how the panel discussions managed to bring together experts from various fields, who managed to provide fresh and insightful perspectives. One of my favourite talks was by Karim Anjarwalla, a managing partner at a leading corporate firm in Kenya, who gave a keynote speech. He spoke about how civil advocacy drove Kenya’s legal ban on single-use plastics- A fact I didn’t know till this conference! The country’s strong presence of environmental advocacy and commitment to renewable energy was truly inspiring. Through the conference, I also managed to make new friends and meet friends I just haven’t seen in a while. This weekend was truly a fulfilling one- The intellectually rigorous and passionate environment affirmed my decision to be at Warwick.
Another highlight of this term was celebrating Chinese New Year with my friends. While it is not an event I celebrate with my family, it is nevertheless a festive holiday back in Singapore that holds fond memories of school celebrations with friends. We went to a restaurant in Leamington Spa and enjoyed a spread of food! Many of my friends at the dinner were people I’ve worked with during last year’s Warwick ASEAN Conference so it was a good opportunity to reminisce past memories and share our future plans.
During reading week, I went to Lisbon for a short break to visit a friend who was doing an overseas exchange there. She was one of my first friends I made during university so it was great to see her again!
I was grateful to enjoy the sunny and warm weather in Portugal. Lisbon was full of beautiful sights from beaches to viewpoints where you could enjoy the sunset. One of the highlights of the trip was watching the sun set over the town from a viewpoint in the warm evening. Being able to catch with a good friend made me realise how pivotal my friends at university have been to my personal growth. I’m so thankful to have met people who have challenged and broadened my perspectives throughout my studies.
In the hustle and bustle of university life, it’s so easy to forget what a privilege it is to be studying at Warwick. I am immensely grateful to be studying here and I’m so thankful for my tutors and the donors who have given me an invigorating and life-changing experience. During the spring break, I will be busy finishing assignments and preparing for an upcoming assessment centre. Nevertheless, I’m excited to be spending a few days in Spain and I will make sure I set aside time to enjoy the company of my friends. It’s the last stretch and I hope to give it my best!