'I've joined a diverse community of UK alumni'

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Former GREAT scholar Ahmed from Pakistan completed his master's in international development, public policy, and management at the University of Manchester in 2022. He is now a research officer at the University of Essex, putting his new skills into practice.

Find out about Ahmed's experience of becoming independent, travelling around the UK by bicycle and how a GREAT Scholarship and 'free' accommodation have helped him achieve his dreams.

'Enjoying some snow in the winter in Manchester'.

'I studied in the UK because I wanted to experience the world'

I came to study in the UK partly because of the prestige associated with the country's educational institutions. The University of Manchester, where I studied, is long-standing and remarkable. There are world-renowned researchers and academic staff who have made groundbreaking achievements in the fields of science, literature, languages, economics, and finance. I was also motivated by a deep desire to experience the world.

'In the UK, I became independent for the first time'

Growing up, I had always been an avid traveller within my home country of Pakistan, but I had never stepped outside of my own country before I came to do my graduate studies in the UK. In the UK, I could experience life as an individual, doing things independently, finding my own feet, and travelling independently.

'I took my love of running to the next level in the UK'.

'I became part of a large international student community'

One of the things I loved about my campus experience was the environment created by the combination of the architecture, the students, the societies, and the faculty. I felt like students and teachers were in it together to learn and collaborate, bringing our values and diverse opinions and coming together to achieve something more.

The University of Manchester and many other universities across the UK attract students from all corners of the world. This leads to people who are very different in their mindsets, skills and experiences coming together to be better. I made great friends from Africa, across Europe, Asia and the Americas. It was a joyful and happy experience, and I'm grateful to know that now when I travel anywhere in the world, I'll have a friend I can visit whom I met during my studies. I'll always have someone to see and somewhere to stay.

'I travelled all over the UK by bicycle'.

'The more I cycled in the UK, the more I fell in love with the diversity of the land'

During my studies, I invested much time and effort into my hobbies and activities outside of class. I've cycled a lot. I've done a lot of long-distance running, including marathons in both Manchester and London. Within the two and a half years I have put time and effort into experiencing the UK, and much of this exploration has been by bicycle. I've cycled from the south of England to Cornwall, through Wales and north Wales, Anglesey, Norfolk to Lincolnshire, and all the way up to Yorkshire and into Scotland. In Scotland, I cycled through Edinburgh and Glasgow into the Highlands and beyond, travelling up to the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands.

The more I cycled, the more I fell in love with the diversity of the land—the absolute range in culture, people, traditions, and even—surprisingly—in food. But more than anything, travelling around inspired in me a deep admiration for the country and the values and welcome that people here stand for.

'Whatever the weather, I try to get outside'.

'Despite the rainy weather, I always made sure to spend time outside'

Being from sunny Pakistan, one challenge for me was the weather. There were months of the year that were mostly grey and rainy, which was new for me. It sometimes had an impact on my mood and my motivation. I found that the best way to make myself feel better was to get outside, move my body, and see the sights in my university city regardless of the weather. It made a difference and improved my wellbeing.

'Sharing my story with the new cohort of GREAT scholars'.

'I was awarded a GREAT Scholarship to study in the UK'

The GREAT Scholarship from Study UK was both prestigious and helped cover the costs of my tuition fees. I don't come from a very wealthy background, so this was the first step in making studying in the UK possible. I was also invited by Study UK at the British Council to speak about my journey from graduation to employment to the following cohort of GREAT scholars at their special event in Manchester in 2023. It was a great chance to share my experiences and network with new scholars, professionals and people working in higher education institutions in the UK.

'In exchange for my role on campus, I got 'free' accommodation'.

'I got free accommodation during my studies'

Many UK university halls offer a small number of students the option of getting 'free' student accommodation. I found a job at the university on the 'residential life advisor programme,' which allowed me to have 'free' accommodation in exchange for looking after advisory services for students living in my university's student halls of residence.

If you're wondering about how to finance your degree in the UK, it's also worth knowing that there are so many opportunities for employment on- and off-campus during your studies which you can do part-time. Scholarships and grants can also make your dreams achievable.

'Graduating from the University of Manchester was a huge accomplishment'

'My graduation day is one of my happiest memories'

I was able to bring my mother, my father, my sister and my brother-in-law to my graduation ceremony. That feeling of standing by the University of Manchester arch and posing for pictures gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was out of this world. I was so proud that I had accomplished so much individually and as part of a collective after just one year. It made me feel really grateful and motivated to pursue the next challenges in my professional career.

'I'm so grateful for the time that I've spent in the UK so far'.

'Studying in the UK was nothing short of a dream come true'

If I were to share some advice, I would suggest stepping outside of your comfort zone when you are in the UK and trying to make the most of it by doing something that you would not have done back home. You could nurture your talents or interests in music, art, literature, or physical activities. Travelling and getting to see the world and meeting people from diverse backgrounds has been a dream come true.

Graduating with my classmates at the University of Manchester.

'After graduating, I started working at the University of Essex'

During my degree, I acquired many skills. For example, planning international development projects, how to critique them and quantitatively analyse them. From economics to econometrics, research, analysis and data skills. I now put all of these to good use in my role as a full-time research officer at the University of Essex in the south of England.

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