Women in STEM: my life as a fully-funded environmental engineering master's student in the UK

Sumaiya in the lab wearing a labcoat, glasses, goggles and gloves.

Sumaiya at the lab at Newcastle University.

2021-22 Women in STEM scholar Sumaiya from Bangladesh graduated with a distinction from her master's in environmental engineering at Newcastle University in September 2022. She tells us about the transformative experience of getting a fully-funded scholarship at a top-ranked UK university in a multicultural and welcoming student city.

Sunny photograph of Newcastle University campus on a bright blue day with very green grass.

'Newcastle University is ranked first in the UK for sustainable development'

'Newcastle University is ranked eighth in the world for sustainable development'

Newcastle University has a reputation for high-quality education, and graduates are highly employable across many professions. It is ranked first in the UK and eighth in the world for sustainable development, according to the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2022. It also has a fantastic record for its research capacities and home-to-international student ratio.

The environmental engineering programme has allowed me to learn about water resource management and the selection of appropriate technologies in developing countries under the guidance of outstanding researchers in the UK. In Bangladesh, there is a need for competent water and sanitation specialists to contribute effectively to policymaking. My research at Newcastle has expanded my technical knowledge and will help me address related challenges worldwide, especially in Bangladesh.

Tutor reading at a desk in a light room.

'Your personal tutor and supervisor can support you becoming clearer in your career path and the steps to getting there'.

'My lecturers made me feel that students are always their top priority'

I met with my personal tutor regularly to keep him updated about my progress with my course and research, and he provided me with guidance for my future career. All the lecturers were welcoming, motivating, and proactive in helping me solve issues or discuss ideas through email or face-to-face meetings. They made me feel that the students are always their top priority.

I recommend maintaining good communication with your personal tutor and supervisor throughout the year, not just when it comes to your dissertation or research project. They will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and can support you in becoming clearer in your career path and the steps to getting there.

Image of female student in lab with gloves on.

'The British Council's Women in STEM scholarship offers full scholarship to study for master's degree in STEM programmes at leading UK universities'.

A group photo of more than 10 people - mostly women - around a dinner table, smiling at the camera.

'Out to dinner with Pro-Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University and other British Council STEM scholars.'

'The Women in STEM scholarship covered all my costs from flights to fees to living expenses'

I had always wanted to pursue my postgraduate studies in the UK, but I was concerned about being able to cover the tuition fees, living and other study-related costs. It would not have been economically feasible for my family to support me with my studies. As such, I applied for several scholarships and was delighted to be awarded the British Council Women in STEM scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year.

The scholarship covered all my travel and tuition costs and provided me with a monthly stipend to cover my living expenses in the UK. It gave me economic stability when I was in the UK, and as I had no financial worries, I could concentrate on my studies fully. It also helped me meet some incredible people from around the world and build an international network with alumni in my field.

Sumaiya and her flatmates who are from various different parts of the world.

'I have made many international friends from places like China, Libya, Kuwait, Japan and India'.

A selection of dishes and plates that Sumaiya has enjoyed in the UK from Waffles to ice-cream to Thai curry and more.

'I love the variety of world-food that's available in Newcastle. Once a foodie, alway a foodie'.

Image of Quayside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

'Quayside is my favourite spot to pass the time in Newcastle'.

'Newcastle is a multicultural and welcoming student-friendly city'

Newcastle is well-known for being a multicultural and welcoming student-friendly city with many world food options and excellent student life. I have made many international friends from places like China, Libya, Kuwait, Japan and India, to name a few.

During my time in the UK, I've learned about other cultures and enjoyed celebrating international holidays like Lunar New Year and Diwali. My flatmates are from all over the world. I'm always uplifted when I spend time with them, especially after a hectic day.

Multicultural connections are so meaningful socially, but it's also helpful to get experience communicating effectively across cultures. During my time in the UK, I have been more independent and confident than ever, and I have always felt very safe and welcome.

Blast Beach in Seaham, England, on a sunny day. It's a rocky beach and there is a huge rock formation jutting out in the middle. The skye is blue and the sea is calm.

'Blast Beach in Seaham, where some episodes of the Netflix series - the Last Kingdom - were shot'.

Interior photograph of an elaborately-lit Durham Cathedral.

Durham Cathedral.

A flock of sheep grazing on a green, grassy hill in the British Countryside. The sky is light blue with fluffy clouds.

'The nearby countryside is beautiful'.

'I've been mesmerised by the castles, cathedrals and amazing beaches'

Newcastle has an excellent public transportation system. It's easy to get around within the city on the metro and beyond (for example, to London) with intercity trains. I've taken full advantage of student discounts, and I have been mesmerised by the breathtaking views of castles and cathedrals, medieval artwork and architecture. The nearby countryside is beautiful, and there are excellent beaches. Oh, and Edinburgh's only 1.5 hours away by train.

Women in STEM scholars at Newcastle University, 2021-22 scholars.

Women in STEM scholars at Newcastle University: 'Don't let under-confidence or fear stand in the way of your academic career'

'When I studied in the UK, I grew in confidence in my academic work'

Coming from a global south background, I always doubted my capabilities and lacked confidence in my academic work. At the end of my first semester, my personal tutor praised my progress and encouraged me a lot which helped me to work smarter and perform better. The power of positive feedback is enormous and helped me stay focused and improve academically and in confidence over time. I was awarded a distinction - something I would never have imagined possible before I came.

If you, like me, come from Bangladesh, the global south - or anywhere else for that matter - don't let lack of confidence or fear get you in the way of your academic career or limit you in any way. Set yourself a high standard, and you will succeed.

'Relaxing on the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship, in Greenwich, London'.

'New international students can sometimes feel shy to ask for support. Don't worry, be bold and just ask'.

'Whenever in doubt, ask for help. You won't be disappointed.'

New international students in the UK can sometimes feel shy to ask for support. Don't worry, and be bold. British people (and people in the UK, more generally) are friendly and approachable. So, whenever you're in doubt, ask for help. You won't be disappointed.

Victoria Street (the colourful street) in Edinburgh, Scotland.

'Edinburgh is only 1.5 hours away from Newcastle by train'.

Peacock feather-shaped Christmas lights displays on Oxford Street in London.

'Christmas lights display on Oxford Street in London'.

Student blog image for - Studying forensic odontology in the UK gave me the expertise I need to help families in Pakistan find closure after tragedy

British Council scholarships for women in STEM

Are you a woman with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree with a passion for your subject? You could receive a full scholarship to study for a master's degree in a STEM programme at a leading UK university.

Find out more

More in this section

Scholarships and funding

Would you like to turn your dream of studying in the UK into a reality? There are many funding and scholarship options available for international students.

Study science and technology in the UK

If you’re excited by the extraordinary things you could achieve with a science and technology career, you’ll find the best possible starting point in the UK.

Women in STEM: I was offered a water management job straight after finishing my UK master's degree

Shilpa from India shares her experience of leaving home for the first time as a Women in STEM scholar and getting a job offer in her field after graduation.

Hear stories from international students

The Study UK blog is the home of real-life, personal stories from current international students and alumni.

Read our blog

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest updates and advice on applications, scholarships, visas and events.