Graduating during uncertain times

As 2020 comes to a close, we take a moment to celebrate some of our Dawoodi Bohra graduates, who, despite the difficulties and obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, were successfully able to attain their degrees.

We spoke to 12 graduates from Bradford, Leicester, London, Manchester and Nottingham and asked them about their degree, the obstacles they faced as a student during the pandemic, what they are currently pursuing, and lastly what they found to be most rewarding throughout their experience.

Dr Ammena Zahabi

Ammena graduated in Medicine with an intercalated Masters in Medical Ethics and Law from the University of Manchester.

The hardest thing for her about being a university student during COVID-19 was the uncertainty; she and her peers were not sure whether they were meant to graduate early or whether they stood as final year medical students amidst a global pandemic. After officially graduating, Ammena moved to the Isle of Man to be a junior doctor to complete her training.

For Ammena, one of the most rewarding aspects about her experience as a final year medical student transitioning into  the junior doctor role has been learning that medicine is so much more than just treating a problem. By being able to sit and talk to her patients and their families, her passion and respect for the field has grown immensely. Her interactions with her patients – listening to their stories and helping them through the most difficult times in their lives – have made her feel like she’s truly making a positive contribution to their wellbeing. This whole experience has made her realise how much she values the important relationships in her life, and how impactful they have been in shaping her into the doctor she is training to be today.

Currently, as a junior doctor in the Isle of Man, Ammena makes time to explore career avenues, entertain new hobbies (i.e. badminton), and get involved with exploring island life.

Burhanuddin Fakhri

Burhanuddin graduated with a BSc in Computer Science from Brunel University.

One of the main challenges for Burhanuddin was figuring out how to attend the remote lectures and how to give his final year exams from home. He found that maintaining a routine – and accepting that this new routine and way of learning may continue longer than he originally anticipated – was the greatest challenge of all.

Despite the challenges, Burhanuddin was able to work under pressure and doing so was a rewarding experience on its own. This experience showed Burhanuddin what he is truly capable of and let him believe that he can conquer any challenge, which has sparked his passion to continue his education by currently pursuing an MSc in Artificial Intelligence.

Fatema Ganijee

Fatema graduated with a BA Hons in Management and Professional Accounting from Coventry University.

As a final year student, the online classes were the most challenging aspect for Fatema. Although she was initially worried about being able to cope with limited support over Zoom, her university made the lectures easily accessible – making revision a painless process. Her lecturers ensured that each student understood every topic, as if they were in a physical classroom.

Ultimately, Fatema learnt a lot about patience and gratitude. She was able to reflect on the options available to her as a student, rather than getting sucked into the fast pace of student life – studying from one exam to the next. She has been able to appreciate time and effort more than before and is ultimately grateful that even during these tough times, education never came to a halt.

Fatema currently works within the Civil Service. She hopes to one day become a chartered accountant and run a firm of her own.

Dr Hussain R Cochin

Dr Cochin graduated in Medicine (MBChB) from the University of Manchester.

His final months of medical school were very interesting as the emergence of the pandemic was extremely unnerving in the hospitals. Dr Cochin’s graduation was fast-tracked, and he and his peers were commissioned onto the wards to help on the frontline. He faced an extremely steep learning curve to practice medicine in the midst of global pandemic.

Dr Cochin currently is working as a Foundation Doctor in West Yorkshire and has found that contributing his services to the NHS during this current crisis has been very rewarding.

Mohammed Rupawala

Mohammed graduated with a PhD in Physical Sciences for Health from the University of Birmingham.

The ultimate challenge for Mohammed as a COVID PhD student was time management. He found that his working hours became very much blurred and it was hard to switch from his full time job to writing his thesis whilst at the same desk and chair. Writing in the evening quickly turned into writing during the wee hours of the morning. However, as he made progress on his thesis, he became even more determined to complete his thesis despite the constant 7-days-a-week work pattern in his ‘new’ workplace at home.

After working on writing his thesis for approximately 15 months, Mohammed was undoubtedly determined to put in the hard work to ensure his three years of research would be recognised. Alongside this process, he learnt and appreciated the importance of getting fresh air. He used a quick run during his transition from work to thesis writing as a mechanism to re-focus and to get a break from his screen(s)!

Currently Mohammed works in a research post at UCL and intends to take up a hobby to continue to find ways to take a break from his screen.

Mufaddal Nagree

Mufaddal graduated with a PgDip Professional Practice Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 3) this year from Kingston University. This was Mufaddal’s final qualification required alongside professional experience to practice as a fully qualified registered architect. It is also the prerequisite for chartered membership of the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects).

Since these studies were informed directly by practice, Mufaddal found it challenging to conclude the different assessments based on projects that were live and about to go on site. Many of the construction sites had closed in London, including one that he was writing part of his case study on. Despite the implications and knock-on effects of the construction industry shutting down briefly and the issues that arose from the situation allowed for him and his peers to present these reflections in their case studies. The open-endedness and breadth of these discussions eventually became an advantage in the final viva-voce exams.

Currently, Mufaddal works at a small practice in North London as an Architect. He is registered with the ARB and a chartered member of the RIBA.

Shirin Hassanali_Nottingham

Shirin Hassanali

Shirin graduated with a Bachelors of Law with Honours (LLB Hons) from Nottingham Trent University this year.

For Shirin, the most challenging part of being a student during COVID-19 was the uncertainty of what was going to happen. She and her classmates weren’t sure of how their exams would take place. Fortunately, her university made everything accessible and even though the lack of interaction with her peers was hard, we eventually got through it in the end.

The most rewarding thing about this experience and graduating under these circumstances was completing her degree! After a tough final year, it didn’t matter that Shirin and her classmates did not get the send off they had hoped for because instead they now have an amazing story to tell!

Shirin is currently pursuing her PgDip in Legal Practice and hopes to specialise in corporate law.

Tasneem Qutbi

Tasneem graduated with a PgDip in Legal Practice and an MSc in Law, Business and Management from the University of Law.

One of the main challenges Tasneem faced was the lack of peer-to-peer interaction. She missed the classroom experience that would foster and facilitate discussion and problem solving as a group. Learning from home presented obstacles in figuring out how to ‘be in the zone’ and concentrate, which led to Tasneem yearning for her university library.

Despite the challenges, Tasneem found true meaning in the maxim, ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way’. By changing her learning style and habits, she found that – in all the darkness and uncertainty of the pandemic, and graduating and starting the next step in her career – she was able to firmly believe that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was fully within her grasp.

Since graduating, Tasneem has joined a London city law firm in their disputes resolution team. She will finish her training and qualify as a solicitor in September 2022.

Dr Ummesalama Hassanali

Ummesalama graduated with a Dental Surgery (MChD) degree from the University of Leeds this year.

Ummesalama found online finals and finishing her final year mostly over Zoom difficult and a bit disappointing as she hoped to end her five years of studying and hard work by spending time with her university friends and colleagues.

Despite the uncertainty, the most rewarding thing about this experience has been Ummesalama’s chance to spend time with her family after five years at Uni. She learnt to appreciate the small things that she (and all of us!) usually take for granted. Most importantly, as a new graduate she has learnt to be kind to herself – with the nature of her degree being fairly stressful and intense, she worked to prioritise her mental health – accepting that holding herself to such high standards in such a time of uncertainty remains unsustainable. Knowing that so many people have been in the same position as her has been really reassuring and she has learnt to make the best of this unprecedented situation.

Ummesalama is currently finishing her training year (DFT) at a dental practice in Bristol. Her future plans are fluid, and she hopes to complete a few years of hospital training to gain more experience and then decide what specialty to pursue within dentistry.

Zahra Kapasi

Zahra graduated with a BSc in Applied Nutritional Science from Anglia Ruskin University.

For Zahra, studying a hands on course with the majority of teaching being face-to-face and in the labs, the moving online abruptly was difficult to adjust to especially as she was nearing the last few months of her degree. At such a crucial stage of her degree, she needed to complete personal tutorials and lab based research to finish her dissertation; she felt quite isolated by the shift online.

However, she made the best of her situation. She not only learnt the important skill of being able to pay attention to a lecture from the comfort of her own bed, she also saved time not having to commute. She used that travel time to instead study for her final exams and write her dissertation.

After graduating, Zahra had a few clinical and lab based work experiences lined up to help decide what route of nutrition she wanted to pursue. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic these opportunities have been postponed. Instead, she has participated in a few nutrition and health based online courses which helped her network with people in her field. She also has started her own bespoke hamper business – which has given her valuable business acumen.

Zahra Maimoon

Zahra graduated with a BSc in Health and Wellbeing in Society from De Montfort University.

For Zahra, a major challenge was the lack of face-to-face contact with her dissertation supervisor. She could feel the stark difference between attending lectures in person versus listening to them online. She also dealt with the challenge of having limited library resources during the first few weeks of lockdown, which impacted her dissertation preparation and writing.

Nonetheless, Zahra found it was rewarding to finish and hand in her dissertation after months of hard work, and it felt even more rewarding to finally graduate.

Since graduating, Zahra has been getting work experience at a local opticians and plans to pursue a masters in medical law.

Zainab Karkhanawala

Zainab graduated with an MPharm (Masters in Pharmacy) from UCL.

For Zainab and her classmates, COVID-19 meant their final two weeks at uni were cut short. They were sitting in their Friday afternoon lecture when they received the email stating that uni would be closed and online classes would start from the following Monday. That abrupt change of pace was not only unexpected, but quite emotional for Zainab and her classmates. Zainab, like many other graduates, was unable to have a graduation this year – no online graduation ceremony could replace the feeling of accomplishment of walking on the stage, collecting her diploma, and being able to throw their graduation caps in the air whilst her parents frantically figured out how to take a boomerang on Instagram!

Despite this unconventional ending to uni, Zainab spent the time learning new skills such as embroidery, perfecting her chocolate cake, and designing and selling ridas. She was able to spend more time with her mum, learning how to stitch and cook traditional desi food. Being able to make her own home a masjid during the auspicious days of Ramadan and Ashara Mubaraka made 2020 such a memorable year.

Since graduating, Zainab has been doing her pre-registration year as a split placement in a community pharmacy and GP surgery. She hopes to sit her pre-registration exam in June and finish her placement in July.

Zainub Sulemanji

Zainub graduated with a BSc in Psychology with Health Studies from De Montfort University.

Graduating in these unprecedented times provided its own challenges. Experiences such as not being able to attend lectures and limited access to the library were added difficulties. Nonetheless, Zainub found positive ways to navigate these circumstances, especially when her motivation was low.

Zainub found it rewarding to still be able to feel like she has graduated, even though the ceremony has yet to happen. Being able to finish her degree has embedded her belief that none of the challenges of this year could come in the way of her ultimate goal.

After graduating, Zainub has taken this year to consider all her options and pursue part-time employment. She is also considering studying a Masters in Psychological Wellbeing.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 COVID graduates. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

Featured image by @alisulemanjiphotography


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