Tuesday 22 December 2015

Iraqi students sharing their experiences

A number of students from Iraq studying at the University of Northampton were invited to a gathering where they had the opportunity to share their experiences of studying in the UK and their hopes for the future.

Iraqi students make up around five per cent of the student population at the University of Northampton, with 85 undergraduates and 10 studying for a postgraduate programme.

The event was attended by nursing, computing and PhD research students, with some of them giving talks on their experience of studying and living in the UK, what challenges they have overcome and what they have learnt from their course.

Abbas Hussain Hadi is currently on the second year of the BA (Hons) Adult Nursing programme after completing two years at the University of Babylon. He said: “When I first arrived at the University of Northampton, I found it difficult to adapt to the culture and language, but once I overcame it, I have really enjoyed my time here. The lecturers have been really friendly and helpful and it has been interesting to see the differences in nursing in the UK and Iraq.”

Ahmed Osama Basil, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) in Computing, told the story of how he and his family left his home country when he was just seven and has lived in several places around the world before he came to Northampton to study. He said: “It was my father who taught me to see what the world is about and as someone from the Middle East, I have found some situations challenging but I have felt welcomed since arriving in the UK. Being an international student has its perks and I have adapted to life here very well and I am proud that I have given my friends the knowledge to think differently towards Middle Eastern people.”

Muthana Alalaki, who is studying Network Engineering in Computing, told the story of how he and his colleagues faced serious challenges and how they overcame the obstacles to study at the University of Northampton. He said “We all passed our English course with huge improvements in our language and academic skills. In addition, the educational system was entirely new compared with Babylon University. However, we adapted to the system and start competing with other students. We passed the second year with high grades and most of our tutors were impressed by our progress and knowledge.”

Alyaa Al-Barrak, a PhD student, commented: “We would like to express our deepest sympathy for all countries who have suffered from terrorist attacks. We are very sensitive to this type of catastrophe because we have had felt suffering since 2003, but June 2014 was the worst date in Iraqi lives, when IS invaded around 40 per cent of the country. They killed and displaced around three million people and destroyed a lot of Iraqi historical landmarks. This disaster has badly affected Iraqi people in both psychological and financial aspects. The point I want to make is that our sympathy is not a just words, it really from the heart.”

Ahood Hazim, a second year BEng (Hons) Computing student, said:  “I was one of 35 students, who had been granted a scholarship sponsored by the Iraqi government. We arrived in the UK last year in order to attend an English language preparation course which most of us struggled with. It was very challenging to speak English all the time, especially amongst us. It was really hard to keep talking even when you know that your English isn’t good enough, I practiced by having a conversation with a person at the bus stop or with an elderly person at the park.When we had to go back to Iraq in order to apply for a visa, we faced a bigger problem. Although we all applied together, but at different times, some of us got a visa, but others were unfortunate and couldn’t join us in the UK.”

Dr Ali Al-Sherbaz from the School of Science and Technology, commented: “This is really a great achievement to have such a strong partnership with University of Babylon and other Iraqi institutions, for not only undergraduate study, but also for research and staff developments. We have more than 15 research students and have run staff development workshops for more than 25 academics from University of Babylon over the last two academic years.

The partnership is being further developed this year to include Nursing as well as Computing. The first cohort of students from Babylon will graduate from the University of Northampton in BSc/BEng Computing in July 2016 and have guaranteed employment when they return to Iraq. Iraq is facing times of financial and economic hardship at the moment, but the Government remain committed to investing into this important partnership over the coming years.

We also discussed to prepare for the 3+1+1 programme for Computing for the September 2016 intake, as University of Babylon students will study three years at their own university and then join Northampton to study for the final year degree and MSc as well. The School of Health is ready to receive the first cohort of nursing students in September and will arrange a staff development for two weeks for up to four University of Babylon staff in February 2016.”

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