Student travels out of Africa and on to Finland

News Page 21st March 2019

A student from Africa is realising her professional ambitions and combining each one of her academic passions thanks to the University of Northampton’s International College (UNIC).

Sayyada Master, who is in the second year of her three-year BSc degree in Occupational Therapy, comes from Dar es Salaam, the old capital of Tanzania in East Africa.

She originally started her studies in the town with UNIC, an Associate College of the University, in 2017. UNIC offers students from outside the UK who want to study in the UK, but might not have the right entry grades, foundation courses to help them go onto higher education.

Swapping Tanzania for Northampton proved to be less of an ordeal for Sayyada than she originally thought: “I’ve absolutely loved coming to Northampton and all of the opportunities I’ve had here. Although Tanzania might be thousands of miles away – 6,793 to be more exact! – I have never felt more at home. It helps that some of my family live relatively close – they are just a train ride down the road in Milton Keynes – but it’s been more than the home comforts.

“The staff at UNIC were fantastic right from the start. I’d wanted to get into Occupational Therapy since High School and if it wasn’t for them I might not have got here as soon as I did – and I was very eager to start!”

Occupational Therapy is an allied health profession. Occupational Therapists work in a wide variety of settings with people of ages to facilitate ‘meaningful occupation’. This includes activities of daily living (such as showering, dressing, budgeting, maintaining the home), productivity (such as paid or unpaid work, volunteering, school and play), and leisure (such as gardening, playing sport, art and crafts).

For Sayyada, Occupational Therapy was the only course for her: “I really enjoyed science, health care and creativity and art at school and I really wanted to find a career that combines all of this.

“I found out about Occupational Therapy whilst back home in Tanzania and was the perfect fit. Also, I want to work a 9-5 day but not be based in a lab or an office – just from my first two years at Northampton, I have already had clinical placements in orthopaedic wards and mental health services for children and adults. OT is one of the few professions that gets you out of ‘your box’ by thinking out of the box.”

Complementing this has been an overseas experience for Sayyada and nine of her peers at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä, Finland, an opportunity she was keen not to miss:

“It was freezing cold out there – about minus 15 Celsius. I had to pack snow boats and socks and felt at times like I was a snowman walking around! But Finnish people are so welcoming and friendly, I felt so much warmth around me”.

The students followed an intensive programme for a week arranged by Jaana Ritsilä (programme lead and senior lecturer) and her team. There were opportunities to experience equipment used for sensory interventions with children: “I would never have thought that inflatable toy bouncers and trampolines would ever be used to help them, but all of us had a go and immediately saw how you can use this to keep a child engaged and focused.”

image photo finland sayyada occupational therapy sensory room

Sayyada experiencing the sensory room.

The trip also included a visit to the university’s Occupational Therapy Smart House where Occupational Therapy students can experience how adaptations may enable an older person to live independently at home, such as underfloor sensors that detect when someone falls and sends an alarm to support services: “I wanted an international perspective on ‘OT’, to get out of my bubble and I definitely achieved that! The placement has opened my eyes up to so many more possibilities”.

Studying the University of Northampton has set Sayyada up for a possible stay in the town: “Although my horizons have broadened since coming here, I see myself as working in Mental Health or services for the deaf. I have a job at St Andrews’ Healthcare and am receiving British Sign Language training at the University**. For now, I’m staying put!”


*UNIC is part of the leading global education provider Navitas’ group of UK colleges and offers Foundation, First Year and Pre-masters Programmes in a range of subjects.

** British Sign Language is joint funded by FHS and FEH for level 5 students. Places are limited.

Find out more about UNIC.

For more about Occupational Therapy at University of Northampton, whether through the full-time route or full-time Extended route.

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