Nina, who is leaving with a BA International Relations and Modern Languages, has volunteered with the Refugees Teaching Programme, been Vice-President of the Human Rights Society, spent a year abroad in South America, and even supported other students.
“Go for it. Try everything you can, whether you are afraid of it or not, whether you are good at it or not,” is her advice.
Her two standout experiences have been a year abroad in Brazil and teaching basic English to young Syrian children through the vTeam project.
Her year abroad, spent on an island called Florianopolis, and immersion in Brazilian and South American culture has been a life-changing experience.
“The unique experience of learning Portuguese with native people and to travel as a sole backpacker around Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia was fascinating. This experience was not only life-changing on a personal level, but also a big step towards my future career. It inspired me to apply for further international experiences, something I did not have the courage to do before my year abroad,” she said.
But her most rewarding experience has been on the Refugee Teaching Programme, where she learned to communicate better with children and adults from different backgrounds and about Syrian culture and was able to develop her own Arabic language skills.
Her biggest challenge has been chairing debates, on provocative topics, in her role in the Human Rights Society: “I had to maintain a comprehensive and tolerant attitude on debates about polemic topics,” she said.
One debate on LGBTQ+ rights in Arabic countries was especially difficult: “It was hard to remain tolerant and comprehensive while seeing discriminative attitudes toward LGBTQ+ students, who were present in the room,” she said.
“But people from different backgrounds and ideologies discussing these topics with completely different points of view is a crucial aspect in debates.”
Nina has used her experiences to help others make the most of their time at Essex working as a peer mentor for Essex Abroad and for the Department of Language and Linguistics: “Only someone who has just experienced the same problems and difficulties can understand and help newcomers better and explain the ins and outs of life at Essex. Helping people has always been a matter close to my heart.”
Nina is starting an MA Conflict Resolution and Governance at the University of Amsterdam.