Student Journeys

Developing Skills, Knowledge and Building a Community: Reflections from a Recent Westminster Grad

Let’s do a quick flashback in time… it is currently the 3rd of March 2020, my 22nd birthday, and COVID-19 is starting to be talked about on the radio and news more frequently here in London. The first case had just made its way to the UK. Still, it was only the beginning of March, and surely, this virus would be contained quickly, right?

By March 16, I had rebooked my flight home 3 different times and somehow managed to board the last flight out of London back to America. I figured that I would be finishing the rest of my second year online, be able to enjoy my summer at home and be back in London and at Westminster just in time for my third and final year of university. Instead, I ended up staying at my family’s home in South Carolina for 1.5 years total, finishing the second half of my second year, as well as the entirety of my third year, online. This meant that I had walked into the Regent’s Street campus for the last time as a student, saw friends and colleagues from my program (some that I will never see again) one final time without knowing, and interacted with my lecturers all for the last time in person. Once reality hit and I realized that I would not be returning to London before the ending of my course, I was heartbroken.

Nevertheless, my final year of university was completed from my bed, far away from the big city I loved so much and the community I had worked hard to build at school. If someone would’ve told me in March of 2019 that this would have been the case, I would have assumed that it was the worst academic year I would’ve ever completed. However, I surprised myself!

I’m convinced that Farhang’s invitation to join DEN, the opportunity that followed to work with a variety of students and staff, collaborating on different projects during the pandemic, enriched my soul. It gave me the sense of online community that I had worked so hard to build while in person.

As a part of the DEN team, I have learned how to critique and edit various academic articles and prepare them for publication. This has provided me with opportunities to expand my leadership skills and simultaneously better my writing process, as I become more conscious of the presentation of my accumulated knowledge through the editing and revision of others’. In addition, I have learned to work with people from all backgrounds to create something that we can be proud of as a group. I mentored some students, and others also mentored me along the way.

Flash forward to now, present time. I’m in the first term of my master’s course at UCL in Education and International Development. I am still a part of DEN and doing my best to encourage new and old members to throw themselves into the project as much as they can so that they can bear the same fruit as I did when this project came and saved me from a hard 1.5 years of isolation and online learning. All I can say now is thank you to DEN, Farhang, and the fellow students involved for welcoming me and providing me with such an incredible opportunity to grow and learn. I will be forever grateful.

Cassidy Mattingly, Graduate and Alumni, BA (Hons) International Relations and Development.

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