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Expeditions over the summer

Monday 19 September 2016

Fieldwork plays a vital role in geography and environmental science students’ lives – it takes learning from the classroom out into the world, turning it into a real experience.

At QMUL Geography our students are required to undertake an independent research project (dissertation) as part of their degree programme so carrying out some sort of fieldwork inevitably becomes part of the process. The QMUL Expeditions Fund offers financial assistance to undergraduate and postgraduate students for expeditions they would like to undertake during the summer vacation, including those working on their dissertation. Trips supported by the Fund this year included Kenya, Pakistan, Finland and Singapore for geographical research; Goa and Morocco for volunteering; a research expedition to Norway and summer schools in China and India.

World Refugee Day gathering at Helsinki city centre where Farhasaad interviewed refugees
World Refugee Day gathering at Helsinki city centre where Farhasaad interviewed refugees

Farhasaad Shahid (Human Geography BA, 2017) decided to research the refugee crisis in Finland’s metropolitan area as her dissertation project. “Having lived in Finland all my life, it sparked my interest to look further into the issue when I read about the crisis it was facing in terms of accommodating these newcomers,” she said. During her research, she interviewed refugees about their journey to Europe, their life at the refugee camps on the way and after arriving to Finland, and their future aspirations in this new ‘home’. “Overall I am very satisfied with how my research went and I’m happy that my original motive to help these refugees and get their voices heard was fulfilled. The Expeditions Fund helped me to reach my goals and ambitions and improve my chances academically. I believe because of this opportunity I will be able to do further research in the field and it will help my career plans in the future,” Farhasaad added.

Shajiyah with other volunteers in the Sahara, outside Marrakesh
Shajiyah with other volunteers in the Sahara, outside Marrakesh

Shajiyah Begum-Uddin (Geography BSc, 2017) took the opportunity to volunteer in Morocco this summer. She set out on an adventure and travelled to Marrakech with Original Volunteers – one of the UK’s leading independent volunteer provider. During the experience she helped set up an end-of-school party in a nursery, taught children British nursery rhymes, did face painting and arts and crafts with children in an orphanage. She also helped prepare meals for the homeless. “As someone aspiring to be a teacher, I certainly believe this experience has boosted my confidence to follow the teaching career pathway. The skills I have developed, the experiences I’ve encountered and the memories I’ve made will stay with me for a very long time. I had an amazing time volunteering and I would urge anyone who wants to volunteer abroad to just go for it!” While in Morocco Shajiyah managed to fit in some fun activities in her free time such as trekking in the Sahara and riding a camel.

Professor Dave Horne takes samples from one of the many pools at Tarn Moss, Yorkshire, to be examined for ostracods.
Professor Dave Horne takes samples from one of the many pools at Tarn Moss, Yorkshire, to be examined for ostracods.

The Fund also supported Koh Yi Thong (Geography BSc, 2017) whose research involved the reconstruction of Middle Pleistocene palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental conditions in Essex – using ostracods. Ostracods are small crustaceans often used in palaeoclimatic reconstruction. Koh was also able to participate in a training workshop about freshwater ostracods, which was held in the Yorkshire Dales. As part of the training, Koh and his supervisor Professor Dave Horne collected living ostracod specimens along the Pennines Way and from the Malham Tarn. “It was my very first time looking at live ostracods and I was thrilled to spot some on my first attempt! This generous funding has provided me with essential support that enabled me to participate in enriching activities such as the workshop and gave me the chance to meet with world-leading micropalaeontological experts. I have benefitted from this expedition tremendously and the knowledge I’ve gained will inform my own research,” Koh added.

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