Portrait of Shaffa Ramzan

Shaffa Ramzan

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am a 20 year old student in my penultimate year at University. I am also a wheelchair user and faced many barriers before acquiring a place at University of Leeds. I am from West Yorkshire and also a daily commuter to Leeds. 

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I initially wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. However, I knew I enjoyed English and when I discovered that I could do it alongside Arabic, I knew it was what I wanted to do as I have always had a keen interest in wanting to learn Arabic, but I never realised I would be able to have the chance to study it academically. I really wanted to commute to my chosen university and Leeds also ended up being much more accommodating to my needs as a wheelchair user and were so supportive in making sure the degree was accessible to me in every way. 

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Language as a form of expression creates a unique sense of beauty as it brings to life emotions and images that are unique to each individual reader. This has always interested me, and I love the concept of poetry and how it is used to tell a story. Arabic is also a language of poetry and expression and a beautiful, ancient language that allows you to be much more elegant and meaningful in speech. Both aspects of my degree complement each other perfectly and really help me appreciate the beauty of both literature and language.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I really enjoyed the Year Abroad which I undertook in my second year. I travelled to Fez, Morocco and really embraced the different lifestyle and culture. It was an amazing experience that helped build both my character and my proficiency in Arabic.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a big city compared to my town and definitely offers more opportunities for getting involved with different volunteering and work opportunities. There are also really good places to eat that suit everyone's needs and preferences.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

The most surprising and quite refreshing aspect of coming to Leeds was the diversity. Not only are there students from all over England but also lots of students from all around the world. It gives many opportunities to learn about different cultures from each other and make lifelong friends from all parts of the world.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I have made use of the Language Centre which has been very beneficial in my language learning especially since they are always willing to take suggestions for adding material such as books.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

In terms of English, I joined a Writing Back Scheme, which is a voluntary scheme for English students, where an elderly member of the community is paired with a student and they exchange letters throughout the year. I have been doing this scheme since my first year of university and it is an amazing scheme. It has allowed me to practise letter writing and I have also gained a great friendship with someone I would have otherwise never had the chance to meet. I also joined a language exchange scheme run by the language centre and got the chance to get to know native Arabic speakers who helped me with my language learning. I also went to events organised by the Middle Eastern Society which were enriching and fun. 

Another great scheme that I joined was the Students into Schools volunteering scheme. In this scheme, I was given the opportunity to work with Arabic-speaking students in a local primary school. My role included working 1-2-1 with each student and helping them access the curriculum by interpreting it into Arabic. I also worked with them on their communication skills in English, so they would be able to integrate back into the classroom and work at the same level as the rest of their peers. In April, I was awarded the Leeds for Life Education award at the annual Leeds for Life Citizenship Awards Evening for my volunteering work after receiving a nomination from both the university and the school. It was a great honour and I look forward to continuing my work with the school in the next academic year via the Linguists into Schools module where I will hopefully receive more opportunities to teach Arabic.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Although English is a demanding subject, it has enhanced my academic and critical skills greatly while offering a diverse range of literature to study. Studying English has allowed me to explore exactly where my strengths and weaknesses lie, as English is such a broad subject. If English is something you are even slightly interested in, it is worth studying as you will definitely find something that you enjoy. 

On the other side of the degree, Arabic is such a unique and interesting subject to study. I have learned so much in terms of the culture, the language and everything associated with the language. It's such a rewarding language to study and the Year Abroad is genuinely a once in a lifetime opportunity that will really shape your university experience.