STEP Student Asma Ehsanyar in the Aga Khan Library in London

Asma Ehsanyar at AKL. Photo by Rehana Virani.

Studying at IIS has been an incredible, life-changing experience for me. This Institute has opened a world of opportunities that I never could have imagined and has contributed to my personal growth. I am not just pursuing an education; I am being given the opportunity to be part of something truly exceptional. 

As an Afghan girl studying at IIS in London, my educational journey has been filled with unique challenges, but it has also strengthened me, built my resilience, and driven me to create positive change, both in my own life and in the wider world. 

One of the most significant challenges I have faced is being far away from my family and home country, especially given the turbulent situation in Afghanistan. The distance has made it difficult to stay connected with loved ones, and the constant worry for their safety has sometimes overshadowed my academic pursuits. However, it has also taught me the importance of adaptability and finding support within my new community. 

Amid these challenges, I have found immense support from my university community. Faculty members, counsellors, and fellow students have offered guidance and friendship, helping me navigate the complexities of academia and life in London. 

Balancing a busy schedule with diverse tasks and courses is challenging yet rewarding. This experience has broadened my skill set, fostering adaptability, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It has been a crucible for personal growth, teaching me to manage stress and tight deadlines, making me more resilient and confident. 

My learning journey

One of the most remarkable aspects of Secondary Teachers Education Programme  (STEP) is the emphasis on practical experience. I have had the opportunity to work in mainstream schools in London, which has equipped me with invaluable real-world skills. It allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge in real classrooms and learn new strategies of engagement from my colleagues and the school’s staff. This experience was both eye-opening and deeply insightful. It not only challenged my pedagogical skills but also reshaped my perceptions of education and the diverse student population in the city. 

This experience was transformative, broadening my perspective on education, diversity, and inclusive teaching practices, shaping my approach to teaching and advocacy for educational equity. 

Another crucial skill I'd like to discuss is my proficiency in research. In my comprehensive research project, I focused on examining the dynamics and effectiveness of group work in educational settings. I chose this topic because group work has a significant impact on educational practices and student learning. It is a prevalent teaching strategy with the potential to enhance student engagement, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, which are crucial in today's world. The study revealed that well-structured group work not only improves academic performance but also nurtures teamwork and problem-solving abilities. This research provides valuable insights into the nuances of group work, offering guidance for educators and enriching the overall educational experience for students. 

The library and online databases have expanded my access to quality sources and advanced research techniques, enhancing my interdisciplinary skills. The library and databases continuously update their resources, keeping me current in my field. My dedicated research supervisor's guidance ensured quality, ethics, and sound methodology. This research journey pushed boundaries, highlighting the potential for meaningful contributions to academia and real-world challenges. I have come to realise that research is not just about finding answers but contributing to the betterment of society and the advancement of my chosen field. 

To conclude, Nasir Khusraw (d. between 1072 and 1088) said: 

“We are jewels in the mine, buried beneath tons of muck and dirt, but surely there. Each person contains a piece of eternity, a soul that is the true self.” 

In other words, discovering one's true self requires diligent effort and digging deep within. Without dedication, and deliberate action, the inner gem remains concealed and lacks its radiance. When the gem does not shine, it fails to fulfil its inherent purpose, and its intrinsic worth must be unveiled. I do believe that the STEP will help me to unveil my hidden gem. Also, STEP gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, and it enriches my life.