Sekinat Abbas

Master in Public Health (MPH)

The most recent job I had prior to studying in Sheffield was as a community pharmacist in Lagos, Nigeria. I graduated in 2012 in Pharmacy at the University of Lagos; undertook a year’s internship at the Lagos University TeachingSekinat Abbas Hospital, Idi-araba; and enrolled in the year-long compulsory National Youth Service Corps for Nigerian graduates where I was posted to a federal government primary health care centre.

The University of Sheffield was my top choice for my MPH because its reputation as a school renowned for its quality and robust research precedes it, particularly within my Department; the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).This sealed the deal, as my course is primarily research-based.

Other reasons I chose Sheffield include it having cheaper living costs compared to other cities and as it was my first time to live away from home, being one of the safest cities in the UK was also an assuring factor for me. I had lived in Lagos all my life, which is known for its hustle and bustle, so I yearned for a serene, peaceful city. I had also heard from previous alumni that Sheffield was also a city amazingly warm, pleasant people, and this was shown in how the concerns I had during the application process were handled well by staff. Overall, the University of Sheffield ticked all the right boxes for me!

I cannot single out one most enjoyable thing about studying at Sheffield – there are so many good things! However I would say interacting with people from different cultures and professional backgrounds, and learning about the health systems of their countries is very valuable. Also there are 4 state-of-the-art libraries at my disposal, where I can complete my work at any time. Learning couldn't be more enticing! Lastly, as saying daily prayers is of highest priority to me, the availability of prayer rooms within close proximity to my classes crowns the whole experience.

The most valuable aspect of my course is the wealth of knowledge it has opened me up to, broadening my perspective on health with independent study. I am continually being taught to think about and look at health on a population level, and not just at an individual level. The “Key issues in Global Health” module made me realize how much health is intertwined with other sectors of society and as such, cannot be segregated. Listening to other people’s experiences and learning to think critically - not just accepting information at face value - is priceless.

Teaching and study methods at the University of Sheffield challenges students to do more. My course requires a lot of independent study to inform discussion of current issues and to ensure you are able to get good grades. Research methods classes prepare the students for the world of research and we are taught valuable skills like critical appraisal. Lecturers treat us like colleagues and encourage us to share our thoughts. Nobody is put down for voicing their opinions, whether right or wrong, and this goes a long way in building our self-confidence.

Group assignments encourage team work and we use our presentation skills on this course. We are supported by staff to ensure we are on the right track and getting the best out of our studies. We can attend tutorials outside the classroom we can tackle any questions we have. Keeping journals and having an assessed reflective writing piece on my course also encourages me to keep track of what I’m learning; what I need to improve; and how to plan and execute my next course of action.

As the University of Sheffield is a top-ranking school in the UK, known world-wide for a quality education, career prospects for graduates are very positive. I believe any student who passes their course will be a very independent learner, able to handle the challenges of the job market or further education well. There are many extra-curricular activities on offer for students’ self-development as individuals and on a professional level. For example, these are organised by 301 Skills and Development Centre; Careers Services; Sheffield Volunteering, Sports Sheffield and others. With the University of Sheffield, all-round development is guaranteed as long as you are willing to get involved.

There are so many awesome things about life at Sheffield, from the Students’ Union to the conducive libraries, and particularly the recently completed Diamond building. There are friendly people all around Sheffield, willing to help, and there are convenient and affordable transport services. The City Centre feels safe and the city is serene. There are lots of great food stores and there are brilliant discounts you get as a student and lest I forget, Belgian milk chocolate cookies! They taste amazing!

After my course I hope to be a sound researcher, equipped with the skills to successfully work in a public health setting for either a Governmental or Non-Governmental Organisation where I can make a positive impact. I would also like to take up teaching as I feel strongly about education and believe that sharing gained knowledge is a way to give back to society.

I’d advise prospective students coming to Sheffield not to worry if they feel a little overwhelmed in the first few weeks. That is normal when coming to University from another country, and you will adjust gradually. I would say be open minded and come with an enthusiastic attitude. Even though your studies should be your primary focus, partake in as many extra-curricular activities as you possibly can; make friends and have fun! For me, it’s important to be prayerful, be prudent, keep warm and get equipped with an umbrella and a good pair of trainers for walking! Always ask questions when in doubt, be rest assured there are people willing to help you out. Lastly, in case you are like me who cannot travel light even if my life depended on it (!), please ensure you have a pound coin to secure a trolley at the airport. You can thank me later!

Read more about me and my fellow international students on the International@SheffieldUni blog.