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"I'm 53 and embarking on a career change to become a human rights lawyer"

Rahat Ismail recently graduated, achieving a First Class Honours for a Bachelor of Arts in Global Politics and International Relations, and later in life has decided to follow her dreams of working in law. Here, she shares why she thinks studying at Birkbeck is one of the best things to have happened to her.

Rahat Ismail at her Graduation in December 2023

Birkbeck presented me with an opportunity to claim back my right to education  
One of the hardest days in my childhood was when I was made to leave school in Barking, London, at sixteen years old instead of pursuing my dream to study further. My life journey had been decided by culture, tradition, and my parents. I was engaged at ten years old and married at fifteen years old. I had three children, took care of my home, worked full-time and volunteered with human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, Remembering Srebrenica and the Human Rights Commission. However, I didn’t ever forget my dream of becoming a human rights lawyer, which has been a lifelong passion of mine because of my own life experiences and seeing the many human rights injustices in the world   

I studied part-time and worked full-time  
To balance working and studying, I enrolled onto the part-time BA Global Politics and International Relations degree whilst working full-time as a service manager with a local authority. Despite feeling not so skilled and knowledgeable as the rest of the class, the lecturers encouraged me and everyone to participate, always valuing our contribution. There’s such a nurturing feeling at Birkbeck for everyone to do well and all the lecturers are so passionate and enthusiastic about their subjects and helping their students. The learning development team and administrative team also do all they can to help you to succeed, and a huge tool for my development was attending many study skills sessions and 1-2-1s.  

I’ve made friends for life 
My fellow students came from all walks of life, and I built friendships with such a range of people. We created a WhatsApp group and met for coffees together regularly. Being part of the Birkbeck Women’s Network also offered a great opportunity to meet other students. It was a very supportive network in which people provided advice to others on personal things as well as academic. I also went to as many Birkbeck free events as I could because I found them mind-blowing – they were always very interesting and it was a great place to network.  

I’m embarking on a Master’s in Law this year 
Alongside my full-time job, I’m shadowing the legal team in my local authority and observing courts, as well as volunteering with Citizens Advice for qualified work experience as part of my MA Law (SQEI). I have also applied to be a magistrate and have passed the stages – I'm now waiting for my interview. I’d encourage others to follow their passions and dreams; despite being 53 I feel like the world is my oyster and I can be the person I want to be and do what I want to do! Birkbeck was fundamental in that journey. 

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