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"It's a once in a lifetime experience"

Pamela Odumusi was in her third year of work when she realised she wanted to do a degree in gender studies but didn’t want to stop working. Studying at Birkbeck helped her have the best of both worlds. Pamela graduated from an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture earlier this year.

Pamela Odumusi standing in front of a building wearing graduation robes and cap
Pamela Odumusi at her graduation

The perfect opportunity
I studied advertising for my undergraduate degree, and quickly learnt the best way to get far in media is to have a real passion for your role. So, I identified specific areas which I find interesting and specialised in them to make myself valuable on my teams, which led me to working as a Digital Manager. But I also knew that I wanted to keep studying. My undergraduate dissertation focused on feminism and femininity in teen films, which I've always loved, and ever since finishing my undergraduate degree, I knew that I wanted to further explore teen films, but from a lens that also considered my perspective as a Black girl consuming the genre in the 2000's. However, I felt I was on a good career trajectory, so I was hesitant to stop working to make time to study. I was Googling away, looking for a solution when Birkbeck came up. It seemed like the perfect opportunity – to study in the evenings and continue working. In most cases I would have had to stop work completely and take two years out, whereas studying at Birkbeck allowed me to continue spending my days at work.

Birkbeck is about determination
Studying alongside work during the pandemic was a huge challenge, and I really missed not being surrounded by people during the days and nights. But I knew I wasn't alone. Everyone that comes to Birkbeck has their own situation at home - whether they're working, or they've got kids, or they've got something else going on in their lives. That really came through when I spoke to people on different courses or different modules, everyone was so motivated. Being around people who are determined to get their degree was a source of real inspiration.

A supportive learning environment
There was a lot of support from other people studying; we shared questions, thoughts and experiences, bouncing ideas off each other to help each other succeed. This determination to succeed was matched by the lecturers' dedication and support to help us do so. Everyone was so accommodating and attentive. If I had to miss a lecture or needed help on an assignment, the Birkbeck staff were always on hand and understanding. I noticed through my time at Birkbeck that not only was there a massive improvement in my writing but I'm also a better problem-solver now. Having to constantly think of the best way to approach an essay or chapter of a dissertation really makes you sit back and question if there are different ways around an issue.

Studying while working made me stand out
Embracing the challenge of balancing full-time employment with studying was noticed by my employers. It's a big deal! They see me as someone with ambition, someone willing to go out of my way to complete something. And that makes me stand out, because it's not necessarily something you expect people to be doing or have completed while working. I was a freshly made Digital Manager when I first started studying and had been promoted up to Digital Director by the final months of my Master's. Eventually, I'd love to do a PhD to further explore race in film, particularly the complex relationship Black women and girls have with the medium. For now, I'm taking the time to enjoy my job and the new possibilities open to me at my current level. If anyone is thinking of working and studying at the same time, I'd say take the time to enjoy the process; it's a once in a lifetime experience!

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