I am Martha Umeh Ude-Eze, a Masters student of Social Work and your current Vice President of Academia at Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA).
I am here to talk about my personal experience of being a student here in Scotland UK, specifically at the University of Dundee. But before I commence, I would like to thank all the coordinators of the Black History Month event, which we at DUSA have celebrated throughout the month of October 2020.
My personal experience here at the University has been awesome and worthwhile. When I first came in as a fresher, a lot of thoughts ran through my mind while making my travel arrangement plans, I was uncertain about a lot of issues regarding race, culture and diversity; coupled with the fact that I was virtually the last person to get started in my class. I had struggled to get to know my new environment, building relationships as well as trying to know my classmates and lecturers too.
I had lots of struggles, especially understanding the pattern of culture and how things worked in my school.
What surprises me most was that I got massive help from most of the University’s staff; starting with getting registered with all the regulatory bodies that my course of study required, I also received an induction from staff members as well.
What also amazed me was how my Dean, Shona Robertson, took her time, brought me into her office on my first day here in the University and allowed me to use her seat and PC while she explained a lot of course works, modules and readings I needed to do at my leisure time. It was overwhelming but I understood every word that was said because she explained to me in a way I understood perfectly. Afterwards, I was also introduced to my Practice tutor, lecturers and other staff members. It was mind-blowing to me and I don’t think I can forget that day because that was the height of kind gestures I received so far as a fresh student. It did not only give me a warm welcome but also made me realise that I am home, away from home.
Moving over to my practice tutor, Maura Daly, who since the onset of my studies has been totally amazing and helpful in various ways; ranging from helping me develop my Academic skills, building my CV and motivating me to do more academically. My experience with her has been really positive and I appreciate all her efforts so far.
Also, many thanks to all my amazing lecturers who I have not mentioned that has taught me in one way or the other.
Currently, I am with DUSA as the Vice President of Academia and my experience so far has been on a different dimension and a positive one too. Working with a larger team and making crucial decisions on certain discussions relating to the student union and enhancing student experience has been one of the best experiences I have had so far.
DUSA is a close-knitted family to me, starting from the CEO whose approach on cultivating a “One DUSA” has opened more opportunities for both staff as well as students and as a result of this, DUSA has become a living-wage employer. Generally, all staff working with DUSA are a selected set of people who have the passion and interest of students at heart. Working with DUSA has built me Academically, career-wise, skilfully & enhancing my leadership skills and experience.
DUSA has offered me an opportunity under the GCPDC certificate program, which allows me to develop myself on various aspects including; knowing my Insight Discovery profile, how best to work in a team, handling group dynamics, knowing different temperaments, colour wheels and also the various aspects of building myself academically and for the future.
While working with DUSA, I have not only learned how to help enhance student experience but also, it has made me understand the wider community of students as a whole; more so, understanding the various patterns, units, sections, groups, societies and schools that make up the university at large. Furthermore, ensuring we work in a unified way; maintaining the best standards and values of the university in general.
My experience of race & cultural diversity in Scotland, from an international student perspective, is that there are very different ways of doing things here. This may be difficult to understand because of the nature/culture in existence, but change is inevitable.
The key thing to note here is a determination to remain focused. Figuring out what you want to accomplish and striving for what you need to achieve within the time you have, either while studying, working or career-wise.
I urge not just Black students but everyone, wherever you may find yourself, to do what you find strength in and don’t be discouraged at all in what you feel you deserve and what is right to do. Especially when it’s the right time for it.
That brings me to my own story and journey of becoming the Vice President of Academia at DUSA. When I first declared my intention of running an election campaign to become the Vice President of Academia, I was massively discouraged, a lot of people told me “it is impossible to be voted for or be elected because I am from the black race”. Many said, “it was only for white students that I shouldn’t waste my time”. However, I insisted and gave it my best. I did all the necessary campaigns, did my manifestos, shared my fliers and posters, made my speech at the launch event and asked students to vote for me thereafter. In the end, it was successful and I was elected by the collective student body.
So, I urge everyone to push forward and not let limitations or other peoples perceptions hold you back. If you feel it is the right thing to do regardless of what gender, ethnic group, race or cultural backgrounds you may have – do it!
I also want to use this space to thank the University and DUSA for the progress they are making in providing opportunities for black people to feel part of the community.
However, more efforts are needed to resolve issues around race equality & diversity. I think it is useful and important if we have more diversity in our lecturers and staff. We need more black lecturers to highlight the strength of this global and reputable institution where all international students feel and see cultural diversity in practice. It’s important to note that it creates a healthy culture and environment for a University as big and highly respected as our own University of Dundee. Furthermore, diversity improves the University’s progress internationally as well as globally.
Finally, the issue of racial equality and the recent events around Black Lives Matter can only be resolved if we all join hands and show Racism the Red card together.