BBK Magazine 41

200th Anniversary Edition

The Last Word

Sushmina Baidya (MSc Children, Youth and International Development, 2022)

Before coming to Birkbeck, I’d spent my entire life in Kathmandu

“Before coming to Birkbeck, I’d spent my entire life in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was this, combined with my career goals, that stirred my desire to see the world and directed me to London.

I found my passion for community development and youth leadership while in secondary school. I helped orchestrate a series of silent protests following proposals to add further mid-term exams, at a time when we had already seen multiple suicides due to the pressure to perform academically. When the proposals were dropped, I realised how powerful we can be when we raise our voice together. 

During my BA in development studies, I started volunteering for We For Change, a youth-led non-profit. In my final year, I was elected president and ran the organisation for two years, delivering projects on environmental preservation and disaster response.

I wanted to continue learning, but postgraduate options in Nepal are limited. So, I applied for a Chevening Scholarship and chose Birkbeck. The change was noticeable immediately. In Nepal, you studied. At Birkbeck, it felt like you learned. There was so much more discussion between people from different walks of life, at different stages. It really made me think about my own beliefs and what I wanted to do with my life.

However, it wasn’t easy to adapt to all the changes. Essay writing had not previously been a big part of my academic assessments, so I initially performed poorly as I struggled to adjust. Everything was new to me. A few months in, I started to have some low days. I was missing my family, my home and the weather in Nepal.

Yet Birkbeck was there for me. I accessed skills support on academic writing, research and more. I wouldn’t have managed without those workshops or the support I received from the wellbeing services. When a whole organisation is structured to be flexible and to account for the daily challenges of life, it makes such a difference.

Having gained so much from Birkbeck and the support I was offered, I joined the College’s team of student callers, a group who work to contact alumni and reconnect them to Birkbeck and help ensure future students can also benefit from these resources. I was impressed and heartened to find a community of alumni committed to helping others succeed. It became clear how important this community is in making Birkbeck so special. I am proud to be among the thousands of alumni dedicated to ensuring Birkbeck continues to be special for the next two hundred years.”

Sushmina has now graduated and is working for Peace First, a global not-for-profit focused on training young people to work on social issues and entrepreneurship. As Regional Manager for Asia-Oceania, she is focused on making this programme strategically successful in the region and equipping young people with the skills to make a difference on issues that matter to them.