In “Ensuring Robust Citizenship Rights” I Ensured Myself as a Research Scholar

Published: Posted on

by Aisha Matoo

As an Undergraduate Research Scholar this summer, I have grown as an academic and as a person. It has been a rewarding and eye-opening experience that I am truly grateful for. My project, titled “Ensuring Robust Citizenship Rights” tasked me with documenting and profiling individual victims of the Windrush Scandal and Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster and identifying where the law has failed to protect its citizens. I applied for this scholarship because, although these were reported tragedies, I had no real knowledge of their legal impacts, let alone their social and historical impacts. I wanted to engage with legal issues that affected people who could have been my neighbours or relatives. 

It’s safe to say at the beginning of my first week I was overwhelmed and anxious: I had over 300 people in total to locate and document how each tragedy had affected their lives. It was a daunting start sifting through profiles and social media sites. Thankfully, I am an avid list-maker and checklist-ticker which made organising my research a lot easier. The only thing I was not prepared for was thinking I had found everyone, only to find out there were 20 more people whose testimonies had just been uploaded or uncovered. Those moments were definitely bittersweet. This scholarship has taught me that research is ongoing and continuous but the real skill of research is identifying the real and relevant information, not just hoarding all of it. 

Although profiling individuals was a continual process throughout my 5 weeks due to testimonies being released just days before I was due to finish, I had more time than I thought to explore other areas or points of interest I thought could assist my Dr Wade in identifying these gaps of citizen protection. I am beyond grateful for the freedom Dr Wade allowed me and the inspiration she gave me to follow-up research which interested me. This allowed me to delve further into legal relationships between employer and employee, doctor and patient and landlord and tenants. I was also given artistic freedom, if you can call it that in reference to a Microsoft Word document, in how to present the profiles which I really believe helped in organising and picking out relevant information. Never overestimate the power of a table, sometimes a simple ‘fill-in form’ style can do the job. 

An aspect of my research which I hadn’t considered was the impact it would have on my own mental health or perceptions. It wasn’t until I had a face-to-face meeting with Dr Wade where they checked how I was feeling or whether the trauma of the victims was negatively impacting my health. These were feelings I hadn’t recognised until she checked up on me. I was grateful for the ‘check-up’. I don’t think you realise reading about someone’s life being turned upside down so suddenly can make you so wary and anxious. After she had asked me how I was feeling, I recalled all the moments I had checked for fire safety notices in buildings, all the moments I had stared up at high-rise flats wondering if there was an escape route, all the moments I had recognised how lucky I was to have my passport, driving licence etc. identifying my citizenship status. I don’t think you realise reading about someone’s life being turned upside down so suddenly can make you so wary and anxious yet grateful and appreciative. 

I am beyond grateful for such a rewarding experience. This scholarship has guided me in what I want to embark upon in the future which would have been a longer decision, and more painful probably, had I not had this amazing opportunity. I have grown as a scholar, exercising a new found respect for research (I will definitely remember this when ploughing through set reading for my modules) and it’s impact. I have also harnessed so many skills and learnt many lessons during my 5 weeks: organisation, time-management, accepting dead-ends and defeat, allowing yourself to become engrossed in what interests you, becoming independent and self-reliant. I would like to thank Dr Marianne Wade for an invaluable summer and unique opportunity. I urge anyone who is interested in a project next year to take a chance and apply, I cannot think of a better way to unearth what your true passions are, academically and personally, and ultimately aide your future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *