QMUL students attend UPA Conference 2020 at the University of Birmingham

On the 6th of March, 6 students from the QMUL International Foundation Year accompanied programme convenor Mark Holloway to the annual University Pathway Alliance Conference at the University of Birmingham.  The highlight of the day was the Pecha Kucha competition, with presentations by all UPA member institutions present.  QMUL were represented by Ali Alosaimi, who gave an excellent presentation and received praise from the judges for his wit, charisma, and engaging delivery.  The standards were very high, and Ali didn’t quite make the top three, but his supporters – by far the loudest in the room – were very proud of his contribution.

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Birmingham UPA Ali 1Ali wrote the following about the experience of attending the conference:

This year’s topic was “The Secret Life of an International Student”, and through presenting this topic, I feel that I showed people my actual life as an international student. Going to Birmingham and representing Queen Mary is definitely one of my highlights from the IFP. This opportunity helped my presentation skills as well as improved my English speaking skills. I had the chance to network with people studying and working at universities all across the country (which as an international student, will benefit you greatly). I got to see Birmingham University’s beautiful campus, as well as meet and chat with students studying there. I also saw what it was like to be an international student from the perspective of other students studying at other universities. My advice to students is that if an opportunity such as this comes your way, seize it because it will benefit you in many ways you won’t even know about. 

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QMUL IFP Students attend the University Pathway Alliance Conference at Woburn House in Bloomsbury

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Anthony Manning, Dean for Internationalisation at the University of Kent and Chair of the UPA

Staff and students had the pleasure of attending the first University Pathway Alliance (UPA) conference at Woburn House in Bloomsbury on Friday the 8th of February.  Queen  Mary is a founder member of the UPA, an organisation which aims to champion the high-quality features of international pathways which are designed, owned and delivered by UK universities.

The conference kicked off with a pechakucha presentation competition.  Students from 9 of the UPA’s 10 members participated, and the standard was excellent.  Karim Motawe from Egypt did a great job representing Queen Mary, his wit and charm complementing his self-taken photography very well.  First prize quite rightly went to the presenter from Kent, however, who used her twenty slides to tell an inspiring story of her personal journey as an international foundation student.

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Karim Motawe’s pechakucha presentation

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Everyone’s a winner – pechakucha presenters from 9 UPA institutions

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Our four other student delegates also represented Queen Mary very well in discussions and networking opportunities afforded by the conference.  Beatrice Braghi from Italy said this of her experience of the event:


“I really enjoyed the experience at the UPA conference and I was very proud to represent Queen Mary at Woburn House. Meeting foundation students from other UK universities and listening to their experience was very interesting and finding out that we all share the same struggles made me feel part of a big community.”

These positive sentiments were echoed by Margarita Anisimova from Russia:

“It was an honour taking part at a University Pathway Alliance conference, I was able to engage with students and teachers from other international foundation programmes. In our constructive workshop, we shared our knowledge and personal experience with our courses. I was surrounded by very inspiring individuals who are keen on their studies and improving foundation programmes.”

Adnan Zuwayyed from Jordan contributed the following reflection on the day:

“The Pecha Kucha presentations resonated with me as an international student, because many of the students were from different parts of the world, their presentations showed the struggles of studying abroad. In a way, watching the presentations was a kind of catharsis, knowing I wasn’t alone in my struggles, and seeing them presented in such a unique, and humorous, fashion, I was comforted to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling. The workshop was wonderful, I sat with different students and university staff, and we discussed international student integration, and how to tackle certain problems, such as understanding the culture, feeling alienated, and how our respective universities help us overcome these problems. Overall it was a wonderful experience, and I recommend all future international students to attend, they don’t have to participate, just being there among the audience was greatly beneficial.”



Legal traineeship with one of Singapore’s Big 4

Michelle Theresa Thio Li Fong graduated in July 2018 with a First Class Honours degree in Law. Among here many achievements during her time at Queen Mary was obtaining the Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement in 2018. She is now working towards being legally qualified as a Legal Trainee back home in Singapore. Here she reflects on how the IFP laid the foundations which helped her achieve her academic goals.

The International Foundation Programme (IFP) has been one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences over my past 4 years in London. Ranging from academic, social and holistic development, I truly believe that the IFP is indeed a comprehensive programme that prepares individuals for their undergraduate studies.

First, the structure of the IFP allows individuals from all academic backgrounds to acclimatise to the pace of British Higher Education. Personally, I appreciated the cumulative mode of assessment, which is highly relevant to undergraduate studies. Moreover, I found that electing essay-based modules – International Relations & Politics, English & American Literature and Human Geography, improved my ability to write discursively, factoring in well for the Law undergraduate programme.

Michelle Thio

Secondly, the IFP is indeed an international platform hosting a plethora of nationalities. With such a combination of cultures, I felt that my perspectives on world issues were enhanced and enlightened. Some of my closest friends during my LLB undergraduate studies were in fact the people who journeyed with me during the IFP, and they continue to be my dear friends even after Graduation.

Lastly, the holistic aspect of the IFP comes through the support offered by the IFP team. Be it Personal Development, Teaching Office Hours or Peer Support, there is no shortage of student support services available. I was deeply motivated by the dedication of Dr Fenton, who constantly guided us through the Human Geography module. Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I had the privilege of working as a member of the Peer Support Team, aiding and advising current students on both academic and social of the IFP.

The three aspects of development have assisted me greatly throughout my undergraduate studies, and I believe that these aspects will continue to do so as I embark on my journey as a Law Professional.


Working at the UN

Daniela MacArena Alvarez Baringo completed the IFP in 2015 and went on to Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations, graduating with a 2:1 in International Relations in July 2018.  As part of her undergraduate degree at Queen Mary she had the opportunity to spend a year aboard at Boston College in the United States. Daniela reflects for us on her time at Queen Mary.

DanielaThe IFP was crucial to succeed on my undergraduate studies at QMUL. After IFP my English and academic skills improved significantly and I was more than confident to achieve my goals. All four years at QMUL were incredible but I remember IFP and my Exchange year at Boston College as the best years of my life. I would recommend IFP to everyone who comes from another country. Moving abroad is never easy and it is a year of adaptation and of getting to know new people with the same circumstances. Every year I did internships during the summer. I went to NGOs to help in anything which was needed, which later inspired me to write my dissertation on this topic and my experience with these NGOs. Now, one month after graduation I will start working in NYC for the Spanish Mission at the United Nations. I still cannot believe it!! I am the happiest person in the world! Thank you QMUL for everything!

Success at Queen Mary leads to the Big Apple

Bozidar Bogosavljev from Serbia completed the IFP in 2015 and went on to obtain a First Class Honours degree in LLB Law and Politics from Queen Mary’s School of Law in July 2018. He is currently completing an LLM in Corporation Law at New York University. Here he looks back on his experience at Queen Mary on the IFP and as an undergraduate.

When I first came to the UK, I was little more than a confused 18-year old unsure of what I wanted to pursue in my career. Of course, at the time, it didn’t seem so to myself – although I was still not fully decided on what I would pursue after my undergraduate degree, I mostly felt as though I had university all figured out, being as I had been very successful in high school as well. As it turned out, however – and this is something I would only later realise upon some serious self-reflection – I was dead wrong.

Bozidar Bogosavljev

As I would come to understand during my time at Queen Mary, studying at university level in a foreign country is something entirely different to what most of us will have been used to up until that point. It involves becoming familiar with and actively using a specific style of academic jargon; being entirely self-sufficient when it comes to preparing for essays and exams; regulating your own sleeping schedule; cleaning; cooking; and a myriad of other things which might never have crossed your mind back home. The amazing thing is, however, that I barely noticed this inherently difficult transition, which I can largely attribute to my time on the IFP. The best way I could describe it would be a “unique, tangible, pre-university experience” which teaches you the ins and outs of university life, from the mundane to the truly challenging. During the IFP, I learned how to write academic essays, how to reference them properly, how to search the library, how to use Westlaw and QMPlus, how to compose a professional email, and much, much more. I made friends who stayed with me throughout my LLB, always there to help me when I needed it and to share insights which few other students could as they had started their undergraduate education straight out of high school.

Now, 4 years later, I hold a First Class Honours degree in LLB Law and Politics, and will be continuing my education with the LLM Corporation Law at New York University. I can safely say that a very important contributing factor to my success has been that 1 year of IFP; it taught me what to expect of university in an equally rigorous, yet slightly more familiar setting, and I truly wonder if I would be where I am today had I not opted to do it.


IFP Alumni Careers Event

It was great to welcome seven Queen Mary IFP alumni who have since graduated and are now working in London back to campus on Thursday the 4th of December for a panel discussion and networking event. Now working in a wide variety of sectors, the alumni shared happy memories of their time on the IFP and insights into the careers they have chosen to pursue with current IFP students and IFP alumni who are now undergraduates at Alumni Event 5.12Queen Mary. It was wonderful to see such a great turnout on a wet December evening at a busy time of year.

From left to right the panel consisted of Feyi Adegbohun, (EY -formerly Ernst and Young) Ervig Hysaj (Bline Group) Billy Ng (Carters), Tornike Liparteliani (Insignia), Thevinth Sivagnanam (Statpro), Sarah Bhuiyan (UCL) and Ibrahim Altayeb (Longulf).

Topics covered in the wide-ranging discussion included how to network, obtaining your first professional position, developing your transferable skills while at university and the differences and similarities between student life and working life.





Dark Sugars : a photo essay

This photo essay, by Margarita Anisimova, Natacha Voskoboinikoff, Faisal Al Kaisi, and Maria Jose Cardona Forero analyses the activities of a Tower Hamlets business, the Dark Sugars chocolate shop in Brick Lane.  All photos by Natacha Voskoboinikoff.


Dark Sugars is a chocolate shop. Two shops are available in Tower Hamlets, London. The first shop (the smallest), Dark Sugars Chocolates is located at 141 Brick Lane, London, and the second one Dark Sugars Cocoa House is located in 124-126 Brick Lane, London.

In this photo essay, we are going to focus on the Dark Sugars Chocolates because that was the first shop to open and we interviewed a staff member there.

These two shops are opened from 10 am to 10 pm, from Monday to Sunday. It is possible to contact them via email info@darksugars.co.uk , social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and phone +44(0)7429472606.

Customers come to the shops from all around the world in order to taste Ghanaian cocoa beans and have the chance to dance with the Chocolate Man.

Dark Sugars is a cultural venue in Tower Hamlets run as a Business. This is what we are going to demonstrate in this report.


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‘’Dark Sugars is the story of one woman’s journey to tell the story of cocoa – from tree to tummy.’’

One day, a woman called Nyanga went to Spitalfields Market in order to find two truffles and a lot of chutzpah. While she was looking for these products, she met someone. She found in the market a man, the Chocolate Man who shared her love of chocolate. From that day, Nyanga and the Chocolate Man decided to open a stand in the famous Borough Market.

A few years later, Nyanga flew to South America and West Africa, Ghana, in her family’s farm, to research cocoa. Then she came back to London, sharing her experience from these three years.

This is how in 2013, Nyanga and the Chocolate Man opened the first Dark Sugars shop, Dark Sugars Chocolates Shop on Brick Lane. Then, because of the big success, two years after, the second shop, Dark Sugars Cocoa House opened.





Dark Sugars is widely renowned for its famous chocolates, its unique and cultural vibe. The shop is inspired by African art and provides an entirely different experience of buying chocolate. Typically, you would enter a chocolate shop with the aim of just buying chocolate and leaving right away. With Dark Sugars, however, our money is being paid to immerse in a different culture. Once you enter the shop, you are entering a different world with a unique aura that makes you feel comfortable. Dark Sugars provide quality chocolates that are homemade with quality ingredients. Having made chocolates from Ghanaian cocoa beans, people around the world visit to come and have a taste of their chocolates.  Every person is welcome, our money goes to not only the tasty chocolates they provide but the incredible experience that comes along with it. This is how they try to satisfy their customers.





Dark Sugars wants to offer the best experience to their customers. In order to satisfy everyone, they select high-quality chocolates. The main point is to share their passion and culture.

In terms of marketing, they want customers to have a good impression of the brand. As a matter of fact, they communicate a lot on their social media. They want people to share their experience with Dark Sugars. Every person that has experienced Dark Sugars took a picture of it. Moreover, when people enter the shop they can enjoy quiet music and the delicious smell of chocolate. In the shop, people have the possibility to taste different chocolates so that they decide to buy the product. Shops are designed in a very welcoming way, with warm colours. On the wall, we can find their symbolic painting, ‘’The five Heroes of Dark sugars’’(see figure 2), with a story next to it. To earn the public’s confidence, customers can attend the preparation of their hot chocolates. Cocoa beans are exposed in the shop and are cut in front of the customers. This is a way to connect with them.

When buying any product, a Dark Sugars sticker is placed across it. Every cup, box, napkin has the Dark Sugar logo. This is part of the marketing.





At the Dark Sugars chocolate shop, we can only see one man. He welcomes and advises the customers, he is responsible for sales. The atmosphere in the Dark Sugars is filled with positivity and happiness. This is mainly due to their staff as they are so polite so that you can feel that they are real experts in chocolate. For example, the way the man-made hot chocolate was like a journey. He explained to us the history of hot chocolate, the recipe and what kind of chocolate he was using. It is fascinating how one man in that little shop can make you your favourite drink, advise you on the chocolate selection and at the same time tell the story of the chocolate making. Because of this professionalism, the customers are leaving the Dark Sugars with a smile on their faces, they are filled with positive energy.





Dark sugar makes a profit by selling unique handmade chocolates, truffles and vegan treats. Customers prefer to buy from this shop and not others, as not many chocolate shops offer their customers vegan chocolate options. Furthermore, they sell a huge variety of flavours including pistachio, hazelnut, orange and passion fruit. According to the man that we interviewed, these flavours are ones of the most popular. Customers really enjoy tasting these. The organisation analyses the trends of the flavours that people buy the most, in order to see which flavours can be produced more. As a matter of fact, if they produce more chocolates that are on demand, their profit is going to increase and the losses will be less for their business.





Dark Sugars is a cultural venue in Tower Hamlets run as a Business that knows how to target their customers.

To assure customers full satisfaction and have a chance to expand, Dark Sugars offers quality, the possibility to deliver his products worldwide, has a variety of handmade flavours, kind and expert staff. Moreover, they organize some events in their shops and give you the possibility to organize your own events in their shops. Dark Sugars has a unique identity, passion and cultural vibes with African influences.

Hence, Dark Sugars is a promising business.

-Margarita, Maria, Natacha