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

Understanding Multiculturalism in Brick Lane using our senses : a photo essay

In October 2018, QMUL IFP students worked in groups to produce photo essays on topics that can be explored in the borough of Tower Hamlets.  We were very impressed by some of the work submitted.  This photo essay attempts to answer a Human Geography question about experiencing multiculturalism through the senses on a trip to Brick Lane.  Words and images are by Lin Selby, Harry Charlesworth, and Audrey Chen.

Brick Lane is a cultural hub, with its emerging presence on London’s tourism scene creating an opportunity for the ethnic groups within it interact in a positive way that reinforces a sense of multiculturalism. adding to its culturally diverse environment. It is removed enough from the city centre to create its own unique culture, but yet close enough for locals to mingle with people of different ethnicities. An appreciation for the interdependent relationship between our senses allows for a personal exploration of a both societal and individual understanding of cultural diversity within communities. Specifically in Brick Lane, the sounds and smells evoke an emotional connection between vendors and tourists that ultimately allow for a harmonious relationship of culture. (Harry)


Brick Lane market provides people of different cultures with the space to come together. The atmosphere and sounds that surround the market gives it its unique personality and further exemplify the diverse community within Brick Lane. (Audrey)

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photo taken by Audrey

Stepping into Brick Lane market, one is greeted by a flurry of sights and sounds. Having street performers line the start of the market sets the joyous mood and adds to the distinct cultural flavour of the market. In this instance, this one-man band caught the attention of patrons. His infectious energy and joy he exudes when performing was thoroughly infectious, making it a great start to anyone’s visit to Brick Lane market. Live entertainment plays a big part in bringing new life to the marketplace. With no fixed seating to enjoy a home-cooked meal from one of the many stalls, the locals are often seen gathering around live performers to fully take in the surrounding sights and sounds. (Audrey)


Photo taken by Lin

A great chatter came from a crowd of people who enthusiastically engaged in a free game of chess. The man who manages the stall is from Sierra, and his opponents are from all over the world and thus, there was a great mix of languages spoken at the scene. Despite the language barrier that exists between the people, everyone was laughing, and enjoying themselves trying to beat the expert chess player. According to the stall holder, he attracts regular ‘customers’ who are surprisingly not just from London but other parts of the world as well. (Lin)

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The various aromas coming from the food shops selling different kinds of cultural food along Brick Lane attracts both locals and tourists coming from everywhere around the world. (Lin)

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Brick Lane market allows people can learn of different cultures through food. Stall owners hail from all ends of the world. This is a distinct feature of Brick Lane and food is a universal language for people to connect and interact with each other. The aromas of Chinese stir fry and the heat emitted from the steamer carrying rows and rows of steamed meat buns are extremely enticing to customers. A Chinese food stall in the middle of Brick Lane, run by a Malaysian and Nepalese duo, is the epitome of multiculturalism within the community. (Audrey)

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Photo taken by Lin

The strong smell coming from “Dark Sugars’ is what causes almost every passer-by to stop and try the authentic African chocolate. The chocolate made from cocoa beans imported from Africa are left on display on the ground floor and the deep smell of the cocoa lingers throughout the store. The African employees also make their chocolate drinks up front and this adds richness to the surrounding aroma. This unsurprisingly attracts a large array of people to the store. The cashier said that he actually acquired the ability to speak mandarin due to the large influx of Chinese people that visit the store. He had also agreed that the store has brought people from all countries and it is comforting to see people of all races coming together to enjoy real chocolate. (Lin)

Individuals who submerge themselves in the bustling cultural dynamic of Brick lane realise it is the market itself that facilitates an understanding of multiculturalism. It is impossible then, to ignore that multiculturalism here is founded upon people of different backgrounds realising how specific aspects of their own culture can be used to reinforce society’s positive view of multiculturalism in Brick Lane. (Harry)

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Photo taken by Audrey

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Photo taken by Harry

Specifically employing the use of hearing and smell as tools for uncovering why the market is a symbol for multiculturalism allows us to form our own understanding of the concept. Image five’s high angle shot incorporates the overarching prosperity of the markets in brick lane, allowing us to realise the abundant multicultural relationship between the stalls and people. What is deliberate here is having captured the chaotic soundscape of people scrambling for a new cultural experience that is food, strengthening how Brick Lane can be appreciated through the senses. Notice how ‘Posh Pork Baps’ is incorporated into the image that further connotes the smell of food that entices customers’ interaction with various stalls. (Harry)

Image six utilises the focal point of coffee beans that allowed us to harness our sense of smell.  Through this we realises the metaphoric importance of the teenager selling bean sacks every week, whose family had “always been in the coffee industry”. By incorporating his own culture into the work he does, the teen displayed as a sense of multiculturalism both for his own benefit and the community’s. To an extent however, the seventh image uses  juxtaposing features that allude to traditional British lifestyle to portray a positive balance between the array of other cultures also settled in Brick Lane. Paired with the motif of the classic British car, we overheard two thick English accents in the transaction pictured, by which we were ultimately able to understand that while other cultures were able to interact with each other in the Brick Lane markets, so too was there a positive relationship between locals who were still able to thrive with their businesses. (Harry)

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Museum of London Trip

We visit the wonderful Museum of London with IFP students every year.  Last year’s trip involved the whole cohort and was captured in this video by January-start student John Choong:

This year, however, only our January-start students were able to attend the museum trip.  Three students have provided an interesting insight into what they discovered there by writing short observations / reflections on selected exhibits:

Viet Linh Dan Bui on the Olympic Cauldron


The trip to the Museum of London was an exciting experience. The current exhibition which I was amazed at is the London Cauldron. The Cauldron was used in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 hosted in the United Kingdom. The unique factor of the Cauldron is each flame carried a fragment of the Olympic flame in a shaped copper piece. It is only burning as one when they finally perfectly and finally nestled together. What I love most about the Cauldron is the meaning of it, the present day impact it gives to each person is different. Many individuals believe that each petal is the representative of all humanity and everyone should come together as one. This belief embraces the idea of unity, because despite where you’re from, your culture and race, we are one.


Safira Wibawa on the Spitalfields silk mantua worn by Ann Fanshawe

Spitalfields silk dressThis dress was the type of formal dress worn at court. Expensive silk ordered through a City mercer, taken to a master weaver six months to weave, combining 14 different coloured threads and 4 types of silver wire. What interested me about this was the type of fashion back in the 1700s, as well as the name of the dress as Spitalfields is near the area I’m currently living in. I like that the French influence and style of the dress is distinctly obvious and how I have only ever seen such dresses on the television when showing the past, it really keened me to be able to see one in real life. French-speaking Huguenots dominated silk-weaving in East London, and there was a very fierce competition


Kittipit Viseshsin on the Great Fire of London

Great FireThe particular artefact in the War, Plague and Fire permanent  gallery I found very interesting is the painting of the Great Fire of London. This painting has an unknown origin as there was not an account of who painted this, but it was estimated that it was painted around 1675. 

What I find interesting about this oil painting is that it shows chaos and panic in great details. Looking closely at the painting, we can see crowds of people trying to load their belongings onto the boat and tried to leave the town. Tower of London and St.Paul’s Cathedral can be seen in the background. Looking at the context of the Great Fire, I think how London has recovered after five days underneath a fire is really remarkable. From further reading on this tragic event, only small number of people died while 13,200 houses were destroyed. This offered a chance for London to rebuild itself after this and plague. Not only the new public square has emerged; monument, the London Building Act of 1667 was responsible for the re-emergence of London. 

This trip to the Museum of London was definitely a remarkable experience as it offers me a chance to deepen my knowledge about the city. 


Safira Wibawa on the Votes for Women Exhibition

Votes for women

This exhibit showed women a hundred of years ago, dating back to the first time they were allowed to vote, representing comradeship and a shared commitment to challenge an unjust, male-dominated society. This picture is a letter that a woman wrote from prison to her 12-year-old daughter, imprisoned for taking a stand. The present day impact of what those women did is very noticeable and even though the battle has not fully been won, the feminist era and equality fight would not be where it is today had those women not taken the first step to fight back.


Safira Wibawa on a Victorian Grocery Store

Victorian grocery store

I could not find an exhibit particularly relevant to my ISP but the closest I found was of the Victoria Walk exhibit where it showed how different offices, banks, bars and shops looked at the time. This picture is of a grocer and since my ISP topic is on advertising, it was interesting to see how different brands branded their products and the visual ways in which the grocer tried to attract customers.