SSMA Blog: Professional Services Award Winner Faryaal Aziz Talks Social Mobility, University Societies and the Importance of Being Open-Minded

Faryaal Aziz is in her second year studying Law at the University of Warwick. She first secured experience at a Big Four firm at the age of sixteen. She has been involved in various social mobility charities and enjoys creating activities and presentations to encourage sixth form students from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider Higher Education. She won the Professional Services Award at the Student Social Mobility Awards 2018.

Tell us a bit about your journey to winning an award at the Student Social Mobility Awards.

I have always been on the lookout for opportunities. When I started University, I wanted to learn more about the legal industry, explore opportunities, and pair up with a mentor who would guide me, as a first-year law student with a keen interest in commercial law. So, I joined the upReach community and this proved to be yet another successful endeavour.

Through upReach I have been able to access many useful resources, an extremely dedicated and helpful Programme Coordinator, and a multitude of opportunities, including the Student Social Mobility Awards. When I first heard about the SSMAs in the upReach weekly email, I contacted my University personal tutor, who thought it looked great and something I should really put myself forward for. My personal tutor’s words of encouragement, along with my drive to achieve an excellent award, and my experiences and engagement with Professional Services, gave me the confidence to apply for an award.

How does it feel to be recognised, and what was the ceremony like?

Simply put, it feels empowering. I was absolutely elated on the night of the awards ceremony when I won the Professional Services accolade. It was a pleasure to be a part of such an exciting ceremony and an even bigger pleasure to receive such a prestigious award. This award is a testament to my hard work and an example that one’s socio-economic background does not determine one’s future prospects. This award recognises my efforts in defying all odds and highlights social mobility, which is key. It gives me confidence that students like me, from disadvantaged backgrounds, can do great things and break barriers to achieve success.

The ceremony was elating. The mood was jovial and the people were inspiring. Meeting like-minded students, and hearing about the fantastic things they have done, gave me a great feeling of happiness. This happiness was in part due to the fact that so many of the students were like me – they had grown up in disadvantaged areas, went to state schools, and were on free school meals – and yet, all of them had done incredible things and are set to achieve even more. Some students founded charities while others started their own social mobility societies and mentoring schemes, all in the name of social mobility. This was all very inspirational and motivated me to do even more to promote social mobility.

It was a pleasure to meet and be in the company of Helena Kennedy QC. It was inspiring to hear about the commendable work she has done, both in the field of law and as a woman, advocating social mobility and championing human rights. It was a high-spirited and motivational ceremony and one that I will always remember.

What advice would you give to students just starting out at university?

Be open-minded. By this I mean, go for every opportunity that interests you and do not limit yourself to certain fields. Explore the opportunities available to you even if they do not appear to relate to your course – there might be something on a scheme, internship or open day that will appeal to you. Unless you go, you won’t really know what’s on offer! Being proactive is a prerequisite and will definitely put you in good stead. At University you will find students applying for internships left, right and centre. Do something outside the box.

This links to my last tip – do not confine yourself to one stream. Find things that interest you, learn more about those things and get practical experience in that area. There are abundant opportunities out there and it is for you to utilise those opportunities to really learn more and develop.

Equally, get involved with the wide-ranging societies available at university. Starting out at university can be a rather daunting and overwhelming experience for some, especially as the work and reading piles up and you don’t know where to begin. Make a timetable and stick to it. From experience, I can say this is a satisfying exercise. I am able to balance getting my work done and being involved with societies, social events, and sports. It is important to do something you enjoy outside of academics, and university provides the opportunity to explore new things. Just a bit of discipline will afford you time to participate in all the fantastic things going on at university.

 

The Student Social Mobility Awards 2019 will take place on Wednesday 27th November at the House of Lords. Nominations will open in June. To register your interest – as a nominator, attendee or sponsor – just fill in this short form.

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