In my role as a full-time academic it’s not often that I get to hear how my former students are doing. So I’m delighted that Pauline Shabani, a former dissertation student of mine from Bournemouth University will not only be attending our upcoming event, but is presenting her amazing dissertation .
Pauline graduated this summer with a BA in Advertising and has already secured a high-flying job, but her journey to success has not been without challenges, as she recently shared:
“Being a 22-year-old Congolese girl who left my country due to factors influenced by war, with a chronic illness (fibromyalgia) that has affected my academic life for nearly a decade, and who is now working as a manager for a start-up company in the City of London, means more to me than anyone can imagine.
“I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but am unable to recall any memories of living there as when I was four years old, my family moved to Ivory Coast. Although they are both French-speaking African countries, I still remember being greeted with this cultural shock in terms of what I remember thinking was really strange food and accents. Just as I begun to settle, we then moved to the UK, where at the age of five the shock was even greater.
“Having to learn the language and wrap my head around the fact that even within this big city, there were many more people with their own cultures, ways of living and religions. I definitely see myself as a religious person and religion has definitely given me the needed faith during hard situations throughout my life.”
At our upcoming event, Pauline is delivering a presentation on her undergraduate dissertation: You Just Have to Laugh It Off: A Study on How Humour is Used During the Sharing of Experiences About Racial Microagressions, which was inspired by her own experiences. She says:
“During my second year at Bournemouth University, a lecturer once made a comment that she expected me to have family or friends who have suffered from Ebola. It was at that moment that I looked around the room and realised I was the only non-white person. I did not comment on the incident until I arrived home and told my housemate about it and by the end of the conversation we were both laughing.
“It never really occurred to me just how much humour is used as a coping mechanism for racialised experiences that one is unable to respond to. The more I spoke to Deborah, my dissertation supervisor about the relationship between racial microaggressions and humour and the more I researched it, the more I realised that in Britain, it is actually very common and it affects many aspects of Black and Asian people’s lives without them even realising it. I have always been passionate about issues to do with race and racism; I read books, watch documentaries and attend events. But it wasn’t until I spoke to group of people about their experiences and heard the anger and hurt in their voices, that a drive within me was triggered. There is still so much more educating to do and I feel like I need to be part of it in any way I can.”
Although Pauline enjoyed many aspects of her degree, by her final year she didn’t feel that a career in advertising was right for her, but was able to utilise the broad range of transferrable skills she gained throughout the course and apply them to her role as Sales and Marketing Manager for Yada, a collaborative platform that allows event organisers and attendees to share content while the event unfolds. She says:
“I love pretty much everything about my job. I was truly blessed to graduate from university and secure a managerial role in under a month! Working for a start-up means that I am involved with everything that happens in the company and my opinion is valued. I love the freedom of being able to work in a way that best suits me, but at the same time knowing that my role means ‘no slacking’ I am constantly trying to find new ways of pushing myself.
“Another motivating aspect of my job is that the harder we work as a team, the more the company grows and we grow with it in many different aspects. I love building relationships with clients and then meeting them and watching their projects grow from planning to execution.”
It’s very fulfilling for me to see former students enjoy success, especially when like Pauline, they have overcome so many challenges in their lives. Her story is truly inspirational.