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From Al-Qassim, to Durham Graduation with a PhD

Since undergraduate level, I was a straight-A student. I was also very ambitious with high dreams. I was always dreaming about pursuing my postgraduate studies in the UK. After getting my BA from the department of English language and translation at Qassim university, I was nominated by the staff members in the department to be a teaching assistant. I was highly qualified and therefore I got the job. Since then I started searching for MA programmes in linguistics and that took me a couple of years due to the limited number of programmes available at that time in Saudi Universities. In fact, there was a preference by most of the Saudi universities to send their staff members abroad to pursue their higher education needs for quality assurance purposes and to make sure that their staff members are having the best academic skills needed which I totally agree with. However, I was not able to travel abroad at that time because of family reasons.

Graduation PhDOn to an MA in Riyadh

I applied for an MA programme at Princess Norah bin Abur Rahman University in Riyadh where I got my MA degree in Applied Linguistics with distinction. After receiving my MA degree, I started searching for a PhD programme. During that time in 2012, Qassim University made an agreement with Durham University under which Qassim University could send their staff members to Durham University to pursue their studies and gain the academic training and experience needed to develop their skills. With the encouragement from Professor Abdulrahman Al-Wasel, the Vice Rector for graduate studies and research at that time in Qassim University and my eldest sister Fatimah (may her soul rest in peace) for whom I will always be indebted, to get my PhD from the UK.

Al-Qassim to Durham – a wonderful partnership!

Durham Castle

I applied for a PhD in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures who offered me a place under the supervision of Dr. Alex Bellem (my main supervisor) and Dr. Marcela Cazzoli (my secondary supervisor and academic advisor).  I was the first student to come to Durham under the Memorandum of Understanding between Durham University and Al-Qassim University. I still remember the first day I arrived at Durham via Newcastle Airport. I was horribly worried because I travelled to the UK by myself and I was really sad because I had to leave my children in my country which was really hard for me and them.

An international PhD

Once, I reached Durham, all my worries and tension disappeared because the people were so friendly and ready to help. I still remember how a sweet old lady insisted to take me back to the hotel when she noticed that I was lost in the city centre and I did not know how to get there. I started my PhD on the 1st of May 2013. I first met Dr. Cazzoli, who was so sweet and kept encouraging me by reminding me that ‘I can do it’ in each meeting we had during the five years she supervised me. As for Dr Bellem, without her patience and constant guidance, I would not be here celebrating my graduation. She kept pushing me, hard encouraging me to participate in academic conferences and meetings, introducing me to other PhD students from other universities in addition to encouraging me to introduce myself to well-known figures in the field Arabic/English sociolinguistics. She was the best supervisor, a true friend and I am really grateful for the lovely cakes and coffee we had together.

An unforgettable experience

Everything in Durham is unforgettable. I have learned a lot and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere that I found there and turned the very cold times of the year warm. I met lovely, supporting friends. The academic atmosphere I found in studying in the UK in general and at Durham, in particular, is something that I have not experienced before in doing my MA. It really enhanced my knowledge, skills, and personality. I believe that Durham University is a good choice for international students to study due to the lovely and friendly atmosphere that they will find.

I am really indebted to my mother for taking care of my children during the times of the year, I had to be in the UK and allowing me to get my PhD from one of the best universities in the UK and in the whole world.

Find out more about International study at Durham University, download our International prospectus and visit the International Office webpages.

Read more about living and studying at Durham in other student blogs about the University and the City!


Majedah Abdullah Alaiyed