My journey to Durham & the Hatfield Lioness Scholarship

Shanila Zafar

I come from Chitral, a small valley in the North of Pakistan. My hometown is a stunningly beautiful region with an immense natural beauty. However, it is also one of the high risks regions in Northern Pakistan, where people have been facing climate emergencies for decades. Natural disasters are posing enormous risks to the livelihood of communities in the region by destroying their homes and health and education facilities. People are forced to leave their homes and lands where they were born, grew up, and lived for centuries. Growing up in Chitral, seeing and experiencing the impact of climate change made me realize that climate change is not just an environmental concern but also an enormous threat to our health and creates severe socio-cultural implications for communities. It affects every dimension of human health, from food production, access to fresh water supply disease exposure to mental health. I became interested in exploring topics like human health impacts of climate change and climate justice because some communities contribute the least to carbon emissions. Still, they are most vulnerable and face the brunt of climate change impacts. I also come from one such community. My personal life experience and passion for serving my community back home brought me to Durham University to study MSc Global and Planetary Health.

Becoming part of an extraordinary and diverse learning community

The MSc Global and Planetary Health at Durham allowed me to study various modules that comprehensively address the connection between health and environmental sustainability. More importantly, it enabled me to understand that contemporary issues like climate change and energy transition have broader consequences for people and their cultures because they create political and practical implications for societies. It allowed me to interact with students from diverse backgrounds during seminars and lectures where everyone gets a chance to express their opinions freely, which are respected and listened to by others. Especially the faculty in the anthropology department is very supportive and open to student queries and motivate every student to participate in discussions during seminars.

Winning the Hatfield Lioness Scholarship

Studying at a prestigious institution like Durham University has always been my major life goal. Getting a fully funded opportunity was a significant challenge for me as Durham University provides funding opportunities for International students, and I also applied for one. I was awarded the Hatfield Lioness Scholarship by Hatfield College at Durham University. It is a fully funded opportunity given to one female student from a developing country to study masters at Durham University. I appreciate this initiative of Hatfield College as it enables deserving female students from developing countries to come to Durham University and be change-makers in their respective fields for marginalized communities in their home countries and worldwide.

My life as a student in one of Durham University’s Colleges

The collegiate system at Durham University will always be my favorite part of my postgraduate journey. Becoming part of the Hatfield College community, I interacted with students from diverse backgrounds. The events like formal dinners helped me expand my personal and professional networks and enjoy various British and other cuisines. Getting dressed up for the formal after a hectic study week and enjoying the food at the formal dinners is something that I will never forget. In college, I always felt like living in a friendly community where everyone is welcoming and accepting. More importantly, the college gives equal opportunity to every student to take up different roles, as I got elected as the Events Officer for the Middle Common Room. Working as an Events Officer for the MCR in Hatfield College allowed me to work closely with fellow executives and college staff to arrange different social events. This role equipped me with organizational, communication, and networking skills which will be my strengths in my future career.

Overall, my life as a postgraduate at Durham University is going great. I gained a lot of skills and knowledge as a postgraduate student that I want to take back home to contribute to the well-being of my community and other vulnerable communities suffering from climate change worldwide by working with agencies of the United Nations and Aga Khan Development Network that are working with marginalized communities across the world tackle the issue of climate change and building resilient communities. I will always cherish my journey as a postgraduate student and a Hatfield Lioness Scholar at Durham University.

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Shanila Zafar

I’m Shanila Zafar from Chitral, Pakistan, and currently studying MSc in Global and Planetary Health in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University. I was awarded the Hatfield Lioness Scholarship - a fully funded opportunity given to one female student from a developing country every year to study for a Master’s at Durham University. I was also elected as the Events Officer for the Middle Common Room at Hatfield College and worked as a course representative in the Anthropology Department.

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