Student insights: Ria Jodah

Ria at Twickenham to enjoy England Rugby

Hilary Term is action-packed for our taught master's students. As well as option papers, assignments and preparations for their theses, they are also making the most of the wider opportunities of the University and city. We caught up with Ria Jodah on the MSc in EBSIPE to find out what brought her to Oxford, and how she's finding life here.

Why Oxford? Growing up, I had hoped to do my undergraduate degree at Oxford because it seemed like a special place without restrictions on what and how you could learn. Financially, however, it wasn't feasible for me and my family at the time. A few years later during my undergraduate program at another institution, I had the privilege studying abroad here. It only took a term to convince me that my initial thoughts were correct. And, as a bonus, it was such a beautiful city to live in. When the opportunity arose to come back for graduate school, I couldn't resist.

What drives your interest in social intervention?
During my final year of undergraduate studies, I realised the depths to which health and social inequalities are intertwined. However, health policy was still a fuzzy concept for me. With intentions of eventually practicing medicine back home in Guyana and in other under-resourced regions, I wanted a grasp on health policy beyond a buzzword level. Understanding the mechanisms behind the creation, implementation and evaluation of social interventions and policy creates an invaluable framework that I hope will guide how I think, learn and eventually practice moving forward.

What were the highlights of your first term on the course?
In the classroom setting, learning R without any background in coding felt like digging myself into a hole from which I could not emerge. However, as the term went on, it grew into a love-hate relationship. I gained  friends through communal struggle while we worked on assignments and experienced immense satisfied when my code finally worked. Across the course, the teaching staff have been incredible sources of support and encouragement, regardless of whether assignments go as originally planned (spoiler: you don't always have to have it all figured out!). 
Outside of the classroom, rugby was a huge source of joy - and still is. I've been able to play both on the university team and with a local club, each of which has helped me grow in different ways. The privilege of being able to run around with a group of phenomenal women make muddy practices the highlight of my week. We've actually got a big game coming up and I can't wait. #ShoetheTabs

What has been challenging, unexpectedly or otherwise?
Having already experienced living abroad for my undergraduate degree, I grossly underestimated the effects associated with transitioning to new place and academic program, irrespective of the stage in your scholarly journey. As a graduate student, it seemed strange to struggle with making friends, finding balance, understanding/enjoying class content, imposter syndrome and being in a less diverse environment than I was used to. However, I found that a mixture of resilience, self-compassion and patience was key. Cutting myself some slack, reaching out to others (shocker: I was not the only one who felt this way!) and continually being eager to learn resulted in feeling more settled as the term went on.

Do you have ideas of what you want to do after the end of your MSc?
I'll be starting medical school eventually but between then and the completion of my MSc, I'm hoping to apply the skills I've learned during the course out in the working world! My background and interests coupled with the breadth and depth of the course material means that I am excited and capable of working anywhere across the spectrum in (global) health. This includes data analysis, policy, consulting, project management and research. Some friends have helped me sort out my LinkedIn page, so I guess that I am officially on the job hunt!