Avar Almukhtar

Iraq, PHD Urban Design

“The sense of history Oxford has and then also the proximity to London and airports is a big bonus to us internationals, especially in the first few years as I used to travel home a lot.”

Why did you choose to study in the UK?  

My scholarship was for the UK and I was comfortable with that environment, so I didn’t want to change to another place. Within the UK I considered UCL and Sheffield, but I enjoyed my Masters at Brookes and was comfortable with the academic stuff, especially the topic. My supervisor is one of the key people for this topic, so I thought it’s the best place to continue for the PhD.

What did you enjoy the most about your course?

What I enjoy the most is the opportunities we are engaged in and exposed to for different research. We have lunchtime seminars and workshops with which we learn a lot from other colleagues. I have been teaching for the last two years in the department, which again was a very exciting and unique experience for me. It’s a rewarding experience. First I applied for the associated lecturer course, which is free for PhD students and was successful. Then I approached my supervisors about any teaching opportunities, and at the start taught as a volunteer then gained a few hours on a contract. I was a bit hesitant before I started teaching, thinking I was not confident enough to deal with students, but I was surprised that I developed in a way that I could deal with students. That and of course learning from other students as well, because Brookes is very international and in the course I teach in, students are from everywhere from New York to Mumbai, so I am learning as well.

How do you feel the teaching style here compares to back home?  

Well, it’s totally different, but the main differences are the teaching staff here are more supportive and more friendly.  There is less of a barrier between student and tutor. We have different modules then we had during the Masters, so the teaching style is quite different. It’s practice mixed with theory and I quite enjoy the practice based teaching, as we deal with real life issues and real life problems.  

How did the staff help you settle in?

I booked my flight so I could catch the welcome weekend which was extremely useful. I found people waiting for us at the airport with a bus. Then on the next day they took us for a tour around town and the campus.

What would you say you’ve liked most about living in Oxford?

The international aspect as you meet people in research seminars, lectures and talks from so many different places in the world. Also in the winter I like to go and spend some time at the Bodleian and then have a coffee in town. That’s something I enjoy, but in summer I like the parks and going cycling on the canal road.