How my degree enabled me to build a car

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By Abdul-Azeez, BEng Aerospace Engineering

UWE Bristol graduate, Abdul-Azeez, tells us about his experience as a visually impaired, international student studying Aerospace Engineering in the UK. He shares what influenced his decision to study at UWE Bristol, the support he received, and how his degree enabled him to build a car.

Studying in Bristol

I always knew I wanted to study in the UK. Universities here have mastered the art of teaching while encouraging independent thinking. They point you in the right direction so you can conduct your own research, with a healthy balance between theoretical and practical teaching. There’s a perfect balance of academic experiences, and non-academic experiences. A lot of focus is put on lifestyle too, and you’re encouraged to take part in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

“The decision to choose UWE Bristol was a relatively easy one for me. I knew of the industrial links that Bristol had – that I’d be in a city where I could immerse myself in aerospace engineering beyond the equations. There were career fairs, field trips, placements – endless opportunities to expand my prospects.”

UWE Bristol really leverage their industrial links and create space for their students within these opportunities. It provided a huge learning experience, particularly for engineering students where theoretical knowledge is strengthened through industry insight.

There was also a huge cluster of international students which made me feel at home – even on my course there were other Nigerians, so at no point did I feel alone. The lecturers were also from all around the globe, which gave the feeling of world-class teaching.

As for Bristol, my first impression was that it’s such a great city to just ‘be’ in regardless of being a student. There’s lots to explore, a huge history and huge atmosphere around it. Plus, the people are so welcoming, and UWE Bristol as a base provides a safe space; a ‘home away from home’.

Studying abroad with a visual impairment

My experience of going to university as a visually impaired student couldn’t have been handled better than it was at UWE Bristol. The support I received was fantastic from the very start. My experience began with a meeting with the Disability Service, my lecturers and teaching staff, and my family. This helped us to flesh out the course together and plan what I’d need so I was ready to face everything the course would throw my way.

UWE Bristol made sure I’d understand and be able to take part in everything, adapting the course programme to suit my particular needs. I experienced first-hand how they shaped the course to a student, not vice versa – everything felt tailor-made.

“My biggest passion is being able to live a full and functional life with my disability, to get involved with any sporting activity, and whichever profession I want. UWE Bristol really fed into that; they made adjustments throughout the entire experience, so all opportunities were available to me.”

Support is embedded in the culture at UWE Bristol; everyone I worked with showed enthusiasm and wanted to face every challenge head on, while coming together to ensure everyone felt positive about their studies.

My pandemic project – building a car

In 2020 when faced with a global pandemic and a potentially limitless period of isolation, I decided to use the engineering skills I’d learned at UWE Bristol to start on a project of my own; a project that I had long dreamed about. I was going to build a car.

Although a scary prospect, I decided to go for it.

“Without the encouragement I had at UWE Bristol, I wouldn’t have had an ounce of the confidence I needed to take the project on.”

UWE Bristol teaches you to aim high. In our third year we each conducted an individual project – I chose to build an aircraft. I found that you don’t know how much strength and drive you have until you try something new. The experience changed my mindset, and I was awarded best individual project by the university. This gave me such a confident boost that I knew I could apply my knowledge and tackle the build of a car.

How UWE Bristol changed my life

I always wanted to work in aviation, so earning a degree in Aerospace Engineering was something I’d aspired to for years. Completing my degree solidified this plan – it confirmed that aviation was my calling and narrowed my field of interest by highlighting the aspects I most enjoyed.

UWE Bristol prepared me for my career, giving me analytical, project management and problem-solving skills to assist with theory as well as the practical skills that formed the building blocks of my studies. Putting the theory into practice taught me how to apply my knowledge of aerospace engineering principles to other avenues, opening a multitude of industry doors for me to consider.

“There’s a real collaborative spirit at UWE Bristol. They support students in exploring the best of their potential, making them feel excited to learn.”

They encouraged us to make ourselves at home and allowed us to discover as much as we wanted to. We could go at our own pace and were given all the resources for personal development – the choice was ours to take. It’s a younger university, so there’s an abundance of fresh ideas and teaching staff aren’t afraid to do things differently.

“Seeing how the university has grown over the years and at such a fast pace has been a positive experience – any student would benefit by studying here and I’m proud to be a UWE Bristol graduate.”

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