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Sara Mohammad on the Future of Cities Course

"I am a Law LLB graduate from the University of Sussex, admitted as a lawyer in the UAE since 2015. I have worked at the Central Bank of the UAE for three years as a specialist in legislation, regulation & policy in the legal department. My personal project, LawAround, is an online platform that promotes legal education in the UAE in collaboration with local students and volunteers. 

Going through the Future of Cities Summer course has been an amazing academic and personal experience. Oxford has always been a place that intrigued me. But, I never quite imagined how the University experience at Oxford would feel like, and why it had that influence on those who went through that experience.

The first thing that struck me was the surroundings at Christ Church where we stayed and had most of our lectures and meals. As I walked out every morning to class, I could sense the history of the place and it really affects how you think and feel. Looking at huge portraits of college members and alumni inside the buildings made me think about where I want this experience to take me and how I want to make the most of it, just like they did.

During this course, we have explored the broad and interdisciplinary realm of Sustainable development. The challenge lies in understanding the science behind it, economic considerations, and the social and regulatory aspects as well. This understanding is key, because sustainability goals can only be achieved through effective collaboration between these fields. The university brings together the most interesting forward thinking individuals from various backgrounds in one place to learn from each other.

The lectures and workshops were designed to touch upon all the subtopics of sustainable development, but the speakers were also a source of insight into different approaches within academia. Along with delivering their part of the syllabus, they have illustrated the diverse opinions and approaches to the topic. One of the most distinctive learning outcomes of this course was to look at issues from different angles, and to always come up with our own opinions and ideas. To do just that, the research project workshops have provided a framework for developing our own ideas following the rigorous standards of graduate studies. Learning how to build and support proposals with authoritative research is an invaluable skill, but being able to present something completely new is also important when planning the cities of the future.

It is said that you should always surround yourself with people you can learn from. I found that to be so empowering and true. Everyone I met here is so accomplished in their own fields. They all have a common goal to contribute to knowledge and to the betterment of this world. I have met many inspiring examples of academics and professionals who have built their own projects and worked with policy makers and entrepreneurs to make a difference. The networking opportunities were plenty and the conversations I had with academics and professionals were the most inspiring and eye opening ever.

My fellow attendees and I were privileged to have been part of such a carefully planned and well delivered course. Having deconstructed the topic of sustainable development through our studies, I am able to focus my attention on the specific areas relevant to my background and interests more effectively than I ever could before taking this course. Following this course, I pursued another specialised course and became certified as a business sustainability manager in 2017.

The valuable insights and knowledge I gained through this course have influenced my work as a government regulatory lawyer for the financial sector in the UAE. My understanding of challenging sustainability issues has also guided me towards meaningful personal projects such as creating a Dubai based e-commerce platform which adopts and promotes positive practices in the retail sector.

I strongly believe that my future work and success will build upon my knowledge in this area and I encourage other professionals to explore sustainability issues in more depth through this comprehensive course." 

Sara Mohammad, Class of 2016, Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities Summer Course

- February 2020