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'I am passionate about humanitarian work’: How my MA is helping me change lives

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Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies MA graduate Simolen Tala-Jumbam works with community groups and families to support refugees in their new lives.

Every day, University of London alumnus Simolen Tala-Jumbam and her team help refugees newly settled in Canada access housing, jobs and government services and manage their finances. 

“My favorite aspect of my role is the growth and the skills I have learnt in the years working,” says Simolen. “The challenge of sorting out the various refugee needs, which can vary from day to day depending on the case, fosters personal growth and skills.” 

Graduating in 2022 from the University’s Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies MA, the expertise she gained during her programme frequently applies to her work.  

“Many of the case laws and case studies reviewed in the introductory courses were helpful when reviewing narratives for applications to determine which case fits the definition of a refugee and thus eligible to be submitted for resettlement,” she says.  

“I was able to gain valuable skills I did not have before, such as, qualitative research skills, interviewing skills, and data collection skills.” 
 
Simolen had never studied law prior to her programme and the MA helped her gain confidence when using case law. “When I started my studies, I was intimidated by the case laws and the articles in the different treaties since I had never done anything law related. After a few case laws and seeing the law being applied in practice I began to understand a lot better,” she says.  

She also enjoyed learning about different regional models for refugee protection and temporary protection alternatives for refugees and other forced migrants. 

Simolen had been working in refugee resettlement for seven years when she began her programme and sought to gain broader access to her field.  

The online MA is among the world’s largest programmes on forced migration. It was developed by leading experts from the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, an academic centre promoting interdisciplinary research on law, policy and practice in refugee and displacement contexts.  

It is designed to help students begin or advance their careers in refugee and related fields. 

Simolen was drawn to its flexibility and accessibility. “When I researched the programme I was attracted to the fact that the tuition seemed affordable. I could work and study at the same time, and the option of paying tuition per course greatly reduced the financial burden,” she says. 

A strong highlight was finishing her 15,000-word dissertation on whether co-sponsors can influence refugees’ access to mental health services.  

Co-sponsors are often relatives or friends of refugees, Simolen explains. “The study sought to see if relatives of refugees could influence the newcomers to seek help if they needed it.” 

The area is a particularly significant one. “There is a lot of literature that shows that mental health issues are a huge challenge to integration of newcomers to Canada, including refugees, and they do not easily access mental health services,” she says.  

Simolen won the prestigious 2022 Brill-Nijhoff award for her work – an achievement that took her by surprise.  

Initially, she was a little confused, she recalls. “When the message sunk in, my first thought was ‘surely this must be a mistake, they don't mean me.’ 

“I read further and realised it was truly addressed to me; I did a dance in my hotel room.” 

Her work was also published in the Refugee Law Initiative Working Paper Series, a University of London platform for interdisciplinary research. “That is an honour for me,” she says. 

"Through the programme and my work experience, I can confidently claim some expertise in the field of refugees and forced migration.” 

Shape your future. Find out more about the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies.

Simolen Tala Jumbam

Simolen Tala-Jumbam