Jiara Rama,  MEng, BEng Chemical Engineering undergraduate in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds.

Jiara Rama

Why did you decide to study at the University of Leeds?

I was faced with a choice between my two passions: business and chemistry. After extensive research into both fields, I concluded that engineers ascend the corporate ladder into management positions (owing to the logical thinking and problem-solving that is harnessed through study) and Chemical Engineering incorporates chemistry and science. Therefore, this degree would satisfy both passions for my future career, so I wouldn’t need to shut the door on either of them.  

My reason to study outside of South Africa was to enhance my personal experiences, gain greater independence and expand my global knowledge. I specifically chose the University of Leeds because it is highly ranked for Chemical Engineering, which – coupled with the strong links the university has to industry and the practical way it teaches the course – made it a very appealing choice. Furthermore, gaining a Chemical Engineering degree from an internationally recognised university will also give me the ability to be employed in any country, including my own.

What has been the best aspect of studying on your course?

The best aspect of studying this course has been learning to think in ways that I didn’t know I was capable of. As problem-solving is fundamental to every module on the course, learning that there are multiple methods to get to the same solution – and consequently being taught how to find the best possible method – has been challenging but incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Furthermore, the inclusion of practical work in our modules has allowed me to understand how real-life processes utilise the theories we learn.

The best aspect of studying at this university is the people. I have been lucky enough to find friends that have become my family in this new city, and that allow me to call Leeds one of my homes.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed so far?

In our first year, one of our major projects was designing an industrial ethylene glycol manufacturing plant. The project involved integrating raw materials, unit operations and process chemistry into a process flow diagram (utilising Microsoft VISIO software), while also performing analyses on health and safety, uses of the product, process economics and relevant ethical issues. This project was particularly exciting as designing a manufacturing plant is exactly what our careers could entail in the future, thus I was able to simulate an example of my future, which was very enjoyable. 

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

Leeds is an incredibly student-friendly city, as almost one-third of its population is made up of students that hail from various cities and countries. Consequently, there is always something to do, see or go to in Leeds. The nightlife ensures there is always an event to attend, no matter what day it is. The endless pubs and restaurants situated in all areas means there’s always somewhere to meet friends after a long day on campus. The campus itself is stunning and student-orientated, yet just a couple kilometres down the road is the bustling city, which caters to all your shopping and personal needs (most of which offer amazing student discounts). And of course, the student residential area, Hyde Park, provides a safe and comfortable living area as you know you are surrounded by your fellow peers and are only minutes away from the university.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Upon graduating, I hope to secure a job in a company that is committed to changing people’s lives for the better and ensures the environment is well taken care of. We live in a world where there are endless social and environmental issues, and although I cannot single-handedly solve any of these problems, I hope to use my degree to contribute to the solutions. Furthermore, I hope to become a chartered engineer, as this will enable me to work internationally and broaden my experiences.

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

This course pushes you to become an independent student and fully in control of your future. We are responsible for being dedicated, having good time-management, being hard-working and taking care of our wellbeing – and if you fail to do so, you jeopardise your own future. Thus, I believe that just the experience of everyday independence and having to be so accountable for your own actions will help me in my future career.

This year, I have also experienced being a committee member on the Leeds Chemical Engineering Society. This has been challenging (as it requires commitment and time) but incredibly rewarding as I have had to interact and communicate with various stakeholders to plan events or performing admin functions. All of this has improved my personal skills and will hopefully help me in my future career.

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

My advice to future Chemical Engineering students is to simply be organised. Being organised will allow you to adapt to everything and anything that can come your way. This degree is fundamentally challenging and does require consistent studying and commitment – even when you feel as if there is no time to do so.

Similarly, I strongly believe in living a holistic and balanced lifestyle. With a demanding degree, it is so easy to fall into the trap of putting all your energy into study and burning out before you even reach second year. Therefore, it is so important to get involved in societies, sports or volunteering – anything that gives you a mental and physical break from engineering. Do not feel guilty to have a life outside of engineering. As long as you are organised and prepared, you can live the life you want to live and still achieve everything you strive to achieve.