Case study

Getting to
know me

Mohika Shankar came to Derby from India to turn her passion into her career. And she found more than good grades: she got to know herself.

The journey begins

Mohika is a dancer. And has been since she was three years old. When she was still at school and considering the next stage of her education, she was determined to include dance in that future.

“Dancing has been a huge part of my life,” she explains. “Over the years, I’ve seen the joy it brings to me and the people around me. So, when your parents are like, OK, what do you want to do next, I just sat down with myself and thought, OK, you've given so much to this art form, it would really be foolish to not take it up in your future, the skill that you have, and not hone it further. It would be a waste.

“I wanted to do something new and, through research, I got to know about dance movement psychotherapy. I did not even know that such a course existed. And that was the same time when I was introduced to psychology as a subject at school.”

And it was also when Mohika began to look beyond India. She says: “There was no thought in my mind before that I would want to go abroad to pursue my higher studies. To be very honest, I had not really thought about it."

But, once she began looking at Therapeutic Arts, she knew she would have to go beyond India’s borders as courses were not available in her home country.

Why choose Derby?

Mohika is an advocate of using all the available information to make a decision. And moving to another country is one of the biggest decisions you can make.

“Research is extremely important, in whatever field you wish to take up,” she says. “You have to know all the options, you have to know what you are getting into before you actually physically go there.

“It was a lot of research: how, where, when, even why, because I had to convince my parents. That was another whole process as well.”

Mohika found she was inclined towards studying in the UK and that was how she came to find Derby. She says: “When I shortlisted the universities I was going to apply to, Derby was at the top of it. Just because of the course itself.

“But even a small thing such as the website design or how helpful or how quick people are to respond to queries, that really affects how international students perceive the university. I used to message in the night, India time, and, by the time I’d wake up, I’d have the answer to my query. That in itself was a huge plus point.”

And Mohika applied for – and received – the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship, which covers course fees for a year. She says: “It is an absolutely huge sum and the condition I had given myself for studying abroad was that I will cover the full tuition fee or I won't go. I am extremely blessed to have gotten that opportunity.”

Mohika performing Indian Classical Dance

First (and second) impressions

When Mohika first arrived in Derby, she was not alone. Her parents had come with her and their first impressions were as important as her own. Mohika says: “I had never been to the UK before. It was a gamble that we had taken up – but, my parents, they came to drop me off and they were extremely satisfied when they saw the University.

“They met members of the international team so, from the minute they entered the University, they knew I was in safe hands. For any parent, that's the best reassurance they can get.”

But what did Mohika think? “I was in awe of the University,” she says. “Coming from a different country, you do feel: will I be able to find friends? Or will I be able to find that small tribe, people who would be there for me and who I can be there for?

“It was literally my second day and the University organised an international student welcome day. It was an extremely well-thought-out event because it helped us interact with other international students.

“And Derby is a total 180 degrees to where I'm from, Delhi, and that in itself as given me so much joy. In Delhi, I've only seen the very rushed life, everyone's always on the go, it's a very fast-paced city. Derby, on the other hand, I feel it has given me that peace. It is a quaint city and it gives you the experience of both the countryside and a city how it's supposed to be. It's a perfect balance for me.”

Mohikar Shankar smiling

Derby's so culturally diverse. People come from around the globe to study here. It's been such a joy to exchange traditions, learn more about new cultures and represent your own country. I have friends from all around Europe, from America and the whole globe.

Mohika Shankar
Therapeutic Arts graduate

Far from home

Mohika’s time in Derby has been affected by Covid-19. And she made the decision to stay in Derby throughout the pandemic. She admits: “It was a very difficult time. It has tested my limits and my resilience. There were some hard decisions I had to make so that I could complete my studies and focus on what my goal was to come to England.

“I really think I have pushed myself out of my comfort zones. And I've gained a lot in return, not just from a grade perspective but in life generally. I've really learned how to become an independent person. It has made me more responsible, more resilient and it has helped the overall development of my personality.

“Once you start living on your own, you get to know yourself. My greatest achievement overall I would say is that I have known myself. And, of course, the support has been really amazing. Everyone has just been absolutely phenomenal. They have literally helped me not feel alone and isolated."

Mohika says a big advantage for her was that she was living in halls. She explains: “My parents are very protective. Me being in halls gives them a reassurance that their child is safe. And it’s extremely comfortable, and very convenient. And the smallest thing, the view of Derby Cathedral from my window every day. It used to be the best thing I would see every day.

“And the value for money that you get in halls: all the bills are included and you get a massive kitchen and all the amenities that you can use. And the events that you can be a part of. They help you make new friends meet you meet new people.”

What does the future hold?

Having completed her degree, Mohika knows where she wants to be: back at the University of Derby studying for a masters in Dance Movement Psychotherapy. But not yet. She has a plan.

“I have decided to work for two years and then go on to do my masters,” she says. “Working in the community, I would really like to share with other people around me that joy and that energy that dance gives me. I think it's important to have that taste of what you might want to do in the future.”

And she plans to do that in Derby. “Derby literally has become my home now,” she says. “I feel at home in Derby. And the opportunities that are offered in the UK in relation to the field I want to be a part of are far more than in India.”

As a trained Indian classical dancer, Mohika would also like to bring the vibrant colours and traditions from her life in Delhi to the UK. She says: “I would like to perform more and bring that flavour, that spectacle to the UK.”

Kedleston Road, Derby Campus entrance

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