How did I get into the BBC?

Many people are interested in how I got to where I am today, career wise, so it is about time I reveal all. Especially because it is now exactly one year that I have been holding down a job at the BBC – so it seems rather relevant to be writing this now (as I have been thinking about writing something on this for months!).

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I don’t even know where to start to be honest. Many people ask me, how on earth did I manage to get into the BBC so very quickly at a very young age. Fresh out of university at the age of 21 and I get my first ever paid job on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which was literally a dream come true – considering the Today programme was one of my dream programme’s to work for.

But, lets rewind back to university. I was an undergraduate at City University London from 2011 – 2014. Being on a media/journalism based course, we were encouraged to take on as many work experience placements in the media as we can. Now, back in 2013, I wrote a piece on ‘Is work experience worth it?’ and ‘How to find work experience placements and internships’ – so do have a read.

Half way through my first year, I luckily got accepted on a month work experience at BBC Radio 4. Since then, I made contacts and shadowed BBC Radio’s 1, 2 and 6 Music. Bearing in mind, my passion back then was radio.

I kept seeking for more work experience. I didn’t mind if it was unpaid – I just wanted to get as much experience as I can so that it can benefit me after I leave university. Month after month, I emailed radio stations and production companies asking for work experience. Long story short, that same year, I did work experience at Absolute Radio, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio, Channel 4 and LBC. Not just that, I also got involved with the media team at uni. I took part in student radio and also became one of the editors of the university magazine.

During uni, I also had my own radio show at London’s youth station Roundhouse Radio, from the Roundhouse venue itself. The station matched me with a professional mentor to help me with my university to career transition (bearing in mind this was now my final year at uni) and luckily my mentor was from the Today programme – which I was honestly over the moon about. Big shout out to Steven (you know who you are, I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help!!).

Whilst being in the midst of writing my dissertation, I was also preparing for life after university. I was so terrified of being unemployed. I hear a lot of stories about people graduating and then failing to find a job. I was rather lucky to have a mentor, who did help me with my CV and covering letters and also recommended people I should speak to and most importantly reassured me that I have enough experience to get a job and not to worry.

One thing I mustn’t forget is getting my CV professionally done. Trust me, it is so worth it. I have never been so proud of my CV until I got it done by a rather amazing company so I do highly recommend it.

My mentor recommended I speak to someone at the Today programme so I sent my CV and a covering letter in an email. I got a reply back saying to come and have a chat with them and I was offered a two week trial period – which was basically shadowing someone for two weeks and then see where I go from there. I trained and after two weeks, I got myself a two month contract with the Today programme as a Broadcast Assistant, mainly handling Today’s website and social media. Of course, waking up at 4am every morning was incredibly difficult but I really didn’t mind, considering I was being made to wake up to work on a programme that I love.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 20.41.48After the Today programme, I went straight onto work for BBC News Online, for the Digital Video team (which I still do) and became a Broadcast Journalist (my current title). Then lots of other opportunities came up as I approached some of my favourite programmes including The Andrew Marr Show and Daily & Sunday Politics (current programmes I work for). As my background is within online, I look after their website and social media presence.

One of my highlights of working for the BBC is playing a huge role for BBC’s coverage of the 2015 General Election. During the campaign leading up to polling day, I covered a lot for BBC Politics (online) and worked closely with the Daily Politics debates. I was a Results Inputter on results night/day, inputting the results which went straight on-air.

At work, I have met the most amazing people/colleagues. I met rather big people including Prime Minister David Cameron and lots of others. Never thought things like that would happen to me.

This is not a 9-5 job. Some days I am up at 4am for a 6am start. Sometimes I start around 2pm and finish at midnight. Sometimes I am even working overnight. It is not easy and it is not structured, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

Without knowing the right people and getting as much experience as I could beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to get those jobs. Contacts is key in this industry. You will get rejected. I was rejected many time before I got into the BBC but I persevered. I never gave up because this was my dream. This is my dream. I am determined to do more, experience more, learn more – so this is the beginning of an amazing journey. 
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Struggling With an Eating Disorder During Ramadan

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As a Muslim suffering from an eating disorder, I understand how hard the month of Ramadan can be for others with eating disorders. For the past few years, I have been medically advised not to fast as it could trigger negative thoughts and cause the inevitable weight loss, which will be rather counterproductive because I should be gaining weight not losing it.

I want to fast. I really do. However, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t want to fast for God. I am not there yet. I still want to fast to lose weight. I want to fast because everyone else would be fasting and that makes me feel triggered. I want to fast to get back to my lowest weight again. Every meal missed would be a victory, an achievement. Ramadan is always exciting for me, because I can starve myself and get away with it.

These thoughts are dangerous and automatically confirms that I am still not ready to start fasting. It would be wrong to fast with these disordered thoughts. For the past few years and even now, my eating disorder has been so strong and it is leaving me with an ultimatum, a dilemma – God or anorexia? As I am still in eating disorder treatment, I have been again been advised not to fast by my treatment team and to make sure I don’t fast, I have my family to watch over me.

In Islam, the sick are exempt from fasting during Ramadan because of being mentally or physically unwell and instead charity should be given in replacement.

But even though Ramadan is about not eating for a period of time, it is ironically still all about food, which is another reason this month is difficult for eating disorder sufferers. Food seems to be everywhere. Iftar preparations fills the whole day and everyone talks about what they are going to eat for Iftar, how hungry they are and invite you out for an Iftari meal. There is really nowhere to hide. Ramadan is still all about food, food and more food.

I should stick to my meal plan during this time and I will try my best to not let anorexia get hold of me and drag me back to the misery of the long endless starvation. I should put myself first and continue to fight this disorder and I urge other sufferers in my position to do the same. I am not doing this for anyone else. I am doing this for myself. Maybe one day, I will be healthy and in the right mind-set to fast in Ramadan and not only that, but actually fast for the right reasons.

This post was published in The Huffington Post.

 

I Need To Do This For Myself

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For years, I have felt like I needed to recover from my eating disorder for external reasons. I needed to get better to go to university – well, I did go to university and graduated, but I am not recovered. I needed to get better for my family – they were always there, but I am still not recovered. I needed to get better to get a job – I have my dream job – but I am not recovered.

I used the word ‘needed’ for a reason. Of course I needed to get better but did I ‘want’ to get better? Well, considering I am still struggling with anorexia, I realised that I did not really want to recover. Instead, I focused on external reasons rather than myself. I did not feel like I deserved to ever recover.

But recently, I have felt so much more rational, and I truly feel like i do deserve to get better for myself and myself only. Not for anyone. Not for my family, not for my friends and certainly for my career. Because, if I focus on reasons to recover for something or someone, truth is, recovery will fail. It will not work. I have been in hospital treatment for years – no change. I simply wasn’t ‘ready’ to recover.

Now, I do want a life without my eating disorder (though I do believe it will always be with me but I will learn to manage it). Believe it or not, my eating disorder treatment team wanted to discharge me – not because I have gotten better but because I showed no passion to recover for myself. Even though I did not verbally say, “i don’t want to get better” – they soon realised this was the case, because i wasn’t actively making use of the help they were giving me. I took treatment for granted.

Discharging me was a worry for my family. They didn’t want me to get discharged because i am still not better – but is it up to them? No. It is my illness and I should take responsibility for it.

My psychiatrist once told me: “If your heart is not 100% in recovery, then you will never recover. Your family and friends might want it more than you do, but they cannot make you recover. Only you can do that. It is your choice.”

Then it just hit me. I have to do this for myself.  I want to get better for myself. I have achieved so much in my external life and I am proud of that – I now need to believe in myself and do something for me. Get better for myself. That is not selfish, despite what anorexia is telling me.

You need to do this for yourself. Not for anything or anyone else. 

Who says you’re not worth it?

IWD2015: British Muslim Women + Breaking Gender Cultural Norms

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I wouldn’t say I am a feminist but I do think strongly about the rights of women in the Islamic/South Asian culture. I am a young Muslim/Asian women from the UK, who appreciates her cultural roots but also has a western way of thinking. As a South Asian women living in the UK, I am expected to live the ‘traditional’ way – such as not working outside the domestic space, not studying to degree level, expected to get married as early as possible, expected to act rather ‘fragile’ ‘timid’ and hide away from men and never ever stay out late, just because I am a women.

From a young age, I always had a passion for the creative arts. But working in a field like that is ‘wrong’ for Asian/Muslim women. I realised there were not enough ethnic minorities working in the media. Why was that? Because of the culture issue. I wanted to change that. So despite all the criticism I got; that I should either get a “real job” like a doctor, lawyer or not work altogether, get married and become a housewife – well, I decided to go against that and pursue my dream and inspire others like myself to try and do the same.

I think a lot of Asian women, do feel oppressed but do not like to admit it due to fear. I can admit that I did feel oppressed at certain times of my life. I feared that if I did something rather ‘westernised’ I would get looked down on. And of course, I have been criticised but my whole point is that – going against your cultural norms does not mean you are disobeying your culture or your religion. Of course not.

Regarding education, I studied what I wanted to study and not what is expected of me due my culture, like I have seen others do because they were scared. Going through college and university was hard. Not only did I get little support for the course I chose to study, but also going through depression, social anxiety and an eating disorder and being in hospital at the same time. It was incredibly hard indeed.

Finishing my degree and getting my dream job at the BBC was the icing on the cake. It was like all the criticisms I faced was so worth it. I got a job, I am earning and the family are proud – despite their lack of support and trust whilst I was studying. Did I just prove them wrong? I think I did.

Breaking cultural norms is one of the hardest things you could ever do but I did it. People used to sneer at me when I would say ‘I want to work in the media.’ Now? Well, they are shocked that I made it and surprisingly inspired just because I am women. If I was a man, this would not be a big deal at all.

My message to all young women, especially within the Asian/Islamic culture – if you have a passion to do something in life that perhaps is ridiculed by family due to cultural norms – please do pursue that passion and prove to them that just because you are going against that aspect of your culture, does not mean you are going against the culture itself.

I fought my way through this and made it happen.

Make equality happen. 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: Opening Up

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This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb 23rd – Sun 1st Mar) and a very important week to raise more awareness. I want to write about something that I have been recently doing and which has been helping me a lot. Opening up to people about my illness.

It is a sensitive thing to talk about with people. People are ashamed of it. However, the power of talking about it is quite amazing and it is something I have not realised until recently.

Telling someone that you struggle with food can be embarrassing but, if they are a decent person, they will listen and won’t judge. For me, telling someone is a relief. It means, I don’t have to feel all alone in this. It also means the person you tell can support you through this.

A lot of people with eating disorders feel like they need ‘permission’ to eat, which is exactly how I feel. When some reassures me that it is okay and nothing bad is going to happen if I eat that particular meal, then I feel encouraged and try. Recovery is a long process but with the encouragement and support of others, I have realised it can be such a weight off your shoulder.

So if you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia or even binge eating disorder, try and open up to just one person about this and see how you feel. Honestly, it can change your mindset quite dramatically, regarding food and guilt.

You are all stronger than your eating disorder. Keep fighting.

For more help and advice, go to Beat. 

Celebrating small achievements with anxiety

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It has been a while since I last blogged so I thought it is about time I write.  I have been inspired to write about recognising and celebrating small achievements when you have anxiety because I don’t think people understand how even little successes matter. It is great if you have big dreams and want to focus on the main long term goal. Looking to the future and having big goals is a motivator to achieve them. But, without small achievements, you cannot get to the big ones. As the saying goes “You can’t run before you can walk.”

We all have bad memories when we may have failed something but when you think about it, there have still been many successes along the way. Have you really given yourself credit for the little things?

For me, I learnt to be proud of little things that I pushed myself to do within the last few months. I started a new job and slowly started trying to face up to my fears along the way.

For example…

  • Making small talk with a colleague: This might not seem like a big deal but my anxiety can make this difficult but whenever I go out of my way to talk to someone, to actually talk, even just saying hello…I feel like I accomplished something.
  • Answering the telephone
  • Offering to make tea for colleagues
  • Asking for a little help
  • Smiling at a stranger
  • Being honest
  • Managing to get out of bed and face the day when it is the last thing you want to do
  • Joining in a conversation rather than isolating oneself
  • Managing to find the time to workout within a busy schedule (even if it just a short walk)

There is so much to be proud of. A lot of people just focus on the negative and beat themselves up. Of course, there are times I still do that myself but there is always something to be proud of no matter how big or small they are. Even the mistakes you made or failed something, you still can be proud that you didn’t give up. Instead, you keep trying. Focus on what you can learn from the mistake and how it can motivate you to do better next time.

My experience with anorexia at university

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Having an eating disorder whilst being at university is not pleasant at all. It may seem like you need your eating disorder and therefore it is harder to let go but at the same time, you are destroying yourself.

Many anorexics and bulimics are perfectionists. I can vouch for that. Battling an eating disorder for many years has not stopped me from trying to achieve and be the best I can at everything, despite hearing a voice in my head telling me that I will fail at everything and that I must try harder. Every good grade I received at university was an achievement along with every pound I lost was an achievement and when they both happened together, I was on top of the world. Calories, weight and scales ruled my student life.

In lectures, the voice of anorexia frequently would appear out of no where telling me I need to listen more attentively or I look horrible and fat today and I should just go home now and exercise because I do not deserve to be out in public looking this awful. The voice is so overpowering that not listening to it rather impossible because it is so strong.

Being the perfectionist that I am or rather my eating disorder tells me to be, I did all my coursework weeks even months before it was due in. With no food, I thrived in the hunger and typed away at my laptop all day and night. If I received a grade I was not happy with, the voice would tell me that I am not good enough and I should just stop eating completely.

Socialising is another thing that my anorexia has prevented me from doing. Special events and course get‐togethers were terrifying because it usually involved food. Being around food scares me let alone eating it and therefore my chances of making friends has not been great at university but I have been lucky to have made a fair few supportive friends during my third year. The disorder was so strong that believe it or not, I did not eat anything inside campus for the three years I have been there. No one has seen me eat. Is that an achievement? My anorexia seems to think so – but it certainly isn’t.

All that seems pretty exhausting, does it not? To be honest, I have no idea how I am managed it. Being in and out of hospital and studying – it wasn’t easy. I don’t think anyone can comprehend how hard it is to have an eating disorder whilst also trying to juggle university at the same time. It has been a challenge. It is a very isolating thing to be dealing with.

My eating disorder did get me good grades in the past but not in a positive way. I would rather do it all again but without the voice of my eating disorder screaming at me. It demanded me to be the best at everything by doing things in an unhealthy, destructive way.

If you have an eating disorder and are at university this is not the way to live. It is such a waste of time and energy. You may feel like you are in control of your life but in actual fact, the disorder is controlling you. It keeps you from enjoying yourself and takes all your freedom of university life away.

Get help as soon as you can. Go to your mental health or counselling service at your university and let them know about your eating disorder so they can find the right tools to help you. If you have moved away for university, ask your GP to refer you somewhere near your university.

Get in touch with Student Minds (formally SRSH) who are a volunteer led charity for students. They work with hundreds of volunteers across the country to provide support to students with mental health problems. They run eating disorder support groups at different universities, which gives you the chance to talk to other students in similar situations. http://www.studentminds.org.uk/

Also, talk to someone at your university. A tutor, lecturer, a friend, flatmate – anyone who you can trust so they can know what is going on with you and can give you the support you need. Do not stay quiet or hide away because that would only just make your eating disorder stronger. Sometimes, you need someone else to tell you that everything is going to be okay and that you are not alone.