This week, Rob - a third-year student at the Institute of the Americas - chats to us about his top exhibition recommendations in London, including Yayoi Kusama’s famously Instagrammable mirror rooms.
What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?
I am currently studying History and Politics with Languages (Portuguese, French and Spanish) at the Institute of the Americas. I am interested in these academic disciplines due to their pertinence in the context of the modern world, especially when considering present phenomena linked to normative social structures, racism, human rights, and climate change. In the future, I plan to pursue these interests and eventually become a specialist within Latin American studies.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?
During my final year, I have been selected as a UCL Gale Ambassador! The vast opportunities that students have access to via their institutes at UCL means that they can take their degree programme learning to the next level by directly applying their knowledge and gaining real experiences. As a Gale Ambassador, this year I have been writing blog posts for the Gale Review, as well as publishing on their social media and hosting talks - which has so far allowed me to challenge myself alongside my studies. Consequently, this has enriched my learning and resulted in personal growth, whilst also enabling me to connect directly with different members of UCL’s academic staff.
Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?
I definitely think a great example of UCL’s hidden gems can be found in its fantastic collection of libraries, which are spread across the campus. I enjoy exploring them as workspaces, because they all have unique characteristics and are filled with original and useful resources of all kinds.
Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:
What’s one thing you’d like to see in a post-Covid world?
Hopefully as a society we can learn and grow from our mistakes. A crucial phenomenon which requires greater socio-political attention from us all is the impending climate crisis, which is threatening the earth’s natural balance.
As a young person, I am proud to be a part of a generation that both recognises this, and advocates for significate change urgently. I would like to see us move towards evolving into a greener society, where individuals are more conscious of the looming existential threat and more willing to take an active role in protecting the planet.
Who inspires you and why?
My dissertation topic is focused on indigenous rights - it has been an incredibly moving subject to study and research. As a people, indigenous communities internationally comprise less than 5% of the entire globe’s population, and yet they are responsible for the conservation of more than 80% of the earth’s biodiversity! This fact strikes me as unimaginable considering their disparaged status in the context of modern societies and governments around the world. As forgotten heroes, I am inspired by their stories, rich culture, and indigenous knowledge systems which persist, despite increasing persecution. We have a lot to learn from their ways of life. If this is something you would like to find out more about, I highly suggest taking time to visit Sebastiao Salgado’s photography work alongside indigenous groups in Brazil. There is currently an amazing exhibition at the Science Museum showcasing the Amazon region and its peoples.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
An accomplishment that I’m particularly proud of, yet something that I rarely speak about, is that for many years I was a competitive National Standard swimmer. As a sport, swimming was important to me when I was growing up as it helped me to learn the values of being organised, prepared and resilient, especially in the face of pressure and in highly competitive situations. Today, although I no longer swim at that level, swimming continues to be an important way for me to be active and fit, as well as a great source of inspiration in terms of the life lessons it has taught me.