Postgraduate Lives: Catheryn Cheetham, student at City University

From Sudan to... Bolton

Catheryn Cheetham, 29, is doing an MA in refugee studies and human rights at City University in London

When I graduated with a degree in French and Spanish, I had no idea what I wanted from life. I worked in an office-based job and then enrolled in a Tefl course in Cairo. I stayed for two years teaching English and what I noticed was the divide between the Sudanese and Egyptian students, and between the Coptic Christians and the Muslims, especially in the children's classes. I was curious as to why this was. One day I was talking to a Sudanese student after class and he just poured his heart out about how, as a Christian, he had been persecuted in Sudan. Now he was in Cairo where some Egyptian students wouldn't even sit next to anyone from Sudan.

I then spent two years in China with VSO, and returned to the UK wrongly thinking I was guaranteed a job in the development sector. I went for a lot of charity jobs believing I was really suitable and had the experience, but I didn't even get an interview. So I temped for six months for Immigration at Stansted airport before eventually returning to education. I chose the MA course at City University because the lecturers are well-known specialists in their field.

It's a modular course, but you can sit in on other classes as well. We began with an introduction to refugee studies; we've studied crimes against humanity and introduction to social research methods. We've also looked at the media image of refugees: how the tabloids are quite negative, local newspapers are often positive, running "let them stay" and anti deportation campaigns.

There are three solutions to the refugee "problem": repatriation, being allowed to stay, or being relocated to a third country. My dissertation will look at the Gateway Project, a resettlement programme run by the Home Office. It was introduced in 2004 and allows 500 refugees a year into the UK, although that quota hasn't been met yet.

My research will focus on Sudanese refugees in Bolton, particularly women, who came from refugee camps in Uganda and arrived in the UK earlier this year. Refugee Action in Bolton has noted that women sometimes don't integrate as well as men, whether because of where they come from, the male hierarchy they are used to, or the injustices they have suffered. There is no set definition of integration, but it includes things like employment, language and whether people feel they belong to a community.

I want to know if the women can pinpoint why they haven't integrated as well as the men, how things can be improved and, in the longer term, how this can be implemented.

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