An interview with PGCE Modern Foreign Languages (German and French) Secondary and College Trainee Teacher Josef Al-Raheme, who also somehow finds time to moonlight as a Citizens Advice legal adviser whilst polishing up his chess and piloting skills.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I have a diverse background. I am originally from Iraq and I was born and raised in Germany, a beautiful country that instilled in me a love for languages and a keen sense of global perspective. In 2013, I made a significant move and relocated to London, a city that's both historically rich and pulsating with modern energy. Upon settling in London, I undertook my GCSEs and later, my A-Level qualifications.
My passion for understanding societal structures and justice led me to pursue a law degree at City, University of London. This period of my life was particularly transformative. Not only did I immerse myself in the intricacies of the legal system, but I also had the honour of being offered a scholarship for academic excellence, a testament to the hard work and dedication I invested in my studies. In 2023, I graduated, armed with a wealth of knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose. As of now, I hold both German and British nationalities, and I deeply value the unique perspectives that each part of my heritage brings to my identity.
However, my academic journey didn't end there. My German roots and my love for languages beckoned me to contribute to the realm of education. I decided to undertake a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages, focusing on German and French. When choosing where to continue this next phase of my educational journey, London Metropolitan University stood out. Given its reputation for fostering a diverse and supportive learning environment and its emphasis on practical, real-world teaching experiences, it felt like the perfect fit. In essence, my journey from Germany to London and from law to teaching has been guided by a blend of personal heritage, academic passions and a desire to make a meaningful impact in the lives of future generations. London Met, with its unique offerings and ethos, seemed like the ideal place to further this mission.
What made you want to study in London?
The decision to study in London was driven largely by the unparalleled academic resources and opportunities available in this vibrant city. London is home to a myriad of world-renowned institutions, libraries, and research centres, making it an academic hub that’s teeming with knowledge and learning opportunities. The city’s rich tapestry of cultures and its status as a global metropolis mean that the learning extends far beyond the classroom, offering insights into diverse world views and global perspectives.
In addition to the academic resources, London’s dynamic and inclusive environment was a significant draw. The city’s unique blend of historical richness and modern innovation provides a stimulating backdrop to academic pursuit, offering countless opportunities for exploration, cultural enrichment and personal growth. The city’s reputation for academic excellence, combined with its cultural diversity and its abundance of learning resources, made it the ideal place for me to pursue my academic journey and broaden my horizons. The energy of London – its people, its culture, its institutions – it all converges to create a learning environment that is both enriching and inspiring.
What's your favourite part of the course so far and why?
My favourite part of the course so far has been the opportunity to further enhance my proficiency in French. Diving deeper into the language has been both challenging and rewarding, as I navigate the nuances and intricacies of its linguistic landscape. However, beyond language acquisition, what truly stands out to me is the focus on the pedagogical aspect of the course. Learning the skills and methodologies of becoming an effective teacher has been an enlightening experience. It's not just about conveying knowledge, but understanding how students learn, adapting teaching strategies to cater to diverse learning needs, and creating an inclusive and stimulating classroom environment. This blend of language mastery and educational techniques ensures that when I step into a classroom as a teacher, I'll be well-equipped to inspire and educate the next generation.
What's been most challenging about being a student?
One of the most challenging aspects of being a student has been striking the right balance between academic pursuits, personal development, and social life. The academic rigour and demands of the curriculum often require long hours of study, research, and preparation. While this is invigorating in its own right, it can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when deadlines converge. Lastly, while university life offers abundant opportunities for socialisation, finding the right balance between social engagements and academic commitments is an ongoing challenge. It's a constant effort to ensure that while I’m making the most of the vibrant social scene, I’m also staying on top of my academic responsibilities. In essence, the student journey, while incredibly rewarding, is a tapestry of challenges and triumphs, each contributing to personal and academic growth.
How have you found the professors / teachers?
The professors and teachers at London Metropolitan University have been instrumental in shaping my academic journey. They bring a unique blend of expertise, passion and dedication to the classroom, which has greatly enriched my learning experience.
In particular, I'd like to highlight Amanda Powling. Her support has been invaluable to me. Not only is she a phenomenal educator, seamlessly blending theoretical knowledge with practical insights, but she also genuinely cares about her students. It's evident in the way she teaches and interacts with us. With Dr Powling, it's not just about disseminating information; it's about ensuring we truly understand, internalise, and can apply what we've learned. Her commitment to student success, both inside and outside the classroom, has left a lasting impact on me.
Overall, I feel truly fortunate to have been under the guidance of such dedicated educators. Their support, coupled with their ability to make complex topics accessible and engaging, has made my academic journey both rewarding and inspiring.
What drives you?
In essence, I am driven by a deep-seated desire to better myself and to continuously seek challenges that push the boundaries of what I thought possible. Whether it's in the courtroom, the classroom, the skies or over a chessboard, I am propelled forward by an innate passion to make a meaningful impact and live a life filled with purpose and discovery.
What are you most proud of in your life so far?
What I'm most proud of in my life revolves around my commitment to education and personal development. Earning my law degree from City, University of London stands out as a significant achievement, given the rigorous academic challenges and the depth of understanding required in this field.
However, beyond academia, I'm immensely proud of my work at Citizens Advice as a legal adviser. Every pro bono case I undertake isn't just about legal representation; it's about standing up for those who might not have the means to stand up for themselves. Knowing that I've been able to make a positive impact in areas like welfare benefits, housing law, employment law, and debt management brings me a profound sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Outside of the professional realm, pursuing my Private Pilot Licence and my passion for chess are achievements that reflect my multifaceted interests. Chess, in particular, is a testament to my dedication, strategic mindset, and competitive spirit.
All these facets of my life, when combined, paint a picture of dedication, service, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in varied domains. The synergy of my academic, professional, and personal achievements is what I'm genuinely proud of, as they reflect not just what I do, but who I am.
Do you have a favourite place within the University and why?
My favourite spot within the University has to be the courtyard. It's this expansive area that serves as a serene escape from the bustling academic life. What I particularly love about it is the opportunity it provides to sit down, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the weather, especially on those rare sunny days in London. It's more than just a relaxation spot; it’s also a social hub. I've had countless conversations, both light-hearted and profound, with friends and peers there. It's where we come to take a break from our studies, share our experiences, or simply enjoy the ambiance of the campus. The courtyard, for me, symbolises the perfect blend of relaxation, reflection and camaraderie – making it an invaluable part of my university experience.
Are you working whilst studying? Tell us more...
Yes, I am working while studying. I'm currently employed at Citizens Advice as a legal adviser. This role isn't just a job for me; it's a manifestation of my commitment to ensuring everyone has access to justice, regardless of their financial situation. I undertake pro bono cases, offering free legal assistance to individuals who otherwise might not be able to afford such services.
The areas I specialise in are welfare benefits, housing law, employment law, and debt management. Each day, I'm confronted with the real-world implications of legal issues, seeing first-hand how they impact people's lives. It's both challenging and immensely rewarding. While balancing work with my studies can be demanding, the experiences and insights I gain from my role at Citizens Advice are invaluable. It not only complements my academic journey but also reinforces my belief in the transformative power of legal advocacy. Through my work, I aim to make a tangible difference in the community, ensuring that everyone, irrespective of their economic status, has a voice and the necessary legal support.
Tell us a little bit about your interests outside of uni and why they are important to you.
Outside of my academic pursuits at university, I have a deep-seated passion for flying. Currently, I am working towards obtaining my Private Pilot Licence. The thrill of being airborne, the intricate mechanics of operating an aircraft, and the freedom of soaring through the skies exhilarate me. This enthusiasm isn't just about the physical act of flying; it also embodies my belief in pushing boundaries, embracing challenges, and literally reaching for new horizons.
Another passion of mine is chess. I regularly compete in chess games, and it has become more than just a hobby for me. Chess is a beautiful blend of strategy, foresight and patience. It teaches me to be calculative, patient, and to think several moves ahead. Every game is a lesson in decision-making, risk assessment and understanding the consequences of my actions. The discipline and critical thinking skills I gain from chess mirror many aspects of my academic life, enhancing my problem-solving abilities and strategic planning.
Both flying and chess, in their unique ways, symbolise my approach to life: aiming high, thinking ahead, and always striving for self-improvement. They keep me grounded, reminding me of the world outside of textbooks and lecture halls, and they enrich my life by constantly challenging and rewarding me.
What's your plan when you graduate, and how do you think London Met will help you succeed in this?
Upon graduation from London Met, I have ambitious plans that extend beyond the classroom. In addition to my immediate goal of teaching Modern Foreign Languages and law at secondary schools, I aspire to pursue a PhD in the near future. My ultimate aim is to become a lecturer at a university, where I can contribute to the academic community and continue to inspire the next generation of scholars.
London Met's holistic approach to education has been instrumental in shaping this long-term vision. The University's commitment to real-world applicability and its diverse, supportive academic environment have not only provided me with a strong foundation in languages but have also instilled in me a passion for research and higher education. This unique blend of skills and knowledge has prepared me for the rigours of doctoral studies and the challenges of academia.
By undertaking a PhD, I intend to delve even deeper into the intricate nuances of my chosen fields, furthering my understanding of languages and the legal systems. I see myself contributing to the academic discourse, publishing research that advances our knowledge, and mentoring aspiring students who share my passion for these subjects. London Met's emphasis on industry-relevant experiences, networking opportunities, and a comprehensive academic framework has equipped me with the tools and mindset necessary to excel in this pursuit.
In summary, London Met has not only prepared me for immediate success in teaching and sharing my knowledge but has also laid the foundation for a thriving academic career. With a PhD on the horizon, I am poised to make significant contributions to my fields of interest and inspire future generations of learners, researchers and thinkers.
Any tips for students new to London Met?
Take advantage of networking events, guest lectures, and opportunities to meet professionals in your field of study. Building a network can be invaluable for your future career.
Find out more about our teaching courses
"Both flying and chess, in their unique ways, symbolise my approach to life: aiming high, thinking ahead, and always striving for self-improvement. They keep me grounded, reminding me of the world outside of textbooks and lecture halls, and they enrich my life by constantly challenging and rewarding me."