Multi Story Edinburgh

Mary - Class of 2020 - The brain, learning about yourself and feeling proud.

November 19, 2020 The University of Edinburgh Season 1 Episode 6
Multi Story Edinburgh
Mary - Class of 2020 - The brain, learning about yourself and feeling proud.
Show Notes Transcript

Each episode is a snapshop, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. Season one talks to our 2020 graduates about how things are going, or not going, for them.  In episode six we meet Mary who graduated as a online learner with an MSc in Neuroimaging for Research.

Each month we meet five more graduates. Subscribe now and find out what everyone is up to and how they feel about this weird and unpredictable time.

All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh. 

Multi Story Edinburgh has been created and produced by the Alumni Relations team at the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in telling your story, please get in touch and let's talk.

Music: Since When by Mise Darling. 

Sonia Mullineux (host)  0:05  
This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak peek inside the minds of our graduates. This is Season One, Class of 2020.

Mary Gbongay  0:15  
My name is Mary Gbongay. And I decided about three years ago to study Neuro Imaging Research. That's a Masters to do a Masters. It took me a while to get to that decision in my mid teens, something tragic happened. And I that made me question something about the human body. And one of the things I questioned was the brain, the brain was like the thing that navigates you through life with the way you think and the way you behave. And that kind of changes at times when something is wrong with the brain. This was way back when I was in Africa in the late 90s. And my next door neighbour had a stroke. And that kind of changed who he was, basically, and since then, I started getting a bit curious about why that was. But why is it that we're debating, he can't walk as fast as he used to be, he can't talk the way he used to talk. So what was it that was causing that? So I wanted to know more about that. And that kind of basically starts my journey. I kind of did a lot of research into what I wanted to do. And I see that radiology you see inside people. That was the first thing that was advertised. And I thought, wow, that will be great, then I can understand a bit more about the brain. It will be cool to see exactly when it goes wrong, why and how and what happens at in real time. So yeah, that kind of sparked my interest. And I went off the the radiography. At one point, I wanted to be a trauma radiographer. But the brain keeps coming up. Everywhere I go people, with stroke people, brain injuries, because of car accidents, or just accidents in general, or metabolic diseases of the brain. And so I decided finally to do a little research about what universities are doing stuff on brians. And the only one that suits me, well, it was Edinburgh University. 

Mary Gbongay  2:23  
So everything takes me twice as long. So I plan my day, and I go to work, and I come back in the evening, have something to eat, and I will do anything up to four hours, from listening to the lectures and doing extra research. There are days when I do long days at work, and it's so hard to come home and motivate yourself. It was intensive, very intensive, it's like ongoing you don't you don't stop at all. You don't have the luxury to say I can leave it for tomorrow. Well, I didn't anyway. Doing it was very frustrating. I'm not going to say to you it was all plain sailing. There are times when I've been tears. And I've kind of thought about dropping it off and then go back again. And then I said no, I can't do that. I have to stick it out. I've never started something I'm not finish it. It is my policy when you start you have to finish. That was it and I have to. So when I finish it was like this great sense of accomplishment. I did it. You know, it was such a sense of achievement. You know, I cried half way through, I can't believe it's finished, and I thought, ahh, that's a bit sad. What am I gonna do when I get home. 

Mary Gbongay  3:32  
Because of the Coronavirus. We have to have all this extension. And that was the frustrating part. Because there are too many things going on at the same time. You're doing your dissertation, and the university as well as the people who are doing it with you, are doctors. So they have a job to go to just like you have your job. And for me, it was made a bit worse because I was shielding. So I was working from home as well. It was the most stressful, stressful time for the whole three years. That period was the most stressful and intense period. It was even harder for me because during that period, I lost an auntie. The responsibility fell with me to look after my mom, because that was her baby sister. And unfortunately it wasn't here it was abroad. It was back home where I'm from, Sierra Leone. So yeah, those are the days where I thought, should I just put a stop here now and then see how it goes.

Mary Gbongay  4:37  
I learned a lot about myself during those times. I didn't realise I was that strong. Because there was a time when I was saying to myself you cannot do this. But there are sides of me saying of course you can. And I valued more because I didn't give up and it doesn't matter what was going on around me. I kind of try and find that focus to stick with it. And not only stick with it, try to do the best as best I can do. I think if anything else, this degree for me has been one of my greatest achievement, I got through it, I did it. And I value it more because for me is very, very special. As I say, it made me realise who I thought I was, that was not the person I'm much, much stronger. There have been times in my life when I've crumbled really easily. And to be able to get back up and do what I did. For me, it's amazing. It's just, it's just amazing for me. 

Mary Gbongay  5:42  
It will set me on a on a different path, because it's all about research for the brain. And it's something that I would really like to go into in the future. I've got the academic experience, I've got the clinical skills. So now what I really would like to have happened is to get a job in that area. But at the moment the way things people are not adasvertising, job as such. So now it's just a waiting game. But while I'm waiting, I'm not just sitting down, doing nothing. And I feel like the course has opened a big avenue for me to do more personal studies on my own. Reading articles that are coming out of all the things I've done around it, so I'm reading around the subject even more to get more understanding. So when I do get that job, you know, I know exactly what I'm doing. 

Mary Gbongay  6:42  
I just want to say thank you to all the lecturers, everybody at the University there, they were there for us, especially the Neuro Imaging Department. They were brilliant. They supported us every step of the way. You know, because sometimes you never have the chance to say thank you.

Sonia Mullineux (host)   7:04  
We also ask our graduates to share a place somwhere special, somewhere we can get together when all this has finished.

Mary Gbongay  7:13  
My favourite place. It's a little town. I'm originally from Sierra Leone. And just on the outskirts of Sierra Leone, is a place called Gloucester, because we're colonised by the English. It's a little tiny village it's a hilltop village. It's just literally what about 15 minutes drive from the main city centre. So within the city, you are in a countyside. It's a little farming village. So you basically self sufficient, you grow your own fruits and vegetables. And when I moved to England, I found it very hard to eat tomatoes, the taste was not the same. So I find myself eating more to find that taste. 

Mary Gbongay  7:59  
You basically live with nature. So you are in your back garden. And then you just have the monkeys come on and steal the apples and stuff and waltz back in. So apart from you see the trees and the forest, you got another side which is all plantation. So you've got all this little, it's not gardens, they're like, it's a farming community. So you've got all these people planting all their vegetables and stuff. And if you go even higher, depending on how high you are, you would just see the whole city beneath you. And that was what I love and on a foggy day, if you look at the little streams that run, you can see the water and then there's a mist and nothing else. So it is literally like the mist is floating off the water. And that's sometimes I can sit there for ages just watching this stream live in a mist flowing and thinking life goes on.

Sonia Mullineux (host)   8:59  
Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.

Kirsten Roche  9:14  
Feeling inspired by what you've just heard. Take the first step to getting the career you want by contacting the Career Service. As a recent graduate you can continue to access all of our services, including access to vacancies on MyCareerHub, practice interviews, our full calendar of online employer events and online appointments with one of our career consultants. Find out more at

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