Meet the Ambassador: Zak Akhter

Zak Akhter joined the Ambassador Scheme four years ago, and has since become a Lead Ambassador and an Evaluation Ambassador

I joined the University of Kent in 2017. I completed my A-Levels at Brompton Academy, whose lead sponsor happens to be the University of Kent. During my Undergraduate, I chose to study BSc Accounting and Finance. Currently, I’m a Postgraduate Masters student studying MSc International Business and Management. As part of this, I’m researching the implementation of environmental management accounting techniques within the public sector.

How did you hear about the Ambassador Scheme and why did you join?

Joining the Ambassador Scheme was a simple choice. I experienced and engaged with workshops delivered by Kent Student Ambassadors as a student at Brompton Academy. With the benefit of hindsight, I can confidently say that I did not fully appreciate the Stepping Up workshops during my A-Levels. However, upon delivering, supporting and helping evaluate workshops, I can truly appreciate the support I received. My reasoning behind joining the Student Ambassador Scheme stems from this. Initially, I was apprehensive about joining as my public speaking skills were horrendous. I didn’t believe I could be as confident as the ambassadors I had witnessed deliver workshops previously. However, upon receiving an email from the PDO, who outlined how and why I should apply to the Student Ambassador Scheme, my confidence rose. Since joining it has almost been four years, in which I’ve engaged with secondary school students, college students, parents/carers at open days, alongside providing subject support to access students at my former secondary school.

What has been your favourite work opportunity?

My participation in Da Vinci Days as a supporting student ambassador was exciting as I had previously taken part in the workshop as a student. Over four days, we engaged with a small group of students from Chatham Grammar Secondary School and Brompton Academy at the Medway Campus. Students engaged with lectures regarding Leonardo Da Vinci’s art, biomimicry and types of bridges. This supported the primary task of the day, where students used biomimicry to create a bridge. Besides being a fun experience for the students, this workshop was thought-provoking for students who were curious about STEM subjects. Remaining as humble as I can, all my groups over the four days reached the finals, with three out of four of these groups winning the overall finals. Without being horrendously cliché, one student took the opportunity to tell me that I had cracked the Da Vinci Code, a comment I could only laugh at.

How has the new year been for you?

The start of the new year, as well as the academic year, has been challenging for us all. I’m sure everyone within the ambassador community can relate. Adapting to Postgraduate studies online has been difficult for my peers and I as the physical interaction we gain as students with our lecturers is priceless. However, it has been important for me to maintain a regular schedule and get outside as much as possible to sustain my mental health as I enjoy being out of the house.

Being an ambassador over the new year has been exciting. The experience has bought about new opportunities and challenges. Working online and engaging with students has by far been the most interesting aspect of this new year allowing us all to gain a new perspective on our techniques of engagement with students, parents and carers.

What have you gained from being an ambassador at the University of Kent?

Primarily, my leadership skills were developed when I led the First Lego League regional final in the Darwin Conference Suite alongside a fellow ambassador. Besides this, I have become more empathetic in my approach to ambassador work opportunities as well as academic group work. This has been crucial to my current postgraduate studies as a majority of the students on my course have never studied business. Given this, some of my peers found learning the entire accounting system over a few weeks a challenging task. This is something I could relate to and be empathetic towards as I looked back on my initial experiences with accounting and its relation to the overall business system.

What advice do you have for other ambassadors that might be nervous to try new work opportunities they have not done before?

Some of you may relate and believe that speaking to groups of people on your own is overwhelming as a result of nervousness, shyness or a lack of confidence. This often hampered my ability to engage with new work opportunities when I began as an ambassador. However, the way I overcame this was to place myself in a position just outside of my comfort zone and build from there. This is easier said than done, although in supporting this I tried setting small hurdles to overcome such as speaking more often and elaborating my points with more clarity. These goals have to be personal and you have to show a degree of willingness to explore some of your undiscovered strengths. For example, my first work opportunity was a debating club at my former secondary school, Brompton Academy. I intentionally applied for this work opportunity as my first as I was in an environment extremely familiar to myself. However, as I had to facilitate a parliamentary-style debate which involved public speaking, a skill I had found challenging throughout secondary school, I was outside of my comfort zone just enough to push myself forwards.