Hometown: Cairo, Egypt
Undergraduate: Business Management - King's College London
Masters 1: MSc Management, Strategy & Governance - London School of Economics
Masters 2: Special & Inclusive Education - University College London
Field: Special and Inclusive Education
Bio: Nazli grew up between Egypt, France and the UAE. She is currently completing her Masters of Arts (MA) in Special & Inclusive Education at University College London, with specific interests in dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder. She is passionate about raising awareness on special educational needs and disabilities. This passion led to the launch of her online platform, A Different Story by Nazli (@differentstorybyn on Instagram and Facebook). Previously, she worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a Senior Consultant in the Deals department. She completed her undergraduate studies at King's College London and her first MSc from LSE.
Nazli, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Child development and special needs have always been two areas of interest that are special to me and close to my heart. I grew up in inclusive schools, which allowed me to make friends with classmates who had a range of different needs. I also grew up with an uncle who needs additional support. From this came a lot of intrigue to learn more, to do more, and to give back. At 16 years old, I was worried that pursuing my undergraduate studies in Psychology would potentially close doors to the business world. As a result, I chose to follow through with a BSc in Business Management.
You pursued your undergraduate studies in the UK. Can you tell us the process for applying to an undergraduate degree in the UK?
London was my first choice. I applied to 5 universities in the UK through the online UCAS system. You apply through UCAS in December; the year before the start of the program. You are not permitted to select more than five universities. The application process includes a personal statement, reference letters, an English proficiency test requirement, and your predicted IB scores. Upon receiving your replies, you must select a firm choice and a back-up option. I chose King’s College London as my firm choice and Queen Mary as my substitute.
We were significantly guided by our counselors at school. They explained everything for us. You are assigned to a school counselor and it is their job to tell you what you need to do. They began college admissions conversations in 11th grade.
From my school, the majority of students traveled abroad because it is a very international student body. I would say 80% of people traveled.
I also applied to schools in the U.S. using the Common Application. I applied to 5 universities and received offers but I was prioritizing the UK.
What were your most memorable moments in King’s College?
Definitely the time I spent with my cohort, the people who were with me in the program. It was a very international group of students and this international diversity was not as present in LSE or UCL. Teachers and students are nice, friendly and approachable. Professors were very accessible and were very talented with the way they present a module’s content and communicate information.
My favorite class was financial accounting. I was fascinated with this class and the professor was very engaging. For someone who hates numbers, having me actually enjoy an accounting class is a huge accomplishment!
Reflecting back on your experience, what do you think are the main advantages pursuing an undergraduate in the UK?
UK programs are 3-years long so it is a year shorter than most programs in the US or internationally
I preferred London as a place and as a lifestyle. It is very student friendly.
London does not have a campus life. You go into a building with limited facilities and few outdoor green spaces.
When did you decide to apply for Masters? And Why did you choose LSE?
When I was doing my third year at King’s College, I started the process of applying for a Master’s. I applied to two programs - LSE’s MSc in Management, Strategy and Governance, as well as Imperial College’s MA in Strategic Marketing. You have to apply to each university with its own application system. It is a much more time consuming process because you have to tailor each personal statement to suit each program and university. With Imperial College, there was also a Skype interview.
I got accepted to both programs. Both were great but I was afraid that “Strategic Marketing” would be too specific a degree if I later decided that marketing is not the path for me. LSE’s program is more broad, offering strategic marketing, corporate finance, and international strategy. I felt at the time that it was the option that would keep my employment opportunities open.
Tell us about your experience at LSE?
Although I learnt a lot, I enjoyed my time more at King’s College London. LSE has a very nice campus but the professors were not as approachable in my opinion. It was a lot of me figuring it out on my own or with my classmates, which is not my ideal style of learning.
Students were very friendly but came from very different age groups. Some were married, some had kids. Some had worked for 10 years. Only 5 people out of the 40 on the entire program were my age.
Who should not pursue a masters?
If you do not know how you’ll use it. Don’t do it for the sake of doing it.
It is very centered on essay-writing and exams - you spend the whole year working on assessed assignments, with the focus being mainly on these grades more than group work or seminars. It is not interactive. It is a lot of solo work that is performance based and not very collaborative. It is very traditional and very research based.
Why should you pursue it?
It gives you a very good network of students and professors in the field
Great alumni community
LSE career center gives you a network to find jobs.
By March or February, I felt I had to apply for jobs. I had this thing that I wanted to come back to Egypt because of my strong attachment to my country, family, and friends. Alongside PwC Cairo, I also applied to PwC London.
Why did you join a consulting firm?
I joined PwC Cairo in November 2016 and left in March 2019. I was employed in the Deals department, with a focus on strategy consulting for mergers and acquisitions in the MENA region. I worked with the Dubai office most of the time I was employed at PwC but did some financial due diligence projects with the Cairo office as well. PwC is offers a wonderful work environment with great colleagues and training development opportunities.
How did you transition from consulting into special education?
I was really enjoying consulting and I was very happy at PwC being exposed to very interesting projects. However, I just didn’t feel very fulfilled or that I had much of a purpose so I started to explore other options and think about how I can shift into the special educational needs and disability field.
I started to part time at the Effective Learning Foundation, a center that provides support services and therapy to children with special needs. I used to go from 3-6pm, three times a week. I worked with ELF, in their Learning Skills Development department, for almost a year. After working with them for 2 months, I already knew that this is what I wanted to do.
I was allowed to observe and shadow creative activities, given that I still didn’t possess the technical knowledge. After doing this for 3 months, I began to take on more roles and responsibilities after being meticulously trained by my mentor. I was lucky to sit in on the weekly training development sessions and help therapists come up with the activities to use in a given child’s program setting.
I am very grateful that I went through what I went through. I think it gives me more well-roundedness. With the business and management background, I feel I have the knowledge to eventually run my own foundation or centre one day. I am happy that I built this skillset.
I left PwC after I received my acceptance from my Masters in Special & Inclusive Education. I started my Masters in September 2019. I messaged a professor on the program in January telling her about my eagerness to apply. Because there are prerequisites to have an undergraduate in Education or Psychology, I sent her a very long email clarifying my situation. She responded with two lines confirming that I don’t meet the requirements. I decided to apply anyway and did exactly what I was advised. I focused on a convincing and passionate personal statement and good recommendation letters. Thankfully, I was admitted into the program!
What are the pros and cons of this program?
People are nice
Teachers are approachable
Good resources. We are in the “Institute of Education’ and they are well recognized. You have access to a ton of resources that are not as widely available in other programs.
It is one of the best in the world according to many rankings.
The lectures are well organised into knowledge segments, case study segments, and group work. It is very interactive and very practical and there is a lot of versatility in the module.
All of your final grades are 100% based on essays. That is the only way you get tested.
From September to March teaching was face-to-face in London. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, it moved online. My term ends in 2 weeks and my thesis will be what is remaining to complete by September. My thesis is on “The impact on Egyptian families of raising a child with severe or profound learning difficulties.” I also look at gender impacts to examine whether there is a difference in impact when looking at mothers vs. fathers and when looking at sons vs. daughters.
Any final tips you'd like to share?
I just think you should really focus on your personal statement. It is so important. Competition has gotten high with lots of high-performing students. What will distinguish you is your story and your personal statement.