Sarina Shah: Advocating Culture

“I love the slower pace of Spanish life – when I’m stressed, I know now how to go out and just sit with a coffee in the sun…”

Sunetra Senior Wednesday 30th March 2022 08:26 EDT

Sarina is currently a Modern Languages and Business Management Student studying at Birmingham University. However, involved in a plethora of entrepreneurial roles, she is also fast-becoming a role model for the multicultural community. “Helping people and seeing them happy is what drives me. I’m social by nature and the idea of community is at the heart of every project.” Sarina is founder of the travel blog, Sarina Explores: a travel diary and educational platform. Garnering “a mini-community” through documentation of her escapades abroad, she decided to further collate different perspectives on various job roles in languages, from recent and current language graduates to teachers and people working within marketing and the sector, to give readers an idea of the centrality of words in culture as well as the range of careers available within the outgoing profession.
 “I wanted to encourage the learning of languages but, in a fun and door-opening way. I study Spanish and French as well as business, but there’s a big problem in the UK with the taking up of languages amongst young people. There’s a lot of contention around it. By introducing the language series where I talked to experts, I wanted to linguistically inspire people to bring alternative tongues into everyday life. My website gives travel tips but also hopefully wider guidance.” Essentially, Sarina seeks to integrate the concept of diversity itself. Indeed, language is a cultural window into local ways of being: “If you know the native language, you can better connect to a place you’re visiting: from particular food and custom to an entire lifestyle. Actually, a trip to Seville in Spain changed my outlook completely. I went to stay for about 3 months in my Erasmus year. I learned how to really relax and re-assess my ingrained norm. Here, we often live to work while, there, they live to be happy. Loved ones and community are prioritised even as people try to get by. Their way is very emotive which is reflected in the speech. This contrasts to the very polite way of Britain. I took this lesson with me.”
 Of course, Seville is also visually stunning. Vivid green nature and grand ‘Moorish’ architecture pour in at every angle. “The place is wonderfully- sized and everywhere you go, there’re hidden pockets of beauty and peace. The physicality fits in seamlessly and flows throughout the city.” To travel passionately then is to be personally empowered. “I love the slower pace of Spanish life – when I’m stressed, I know now how to go out and just sit with a coffee in the sun…” Embracing modern culture and languages is further economically beneficial. Sarina elaborated: “There are so many vocations within language learning. Much more than simply interpretation or translation which are the usual go-to. Additionally, we have a shortage of linguistic professionals in the UK which is costing the country 3.5% of GDP in lost business opportunities. The current government is giving out a contradictory message where they consciously acknowledge that we need more language students but do not significantly act on this – doing the opposite in fact e.g., there was a bursary available for language graduates of £26,000 but this has recently been cut down to only £10,000. This gives the subliminal idea that languages are secondary and of less value. There was also an explicit announcement in the media that STEM jobs are superior. I explored this at length in my dissertation. Most countries in Europe do have citizens who are at the very least bilingual. The UK is one of the worst for natives who are multilingual. We need to do more as a nation to address this.”
Indeed, there must be general understanding that society is stronger together. Sarina’s spirit of inclusion extends to those immediately around. During the Covid-19 crisis, she co-founded a local response unit: the Selly Oak Community Response with over 1,700 Facebook members and 300 active volunteers, who helped over 2000 people, delivering food bank parcels and through community support. The group featured on BBC News and raised over £9000 in grants and donations, including support from Santander Bank. The young advocate was previously also President of the Modern Languages Society, organising social and academic events which raise the profile of her subject in a fun or engaging way. Finally, being open-minded is as much a fundamental skill as analytical smarts. The ability to be empathetic, creative and enjoy recreation can even hone and elevate professional success. Organically exploratory as a species, the closer people are to their emanating environment, the more developed they can emerge as vibrant individuals.
I: @sarinaaax

You are doing a bit of part-time journalism. Tell us more?
I’ve been exploring the culture and life in London as well as that of international locations. I recently became a travel editor for my university’s newspaper and have been able to get involved in other adventurous sections. Through this opportunity, I’ve loved attending press nights for different concerts and theatre shows. Our features sections tie a bit of every category together e.g., a Valentine’s special we did brought together gaming, TV and food and drink, to name a few!
You say you hope to be part of global journalism. How exactly do you envision this?
Yes, I’d love not only to do travel-writing but also cover political and social events while staying in different countries. I’d want to do international opinion pieces if I could. I’m currently contributing a lot from my desk so getting hands-on experience is my next port of call. I have applied to a few graduate schemes for this.
What qualities would you say make a strong young entrepreneur?
Ingenuity and always thinking outside of the box. You need to be able to take inspiration from a variety of external sources and apply that to your own thinking. Confidence and proactivity are also key. You need to be able to explore further opportunities and invite more work in.
You are involved in many community projects as well as studying. How do you keep grounded and calm throughout the stress?
Cooking! I’ve really got into it over the last couple of years. I’ve been recreating Spanish dishes such as Spinach and Cheese croquettes as well as specialties from Latin America such as Frijoles.


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