Postgrad living in Newcastle: Meet Ahsan

Written by iQ Collingwood resident and postgrad student Ahsan Zafeer.  After completing his Bachelors Degree in Marketing in Pakistan, Ahsan has pursued his passion abroad bolstering his expertise with foreign education in Digital Marketing. He writes extensively on tech, digital marketing, cybersecurity and emerging technologies. He tweets @Ahsan Zafeer

“First things first! Here’s a little about myself.

I’m Ahsan, a postgraduate Digital Marketing student from Pakistan, living in Newcastle and staying at the amazing iQ. I love writing (sharing my two cents about things I deeply care about), hitting the gym (New Year's resolution?) and I’m a sucker for a good night out!

But, enough about me already. Here is a little insight into my student journey so far.

After my Bachelor’s in Marketing from Pakistan, I wanted to excel professionally by pursuing a foreign education in any of the contemporary aspects of the same field. What better than Digital Marketing when all are going digital?


Arrival in Newcastle

Pre-departure and post-landing processes involved lengthy paperwork, handling luggage, and loads of other travel-specific stuff. To top it off, the prospect of arriving in Newcastle in the middle of the night had terrified me to the core. But, thanks to the IQ onsite staff, available 24/7, I settled into my room smoothly. Receiving a welcome pack in the room that had snacks and provided essential nutrition and a SIM card also helped alleviate much of the travel fatigue.

Welcome box at iQ
A refreshing welcome box from iQ that came with dry foods, cards, and a GiffGaff SIM – I didn’t need to buy or wait for days for one to be delivered to me


A hectic first few days

The first weekend in Newcastle was just me trying to figure out how to set up my room, loads of unpacking and scavenging my suitcase contents for whatever food I could find. Navigating the city to find everything I needed with just Google Maps on my side – an adventure that usually ended up with me cursing developers of the Google Maps interface – was also challenging.

My suitcases had to be unpacked, and these aren't even all of them!

Newcastle says hello

My next few days were full of excitement, a little pinch of cultural shock, and many Newcastle discoveries. I couldn’t get enough of the awesome freebies, onsite festivals, and celebrations – always accompanied by snacks, Greggs’ bakes, Quayside walks, and the orientation at the university. The Tyneside peeps’ energy to “keep the party going ” night upon night shocked me, and rightly so. While New York is the city that never sleeps, Newcastle is a worthy candidate for holding the same title.


Ahsan at Stephenson House
iQ Stephenson's classic architecture and ME


Calm in the storm

In the week commencing after my arrival, I began attending classes at the Northumbria campus – only a 12-minute walk from the iQ residence (phew!) The teaching staff made everyone feel welcome with the orientations, but the first few classes were boring since no one knew each other.

However, it was only the ‘calm in the storm’ before things began to get real with the courseload, and I experienced first-hand what being in a fast-paced postgraduate program feels like.

Team-based projects involve loads of collaboration, case studies, presentations, and hands-on training with the core digital marketing tools. I completed varied, exhilarating, and tough modules simultaneously, helping me grow as a student in a course best aligned with my interests.

Involvement with extra co-curricular activities enabled me to interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and nationalities and helped develop cultural intelligence. Some of them eventually became my closest friends.

Boxing at uni
I joined the Northumbria University boxing team along with the Student Union


Life at iQ

Life in Newcastle and at iQ hasn’t been a bed of roses since – at first, I struggled to make meaningful connections, while cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry also took a toll on me since I was all by myself.  

However, eventually, it turned out to be everything a postgrad can want from student life. From late-night parties to Christmas celebrations, cooking with flatmates, the many freebies available from time to time each month, and getting the most out of the iQ cashback debit card, it’s been a fun ride. To share my journey at iQ with others, I joined the IQ ambassadors program and have had fun documenting my journey on Instagram.

I am now starting my second semester, and time seems to have fast flown past! I have become part of communities comprising like-minded people such as the one at iQ and taking advantage of the numerous opportunities available for learning and collaboration – ‘smashing it’, as they say – while hoping that this new year proves to be even more eventful than the last one.

While international students often get homesick, I love how iQ ensures that none of its residents feel alone with loads of activities, freebies, events and celebrations that take place consistently.

In the end, I guess I can say that I’m lovin’ it (and not just because I like McDonald’s)."


Thank you to Ahsan for sharing his experiences of postgrad life in the UK.

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