A Canadian alumna, Raeesa Rajmohamed graduated with a degree in Law and a master’s in Health, Law and Society before becoming a barrister in 2022, receiving an ‘Outstanding’, the Bar Training Course’s highest recognition. Raeesa has been involved in numerous projects since graduating, including lecturing at the University of The Gambia in West Africa, contributing a chapter to a book on Violence Against Women and Legal Justice in Africa, and managing her own photography and videography business.
We caught up with Raeesa, recipient of the Alumni Association Community Award, to learn more about her time at Bristol, what inspired her to become a Bristol Mentor, and the advice she has found most helpful.
On studying Law
If someone had asked me before I started my Law degree what I wanted to do or specialise in after graduation, I wouldn’t have had a clue. Then in my second year, I chose to study medical law. It’s safe to say I fell in love with it, and the professors were brilliant! There was a specific case at the Court of Protection about mental capacity and consent that enthralled me – so much so that it led me to undertake the Master’s in Health, Law and Society. My master’s dissertation was entirely about that case. The topics were serious and sometimes sensitive, as medical law is, but the skills I gained allowed me to discuss them with ease, aided by my work with vulnerable clients at the Bristol Law Clinic.
On university as a supportive environment
I’m Canadian, and arrived on my own as an international student, with my family 4,000 miles away. In my third year, I was hospitalised – my first time in a scenario like that without my family. My friends visited me in hospital, yet I was surprised when my lecturers and the Head of the Law School also visited. It’s not part of their job, but it’s something they personally wanted to do because they knew my family was across the Atlantic. They cared. It speaks to the ethos of the Law School, and thanks to that, I always knew I wasn’t alone.
On the best parts of Bristol
I attended an event for offer holders before I accepted my place at Bristol. The moment I stepped onto campus, I turned to my mother and exclaimed: ‘I’m going to study here!’ I saw how happy the students were and it was infectious. There is something about the city. It is simultaneously small and large. Without the hustle and bustle of London, you can stop to smell the roses – yet it’s still a vibrant, energetic hub. It has the benefits of both worlds.
I met wonderful people and formed lifelong friendships. We had phenomenal experiences, from flying with the Hot Air Ballooning Society to boating around the harbour to a girls’ trip to Malta.
What’s great about Bristol is that you can dabble in different activities. At one point, I had three part-time jobs, as well as doing fencing, mooting, debating, Law Clinic, being on the Student Staff Liaison Committee and more. It brought unexpected opportunities – for example, had I not attended an open mic night, I wouldn’t have ended up in a Bristol Suspensions music video!
I look back and wonder how I did it, but I think I’m drawn towards a full schedule. Staying on top of it all is about knowing when to say no, and setting boundaries. Organisation is important, but self-care more so.
On being a University Mentor
The ‘unofficial’ mentors I’ve had throughout my life inspired me to become a mentor for the Bristol Mentors programme. When I worked in The Gambia, I lived on a compound amongst locals. The woman in the flat beside mine went out of her way to ensure I felt settled. Whenever I thanked her, she would say: ‘People in my life have been very good to me.’ That resonated with me. So many people in my life have been good to me and willing to help when I needed it most – I’m very grateful, and I want to do the same for others.
I love to sleep! When financially feasible I also love to travel, if only for a weekend to try new food. But I enjoy simple things like a good book, a leisurely walk or a cup of tea. I speak with my parents almost every day. I love spending time with my partner, my friends and visiting my family when I can. I also cosplay – I make my own costumes – and read comics. I’ve met celebrities at conventions, including Bristol Law alum Jason Isaacs (LLB 1985)!
Before I moved to the UK, a friend gifted me some sticky notes. She said: ‘Write down every positive thing that happens and stick it on your wall. Whenever you feel low, look at the wall, full of positivity, and immerse yourself in it.’
Another great piece of advice was from my father. It was when I was struggling in my first year and I’ve saved his words. He wrote: ‘You will find this insurmountable if you were to consider the whole journey altogether, so don’t. Give yourself a single task at a time, and complete it as best you can. And you can. Divide and conquer, or put your best effort – either way, you win. If you do decide to choose your battles and that this one is not yours, then that too is okay. Remember that it is your choice, and should you wish, you too will prevail. Whatever you decide is correct and we will support you.’
On winning the 2023 Alumni Association Community Award
I’m so honoured and grateful for this award – my heart is full. I think it is a testament to how grateful I am to the University for my education and the experiences I had. That’s why I want to give back. As I’ve grown up, I’ve intentionally let go of some things, but I will always feel connected to the Bristol Law School – I owe a lot to them. I know I will forever have a community, family and home here, and I feel extremely fortunate for that.
Each year, the University of Bristol recognises alumni who have made remarkable contributions to society through the Alumni Awards. You can see the full list of our 2023 winners on our website.