“The ups reminded me where I wanted to go, and the downs pushed me to get there”
A student who lost five family members to violent crime in two months has told how she battled through grief to graduate with distinction from Edinburgh Napier University.
Hazina Alladin’s world was turned upside down by the deaths of two cousins, a cousin-in-law, an uncle and his wife in two separate home invasion robberies in her home country of Trinidad.
She admits the murders brought her “to her knees”, and led to her ignoring her mental and emotional health as she threw herself into the demands of both her day job and study programme.
Hazina credits the university’s Wellbeing & Support online pages with helping her eventually come to terms with her grief, anger and disbelief, as well as her Christian faith, confidence-boosting voluntary work and creative hobbies like photography and dancing.
Now she has learned that she has graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a BA with Distinction in Business & Enterprise. Despite the family tragedies in her Caribbean homeland, she achieved merits and distinctions for all of her assignments on the online course.
Hazina, 28, who was also elected Online Programme Representative at the university, said: “Coping with my losses while working full-time, volunteering, studying for a degree and being away from my family was indeed challenging. However, I realised I needed both the peaks and the valleys to keep moving forward. The ups reminded me where I wanted to go, and the downs pushed me to get there.”
The first incident happened in Penal, south Trinidad, in August last year. While working on a course assignment, Hazina learned in a call from her mother that two cousins and one of their wives had been found dead in their house with gunshot wounds and cuts to their throats.
She said: “I fell to my knees and cried uncontrollably. I screamed the word ‘no’ for hours until my voice was gone. It was absolutely heartbreaking.”
Two months later, a retired uncle and his wife were killed in a violent home invasion in Central Trinidad. A 24-year-old suspect was later arrested after being spotted driving their stolen vehicle.
In the weeks that followed, Hazina experienced outbursts of grief but also began following processes that helped her create space for herself.
She said: “I was afraid that these tragic events would affect my ability to continue learning.
“Grief made everything feel like an extra effort, whether it was making friends or submitting work, but there were plenty of resources available at Edinburgh Napier to help me work though my feelings. The Wellbeing & Support site was extremely helpful. I explored books on the Shelf Help section and strategies to reduce pain and boost my ability to cope.
“I also enjoyed networking with Edinburgh Napier’s global community of students, and the online programme rep role was a big help in this. It involved keeping abreast of student issues on our degree programme, representing students’ interests and addressing issues that impacted on the quality of their experience at the university.”
Now Hazina - who earlier studied at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School - is putting what she learned from her one-year online course at Edinburgh Napier to good use in her current job with a property development firm in New York City, where she has lived for four years.
She said: “I was offered a position as Administrator just two months after enrolling at Napier.
I am responsible for coordinating office activities in compliance to company policy and procedure. Now, I can better relate to the company after learning about business plans and how to calculate the return on the investments a company makes and how different business models work.
“I’ve found that when you are able to apply the material and talk about how it relates to life today, you’re much more able to remember it. It’s almost like your brain presses an ‘on’ switch and you start to absorb the material better because you are at least partially invested in it.”
Dr Kingsley Omeihe, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Edinburgh Napier’s Business School, said: “Hazina is an outstanding, dedicated and talented student. Achieving a distinction is an impressive feat, and the fact that she has been able to do as well as she has, given the circumstances, says a lot about her. Her personal qualities are also as impressive as her intellectual accomplishments.”