Seizing opportunities from Africa to Canada
October 3, 2018
October 3, 2018
Over the past couple of years, Jonathan Gunaseelan has done innovative fundraising for UNICEF, taught children in Tanzania, Cardiff and London and helped develop a water filtration system for first-nation Canadians.
All these opportunities, and others besides, have come about through Warwick University, where Jonathan (OE 2008–2015) is now completing his Civil Engineering degree.
“Warwick has provided me with an incredible platform to excel in both engineering and general life. Being the university with the highest number of societies for students to get involved with, you’re always busy and always meeting new people!
“Being a part of a campus university was something I was sceptical about before joining Warwick. But it’s like living in a little bubble where you know so many of the people, you get close with everyone very quickly!”
He recently returned to the UK after an exchange year in Canada, where he studied at Western University in Ontario. “Canada was incredible to say the least; a proper leap out of my comfort zone and a test of independence! I undertook several group projects, perhaps the most interesting being the development of a water filtration system for first-nation communities. Another project was a pavement design, as well a truss structure.
“Beyond academics, I was heavily involved with UNICEF and organised a fundraising initiative called FAST24 (a sponsored fast), which became a huge success.” There is now even talk of it becoming a national UNICEF campaign in Canada, Jonathan reports. “I got the opportunity to talk to the CEO of UNICEF Canada [David Morley, pictured left] and was invited to their annual AGM.”
In addition, he was involved in cultural societies and represented the university in dance performances in Toronto.
Jonathan has also taken part in the Insight Programme, which is part of Government’s Teach First initiative – “another amazing opportunity”.
After an initial week of training, personal development and workshops in London, he and his fellow trainees spent a week in Wales teaching at the Hawthorn High School near Pontypridd. “We got a hands-on approach to teaching and to tackling issues which teachers face every day!”
Between Canada and Teach First, Jonathan spent six weeks in Tanzania as part of Warwick University’s Warwick in Africa programme.
He spent this period at Mtwara Technical Secondary School in the city of Mtwara in the south-east of the country. Like QE, it is a selective school. It was a memorable experience, he says, during which he was struck by the lack of resources. “The painful part was that all the children were so keen to learn but didn’t have books.”
As he enters his fourth year at Warwick, Jonathan is looking forward to serving as a Team Leader, managing a group of undergraduate student helpers working to ensure that new students are happy and comfortable.
Through completing Teach First, and upon completion of its Insight Programme, he has received an offer to take part in the two-year Leadership Development Programme to become a fully qualified teacher.
“As for my longer-term ambitions, I am currently taking one hurdle at a time. I have my dissertation and group project this year, on the development of busways for megacities and the development of a new building worth £500m. I hope to dive further into either of these fields once I graduate, within construction or transportation.”
He maintains close friendships with a number of Old Elizabethans. “It’s amazing how all our lives have gone in different paths yet we always come back together to fill each other in, catch up and have a good laugh! Top tip to current students: forget quantity, and look for those few special friendships you form at QE that will come with you forever!”