Imane Iraoui is from El Jadida, Morocco and is studying for a one-year MPhil in Computer Science at Churchill. She is also a Mastercard Foundation Scholar.
Imane completed her undergraduate studies in Morocco at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane where she majored in Computer Science and graduated as the valedictorian of the School of Science and Engineering. She has always been fascinated by artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications, with a particular interest in machine learning robotics, so this was a natural focus for her Masters study. Reflecting on what has driven her interest in this field, she points to the opportunity it provides to use her enjoyment of creative challenges to effect real societal change:
I have always been into drawing and music since my childhood. I discovered at a certain point that my creativity did not have to be contained only in art but that I could also use it in my studies. I found that artificial intelligence makes my creative mind wander, and that I could also employ it for social good. AI has the potential to create enormous societal changes and I want to use it as an empowering medium to make people’s lives easier. It can uplift communities in need and solve humanity’s issues, and it is also essential to develop innovative technologies in the future.
The journey to Cambridge
Imane had never considered pursuing her education at Cambridge University – thinking it too high a goal to reach – until the day she spotted a post on LinkedIn from a girl who had secured a place and thought, “maybe I can dream big too”. Imane decided to apply and started looking for a college where she would feel most at home. She stumbled upon a website that mentioned that Churchill was the best college for STEM students and she also discovered it had a large number of computer science students, so she put down Churchill as her top choice. However, when she received her admission email, she had mixed feelings – she was really happy but her admission didn’t mean anything if she couldn’t secure the funding she needed. It was only when she received her scholarship from the Mastercard Foundation that she was able to realise her dream, and she is hugely grateful for the incredible opportunity it has provided.
I will let you imagine the excitement I felt when I got the news about the funding. Without this scholarship, studying at the University of Cambridge would have just remained a distant dream of mine. In fact, I had completely given up on joining before receiving the news. I greatly appreciate the financial, academic, and social support that I am receiving to pursue my education, and I am so grateful for the trust vested in me by the Foundation.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program specifically supports African students and helps them finance their studies to join world renowned universities. As Imane explains, not only does the scholarship cover tuition fees, maintenance fees, and other expenses, it also offers mentoring services and career opportunities to the scholars. For example, the Foundation organised a two-week induction programme to prepare the Masters students for their postgraduate studies. The programme focused on academic and research skills, providing the scholars with an overview of what to expect in the Masters programmes, and introduced them to the University and the City of Cambridge.
Imane quickly settled into life at Churchill thanks to the support of the College MCR. ‘I love the sense of community and belonging that it fosters, and I have been enjoying the numerous events organised by the MCR, through which I have met some incredible people.’ She also loves the College gardens and points to the beneficial effect of being able to take long walks around the extensive grounds. In her spare time, Imane is passionate about music and enjoys playing the drums. She also recently took up playing the guitar and enjoys delving into comics and books.
Looking ahead, Imane plans to get some industry experience with a tech company as a researcher before pursuing a PhD. Her long-term career aspiration is to establish a career in academia and research to bring about more improvement to AI and be at the forefront of its progress in the upcoming years.