SOAS University of London

Magda Biran Taylor

I always maintained my early interest in South East Asia and hoped to return to SOAS one day, in order to complete my studies. The opportunity to do this occurred when I retired. I am now studying for an MA in South East Asian Studies.

My early career was far removed from the one my interests later led me. When I left school, I worked as a stage manager at the National Theatre, at a time when Gielgud, Ashcroft, Richardson and Olivier were treading the boards. However, I had always had an interest in South East Asia, and it was while travelling in Hong Kong in the 1970s when I first heard about SOAS. It was only a short time later that I was fortunate enough to be studying Anthropology and Thai here under Professor E. H. S. Simmonds, who first gained his knowledge of Thai as a prisoner of war working on the infamous Burma Railway. My intention had been to progress to a doctorate immediately after completing my first degree, but a different life intervened for me. I got married, had a family, worked as an English teacher in an independent school, and as a member of the council of Liberty. However, I always maintained my early interest in South East Asia and always hoped to return to SOAS one day, in order to complete my studies. The opportunity to do this occurred last year when I retired. I am now studying for an MA in South East Asian Studies, plan to take an additional course on Indonesian language, and am thinking about applying for a possible doctorate on Indonesian Politics of the 1960s, by which time I will be aged 71. I am constantly impressed by the commitment of my fellow students at SOAS––looking down into the Library there is rarely an empty desk to be seen––and every evening it is always possible to attend an interesting lecture, even if you are not on a particular course.