Profiles in Prominence: The Tab talks to Islamic Soc President Qamil Pajaziti

‘I still know all the words to La Bamba, I hope you’re happy, Miss Silva’

Hailing from North West London, 20-year-old Qamil Pajaziti, proudly of Albanian ancestry, is a second-year medic at Trinity Hall who manages to balance to the immense workload of his degree with his work as President of the Cambridge University Islamic Society.

What does your average week look like?

Second year medicine has been very busy and that, in combination with all the random things I’m involved with, makes it difficult to describe an average week. There are, however, a few things that pretty much happen on a regular basis, the first being Homeless Outreach. As part of my role as secretary, I helped set up and deliver Homeless Outreach on Thursday nights. Through Michaelmas and Lent, we would set up a small table outside Christ’s and serve hot drinks and food to whomever we could find. It worked really well to bring together the, sometimes isolated, ISoc community with the wider Cambridge community. Also, personally having something ‘good’ to do every week helped remind me of why I do my degree in a way that I could appreciate instantly rather than having to think about five years into the future. At the risk of sounding like my Spanish GCSE, I also play football with the ISoc most Fridays and the late-night Zi’s Piri Piri run is a welcome end to the ‘working’ week.

I spend most other evenings with friends or at society events. Most nights usually end on Mill Road as the go-to place for halal cuisine, cycling up to the mosque is also a motive whether it’s to study at the café or listen to the regular talks by the Imam. It’s one of the few places where I can spend all day without having to think about where I will pray. ISoc holds events all the time so I never really have to spend an evening alone; one of the first things I learnt when I started here was that I feel best when I’m surrounded by people. Thankfully I was able to find a bunch of amazing people from ISoc and the variety of cultural societies, so loneliness hasn’t been much of an issue.

How did you attain the position you hold?

I already held the position of Secretary within ISoc and when the time came around to think about who would go for the position of President, my friends were really supportive and made me feel better about running for the role. I was then elected began my Presidency at the end of Lent. Throughout the whole experience I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded with support from everyone at ISoc, and I hope to do justice to the role and cater to Muslim needs in the best way possible.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Probably getting into Cambridge, there’s a lot more I’m hoping to do in my life, so I definitely don’t want to have the same answer to this question a year from now. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of initiatives at uni that you can pour your heart and soul into so I’m looking forward to achieving something of value to not only myself.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

My bike being stolen a week into first year. It was peak having to walk to all the events I wanted to go to. I’m hugely privileged to have this as my biggest disappointment.

When were you happiest?

I’m going to have to be boring again, but it actually was when I found out that I’d got my place here. I was on the plane back from Skopje having spent my summer with my family there and in Kosovo and the moment we landed I checked UCAS and saw my result. I didn’t start screaming, and the whole plane didn’t clap, but the feeling of relief and having my family right next to me made it a very special moment.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Performing Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba in front of my whole primary school. Now don’t get me wrong; for a while I thought I was the coolest kid at school, and the fact that Year 3 me had Year 6’s coming up to me asking if I was Spanish did wonders for my prepubescent ego. It only became embarrassing when, eventually, I had friends reminding me of ‘that time I sang La Bamba’ and asking me whether I still knew the words. I, of course, still remember all the words. I hope you’re happy, Miss Silva.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Someone told me I looked like Aaron Taylor-Johnson one time, so I guess him? The film of my life won’t make up for our very short time with him as Quicksilver, but at least he’ll survive the whole film.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be an inventor; I thought that since fractions and using a compass was insultingly easy, I had the intellectual foundations to develop ground-breaking technology. Some examples include; the flying car, the flying skateboard and the flying bike. As you can see, I wasn’t the most creative and ended up taking the easy way out (sarcasm).

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?

It’s been really important to me to apologise to anyone I feel I may have wronged, in my time here I’ve given out my fair share of apologies. The only person I would then like to apologise to would have to be someone I’ve wronged without realising it which makes it slightly worse I guess. If you’re reading this and you think I should have apologised to you then please accept my most sincere apologies.

When did you last cry, and why?

The last time I properly sobbed was watching Riz Ahmed’s short film ‘The Long Goodbye’. I don’t want to spoil it because I think everyone should watch it, but it especially hit home since I had family in the Balkans during a very similar time to that depicted by the film.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

If I could develop some semblance of discipline, that would be great.

What is your greatest fear?

Dying in a state of ignorance or impurity.

What was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

One of my friends offered to help me study for an exam this year, I took him up on the offer, and we ended up spending the whole day together going through all the course content multiple times over. Without that day I probably wouldn’t have passed the exam. Still, the amount of time he dedicated just for my benefit was amazing; I think I learnt more on that day compared to the two terms before that.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I can be very naive. It’s worked fine when the consequences of this only affects myself, but as I begin to take on real responsibilities that no longer seems to be the case.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I don’t really deplore it, but I do find it difficult if I feel like someone doesn’t like me. As a serial people-pleaser, it’s one of the times when I don’t live up to my name.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?

“Sometimes I wonder if reading a different subject might suit him better”, me too bro.

What has been your closest brush with the law?

Went through customs with a semi-full beard, but then I remembered my skin colour.

What is the closest you’ve ever come to death?

The dodgy car ride from Skopje to Prishtina was always terrifying. Mountain views are beautiful; still, it isn’t great when you’re going around a bend with no barrier between you and a sheer cliff with the constant fear that a lorry might come barrelling towards your Golf Mk2.

Photo credits belong to Qamil Pajaziti.