Reflecting on a decade since beginning my Masters programme at the University of Essex, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, I find myself deeply immersed in thoughts about the journey I've been on since then.

Ten years ago, I arrived at Essex, a place that would pivotally shape the course of my life. My first academic degree in English—my second language—was my first experience in university accommodation and my first time crafting essays in an academic setting. I was far from being happy then, as personal fulfilment took a backseat to immigration status, education, and work.

Without that much understanding of harmony between work and study, I barely noticed the creeping anxiety and burnout that would follow. The subsequent years were marred by stress-induced illnesses each autumn, a stark reminder from my body to slow down and seek help. It was during these trying times that I started therapy, unravelling the threads of perfectionism and discontent in my relationship while learning to accept and respect myself as I am—imperfect yet complete.

Years after my studies, I discovered that I am neurodivergent, an insight that felt like an inevitable step in the self-discovery journey I started during my Masters.

Almost two years ago, I went through a career change and set up a small business of my own, Bake2Explore, where I channel all I learned and practised over 8 years of working as a human rights lawyer. My decision to start a small business came from a desire to integrate strategy in all aspects of life, working in harmony with my mind and body.

During those years, I worked with different marginalised communities, empowered them and introduced them to the tools to become an advocate for their rights. I use the same principle in my Cultural Team Bonding Workshops - baking bread with the team and bringing them together around cultural connection and the language of food.

I am grateful that my B2B small business allows me to reengage in a slightly different environment with my academic and human rights community (including my Essex community), and I am keen on working with businesses that care about their people and the impact of their work on the community and environment. 

The years also saw me move countries again, constantly learning and adapting. Through all this, the University of Essex was a sanctuary. Among Dr Scott Sheeran's words during our induction was "You'll make friends for life", a notion I sceptically brushed off at 35. But it now rings more accurate than ever. I forged lifelong friendships (and now share a flat in Athens with one of those friends), bonded over shared experiences in an international community, and found solace in the serene walks by the river and the scenic views of that picturesque lake from the library.

My year at Essex, the wild nature of Wivenhoe Park, having access to that picturesque view of the lake in late hours working in the library, and walking by the river on those long days, was a blessing that I didn't have any idea of at the time.

Looking back, I realise that Essex didn't just educate me academically; it was there during a transformative decade of my life, supporting me as I built resilience and a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.

The journey from there to here has been fraught with challenges but filled with small, imperfect steps forward and invaluable lessons. Celebrating these ten years since starting at Essex and sixty since its founding, I'm proud of the resilience and growth I've gained, grateful for the friendships made and excited for the future.

This anniversary is not just a mark of time but a celebration of enduring connections and the ongoing journey of self-discovery.