Class of 2023: Elsa Philbedge

We’re so proud of our class of 2023. They’ve overcome enormous challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities, and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done all of this during a pandemic when life – and student life – changed beyond recognition. Here, we’re taking the opportunity to share some of their stories.

  • Date

    Wed 5 Jul 23

Elsa Philbedge wearing her Essex Blades netball kit, smiling and holding a netball

A family connection to Winston Churchill inspired Elsa Philbedge to study history but it was her time on the Essex Blades netball team, and the friends she made through sport, that have given Elsa her most memorable Essex moments.

Elsa, who is graduating with a BA Modern History, has had a life-long fascination with war stories, sparked by old movies and her great-grandad’s role as Winston Churchill’s driver in Africa.

“Reading his war diaries and seeing him in a small, grainy photograph standing next to his car and Churchill really inspired me,” she said.

Studying the First World War, modern Britain and the Russian revolution at secondary school cemented the subject as her favourite and Elsa had no doubt it was what she wanted to continue into higher education.

“I love history as it is so key to understanding the world today, it gives us background on why there continues to be tensions between Russia and the West, it explains how and why America has become such a global power and it can highlight individuals and the impact that they created that made our world what it is today.”

Elsa, who grew up near Hadleigh in Suffolk, chose to live at home during her studies but she had no trouble making friends thanks to her second passion, netball.

Inspired by sibling rivalry, Elsa began playing in year four at primary school, hoping to secure the same tournament medal her older brother’s team had won.

“Sport at my school was taken very seriously, with weekly matches against other schools and competing at the regional school’s tournament. We were a very successful team and we were a tight knit group of eight who played together for school, club and county.”

Joining the Essex Blades was in no doubt and Elsa, an experienced Goal Shooter, rose to be Vice-Captain with one of her best friends of the BUCS 2nd team in her final year. The team won the league in Elsa’s second year and reached the semi-finals in her final year.

“My best memory of netball at Essex was our final game. It was such a tight game and the team really pulled together; my parents had come to watch as well as the rest of the netball girls,” she said.

“At the end of the game, myself and the other captain were given flowers by the team. It was a very proud moment, as it was only then that I really stepped back and saw what a great bunch of girls I had around me, and how grateful I was to them and previous players for making netball and my whole Essex experience so special.”

She is also proud to have helped raise over £300 for local charity CENS4Homeless when, as a member of the netball executive community she helped organise a charity tournament, which it’s hoped will become an annual event.

For anyone considering coming to Essex, Elsa’s advice is: “It is a small university and therefore you don’t get lost in the crowd. If you find the thought of university daunting, Essex is the ideal place.”

After taking the summer off, Elsa is hoping to secure a job in the Civil Service and aims to work at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office one day.