Five years feels like quite a long time to be at uni, but I’ve made the most of it – I think I’ve explored a lot of new things, made some amazing friends, and really had an adventure. There are just so many incredible opportunities at Essex and I come from a tiny town where not much happens, so I really dived in. In my time here I’ve studied Arabic through Languages for All (LfA), I’ve started two new societies, and I’ve volunteered as the SU’s Open Portfolio Officer, helping to shape the focus of the SU around environmental issues.
I think my favourite experience of all was studying abroad for a year in the US, though; it was a truly incredible, eye-opening experience. I definitely expected America to be similar to the UK so it was a big culture shock to discover how different everything was. I was based at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and travelled with friends all over North America: we road-tripped to Miami and Toronto, and I went to stay with a friend in Colorado, so I really made the most of it! I’ll always remember the drive down to Miami and back, which was about 2,600 miles – I’m actually so surprised my friends and I didn’t kill each other being stuck in a car together for four days, but we had a fantastic time!
I’ve also got some experience doing a few different jobs, including two years in the Societies office and a Frontrunner placement in the Marketing team, that have really helped me decide what I want to do for my career. Originally when I started at uni I wanted to work in international relations, which is why I decided to study Arabic through LfA, but now I want to work in charity marketing because it offers me a chance to be creative while helping people, and those are two things I’m really passionate about.
I would say my biggest struggle is coping with my mental health issues. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder this year following a couple of years of struggle. I don’t think you’d be able to tell looking at me that I have a mental health issue, but even so, I think it’s important to talk about it. I think a lot of people who have mental health issues hide it really well, and are quite funny and outgoing people, like Robin Williams – no one would have guessed such a funny and well-loved man would be suffering on the inside.
I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without the support of my incredible family. My parents have always been really inspirational to me; they’re such hard-workers, and they always push themselves and push me to be the best I can be. My dad has just cycled nearly 3,000 miles from our home in Nottinghamshire to Agadir, Morocco. He blogged about his trip every day. He sent my mum a report and some photos and she uploaded it to his WordPress site (which you can check out here). He was raising money for Weston Park Cancer Hospital, where his best friend passed away when I was very small. He and my mum missed each other a lot – they’ve been married for 35 years and had never been apart for this long before! But he decided if he didn’t do it now he never would be able to, and we’re all really proud of him.