Jimmy shares his story and experience with university and the opportunities it opened up. Read more below.
I studied Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh from 2008 to 2012 and then did a masters. Before university, I was studying A levels in Geography, Maths and Sociology.
My course was very interesting and varied. I enjoyed field trips- going to Amsterdam and the Western Isles were amazing experiences. The lecturers were also excellent. My dissertation supervisor, was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I made some great friends on my course too.
My favourite thing about Uni was the social side. Playing for two football teams, having lots of house parties, making new friends and learning new skills. University was mostly a liberating experience for me. Having the chance to express myself and do what I wanted is something I quite simply didn’t have the freedom to do when I was in care.
When I applied to University, I ‘ticked the box’ to let them know that I had care experience. I met with the widening participation officer in my second week of first year, but I didn’t see her after that. I ticked it because I thought it would be the right thing to do for me. I knew that university had the potential to be a difficult and lonely place; I did it in case I needed a bit of extra help that others get from their families.
This was the closest thing that I felt to a ‘fall back cushion’. I had lots of friends who, if they were having a tough week at university, could go home to their parents for the weekend and have their washing done and food cooked. It can feel quite exposing and isolating not having this option when everyone around you does, but knowing that the University was aware that I was care experienced helped to alleviate some of this concern.
Study what you enjoy, fearlessly own your care identity and always pursue what you are passionate about.
I often felt a pressure to hide that I had care experience to protect me from the judgment of others, but also to protect others from any sense of awkwardness that they might have felt. The advice I would give to anyone with care experience interested in applying to university is to study what you enjoy, fearlessly own your care identity and always pursue what you are passionate about.
Also, get involved in all things social! Anything from hosting flat parties to joining the chess club. If you can spare some time you should volunteer. When you eventually graduate and are competing for jobs and opportunities, what you do in your spare time is what sets you apart. Find a cause that sits well with your values and do something with it. It’ll open up new opportunities for you, and it is also seriously rewarding.