I’m originally from Auckley, a village in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. My whole family are from there, so I’m always proud to be from the North whenever I’m away. While higher education isn’t an option to everyone, I was lucky to go to a great college, The Hayfield School, and had some truly phenomenal teachers that truly believed in me. Beyond that, I owe a lot of my drive to my twin sister, Abbie. She always pushed me to work hard and inspires me every day – I wouldn’t be where I am without her. That kind of support system really has changed my life in so many ways.
It was Abbie who introduced me to the US Programme while we were applying to the UK Summer Schools. I never for a second thought going to the States would be an option for me before that point, so the opportunity really amazed me.
Looking back, I am so grateful for my experiences on the US Programme, specifically the summer school in the US. Being from Doncaster, catching a plane, going to MIT and Harvard … it felt like my world suddenly cracked open and I knew there was so much more to see. I just wanted to keep going, keep pushing and see where I could go. The whole experience really sparked my sense of adventure.
That said, it wasn’t always so easy or fun. The first time I took the ACT, for instance, I felt like a complete failure. For anyone taking that test right now, I want you to know that I got a 21 on my initial assessment and genuinely thought my dreams were over. Without the patience or support of the US Programme staff, I would never have been able to try again, gaining a 10+ point improvement my second time. It remains such a defining moment for me, and I think really speaks to this programme’s values; with hard work, no matter where you’re from or who you are, you can achieve anything.
I am happy to say that I just graduated from Duke University in North Carolina, where I was a Robertson Scholar.
I never visited Duke before I applied, and I remember arriving in August with one suitcase and $76 in my bank account. Luckily, the campus was beautiful, I met some incredible friends and I immediately fell in love with it. I have a lot of gratitude for my liberal arts education and all the interests it has allowed me to explore, like cyber warfare or American foreign policy. Considering I was going to do English Literature in the UK, Duke really did challenge me to explore and grow beyond imagination.
This style of education as well as the three summer experiences that my Robertson scholarship offered me really let me understand exactly who I am and what I want. I was lucky enough to spend three summers in entirely different areas; first at a Public Defenders Office in New Orleans, then completing research in South East Asia, and finally working in a non-profit in Washington DC. Not only did they all teach me so much about the world, but they also taught me to value experience, learning and passion over prestige or income. I truly couldn’t be more grateful to the Sutton Trust or Robertson for those lessons.
That said, while I explored my personal interests through study and travel, on campus I found that low income or first–generation students like me often went unacknowledged or without community. It was baffling to me that there was no organisation to celebrate these students at Duke, so I was proud to help launch Duke Low-Income First-Generation Engagement. When we started we only had 15 or 20 students and by my graduation we had around 400. I’m so excited its future, especially as another US Programme alum, Ibby, has been chosen as president. He is an outstanding leader and I’m thrilled to be passing the torch to another Sutton Trust alum.
I’ve missed the UK and will be moving to London to work at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, on their cyber warfare and emerging technology team. I couldn’t stay away from the US for too long, though, and will be applying to law schools in the upcoming round of applications. Long-term, I want to help write the law and policy of international cyber relations. Understanding how foreign strategy, cybersecurity and human rights intersect is such an exciting niche and, especially as a woman, I want to be at the forefront of such a critical dialogue.
First, ask for help. Ask everyone you know- professors, mentors, students. There is no limit to the growth and guidance you can gain from those around you. Being strong enough to be vulnerable, especially at the beginning, will set you up with a foundation of support for long term success. The Sutton Trust does a fantastic job of empowering every cohort, so carrying on that tradition is really just part of the alumni legacy.
Second, and most important, know your worth. For so long, especially at Duke, I questioned my abilities and my right to be there. I felt out of place, and utterly underqualified. If I could tell every single Sutton Trust student one thing, it is that your identity as first generation or low income is not something to hinder you, but to propel you. Wear it as your proudest asset. It should serve as a reminder of where you have come from, and where you still have yet to go.