Being identified as a first-generation university student, an immigrant, and a woman of colour from a low-income background is the ultimate experience of politicisation. It means hyper-awareness of the institutional barriers – including these labels – that affect progress, as well as of the social and personal obstacles. With the current struggle of social mobility, it’s a bit unbelievable that I’ve turned down a place at Cambridge to study at Northwestern University this September. It is wonderful, and it is terrifying, and it is proof that these systems cannot hold us back. The Sutton Trust US Programme has been integral to making this possible, and it continues to be the best experience of guidance, inspiration – and most importantly, community – that I’ve ever had.
Getting into the programme was a significant moment for me. I remember speaking to some other members of the cohort about how, due to our personal circumstances and the obstacles facing us, none of us had really ‘dared to dream’ before, or allowed ourselves to even dream of an opportunity like studying in the US. For me, getting into the programme challenged this mindset; it came by surprise, and was followed by excitement, determination and hard work. Spending a week at Yale was surreal, and seeing a picture of New York City from the top of the Rockefeller Centre every time I look at my phone screen continues to act as a little push, a motivator. The detail and depth of the US admissions process as opposed to the UK process means that there’s a constant flow of encouragement and support from within the cohort, and the joy that comes from seeing fellow members succeed is unparalleled.
In general, being part of the Sutton Trust US Programme has given me so much; not only in practical opportunities and guidance, but also in personal growth and incredible support. Perhaps the most impactful aspect has been meeting other like-minded students with fascinating stories and talents, each passionate about the future and overcoming the obstacles that face us. Being part of such a wonderful community has invigorated me, and given me a network of support and inspiration I have never found anywhere else. I have made so many memories with my cohort, both during organised residentials and outside them, and their support has continued to drive me.
I find myself questioning whether I actually did get into Northwestern every now and then. In the week after receiving my acceptance, I checked the letter at least once a day. It’s hard to put into words how it felt to receive my acceptance, and to find out that I would not have to pay anything to attend university – it was and continues to be an interesting mixture of exhilaration and excitement and shock. It’s with this mixture of feelings (as well as the added anxiety of knowing that Americans make tea in microwaves) that I look to this autumn, when the fight against structural barriers continues from a different continent.