Figures to Admire
At 6’2” my grandpa was a figure to admire. I looked up to him in many ways and his love for his family was obvious. We used to spend many hours in deep conversations about our dreams and hopes, history and travel; the value of these conversations was sadly only realised by myself much later in life, and I often regret missing the opportunity to record these fascinating African tales of the historic events which he was fortunate, or unfortunate, to witness as a child, such as the German missionaries and the colonisation of then Tanganyika (current Republic of Tanzania), by first the Germans then later the British, and what life was like for him and his family.
I enjoyed hearing the romantic story of how he had met my grandmother during that era as she worked as a maid for a white family and he as a carpenter – a long and wonderful tale for another occasion. I believe it’s these personal stories that makes us who we are.
So why am I telling you about my grandpa? Well, I want to share with you my educational journey into LJMU as well as honour him – the man who inspired my love for learning and people. In October we marked Black History Month in the UK (celebrated in the USA during February), which came about to help us celebrate and recognise inspirational individuals and events from within the black communities who contributed to and help our society today, remembering history not because there is a “chip on our shoulders”, as often I hear comments along these lines made, but because of the obvious huge sacrifices made by individuals throughout history. The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool is a great reminder of that.
I believe that if it wasn’t for my wonderful grandpa and the memories of his teachings, I would have not pursued university education at all.
So, I chose to recognise and dedicate this writing to my grandpa and my mother – the two dedicated teachers who not only influenced my learning but many others over the years.
Returning to study
When I started my undergraduate degree at LJMU in 2014, I had already travelled the world and worked for great companies, plus raised two beautiful children, one of whom had entered university. However at forty years old I found myself made redundant and forced to make big decisions about my life and future: I chose to return to education to study a Forensic Science degree.
This wasn’t a wild whim but a decade-long desire (a story for another day). I was finally at LJMU and it had taken me two full years of hard preparation and personal sacrifices to get here – I had been turned down once before and commuting from Chester, with one young child remaining at home, wasn’t going to be easy. While in class I tried hard to blend in with classmates who were twenty years younger than myself, and often found myself wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life returning to university.
As time progressed, I immersed myself fully into student life. I volunteered as a course rep for my class and secured a couple of part-time jobs with Liverpool Students’ Union as an administrator and welcome rep. This meant I could end self-employment as a child minder, which I needed to help with university travel expenses but which left me little time for my studies and family.
Once I got into the end of my second year I was confident in myself and did not feel worried anymore, as I had befriended several students and staff through my LSU roles, at LJMU as a student advocate, and by volunteering for the LJMU international student mentor scheme. This made me so familiar with the university community and I was getting on well with my course, which helped me fill the gap of living off-campus.
In class I found that as a mature student I was valued academically by others and staff, as often I was the one who dared to ask questions during lectures – I would often be the first one confident enough to admit that I needed help or did not understand something, which often resulted in further explanation from the lecturer.
I truly believe LJMU has a fantastic team of staff and the wonderful student community is a result of the diversity and respect among them. LJMU student inclusion has provided support to my education and provided me a safe and peaceful environment in which to learn and develop, something many black students don’t often get to experience in their schools or campuses around the world. I am proud to be a final year student at LJMU, and a graduate in a very near future: my hopes for the future are bright and new possibilities on the horizon are a credit to this experience.