By Olivia Collins
If you’re like me, then coming to Warwick as the first in your family to tackle higher education has been daunting, stressful and… stressful. Although Warwick has many great programmes, societies and initiatives to make people like me feel welcomed, I couldn’t help but feel like I stood out like a sore thumb. This is only what I have learnt, everyone is different, but here are my tips for fitting in, whilst staying true to yourself, as a widening participation student.
At this point in the year, you will hopefully have met lots of lovely people, staff and students alike. Maybe you tried out some societies and found one that’s perfect for you, maybe you’re still searching.
Getting to know people, and hearing about some of the amazing experiences some people have had – places and skills I’ve never heard of – I felt out of my depth. In some ways I felt like an outsider, bar the few other ‘outsiders’ I had met.
Don’t take it too personally
My first piece of advice I can give, something that is more of a process than a quick fix, is to try not to take these things personally. I understood that people usually don’t choose their privilege, and that at university everyone feels like an imposter. But it didn’t change the way I felt about the opportunities I had had, or not had.
But consciously separating unfair systems and institutions in my mind with individuals may have helped me to feel less isolated. I would hope, too, that that it would be a better way to broach healthy conversations about these themes and experiences in a less combative way. I am keen to make honest friends, not enemies.
Warwick has lots to offer
Being a widening participation student doesn’t mean you’re alone. In a far more light-hearted fashion, my second piece of advice is to ruthlessly take advantage of what Warwick has to offer.
Concerning funding, Warwick has an automatic bursary awarded to qualifying students who have given Student Finance permission to do financial evaluations. There are also a range of scholarships and bursaries on offer, including support during times of financial hardship.
The Widening Participation Student Network, run by some brilliant staff, is a more social way to engage with other similar students. Alongside being a good way to make friends and get free food, this network, and its newsletter, is a great way to hear about all these opportunities and more.
Within the Student Union, there is a Part Time Officer for Widening Participation. This role supports and advocates for other WP students and provides an opportunity to engage with university politics and policy changes.
Essentially, there are lots of initiatives and support available to help you excel in your time here. I’m still getting bombarded with emails about various programmes on offer, so do keep an eye out.
Stay True to Yourself
My third, final, and in my opinion most important piece of advice is, beyond making friends, studying, and all the schemes: stay true to yourself.
Unfortunately, some feel it’s necessary to assimilate with other students in order to fit in or be accepted at university. This simply is not the case. University would not be such a diverse and interesting place if all students dressed, spoke, acted and thought the same.
Finding common ground – yes. Exploring new interests with others – yes. But becoming anything other than yourself – no. It is you, with all of your experiences, interests and quirks that got you to university. Don’t change this now you’re here.
If anything, I found that embracing myself, no matter how different that made me seem, made tackling life at university all the easier. Separating your identity from your studies and relationships only means that you are not giving the full you.
I will repeat again, that this is my subjective advice, and there will be many ways to ‘be’ working class at university. If you are struggling, anyone and everyone at the university would be happy to talk, especially Warwick Wellbeing Services, Personal Tutors and the Residential Life Team.
There are many different types of students here at Warwick. Why not check out our post on Using the Library as an International Student or Top Tips for Distance Learners. If you want to see what else we’ve covered in the Study Blog, have a look at our Contents page.
What are your experiences like at Warwick so far? Are you a Widening Participation student too? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below, tweeting us @WarwickLibrary or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org