‘Recognising the catalyst of your trajectory makes you laugh because when you connect the dots, you imagined it so different.’
Let’s embark on memory lane.
It’s a chance to remember and reminsce.
This is not my personal nor professional story.
Rather my academic one.
One that I don’t cover as much, not because it’s a dark spot but rather because it doesn’t appear in many conversations that I discuss.
This story will give you a kick, as it did for me when I pontificated about it a few moments ago.
It’s not long, but it’s worth it.
For context, I study Human Geography at Queen Mary, University of London and am in my final year.
It starts in Year 9 at Beths Grammar School in Bexley, Kent.
I’m filling out my options for GCSEs.
I have to choose between Geography and History (I had to take one to gain my elusive English Baccalaureate).
I achieved better in History but remember extreme hand swelling and fatigue from essays.
I enjoyed the subject matter of Geography and the GCSE curriculum looked more enticing.
I ticked Geography instead of History.
Fast forward to Year 11 and I had two great teachers, Ms Witherspoon and Mr Mortley.
I was achieving highly and on track for a A* grade.
My GCSE story, in its entirety, is one of disappointment.
Expected to achieve a stellar array of A* grades which never came true, and signified the start of my lacklustre academic performance at the school.
I achieved an A grade in Geography, which I was overall happy and content with.
I had already chosen to go with Geography, Maths, Spanish and English Language for my A Levels based on my enjoyment and my results.
I achieved AAAA in those subjects at GCSE.
When I say disappointing, I mean in comparison to my predicted grades and to work ethic I employed to achieve the grades. I started revising in February for May exams and it was just very deflating.
Hard work didn’t equal a reward and that was my entitlement kicking me up the backside.
At A Level, I had a teach called Mr Hegarty. He taught me Human Geography.
He was very passionate about his job and what he was teaching.
He told me that he went to Loughborough to study Geography and that later inspired me to apply, for their sports programme too.
The content was harder and more theoretical than physical geography.
But I enjoyed the challenge despite constant low marks.
I took my AS exams and received an B grade in Geography.
I managed to improve my marks in-class and was predicted an A grade.
It was Year 13 and it was time to apply for university, but for what?
Earlier in Year 12, I had visited my now university to study Lingustics.
I took Spanish and English Language and was fascinated by the formation of language for communication.
I dropped English Language after horrible marking errors, giving me a D grade instead of a B on the initial return of my grade.
My attention focused on a subject where I had genuine curiosity.
I looked across my subjects and decided to hone in on Geography.
I saw the enthusiasm and the possibilities for discovery given to me by the three teachers mentioned and set my sights.
I had been predicted AAA despite my ABB AS Level grades.
I applied to do BA Geography at LSE, UCL, Kings, QMUL and Loughborough.
I had four offers and one rejection.
LSE rejected me on my GCSE grades.
I put UCL as my firm (AAA) and QMUL as my insurance (ABB).
Results day 2016.
I missed my UCL offer by a country mile and my QMUL offer too.
But QMUL had decided to accept me based on other candidates and the clearing grades to get in.
A lucky break or a near escape?
I think both.
I don’t know how well academically I would’ve done at UCL.
Nor professionally or personally.
I don’t know what I don’t know.
I’ve been fortunate enough to study abroad in the USA, conduct my dissertation research in the same region, become President of the Geography Society and many more.
I found two passions that were introduced to me during my time at QMUL.
Friends throughout the university who I value and appreciate.
Paying it forward is important.
Not just financially or morally but intellectually.
Giving lectures, sharing tips and tricks or moving past a problem collaboratively is genuine humanity.
Teaching is an incredible gratifying vocation, while its challenges are unparalleled, it can inspire.
I will continue to lend my experience and good luck to others.
As Ms Witherspoon, Mr Mortley and Mr Hegarty did to me all those years ago.
Paying it forward