Giving talent a Catalyst
The path to university can be fraught with challenges for all, but for some prospective students, the path can feel impossible to find. Alumni support can make a real difference.
Growing up in inner-city London, Mikail Ozer (Medicine (Clinical), 2015) found himself facing some very difficult life choices. But thanks to alumni gifts to the University’s scholarship and widening participation programmes, Mikail was able to follow his dream to study medicine at a top university. Guest speaker at our House of Lords alumni reception, today he’s a role model for kids growing up on the same London streets, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.
“I was born and raised in North London. I attended a state school where only a minority of students had the ambition to push themselves, despite limited resources, to try to achieve great things. Not only was a top university education seemingly out of reach, you also had to be careful not to get caught up in the gang culture which was rife.
The 2011 riots epitomised the problems our communities were facing. There were times when groups of students from rival schools would show up at ours with knives.
I had a choice - join these groups, or try to look out for myself, maintaining my grades and staying out of trouble. It was a fine line to tread.
There were so few examples of people that went on to study at top universities. There were no role models that I could emulate. No-one in my family had gone to university, so I had to work out the system for myself.
The application process was the first hurdle. Securing work experience at a hospital was difficult without any contacts. I must have visited the majority of GPs in Enfield and neighbouring boroughs before finally managing to find a place. It felt like the start of a long journey ahead.
I found out about Nottingham’s summer school programme at sixth form. Summer schools give prospective students from all backgrounds the chance to experience university life for a week. I was selected to participate, but the thought of going to university was daunting.
While there, I spoke to the student ambassadors and staff, and by the end of the week I felt like my goals were realistic and achievable. I was less worried about my assumptions about university and excited about what a positive, life-changing experience it could be for me.
A fair few exams and interviews later, I began studying medicine at Nottingham. I built a strong relationship with the widening participation team and worked as a summer school ambassador, which was particularly rewarding as I got the chance to help guide and support the next intake of prospective students, knowing first-hand what it’s like. I also took up the role of ementor, offering advice on applications, exams and insights into a medical degree.
I received a scholarship during my studies. Without this, I definitely would have struggled financially. It helped me to focus on my studies and other causes of interest, including helping a charity project in Sri Lanka as the country recovered from civil war, and volunteering in the neurosurgery department of the largest government hospital in Malaysia.
I’m so grateful to everyone that supports the scholarship programme at Nottingham. Your gifts have helped me, and countless other students, so achieve so much over the years
I’m now doing a job that I love, as a doctor specialising in psychiatry in north and central London. Every day I face new challenges, and my medical knowledge and skills is growing constantly. Most of all I value the positive impact I’m able to have on the lives of my patients and their families.
The University of Nottingham helped me to get where I am today and I feel privileged to be in the position I am. I’m determined to help as many young people as I can, showing children in communities like mine that they really can achieve their goals. I’m so grateful to everyone that supports the scholarship and widening participation programmes at Nottingham. Your gifts have helped me, and countless other students, so achieve so much over the years.
With support, top universities can be accessible to anyone with the talent and desire to succeed. Higher education does not need to be uncharted territory – it is within reach.”
Thank you to everyone who supports our scholarship and summer school programmes through giving a gift or by volunteering. We’re currently recruiting volunteers to talk to our students at summer school lunches this July – your support can make the difference for students like Mikail.