How your support has helped students shine through the pandemic
Words: Tom Hills
A scholarship makes real difference to our students, giving them the confidence to throw themselves into their studies and take opportunities that might otherwise have been out of reach.
For many, student life is as much about the people you meet as it is about your studies, though sadly the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed both. Your support for scholarships this year has been a real lifeline for many students, helping them to make the most of their university experience in difficult circumstances.
We asked two students to tell us how they have dealt with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Melissa Jarvis – Law student, second year
“I can’t sit still, I think that’s the problem,” says Melissa, and I believe her. She’s just spent half an hour explaining what she’s been up to since starting at Nottingham and I can barely keep up.
A second year Law student, Melissa is the first of her family to go to university. She calls Stockport home, but Melissa is in Nottingham in her student house in Lenton studying online: “I came back to Nottingham in January. At home, I share a room with my little sister. She’s home schooling so it was never going to work. Even though therearen’t many students here, it’s been so good to come back to Nottingham – I feel like I can concentrate better.”
Thanks to the support of a scholarship, Melissa has been able to take almost every opportunity that has come her way as she works towards her dream job as a barrister. From societies, careers events, competitions, legal debates and advocacy – she fills every spare moment. While many have struggled with the realities of a remote life, Melissa has been busier than ever.
“When I was at college, I used to work 30 hours a week alongside my studies and I thought that was normal. All my friends did too, so it was a surprise when I came to university and realised that it isn’t what everyone does. Having the scholarship meant that I could really focus on getting involved in all the volunteering projects, talks and events that you need to do to become a barrister. If I was working a part-time job like before, I’d be away most evenings and I would miss out on these crucial experiences.
“At the moment, I can do more because I’m at home. I can do a meeting, then a talk, then a competition all in one day. There’s been so many opportunities and I’m one of those people that feels guilty if I don’t take them all. This year I took part in the National Speed Mooting competition online and ended up being a finalist.”
Melissa’s days are busy by any standards. Getting up at 7am and working through to 7pm isn’t unusual. And then there are evening events. Although Melissa is making the most of the situation created by the pandemic, she admits that there are challenges.
“I think everything being online has been a big culture shock. Although I’ve not had the opportunity to meet people in person, I’ve been quite lucky that I’ve still been able to participate in activities. I think it’s helped me to stay sane during the pandemic! My housemates and I try to go for daily walks and that’s our excitement for the day.Sometimes we’ll treat ourselves and go to big Tesco!”
“It’s easy to forget how valuable the interactions are when you’re going to lectures and sitting with your friends. If someone doesn’t understand something, then you can chat and explain it to each other afterwards. It’s so much harder to continually concentrate on your laptop. I don’t think online learning will ever replace in-person teaching, but I think it has shown where things could improve and evolve.”
Next year Melissa plans to go on a year abroad to study in Texas to follow her interest in representing those facing capital punishment.
“I don’t think I ever would have applied for the placement in Texas if I hadn’t had my scholarship. I wouldn’t have felt confident enough or been able to afford the tuition fees. This year I became a student rep for Amicus which is charity that helps provide representation for those facing the death penalty in the United States. Without the scholarship I don’t think I would have ever discovered this interest or had the opportunity to participate in vital advocacy work like this.”
Max Johnson - Law student, final year
“Right after my lecture, I received an email saying that the university was closing. If I didn’t leave the country straight away, I could end up stuck in Rome,” said Max.
When the pandemic hit Italy in March 2020, he was on a year abroad studying at Roma Tre University. A few days after being told the news, Max was continuing his year abroad but studying remotely from his family home in Milton Keynes.
“I was still paying my rent in Rome and had my belongings in the house because I had to leave so quickly. It was a stressful ending but my time abroad was really good. I joined the international human rights pro-bono legal clinic, where I was helping local judges in their decisions about migration and asylum seekers by compiling contextual reports. I’m now a research assistant for the same legal clinic. I want to go into international corporate law so the experience is invaluable.”
Studying abroad can be a life changing experience and for Max, it has made a real difference to his career prospects. “I don’t come from a particularly affluent family or anything like that so the support I get through the scholarship really helps. I knew a year abroad would be expensive but the scholarship, combined with support from Erasmus and student finance, made it all possible.”
Max and his siblings are the first generation of his family to go to university. His parents moved from Sri Lanka as refugees from the civil war to Germany where Max was born. A few years later the family moved to the UK.
“I think my parents are very proud. They just didn’t have the same opportunities that they helped to give us, andthey’ve watched me and my siblings grow and really challenge ourselves. When they left Sri Lanka, I’m not sure they would have thought that any of this was possible.”
Thanks to the support Max receives, he’s been able embrace every opportunity that university life offers.
“Law is competitive and there’s an expectation that you’re taking part in activities to improve your skills and show that you’re well-rounded. If I didn’t have the scholarship most of my time would have been spent on academic work and a part-time job so I can pay my bills. The scholarship has given me a lot of freedom, which I wouldn’t have had. It’s the thing I’m most grateful for as it’s helped me to participate and grow both personally and professionally.”
While Max edges closer to the end of his time at the university he has an eye on what’s next.
“At the moment my real aim is to graduate with a good degree and keep up with my extra-curriculars. I’ve secured a training contract with a Law Firm, so I’ll be doing my legal practitioner course in September for one year – before starting my training contract. Following that I will qualify as a solicitor and see where it takes me next.”
Ambition issue two is also available as a PDF.