Intelligent and Proud

By By Molly Brown, Issue 26, Sep 2023

As a teenager, I spent the majority of my time at secondary school feeling extremely lonely and longing to leave. Education was something I associated with permanent outsider-hood. Although I found moments of joy in studying English, history, and languages (and discovering I was actually good at something!), I felt deeply out of place. This was especially the case as I neared the end of my time at secondary school and was faced with a variety of vocational options, which, ultimately, were not the right path for me. Although it makes me sad to admit, and a fact I hope changes, I felt like academia was extremely out of reach where I grew up. Loreto had stopped the college bus to Salford a year before, due to low attendance from the area, and the journey time every morning totalled 4 hours of travel every day - starting at 6:30 am. Consequently, I was perpetually late, often arriving with wet hair, and was definitely not any teacher's favourite. However, regardless of this, I succeeded in achieving all three A-levels.

Looking back, I couldn’t be prouder of myself - even though I wasn’t at the time, partially due to teenage angst and a poorly-timed pandemic. Soon enough, I shocked myself again: I applied to the University of Birmingham and got in! At the end of my time at Loreto, I applied for the DCET scholarship and met David - who I will be forever indebted to, for his words, acknowledgment of me, and affirmation of my intelligence and strength. I vividly remember when we met in Ancoats, just before I left to move to Birmingham, and he advised that I should buy an ‘excellent duvet’, because I would likely have very teary pillows as I adjusted to life at university. This was amusing to me at the time, but I soon learned he was right; university wasn’t easy.

I will not bore you too much with the obvious tragedies of covid or lockdown; however, I will say, first year was very difficult for me, as I already felt miles behind, and being stuck inside further held me back from meeting people like myself. I felt out of touch and deeply unintelligent. Everyone knew more than me. A very heavy-handed 52 on my first assignment reminded me that this was very different to A level. However, as the year went on, I read books I loved, learned how to speak in seminars, felt clever/was clever, and was being treated as such, and talked to like I was properly-actually-clever for the first time in my life.

The year was not easy and, after several complications, I met with David after the first year ended and informed him I wanted to drop out. He told me firmly: this just would not do, I could keep going - I must! So, even though it was hard, I continued on my academic journey. To my surprise, I whizzed through second year, wrote essays I will be proud of until I’m one hundred, and made some of my absolute best friends - people like me.

In second year, I got a job at a local secondary school tutoring further maths, maths and science, working with children like me, from working-class backgrounds keen to enter university. I felt proud of myself at the end of every shift. Good things began to fall into place: I became a writer, and then an editor of the university newspaper, Redbrick. In the summer, I accepted an internship to be a digital marketing officer for a non-profit in London. I have accomplished things I am truly proud of and gained a confidence I never knew I could have. Right now, I have just finished third year, and it was harder than I could have ever imagined; it did not come easy to me. However, I am so grateful to DCET for providing me with the means and support to get through this journey.  For the first time in a year, I am back in Salford. My god, how I missed her; but oh, how I’m grateful I had the opportunity to leave.

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