University as a whole was a very important part of my life, I was always pushed to complete my education as a kid, so if I didn’t get a degree I wouldn’t have forgiven myself. I was pre-prepared for a lot of things, like cooking, managing my own time and generally just knew I had to put myself out there to experience new things. One thing I wasn’t ready for was imposter syndrome to hit me like massive truck.
I’ve always lived in working class areas, went to schools that weren’t the best and generally just adapted to not having the best resources available at any given time. I did not expect the culture shock of being around people who went to better schools, lived in better areas to hit me so hard. These people had completely different life experiences to me, our struggles were different and they weren’t used to poverty, and in a lot of cases they never will.
You’d think being in this situation would inspire me to fight harder, and be the one to stand out, as someone who has lived a working class life – but no. I felt out of place, and honestly everyone was intimidating. Even when they spoke about college/sixth form the difference was real – we’re talking about people who couldn’t even claim EMA. My college has the highest rate of people claiming EMA in Birmingham.
So, not only did I feel left out, but I also felt like I shouldn’t even be at university. Like I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to be in the same places as these people. It took a while to get out of that mind set, and thank the lord I found others like me, so we could get through this struggle together. I think I probably would have self sabotaged if I didn’t have the friends I did at the time.
It helped that I put minimum effort in first year and still achieved better/same grades as people actively trying – it’s not that I was smarter, I just know how to write an essay. I believe the defining moment of me actually thinking I deserved to be at university was an exam I did 5% prep for, that was based on a book I didn’t read, and I did ridiculously well on most of the questions – except that one I flopped. My university let us see exactly how we did on every question – and then it hit me, maybe I am a smart person.
I know it shouldn’t take until you’re 19 to realise whether you have intelligence, but honestly it took me that long. Once I realised this, I was able to actually feel better about being in university. Yes I came from a poorer background and had to work harder, but that made me better at revising since we didn’t have the same resources as good schools.
So basically, don’t feel like an imposter because of your race, gender or social background – whether it’s school, university or work – you deserve to be there!