Jackelyn’s story

22 years old, Ipswich

Where did you grow up?

Ipswich, Suffolk.

What did you study in higher education?

English Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University

Why did you decide on this subject?

I was driven by intrigue, but also by the overwhelming ideology that having an ‘academic degree’ over something in the arts would be more ‘useful’ for my career. 

Has your career / education taken any unexpected turns?

Like many of life’s adventures, my progression into university was not a smooth one. Since starting secondary school, I knew I wanted to go to university, I don’t know why, it just felt right. The hardest part, however, was the uncertainty surrounding the path I wanted to take, the challenges that would approach me, and my confidence in venturing so far into education. Before me, no-one in my family had attended university, but it was always embedded in me to value my education (thankfully!).

During my GCSEs , I never actually considered myself the academic or smart student at school, I got pretty average grades on the whole. What I did know, however, was that I was disciplined, and that I absolutely loved in Drama, English and Spanish. In fact, it wasn’t until I received my first A* during my mid-term exams in Spanish that I began to wonder whether I was more academically capable than I thought, with some encouragement from my teachersDespite being driven by grades at this age, this moment became a huge stepping stone to my academic progression, in which I developed my confidence in class, contributed to group discussions and became motivated to be a high achiever. 

One thing I always knew from a young age though, was that I loved dance, which is something I’ve been doing since year 2 in primary school. I joined after-school dance clubs as a hobby, and although it was a huge passion of mine, I never imagined a career in it. I think I was majorly under-informed about the arts as a job; I was under the impression that all careers in the arts were linked to stardom, jazz hands and the big stage, and that it was too costly, too competitive and unobtainable for a student from a low-income background like myself. This made my A Level choices quite difficult. The risks seemed to outweigh the benefits I guess, because I placed a career in dance on the back-burner while I went on to study English Language, Literature, Sociology and Spanish – don’t get me wrong, these were all subjects I was super interested in, so I didn’t fall short! I originally took Government and Politics, and decided I hated it, which is how I came to doing English Language instead!  

While choosing my A Levels was hard, I found it even more difficult to actually study them with the huge prospect of university riding on it. To make the most of my time, I began to volunteer for charities alongside my studies and danced more regularly. While I still wanted good grades, I began focusing more on developing important life skills and trying to become a well-rounded individual.

After all that though, I still had no set idea of where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to study. I did get support from teachers, which was great, but I think the open days were the real eye-opener for me. Someone told me at the beginning of the year that when I visited the university I would want to go to, it would ‘feel right’, which I really didn’t understand at first. I ended up visiting York, Loughborough, Reading and Lancaster – campus universities with good English courses. It turns out this person was right, and having achieved higher A Level results than expected, I was accepted in into a Top 10 UK university – Lancaster.

Why did you decide on this university?

Lancaster felt right for me, and I could imagine myself there: it was a huge campus surrounded by woodlands and nature, had amazing lecturers on the English courses, and the main city centre was just the right amount of busy! I was also motivated by moving far away from Ipswich.

Did you find anything difficult about applying for and/or starting a degree?

University was everything I thought it would be and more. Starting out was daunting and exciting at the same time; I was excited about change, but dubious about the academic leap, and being surrounded by people who I thought would be way cleverer than me. However, throughout my degree, I learnt how relaxed it can actually be; how failure was OK, how I could live independently, how I could make friends for life and even spend 80% of my time dancing and performing by joining the dance society. Whilst I remained unsure of a career path during my degree, I took comfort in knowing that I’d taken every opportunity to equip myself with the resilience and work ethic I needed to figure it all out eventually; driven not so much by grades at the bottom of my assignments, but making the most of the things I enjoyed! Eventually, I ended up staying at Lancaster for another year to complete a Master’s degree in Language and Linguistics, which was pretty cool. Sometimes I look back and think about things I could’ve done differently, but really I wouldn’t change a thing – university was the best four years of my life so far.