Mariya’s Story

21 years old, Bulgaria and Carlisle

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bulgaria, but moved to the UK in 2008. Since then I have lived in Carlisle.

What did you want to be as a child?

As a child I wanted to be a vet, but while doing my A Levels I realised I really did not enjoy studying chemistry and biology. This put me off studying veterinary medicine.

What are you studying now?

LLB Law (Hons) at the University of Cumbria.

Why did you decide on this subject?

After realising that I did not want to be a vet anymore I was really stuck for a while, as all of my A Levels were very scientific. I did however also take history and I really enjoyed studying it, but felt like I did not want to study it at university level. I then started to speak to friends and family and someone introduced me to the idea of law. Initially I wasn’t that interested, as it sounded very hands on, difficult and competitive. However, I kept researching what opportunities the law route can offer, as well as watching Youtube videos and reading blogs of other law students’ experiences. I also enjoyed debating at school and so I decided to take the chance and study the course. It was scary as I was the first in my family to pursue law at university, but now I have finished my third and final year of the course, I do think studying law with the University of Cumbria was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Has your career or education taken any unexpected turns?

As mentioned previously as a child I dreamed about becoming a vet and so all the way through my GCSEs and A Levels I was studying science subjects and looking for relevant work experience with the intention to become a vet. I also really wanted to study in Glasgow or Liverpool. However, I started to go off studying chemistry, biology and psychology. I was really stuck in deciding what to do, and for a while I stopped considering university education and looked into apprenticeships.  However with my interest in history and debating, as well as some research, I decided to take the chance and study law, something I had no experience or prior knowledge in and something which was quite alien for my parents and family as they all studied and work in science-based jobs. However, I have discovered a hidden passion for researching and interpreting the law and due to the support from my university, I am on track to graduating with a first class law degree, despite achieving below average A Level results.

Why did you decide on this university?

I spoke to the head of department of Law at the University of Cumbria during an open day and a Law Conference event I was invited to. She was very reassuring, answered all of my questions and helped me find work experience which really helped me decide that the course was the right one for me. She would always answer my emails, even before I applied to the university and ensured me that despite having below average A Level grades that, with tutor support, I would be able to graduate. She and my personal tutor worked really hard to motivate me even when I felt like the course was too hard for me and they helped me gain confidence in my skills. I believe their input was one of the reasons that I will be graduating with a first class degree in July.

Why did you decide to study for a degree?

I was unsure of what route I wanted to take regarding my career and, after researching, found that a degree in law opens the door to many different jobs. It wasn’t until my second year at university that I decided that I wanted to work as a solicitor, however it is reassuring to know that if I changed my mind I could go into many different fields with this degree.

Did anyone help you to decide?

Partly. Friends and family initiated the idea. My own independent research found blogs and Youtube videos from law students and that gave me the taste of what the course would be like. The Head of Department at the University of Cumbria was very helpful and always answered my questions. She invited me to a student event called the Law Conference when I was applying for university, which allowed me to speak to existing students and that was very reassuring.

What support did you get?

Prior to the course I was always welcome to come in for a chat or email any questions I had to the Head of Department. During the course I had an excellent tutor, who was always supportive. Even when I was going though difficult times or questioned my skills in challenging modules, he was there to chat and figure things out. I also received excellent help from the tutors when applying for jobs or work experience; they helped me with my CV and covering letters too.

What did you study at sixth form/college? Why?

Chemistry, Biology, Psychology and History. I wanted to study veterinary medicine and that course required three science-based subjects.

What’s the best thing about studying with your university?

The lecturers. Very supportive, helpful and always there for students whether it is related to university or not. If it wasn’t for them it would have taken me a long time before I secured a job in the field I want to work at following university.

What is the best thing about your course?

It’s very practical. We get external clients and work on real life cases. It’s assessed by taking into consideration your practical skills and your academic skills, so your grade is not just determined by exam results. The university has great links with local firms and other businesses and this makes it easier to gain work experience.

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

I didn’t find the application process difficult but starting the degree was. I had no previous law knowledge or experience and so everything was very new for me. I remember finding the first essay challenging as I had to learn how to reference, but the support I got from the lecturers and the librarians was so helpful.

Were there key any turning points in your journey into a degree?

I remember having a conversation in end of my first year regarding what job I wanted to pursue. At first I thought I wanted to go down the barrister route, but after doing some research I found I actually wanted to work as a solicitor. After having a conversation with my tutor I realised that I had to get tonnes of experience and get involved with societies in order to prepare my CV for this competitive career.

What tips or advice would you give to someone from your area?

Do your research, there are so many exciting traditional routes you can take but there’s also different ways to get to the same job, so by researching they can find a route that is best suited to them.  (e.g. you can now do an apprenticeship to become a solicitor which bypasses the university route). Try and get in contact with your future lecturers, ask them questions or attend events for existing students so you can get a taste of what your course/job/training would be like. Speak to existing students, they have the most recent experience and will be able to tell you all the pros and cons of the course/institution.

What are you looking forward to the most about graduating?

Being one step closer to becoming a solicitor and starting my new job at Bendles solicitors in Carlisle. The legal community in Cumbria is steadily developing and increasing and this is very exciting.

Any tips for anyone choosing to study the same course?

Try and get some work experience before starting the course, as it would prepare you for some of the more practical assessments. Never be afraid to ask for help from your tutors. The content is very difficult sometimes and it takes more than one lecture to understand some of the legal principles. If you ask a lecturer they would be more than happy to meet you after or before lectures and go over everything for you. Attend all seminars if possible; usually they will go over questions which are in the exam.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Living in Carlisle and working as a Family Law Solicitor.