Gbemisola Ogunlade (MSci 2020) explains how the University’s Sanctuary Scholarship programme changed her life.
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and I arrived in the UK when I was eight years old. It took a while for me to integrate into a new culture and make friends, but I had really supportive teachers which helped. My teachers used to tell me that I’d be a good doctor because I loved science, especially biology. But when I did my A Levels I studied psychology and fell in love with the subject. I got to learn about so many theories and philosophies that I could apply to my own life. I could see how I would be able to use it to help others and make a change in my community.
I’d always wanted to go to university, but I had no idea that my immigration status meant that I wasn’t eligible for student finance. I only found out at the last minute, after I’d made my university choices. My head of year suggested that I apply to the University of Bristol Sanctuary Scholarship programme, which provides funding so that students from refugee and asylum-seeking communities can study at the University. I applied and was overjoyed when I was offered a place. I called my mum, and she was screaming down the phone saying, ‘Well done Gbemisola, I knew you would get it!’ I was so glad because that was the only option I had left. It would have been heart-breaking to see my friends go off to university knowing I wouldn’t be able to.
As a Bristol student, I loved going to lectures, meeting new people, joining clubs and going to events. I also volunteered to be the student Sanctuary Scholarship representative, which meant I worked alongside the programme organisers to shape the scholarship offering for future students. As student representative I got to go to events and share my story with alumni who donate to the programme. Knowing that there are alumni and friends of the University who care about us and who want to help other students meant a lot. Their support literally changes lives. For lots of people, going to university might seem like a completely normal thing. But for some students, there can be significant barriers that get in the way.
I graduated last year, and I recently started a new job as an assistant psychologist, working with young people with eating disorders. It’s a challenging but rewarding role and every day I’m learning more about how to support young people and their families. In the future, I hope to go on to study for a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, which would enable me to become a clinical psychologist.
Things would have been so different if I hadn’t received a Sanctuary Scholarship; it has opened so many avenues for me and I’m just so grateful. My life is moving onwards and upwards and that’s only possible because of the scholarship I received. Every day I wake up and I think – I’m happy to be here. There’s nowhere else I would rather be.