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"I've turned my life around by coming to Birkbeck and studying a computing degree"

Stephen Okere Bundou, BSc Data Science and Computing student, joined Birkbeck through Clearing. He shares his story of overcoming a challenging upbringing and finding his voice.

Stephen Okere Bundou
Stephen Okere Bundou

As a child I saw things that children shouldn’t see 

My childhood was challenging, I grew up in a deprived area in London which presented a lot of temptations which I was drawn to. In the past couple of years, we’ve moved as a family to Essex and it’s good to be in a better area.  

I’ve turned my life around 

Birkbeck has 100% changed my life – every time I go to uni I’m really happy and excited to learn. I just feel good at Birkbeck - it’s given me another chance to get back into education and make something of myself which I’m really grateful for. 

I came to Birkbeck aged 22 after an apprenticeship 

I went to college after school and studied sports science but after finishing that, I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in it. I wanted to continue learning so I did an apprenticeship in computing with BT that lasted for two years. I discovered an interest in that area so I started to look around for universities that offered computer science degrees.  

I applied to Birkbeck through Clearing 

I applied to other universities but was drawn to Birkbeck as it was the only one that offered the BSc Data Science and Computing degree. At first, I was anxious, as it was quite late and I had never used Clearing before, however Birkbeck's Student Services team were very helpful. They answered all of my questions and guided me though the process, which made it very easy. 

Studying in the evening means I can work in the day  

I work part-time in hospitality, with three shifts a week. This really helps to fund my lifestyle and keeps me going financially. Because I live in Essex, I have to commute which takes about 1 hour 20 minutes, but it works well because I save on accommodation costs by living with my family. 

I’ve met so many people at Birkbeck’s clubs and societies 

I’m part of the badminton team and canoe polo team, and we meet socially a lot. When we’re playing, we usually go for a meal and drinks afterwards - we enjoy having a good time and aren’t just focused on competing. There’s a lot of young people on my course who I’ve met too, and students from many different countries which is really interesting. We sometimes go clubbing after lectures! Even though I’m at an evening university, I still feel like I’m getting a proper uni experience like I would do anywhere else. 

Birkbeck’s location in central London is amazing  

My favourite thing to do is sit in the parks when it’s sunny, and I really like that Birkbeck is right next to SOAS and UCL. It feels like I’m part of a big student community and I especially like the Bloomsbury Farmers Market on Thursdays which takes place right in front of Birkbeck’s main building. 

I’ve found my voice and who I am at Birkbeck  

Getting back into education has given me hope and the ability to see my potential. I’m better now at giving something a go, even if I don’t feel very confident that I’ll be capable of doing it. Another thing I love about Birkbeck is that the lecturers always have time for you. I find that if I stay later after class, they’re always willing to help me, and they also always reply to emails and messages on Microsoft Teams. 

Making a big impact in the future is important to me 

Career wise, I want to do something huge. I want to make a big impact and I’m currently torn between studying a master’s in artificial intelligence or studying medicine and becoming a doctor. In the short term, next year I’m hoping to do a summer placement in data science to develop my skills, and the Birkbeck Careers and Enterprise Service are helping me with that. 

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