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"You're connected to the real world, even when you’re studying"

BSc Psychology with Neuroscience student, Grace Dawes-Jenkins, is a go-getter who wanted to do things differently after finishing college, so she chose Birkbeck. She talks about the support, community and career guidance she’s enjoyed throughout her time at the College.

Grace smiling to camera with green foliage behind her.

Finding a unique path

I come from a working-class background. My grandmother wasn't able to continue education after school - she had to go straight into work - and it was similar for my mum, who didn't get her degree until she was forty. There's often an exclusiveness to higher education that can alienate a lot of people. A lot of my friends found their universities had quite pressurized environments that expected them to immediately adapt and think very competitively, but it was the total opposite at Birkbeck. Ambition and excellence are encouraged, but so are inclusivity and openness. The classes are a testament to that. They are taught by some of the world's best academics and attended by a hugely diverse student body, all of whom have something else going on. It means that you're connected to the real world, even when you're studying, which is very unique for a university environment.

An empowering and inclusive experience

Birkbeck made my transition from college to university so smooth. I'm dyslexic and a lot of my family are neurodivergent - I think that's partly why I was so interested in doing a psychology degree. Despite being keen to study, a part of me wondered if I'd be able to handle learning and writing about so many new terminologies and phrases. But Birkbeck's disability support service was brilliant, helped put my mind at ease and nurtured my confidence. I was able to settle in at the pace I needed, with so much support. When I look back at how my academic skills have developed over the last three years of studying, I feel a genuine sense of pride. It's very different to how I felt at school.

Life is about the connections you make

Birkbeck has students of all ages, and everyone is so interesting. Someone on my course arranged for us all to meet at the pub a week before term started, which was a great chance to get to know each other properly. I'm now very close friends with two of the people I met that night! And even though I'm in my final year, I keep meeting new people and making friends, because everyone mixes with everyone. I also joined the psychology society and love meeting people through that – it's a great way to learn, make friends and network.

Future planning made easy

I'm planning on using my degree to go into the tech industry, specifically UX research. Through studying, I've developed unique skills in statistics, cognitive understanding, and analysis - all of which can be used in the development of technology and digital marketing to improve the user experience. It's a fascinating use of psychology and neuroscience and also a genuinely interesting and potentially lucrative career trajectory! I signed up to Birkbeck's Mentoring Pathways scheme to help figure out my next steps and was matched with a mentor who works in the exact field I'm interested in. We meet once a month, and their advice and insight has been such an asset. It's made applying for graduate roles a positive and encouraging process.

Be open minded

If I could offer any piece of advice to sixth form or college leavers thinking of coming to Birkbeck, I'd say be open-minded. University doesn't always have to be a daunting bubble that cuts you off from your family, friends or ability to earn money. I've spent my time here developing academically and making new friends, but also earning money and keeping in close contact with my old friends too. Birkbeck is a fun, inclusive and encouraging environment that really allows you to have the best of all worlds.

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