Spotlight on Aimhigher London Student Ambassadors
Aimhigher London’s vision of equitable access and participation for all, relies on strong collaboration across our network delivering experiences and invaluable information to support the progression of our learners into and successfully out of higher education.
We could not do this work without the support of role models in the form of student ambassadors. So many of our alumni, and indeed current learners, speak highly of their interactions with the ambassadors from our member universities. Being able to talk to, and hear, about the journeys ambassadors have taken can be aspirational and inspiring, it can often take away the fear of the unknown that university can be for so many of our learners.
Equally the journeys of the ambassadors are inspirational too, they are often inspired to work with Aimhigher London to give back and support the next generation. We interviewed two ambassadors from St Mary’s University about their progression into higher education and why they enjoy working for Aimhigher London.
Born in London to migrant parents, Anika grew up in Southall and her journey to university was not an easy one, with a number of hurdles to be navigated personally and educationally. Growing up in an Asian working-class family, Anika, the eldest had a strict father, who restricted her freedoms as a young girl, she was also bullied in school and during her GCSE years she fell in with the “wrong crowd”. Despite enjoying school and learning, she admits “I didn’t focus on education as much as I probably had should have”. She did not get good grades and failed her English GCSE, which limited her post 16 options, in particular A levels were not an option.
Anika chose BTEC Health and Social Care L2 and re-took her English GCSE in her school’s sixth form. Her year 12 was a positive experience in the smaller class size and support she received from her subject lead. She also thoroughly enjoyed the work placement element, experiencing a SEND nursery, a primary school and a dentist surgery. She passed her English and decided to continue with her BTEC into the Level 3 and at this stage she had begun looking at university as an option and through school went on visits, settling on St Mary’s.
It was toward the end of her year 13, her father passed away suddenly, and Anika struggled through the first two years of her university, supporting her family as the main earner working three jobs whilst trying to study. It all came to head at the end of her first year, with a breakdown and re-assessment, which led to a change in course (from Psychology to Sociology and Criminology) and a change in home life, with greater support coming from her brothers.
St Mary’s was very supportive too, not only did Anika successfully gain a bursary and scholarship, she was also eligible for hardship funds and became an ambassador to earn extra money. Her time as an Aimhigher London ambassador and student ambassador for the university has been rewarding “I often speak to students about supporting themselves through university, how it’s possible, it’s about putting your mind into it and finding the support because it’s out there” .
Not only is Anika inspirational to our learners, but has inspired her brothers to follow in her footsteps to university, she graduates this year, taking up a place at University College London on a PGCE to teach Sociology in secondary school – we wish her all the best.
“You must make sure you live your life the way you want to and with no regrets. Be yourself and smile.”
Born in Denmark, Marie became fascinated by Psychology in her post 16 education, however, she did not receive the grades to study in her native country and sought to explore her education in the UK, settling on St Mary’s BA in Psychology in 2020. She became a student ambassador in the same year, in order to earn some money to support her studies, but soon realised the transformational impact this work would have on her.
“Aimhigher gave me the courage to push my limits, get out of my comfort zone and believe in myself. I have grown personally and found something I was passionate about.”
Marie has inspired many students on the Learner Progression programme since 2020 and has worked incredibly hard on her own story and journey, she has led the Psychology Society, taken part in 100’s of events as an ambassador, not only benefitting herself, but others too. She finds being open about the challenges university brings, balanced with the rewards it offers to our learners encourages them all to discover more about their own futures and face the challenges ahead with clarity.
Resilience and perseverance are under-valued qualities in society, but Marie and Anika have shown how they have followed their own paths, sought and appreciated the support available, having grown and developed as a result, and are now giving back – the Aimhigher team celebrate these students and their futures.