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Letters from
First Gens

Sophie

Associate Lecturer in Sociology

UWE Education

Dear Sophie,

So, university! I know it seems like a faraway dream and something that only those with excellent attendance records, grades, and energy go to, but please don't give up. Just because your family haven't been to university should not stop you. You've already come so far; you went through primary school facing bullying and were so unwell before and after your liver transplant; you missed so much, but you always caught up and tried your best. Secondary school was even harder somehow, cancer and puberty are a rotten combo, but you got your 9 GCSE's A-C and on to the sixth form. I know that your A levels didn't go as planned, and the first and second rounds at college weren't ideal either, but when you look back, you'll know that with all you were facing with your health and mental health, it wasn't your time.

Pretty soon, you'll visit Bristol for the first time, and when you walk up and down Park Street, explore the Christmas steps, and get a bit lost in St Nick's market, you'll get the sense that this is where you want to be. Not a place you happened to grow up in, where there's not much is going on, and not a place you had to be in for hospital trips. Bristol will be the home you choose.

This third try at college will stick; you will learn about research and discover ideas about holism, you will remember what it's like to be good at something and enjoy it. You'll get onto your Foundation degree in college, and yes, there will be ups and downs. Still, you will feel like you're getting somewhere like you're beginning to ask some of the bigger questions and get to grips with studying, managing your time, and accessing the support you need to achieve your goals. You'll enjoy all the dressing up at graduation, and your family will be so proud of you, and this will fuel that motivation for what comes next.

On the first day of UWE, you will meet an extraordinary person who will change your life forever, Mandy Bancroft. Mandy will be your personal tutor, mentor, and guide throughout your time at university. Trust her; she will listen to you, introduce you to incredible people, and give you a sense of belonging. You'll also meet Dr Tillie Curran, another absolute life changer. She will show you how you are an expert and how you can draw on your lived experiences of being a disabled child and now an adult with chronic illness in your studies, your work, and in developing leadership skills. These two incredible women will give you opportunities to showcase your ideas, which will lead to recognition, and building your confidence. And when you begin your master's degree (yep, you'll do that too) at UWE, you will meet Dr Lita Crociani-Windland, who will inspire you. Her work and her teachings will lead to you exponentially developing a deeper understanding of the inner and outer workings of yourself and the world around you. This process will be radically transformational. Lita will give you the skills to become a competent academic and help you shape all you can offer – which is a lot, and you will even start believing that.

All of this will be hard work, every second. But I promise you will meet extraordinary people who will support and empower you, and what you will learn will open your world. You will feel a part of a community you want to invest in, and UWE will be where you belong.

I believe in you.

Love Sophie xx

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