Izzy's story: lack of representation at university

Making friends and building connections with people at university can look and feel different from person to person. We spoke to some students about their experience making connections at university and the things that impacted this.

Izzy is a second year student at London School of Economics, here's what she has to say about her experience at university.

Not seeing yourself at university

One thing that was always on my mind when starting university was whether I would fit in. As a young Black woman, I thought I had prepared myself to be at this Predominantly White Institute (PWI). It was something that I was completely aware of - that I might not see many people who looked like me. Still, thinking of something and experiencing it are not the same.

I still remember feeling disheartened when I walked into my Course Introduction and saw no one that looked like me. That sinking feeling would pop up each time I was in a study space and couldn’t see any other Black students, none of my lecturers either. At times, this would hinder my ability to make meaningful connections. I found myself feeling more self-conscious and out of place rather than focusing on the new people that I was meeting.

Here is how I navigated these feelings.

I found a society where I saw my culture, my music and myself being represented. For me, this was the African Caribbean Society (ACS). Spaces like these at my university brought Black students together. Many also had been feeling the same as I had. Being part of a community like this allowed me to relate to others and talk about our struggles at university. Together we made study spaces and attended events and while helping each other, we formed meaningful connections.

Izzy's quote - Behind the Books (Meaningful Connections)

Honestly, I’m so grateful for these connections that I’ve made. Being able to talk to people who understand how you feel and are going through it with you has been really beneficial to my mental health. Having had these conversations, I was in a better mindset to meet new people and build more meaningful connections.  

Looking back on my first year of university, here is some advice I would give to anyone who feels underrepresented at their university. 

  • Being in an environment where you’re not represented can be fearful but don't be afraid - make those new connections regardless. Don’t let that fear control you. 
  • If you can’t find a space where you feel represented, create one! It’s most likely that other students feel exactly the same way and need a community to bring them together. 
  • Talk to your university – most have resources and professionals that are available to deal with these feelings and uplift your mental health.

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