If I could go back to my 21st birthday in March and tell my former self where I am today, I’d have been laughed out the door. The day before I had, unknowingly, boarded the last flight back to Bristol from Belfast after visiting a friend and believed whole-heartedly that the closure of pubs and bars simply meant I could have an extra three weeks off work and nothing else. This in itself felt like a novelty to me, I’d been working full time as an assistant manager in a busy bar for 6 months without a single day taken sick or for holiday – March began, and I had 3 weeks to take within the month. The day I was meant to come back to work, Boris Johnson (British Prime Minister) closed everything down.
As days turned into weeks, I decided to stop scheduling my days around waiting for the daily government updates and began looking at myself and what it was that I wanted to do. I had already taken up baking and running and reading again like many others, and asked myself the question; if you could do anything, what would it be? I realised that despite all the awful things happening outside my front door I had an opportunity, one which I was unlikely to ever get again. The time I spent researching and browsing finally led to me to finding my course, I applied through clearing and held my breath – I wasn’t confident that I would get in…
But I got accepted! There were six weeks to get myself organised; to quit my job, give up my house, find a new one and all the things in between. Every task came with a challenge and there were many occasions where I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew, from getting denied for my student finance to contracting mumps just before I was meant to be moving house. Despite all of this, I was set on making it and knew I would be letting a huge opportunity pass me by if I gave up.
I didn’t know that I wanted to study International Relations and Development until fairly recently. At college I had studied Law, Economics and Philosophy, my main focus being on Law as I found it so interesting. However, when it came to choosing a subject for university I thought there could be a limit on the amount of impact I could make in terms of actually helping people, probably only one individual at a time. I wanted to help people and make big changes, by learning about different countries detailed cultures, power structures and issues – an immersive view into how other populations live – to dissolve my ignorance and to understand it as their normal. It seemed like a perfect fit and I was eager to get started.
I have not been disappointed! It has been so refreshing to meet academics who not only encourage and support my visions for the future but are also shining examples that they are possible. There are only positives from what little I have seen so far, albeit online, and I am looking forward to what is to come. Although this year has taken an extraordinary amount of unexpected turns which could not have been predicted, from personal to global, it should be seized as an opportunity – one where I can focus on learning on my own terms, get inspired and build ideas for when jumping on a plane is possible again.
Esme Bartholomew, BA (Hons) International Relations and Development Studies