“A person can only grow as much as his horizon allows.” – John Powell
20th June 2018
Almost a year ago I sat down with Clare in the refectory, leg jigging, terrified of being refused and terrified in equal measure of being accepted. Now I sit calmly at my desk, balancing workloads and telephone calls and preparing to present a research paper in a couple of weeks.
I wasn’t expecting even half of the opportunities this placement has offered me. The ability to do real, challenging, important work. I thought I’d succeeded a few months ago after organizing activities for World Mental Health Day at short notice; now I’m assisting Clare in organizing a conference! As the work scaled up, so did my confidence.
I used to worry about working, I have a mental illness, and have spent a lot of time thinking that it was a hurdle to success. Until I worked with Clare and the team I thought I’d have to work twice as hard to make up for just having a diagnosis. Here that’s not the case. I’m not saying I don’t work hard: I’ve stayed late on occasion, worked extra days, and volunteered when there wasn’t a budget to pay me. But I didn’t feel the need to do this because of my illness. Here I am valued for the work I do. I am accepted as I am. I am welcomed as myself without any prejudice. I no longer feel that my mental illness is a barrier or that it makes me of any less worth, it’s just a little bit of me, and I have my team to thank for that realization.
The Human Resources team at the University are amazing. They are supportive, hard-working, knowledgeable and efficient. They could be suffocating beneath paperwork and they will still answer your query with patience and a smile. I am so lucky to have spent a year in such a positive and encouraging working environment, where I am recognized for work I do well and assisted when I struggle. They have made me believe that I can do anything if I work at it, and I have made some solid friends.
If you’re a student reading this, let me encourage you to get some work experience as soon as possible! The skills and experience I’ve gained in this internship have proved invaluable in securing me a graduate level job doing something I’m really passionate about. Even more than that, it’s developed my confidence and ability to feel that I can do any job that I want to do if I’m happy to put the work in. It’s also placed me around experienced people who have invested in me and taught me things that I didn’t know before. If you can’t find the internship you want, then create it! Be proactive and ask someone, it will take you a long way.
If not, then maybe I can leave you with this thought: equality, diversity and inclusion affect everyone. Including you. I’ve discovered this year that it’s even more important than I’d thought. Each person has a different set of skills and experience to offer, and without this diversity the world would be missing out on so much. So in this world that is sometimes hugely divided, I’d urge you to embrace diversity in the people you meet, you’d be surprised at the fullness it brings.