THE BLACK-ADEMIC GUIDE TO HIGHER EDUCATION
This is a guide filled with tips that will hopefully help you navigate university in a way that makes you feel comfortable to be your true authentic Black self.
You can be the change you want to see. Your voice is meaningful, society needs to hear it and you should never hesitate to speak up and speak out. General life can be hard as a so called ‘ethnic minority’, and with the current political climate, this is increasingly telling.
LET’S GET STARTED!
Never make yourself more ‘palatable’ in order to fit in
Stay grounded and don’t lose sense of where you’ve come from. Prepare yourselves for questions about your hair, your background and to some extent be willing to teach. For some people this is genuinely the first time that they have encountered Black people, and especially non-British Black people.
If you have an accent don’t shy away from speaking, don’t try to make it ‘softer’ or more ‘comprehensible.’ If you speak other languages, and just basic to no English, you are not illiterate, your bilingual ability is evidence of your intelligence; and being around people like you at university is so refreshing and rewarding.
Also, your name is beautiful! If others can’t pronounce it, never feel that you have to replace it with an English name for their benefit if you don’t want to. A huge part of your identity is the name you were given at birth. And, if you’re struggling to pronounce someone’s name, take time to learn it - #PracticeMakesPerfect.
Find people like you
If you’re interested in establishing a sense of community with people of your racial or cultural background, joining a society with such a focus is a great idea. One of the quickest ways to meet new people, especially people of your own culture or ethnicity, is to join clubs like African-Caribbean Society (ACS), which focuses solely on providing a space for Black students. Fortunately, there are tons of other societies available to students at university, and many of them are culture and faith specific.
Holding others accountable
If you ever find yourself in a position where you are uncomfortable, or where another is making you uncomfortable, there are lots of on-site services at university that are available to you. Your Students’ Union has a range of help services and representatives who have your best interest at heart (do find out all the useful information and services your university has to offer by browsing through their website). Alternatively, do not hesitate to call emergency services or helplines.
Battling the ‘Imposter Syndrome’
Choosing whether to pursue, or continue, higher education is already a daunting task. Perhaps what is even more daunting is deciding what degree to study, the fact that you will be taking out a considerable amount in loans and being that step closer to choosing a career. But, we have to challenge ourselves by going for those opportunities which intimidate us. Situate yourself with like-minded people who work hard, celebrate your successes and push against the barriers of race. Universities produce great academics and researchers, and provides exceptional levels of teaching. And you are a student, which was NOT by chance, whatever your case may be.
You are/or will be a university student because you have the intellectual capability of graduating with a good degree; because you have earned and deserve a place at university; because the university needed YOU and are honoured to have you. Don’t ever forget that!
- Renée Landell