Hi, my name is Esha and I am entering my final year of Biochemistry! I am a first-generation university student from an area of low social mobility and university participation. Not many people in my year group ended up going to university and even less went to Russell Group universities as we had a lack of support and teaching staff. Neither of my parents really understand how university works now let alone what my degree is about.

With my degree I hope to enter the field of genomic medicine and epigenetics, possibly by doing a masters next year. In biochemistry this year we studied epigenetics in our genes and genomics module, and I did my tutored dissertation on paternal trans generational epigenetic inheritance. I have been interested in epigenetics since my A-levels and it has been great to finally study it at university.

What motivated you to go to university and why did you choose Imperial?

I was always highly encouraged and pushed to apply to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. During sixth form I was a part of many widening participation programmes such as Social Mobility Foundation, Realising Opportunities and Future First. I also attended the Sutton Trust Summer School at Imperial in the summer of Year 12. The main reasons I picked Imperial in my top choices were league table performance, the bursary and being a research-intensive university. I’m glad that I’m here as I have made some great friends and am enjoying my degree.

What do you wish you had known when you first started university?

Despite doing an extended project qualification, I was not prepared for the language used in journals and in lectures. I felt I had less of an idea as how to do lab reports than others; it was completely new to me. My best advice would be to get as familiar as possible with scientific journals and read as much as you can to increase your reading speed. I also recommend making a glossary of words you don’t understand, scientific or not, throughout your degree.

I also didn’t realise how many students would be from a non-working-class background. That was quite discouraging at first and isolating but as I have started to find others with a similar experience, in my degree or not, it has helped me feel more part of a community.

Esha Kumari

Have you faced any challenges in university and how did you overcome them?

I think a lot of people suffer from imposter syndrome at Imperial, WP or not. However, being WP student adds extra reasons to feel like you don’t belong which can be quite challenging to deal with alone. I’ve felt less prepared than others for starting my degree successfully and dealing with the workload. However, I find that when I take a step back and reflect, I can recognise that I worked extremely hard despite so many boundaries to make it here. I’ve gone from a small town where no one goes to university to approaching graduating from a top ten university in the world.