My name is Maria, and I am a first-generation student from a working-class background who has just graduated from my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences. I was born and raised in London, being educated at a London state school prior to coming to Imperial. I am currently taking the year to build up my qualifications as I am endeavouring to find graduate schemes in Marketing and Business Management.

What motivated you to go to university?

During my GCSE’s and A-Levels, I had always enjoyed STEM subjects and was supported by my teachers and family to further pursue Biology. I applied to Imperial due to the reputation the college has as a leader of STEM education, shown both in their specialism and university rankings. Because of this I felt a sense of pride and achievement which was also felt by my parents. Other key factors were the location and financial aid offered by the college. To aid ease the burden on my family’s finances, going to a London university would remove accommodation costs which was a key worry for me during applications. I was always fortunate enough to be offered the Imperial bursary and Thermo Fisher Scholarship by the college to aid my experience in higher education. 

Maria Le

Any advice for your first year self?

I would have told my first-year self to not hesitate as much when reaching out to college services, such as the wellbeing and career services. I was fortunate enough to have had amazing support from my friends that I had made throughout the course, but seeking advice from professionals may have helped ease the transition into higher education.

What are the highlights of your university experience?

The highlight of my university experience must be the people. I have made many new friends who have been incredibly supportive throughout the duration of my course. We all encourage the success of others and celebrate each other’s achievements, which is something that I will always treasure about our cohort.

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

Throughout my degree I did develop severe imposter syndrome – feeling inadequate and out of place as I was constantly surrounded by incredibly intelligent and talented people. But this was felt by many others. We sought solace in each other and supported one another when we were struggling.

As a first-generation student I was not able to go to my parents for advice regarding university. I did, however, use the careers service’s CV checker but was too intimidated to schedule meetings with a career’s advisor. This led me to co-found Edu-venture London (now Edu-venture Imperial) which invites career professionals and speakers from different industries to run group workshops and events online to remove this fear and increase accessibility.