I spent a lot of my first term at university, grappling with the idea that I’m at one of the top 10 institutions in the world for my subject.
This triggered a thought which defined the rest of my first year at university–
“How will I live up to expectations that are subconsciously, or consciously expected of me, by my parents, my peers and to a large extent, myself…”
This filtered through to my performance in the classroom. Prior to university, I was a loud mouth, always had an opinion, and never afraid to express it to whoever had the will to listen. During classes in my first term at LSE, I would only give an opinion when I was 110% sure I understood the reading and would rarely do it voluntarily.
Even when I received a 1st in an essay, I was in a perpetual state of shock, to the extent that I immediately booked an office hour with my teacher to discuss it.
The feeling of not belonging, from an academic or a socio-economic point of view, was not an easy hurdle to overcome.
Yet, when I decided to immerse myself in social spaces in which I felt comfortable, I began to feel as if the space I occupied at LSE, was truly mine.
I knew I enjoyed political controversy and debate, so I joined the LSE debate society. I was successful in numerous debate competitions across the country, and at public debates held at prestigious institutions, in front of mass audiences. I also embraced my cultural identity and joined, and am now the treasurer of, the Pakistan Society.
Having set the bar high for my own career ambitions, I ran a successful election campaign, to be the next Careers Officer for the Law Society, to facilitate career prospects for those around me. I even dared to try something new, and took part in Mooting competitions. Not only did these opportunities provide me with avenues to discover my potential, they allowed me to feel comfortable in the place I will be calling home for the next two years.
My first exam season at university was undoubtedly the worst to date. I questioned my ability to an extent I have never done before. Having said that, what got me through it was re-evaluating what the result meant to me. I recognised that my parents sacrificed all they had, to give me a better life, to ensure that I could have what they fell short of. I also knew that I wanted to do a Master’s degree at the best institution in the world for my subject, practice at a top firm or chambers, and eventually build my own school in Pakistan.
I quickly realised that these exams were a stepping stone towards achieving these goals, and so it was not something I could work half-heartedly towards.
What really convinced me that I belonged, was when the results came in. To me, it signified the validity of the statement – “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”.
Ultimately, if you ever feel like you don’t belong –
Remember what it took for you to get to the place you are in,
Remind yourself of what you hope to achieve in the future,
Recognise the steps you have to take to get there..