The first in my family to study at university - Rebecca's story3 January 2023 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
Where and what did you study before joining LSHTM?
I studied for my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of York. After graduating, I worked in a community pharmacy in my home city Newcastle.
What barriers have you faced during your education?
I am the first person to attend a university within my family; I wasn’t sure what to expect when joining, both in terms of the ‘university culture’ and understanding how degrees were structured and graded.
Unlike my peers, I needed to work throughout my degree to cover my living costs. This proved to be quite challenging as it meant I missed out on social activities and had to juggle the additional responsibilities work brought with the undertaking of an intensive degree. This was not a situation that could be shared with the majority of the other students; this became quite stressful and isolating.
What advice would you give someone to help them overcome a similar challenge?
I would advise anyone who is struggling with financial worries and the associated mental health problems to reach out to the relevant university support services that can offer counselling and independent advice on how to better cope. I found these services to be incredibly useful.
I would also suggest reaching out to the university to see if there are any jobs available for students; they tend to be more flexible and understanding of university commitments than external companies.
How did you make your application stand out from other applicants?
The discussion of how my past experiences had influenced my decision to pivot my career towards public health was advantageous. I highlighted how my frontline experience within the pharmacy sector allowed me to observe how public interventions were delivered. I was critical of what I saw and identified areas of improvement that, I believe, would better patient outcomes. I used these ideas to discuss potential research areas for my summer project.
'I have come to understand the challenges that others have had in accessing university education - an awareness of these barriers has fuelled my interest in the range of social determinants that lead to this imbalance - which naturally led me to explore the world of public health.'
How have the barriers you’ve faced shaped your academic and personal development?
I have learned to appreciate the value of my work experience - it has helped me develop better time management abilities, improved my self-confidence and communication skills, and boosted my employability. I have come to understand the challenges that others have had in accessing university education - an awareness of these barriers has fuelled my interest in the range of social determinants that lead to this imbalance - which naturally led me to explore the world of public health.
Why did you choose to study your particular programme and what appealed about LSHTM?
My undergraduate degree allowed me to understand the biochemical mechanisms underpinning disease. However, it did not discuss the wider factors that determine an individual’s likelihood to be affected by poor health. I wanted to develop a broader perspective on the determinants of ill health. LSHTM stood out to me because of its global reach and its large international community, as well as the diverse range of module options it provides; I am particularly excited about studying History and Health in my second term.
How are you finding your MSc so far?
It’s been a busy time, but I am loving being in such an enthusiastic learning environment. MSc Public Health is incredibly varied and expansive; I have particularly liked my Health Economics module as its principles are completely new to me. I enjoy how international the LSHTM's community is - it is very insightful to hear the perspectives of other students who are from different academic and working backgrounds from mine.
What are your plans for after your MSc?
I am trying to keep my options open by choosing a wide range of modules. I am not sure which area I would particularly like to specialise in. I am interested in remaining in the UK and helping to address some of the public health challenges faced here by gaining experience within local or the central government, with the overall aim of an eventual application for the NHS Public Health Specialist training programme.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for your course at LSHTM?
I would encourage applicants to be future thinking; what would you like to add to the public health field through your study and work? The MSc Public Health at LSHTM has a diverse cohort of students with a range of past experiences - everyone has a unique perspective to share: make sure you explain what yours is!
- Find out more about the new Widening Participation work at LSHTM.
- LSHTM has launched 10 new widening participation scholarships to tackle barriers to further education for students from underrepresented groups in the UK. Find out more.