My Experience as an Estranged Student
2021-10-26

Photo of SamuelMy name is Samuel Munyeza, I’m currently studying Scots Law with English Law here at the University of Aberdeen.  Since the age of 17 I have been estranged from my immediate family, for those unfamiliar with the term it means that I have no contact or support from my immediate family. I worked several jobs before coming to university to save up for the expenses needed to fund my degree, luckily enough I was blessed with great working opportunities having worked for Dawn Butler MP in Westminster & spending a year working in York County Court as an administrative clerk & usher. During this time, I honestly didn’t know what I should study, I even feared that university was not a viable option to me, but its during my time at York County Court that I understood the value of having a degree and was urged by the Judges I worked for to obtain a law degree.

So that’s what I did, it was during the summer of 2017, normal applications via UCAS had closed and options were only available via the UCAS Clearing System. During my lunch break I applied. I went to sleep that night not thinking much of it, preparing myself for rejections.  The very next day I was awoken by a phone call from University of Aberdeen offering me a place to study. I spoke to Dr Taylor from the university’s School of Law and told him of my circumstances fearing that I was not able to fund studying as I would need to reduce my working hours significantly. He kindly reassured me and spoke of the various structures of support the university had. So here I was 21 years old moving to Aberdeen, Scotland not knowing what I got myself into, with all sorts of fears running through my head. These concerns almost immediately were put to rest on my first day at the university. The wonderful staff at Student Support were there to answer and help with any issues I had, and I was treated just like everyone else, with kindness & understanding.

 My time here as student has really been a journey, I have had to go through the most difficult period in my life. During my second year I was incredibly unwell and was forced to take a year off my studies, what surprised me the most is how much support was offered throughout this period and when I resumed my studies.  During my time studying, I had reconnected with my mother who I had not seen or spoken to since the age of 5. We had planned extensively to finally see each other in person in 2020 but tragically she passed away during the COVID Pandemic in Zimbabwe. For a lot of people, the lockdown of 2020 was a very dark period, it was immensely difficult for me. Whilst grieving the whole world around me was changing very quickly, but again the University were quick to offer support via the counselling services they had here. I also had an amazing personal tutor Dr Adebola, spent many zoom calls in tears moaning about life but she was there patiently listening & was immensely empathetic.

I have also had many amazing positive experiences here at the university. I have represented the University in mooting competitions and have been able to help others whilst I was a member of the Aberdeen Law Project. In addition to this throughout my studies I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Euan Mackenzie QC, as part of the University’s mentorship scheme. I have also been fortunate enough to obtain funding from the Universities Development fund for a law project named Future of Law Aberdeen, which will be released in 2022.  I cannot even begin to say how grateful I am of all these experiences as they exposed me to a world which was far removed from my own.

I’m sharing my experience because I know there are other students out there going through hell & suffering in silence. I understand how difficult doing things on your own can be & the emotional anguish you experience. There is always a helping hand here at the university. We have an amazing team within Student Support able to help with whatever life may throw at you. Help can also be obtained via our student union AUSA. Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for a variety of bursaries that the university offers. All this information can be found on the university website. Ask for help because it’s okay not to be okay.

My final bit of advice to students is to try and enjoy as much as you can whilst you are at university, it is a very special time. Yes, things may get very difficult however there is always a helping hand here. I would like to personally thank all the members of staff here at the University, my maternal grandmother, and the amazing friends who have been there for me through the highs & lows of my journey. I doubt I would be here without their generosity & kindness.

More information about the support services available at the University can be found on the Support and Wellbeing pages.

Published by Students, University of Aberdeen

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