Bursary funded by University staff has transformational impact on recipient

Three years ago at the start of her BA History programme, Lauren Cowie was selected as the recipient of an undergraduate bursary, funded through donations received from current University staff to support students from Cornwall to study at Exeter. Now she has reached the end of her final year Lauren reflects on her experiences and the impact the bursary has had.

"Receiving the support from The Cornwall Staff Bursary has alleviated the financial stress of University life from myself and my parents, and enabled me to take full advantage of the excellent opportunities Exeter provides. This has undeniably helped shape my future career path and change my life for the better. Having coming to Exeter via the Exeter Scholars widening participation programme, I would like to personally thank those who supported the bursary for affording students that may not have the same opportunities as others, the chance to gain the excellent calibre of education that Exeter provides.

Throughout my course I have completed a broad range of modules from Women in China to Social British History, which is exactly the diversity of topic I wanted when choosing Exeter. My three years have been wonderful and challenging. My dissertation was one of the most enjoyable parts of my degree, giving me the freedom to explore my chosen topic; my title being ‘Expression, Repression and Insanity: Victorian Society and Women’s Mental Health, 1880-1900.’ With the support of the bursary I was able to dedicate less time to employment and more to my academic progress. This meant I could engage in research for my dissertation and to conduct extensive archival work.

Above all, this bursary gave me time to focus my energy on volunteering throughout my years at Exeter. I was a volunteer listener for Nightline, a student support phone line. I am so proud that Exeter Nightline won Nightline of the Year this year, everyone I have met was a credit to the university and I am so sad to leave it behind! Being a volunteer for Nightline helped me gain new life skills, experiences and, most importantly, support fellow students. Becoming a listener for Nightline was unequivocally my most worthwhile experience at university. I was able to take part in various training courses, including First Aid, LGBT+ Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness. These sessions also made me aware of charities in Cornwall that I could volunteer for in the future and reaffirmed my aim to try and find employment in the charity sector after graduation. In addition, this bursary has supported my personal development by allowing me the time to work on my own mental health and continue my hobbies, including my passion for art.

Despite the impact of the pandemic causing an unexpected end to my university life, I am so proud to graduate from the University of Exeter. I have met so many wonderful people and done things I would once have never considered myself able to do. It is difficult to put into words just how much this bursary has done for me and my family. I would like to thank those who supported the bursary, for my opportunity to live university life free of financial concern. This bursary has meant things that could have been catastrophic, including family illness and financial issues were instead manageable obstacles.

I would like to thank you for supporting me throughout my University life, it has made all the difference to my mental health and overall university experience."