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Opinion10th May 2017

Zareen’s poetic journey to Oxbridge

Zareen is a sixth form student at Ark Globe Academy. She’s also a poet, who helped found a youth poetry collective at her school and has performed at spoken word poetry “slams” on stages large and small in both the UK and the USA. Recently, she became the first Globe student to receive an offer from Oxbridge.

As head girl at Globe, Zareen didn’t lack confidence – she applied to several universities, and received offers from all of them. Her original preference had been to attend Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, but just before accepting, she was invited to interview at The University of Cambridge. The university impressed her, and she was soon offered a place, as well as a bursary from the Reuben Scholarship Programme to support her if she attends Cambridge. She accepted the offer, and plans to study human, social and political sciences (HSPS) starting in the Autumn.

Zareen credits the academic support she received at Ark Globe with helping prepare her for university: “I don’t think I could be in the position I am now if I wasn’t at Globe. In my old school, I was very shy; I didn’t really like to put myself out there too much. Being at Globe, being in a community where people are so confident to express their ideas and also very supportive, changed me. Globe has given me so many opportunities. I even chaired a debate between Southwark council candidates during the 2015 election. That was probably one of the things I’m most proud of. Trying to get four adults to listen to a year 11 student was difficult, but it was awesome.”

Her advice to other students is to involve themselves in projects and interests both inside and outside of school. “Although I focused on my academics, I also had things I was really passionate about, like poetry. That has not only helped me with my confidence, but in interacting with people and leading big groups and directing sessions.”

Despite all her confidence, Zareen admits that she has concerns about fitting in at Cambridge: “If I had really focused on comparing myself to other candidates, I would have never applied to Cambridge. I think it will be quite a change, but nothing will change unless people like me go to prestigious universities. It will always stay the same if people like me say, ‘No, I can’t go, because there aren’t people who look like me in Cambridge.'”

“I don’t know what my career path is yet,” she says, “but I think that it will be something politically and socially engaged. Going to Cambridge is a huge deal for me. I have had many students from lower year groups coming up to me and saying ‘Wow! It’s amazing; I want to do that too.”

Each year, the Reuben Scholarship Programme, Driver Youth Trust Bursary Programme and Marshall Wace Bursary Programme help talented Ark students headed for top universities, who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education, with expenses like accommodation and subsistence.

For more information on our bursary programme or how you might support Ark alumni, please contact Hannah Mcauley.

A version of this story was first published on the Ark Globe Academy website.