My experience of university as a Black student
Unite Students recently shared Living Black at University, a report into Black students’ experience of student accommodation. David – a third-year Journalism student at Liverpool John Moores University – shares, in his own words, how his university experience has been influenced by his race.
As a third year Journalism student at Liverpool John Moores University, I’m grateful to be in a position where I can attend university and study a course in an area that I have a passion for. But being from an ethnic minority, I have always felt that I have to work particularly hard in comparison to my white counterparts – not only to be noticed but to be able to put myself forward for future job and work experience opportunities.
Growing up in London, I was surrounded by diversity – especially those of different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. And whilst Liverpool has a strong Chinese, Irish and black community, most students who make up the student population are White British or of a similar background. If you’ve come from a city or town that has a large white population, that might feel okay. But for others like myself, I can see how one could feel left out and possibly even intimidated as a result. And that’s heart-breaking.
Overall, Liverpool and the people living there have been good to me, but it’s difficult to ignore how predominately white the university is. This has been consistent everywhere throughout my experience as a student – from being the only black student in my flat for the first two years of my university, and one of the very few non-white students on my course, to finding myself surrounded with lecturers who are all white.
Coming from London – a city known for its diversity – to a place that is predominately white has heightened my self-awareness and highlighted the impact a lack of diversity can cause. On top of this, the culture at university revolves around drinking and partying, which predominantly appeals to White British students and can, at times, make those from a minority group feel further isolated from their peers.
Heading into university, I had ambition to gain the experience needed to fulfil my goal to become an aspiring journalist at a big organisation. I’ve since found journalism to be a particularly challenging, competitive, and demanding industry in which people from ethnic minorities struggle to get a foot in the door. While taking part in community radio and gaining work experience at the Home Office have been helpful for me, getting work experience at a relevant organisation has been harder than expected. And while the lecturers on the course have been good at opening our eyes to what it is like to work in such a competitive industry, not all of them can relate to my specific position.
As conversations around race and diversity continue a year after the death of George Floyd, I feel like – as a Black student – more needs to be done at university to improve the experience for minority groups. Some students on my course, from various minority backgrounds, have gone through things many students don’t think about – such as being unable to afford a taxi to get news stories, to not being able to relate to reading lists provided for our modules. I have experienced times where a particular lecturer would make digs under their breath, and I question if this relates to my work abilities or the colour of my skin.
Programmes at LJMU such as the Reciprocal Mentoring Scheme have proved a hit, as they allow me as a Black student to speak to members of staff about racial issues and find ways to improve racial equality at the university. More diversity on university campuses is also something I’d like to see, as it would enable those from minority backgrounds to support each other as they navigate life at university.
Although the events of 2020 caused a lot of debate in race relations and diversity, people need to continue to have discussions, be open-minded, and not feel afraid to disagree or ask questions. At the end of the day, we are all humans who make mistakes.