My name is Michelle Ssevume and I joined the fabulous Uni Genius Programme last October. Since then I’ve been blessed with numerous opportunities to expand my network, find out more about opportunities available to me, develop new skills and consider different pathways available to me post-18. At the moment I am taking Chemistry, Biology and History at A-level at Seven Kings School and I’m aspiring to get into medical school to become a paediatrician. From that bit of information, it may seem like I have my future all figured out but in reality I still have a lot of lingering questions and queries about university life, alternative academic routes and how to grow and apply the skills I have in the world of work. No matter how prepared you may be, life has the tendency to throw you into places you may not have anticipated, so gaining more knowledge outside of the curriculum was extremely crucial for me. In that case, I can proudly say that the Generating Genius Leeds sessions gave me that deeper understanding of the world around me, while also causing me to reflect on myself.

“Can We Engineer a City?” I remember seeing this email pop up on my phone and thinking to myself, damn these guys really mean business. I was really intrigued by the description and it didn’t sound like anything I’d taken part in before so I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the event. Our challenge was to design a new city in a desert which had no access to water or a power source, ensuring we met the economic demands of the new city while keeping within a budget. We were also required to present a blueprint of our city, including a 3D model of our power source and a rundown of our budgeting scheme, facing scrutiny from other groups. As enjoyable as it was engaging with new people, there was an undeniable presence of Dragon Den vibes. I found it incredibly interesting, listening to other people’s ideas as well as contributing my own and wherever there were issues our problem-solving skills were really put to the test. For example, the expenses. Halfway through we realised we were running WAY over budget, but were luckily able to sort this out just in time for our presentation. Something I could take from that experience, on a personal level, was my desire to pay attention to detail but how I needed to work on balancing that with my time management, as that was my team’s biggest weakness. I really enjoyed the experience because it was outside my academic curriculum, it allowed me to work as part of a team and after the event, analyse my performance and apply what I reflected on other situations, like e.g. my home studies and my role as Deputy Head Girl.

When my mum heard I was choosing to take chemistry and biology at A level, she was so proud. I remember her shouting with enthusiasm and I quote “hey, we have a future doctor in this house!” Needless to say, I found it quite funny how the first thing she associated with those subjects was medicine but I also wasn’t surprised and I actually came to realise that in a more low-key I did the same thing. I then began to question what alternative pathways were available with my subjects and here, once again, Leeds sessions swooped in to help me figure that out. “Making a Medicine – from Lab to Patient”: during this session we were introduced to sophisticated computer software programmes which scientists use to develop medicines, we also delved deep into the process of developing a medicine which was a lot more complicated than I initially thought. Our two tasks were to design a medicine more potent than aspirin and review a few medicines for approval. This session proved to be riveting while very informative. I gained a lot more knowledge on drug discovery and development and career opportunities too, which include: pharmaceutical research, clinical trial coordinators, drug development strategists etc. After the event, I felt more inclined to do more research about university courses and career opportunities available to me which I probably wouldn’t have done before.

Being brought up in London for all my life, the idea of moving away to university initially used to really intimidate me. I was more than certain I would stay in London and go to one of the impressive institutions that were only a train and a few buses away from me. However, Leeds University sessions made me rethink that and I’m now considering moving away from home to gain that real independence which I consider is the big stepping stone to the real world – adulthood. One of my considerations is the University of Leeds. One session that really stuck out to me was a zoom call led by the Afro Caribbean Society at Leeds, which gave me an insight into how uni life is moving away from home. They told us about the successful events they ran, university lifestyle and finances which was really key information to know because of my new interest to leave home post-18. As well as how good a university is in my chosen course, diversity is another key factor that will play into my decision to shortlist universities. So having that zoom call with them was a great opportunity to learn about university from a student perspective. Being from the Afro-Caribbean community myself, this session offered a sort of reassurance about not being afraid to get out of your comfort zone and explore a different city!

To conclude, I really owe it to Uni Genius and the Leeds Sessions for the growth in knowledge I now have and the development I’ve also experienced as a person. These sessions pushed me to become more willing to put myself out there, be open to change while also shining a light on my weaknesses where I could then take action to improve and apply what I’ve learnt in my everyday life.