By: Kyla Donnelly
London- On the 20th July 2022, I graduated from City University of London with a first-class honours degree in law. I was ranked 10th out of 317 graduating students in my cohort, which puts me in the top 3% of our class. Marching on the stage in front of my friends and family is probably one of the most overwhelming yet the proudest day of my life so far.
As expected, this milestone was not easy to achieve; there were so many obstacles and unexpected events throughout my time at university – the unexpected lockdown mid-way my second-term during my first-year at law school, online lectures and seminar via MS teams for the entirety of my second-year, and a mixture of in-person and recorded lectures on my last year. In fact, I only made friends at the law school during my third-year because all of us never had the opportunity to get to know everyone in real life. Sometimes, we thrived in an environment which was previously unknown to us before, however, this was only realistic if we had consistent self-motivation and took our own personal responsibilities.
During my time at the law school, I doubted myself numerous times, wondering if I could make it to the finish line and pass with flying colours. I became my worst enemy when I criticised myself often. I had many late nights, sometimes, 15 hours of continuous typing on my laptop for my 24-hour exams. I shed a lot of tears which my mum, close friends, and my boyfriend could attest to. I skipped meals and missed out on many social gatherings with friends, over revising for exams. And yet, I kept going because, as the first-generation of my family to go to university, I always dreamed of “making it” not only for myself but for my family too. I believe that if you want to be successful in life, you have to dream first. It is free to dream and to envision your goals; when you set goals for yourself, it helps you to stay focused and to never lose track until you achieve those goals.
Of course, life sometimes throw unexpected twist and turns which makes us feel lost for a moment. This happened to me when I did not get into my first-choice university as I did not obtain the required A-level grade to study law at Queen Mary University. I also found out that year that I was not eligible for the home student finance loan as I was not a permanent resident at that time, which forced me to take a gap year; ultimately, what kept me determined was that dream. That dream of becoming a lawyer one day. I always tell myself that when something planned goes wrong, this only means redirection and not failure.
My path to graduating from law school was not straightforward, but I still made it. I had to take a different route to end up in the same place I always wanted to be. The culmination of the past 3 years of my life were reduced into 10 seconds when I marched on the stage to receive my diploma. As our graduation speaker stated: “Success is not a box-ticking exercise, success is gradual.” As I begin the next chapter of my life as a paralegal, I know that I am one-step closer to being a lawyer.
I am expecting setbacks, disappointments, and self-doubt along the way, but unlike the first time around when I started at university, I will be kinder to myself, I will celebrate my successes whether they are big or small, and trust that whatever path life takes me, I will always continue to chase my dreams.