BA English, 2015 & MA Creative Writing

They would burn the books if they found us reading. But we always found ways to read.

“I never had the chance to receive a formal education until I moved to the UK. I grew up in a small village in Turkey where social values were very restrictive for women and girls, and there were limited opportunities.

“My grandmother and some others believed that girls should only focus on getting married rather than pursuing an education. They would burn the books if they found us reading. But we always found ways to read. We would hide newspapers, magazines, novels and anything else we could get our hands on.
I completed primary school but couldn’t attend secondary school due to my father’s illness. I arrived in the UK several years later, speaking no English but eager to continue my education.

“While working as a waitress I learned English, completed GCSEs in maths, English and science, and an access to higher education diploma. I was also raising two children and volunteering at a Kurdish community centre.

“I was then introduced to Birkbeck. It was the only place that offered the course I wanted and worked with my schedule and responsibilities. I have been supported in so many ways since starting. They helped me through my dyslexia diagnosis, which was crucial for me. I was struggling with the course’s long reading list, but I couldn’t tell if it was due to my educational background or something else. When I was diagnosed, the Disability Service helped me access the Disabled Students’ Allowance and create a learning plan to support my progress. Without this, I don’t think I would have been able to finish my degree.

“My academic tutor has also consistently gone above and beyond. While I was going through my divorce, I remember coming into their office with both children in my buggy. I thought I would have to drop out, but they helped me find childcare for my timetabled hours and guided me through the process to get a bursary. That’s the amazing thing about Birkbeck — you don’t have to be a certain type of person to be able to study. You bring everything in your life with you and they help you make it work.

“I am now in the second year of my Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck and I’m on a scholarship after getting a high distinction last year. As a financially independent single mother of two, this has eased my stress significantly and helped me commit to my studies with peace of mind. I also recently found out that I won Birkbeck’s inaugural Cordelia Feldman Prize for Life Writing.”