Team 1, stop 4 – Polly
Polly was a student at the University of Cumbria, and a Traveller. They wrote about their experience at university for University of Cumbria Students Union to mark Gypsy, Roma & Traveller History month:
“I’ve been at the university for almost a year and in that time have yet to encounter another Traveller at a university which boasts over seven thousand five hundred students. Why might this be? Could it be the fact that less than four percent of UK students identify as being Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, or might it be the fact that the stigma of being identified has led Gypsy, Roma, Traveller students to hide their heritage to eliminate any prejudice they may face?
Like many Traveller children, I left school at the age of ten. I then attended many local groups which supported Traveller children no longer in formal education. This support gave me the confidence to re-enter education at a local high school. It was difficult from the start, I was surrounded by students way ahead of me academically and received no support to catch up, as a Traveller student I was often targeted by my peers and felt very out of place.
I then decided I wanted to change the academic experience into a positive inclusive space for all children. After a year of rather intense study and nerve-racking University interviews, I was accepted into the University of Cumbria.
My experience as a Traveller in higher education has been nothing but positive. I don’t feel like an outsider being excluded from conversations, my opinion is valued and I feel welcomed by my peers and lecturers. As Travellers we have a unique perspective which can be important in many areas, I don’t believe we are a burden to higher education, we are an asset.”