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Celebrating 10 years of Pembroke Access: My story by Barkhad Yusuf

3rd June 2019

Welcome to the third article in our celebratory 10 years of Access series of student stories. This week, we caught up with Barkhad Yusuf, who came up to Pembroke after taking part in the Humanities and Social Sciences programme in 2016 with Pembroke London, Hackney. Barkhad is the first in his family to attend University, after coming to the UK as a refugee from Somalia at the age of six.

Speaking about his time on the programme, Barkhad commented:

‘[The Programme] was very rigorous, something I had never experienced before academically. I was being pushed to think wider than my community and expand my academic interests. A personal highlight was during the Easter workshops, where we learned something TOTALLY new - discussing utilitarianism with a PPE student. During that event, my group won £50 worth of book vouchers after presenting what we had learnt to the whole group.

It was academically challenging, as we not only had to balance our A Levels with the programme, we also were given huge chunks of reading lists. At the time a great challenge was explaining to friends and family why on earth I was choosing to do this, after all, the last Oxbridge candidate my school produced (someone that actually got into Pembroke and inspired me greatly), was around five years before. I am gladdened that I and the other brilliant students can help to make those comments redundant – because people are getting into great universities through this programme…. it works.

My school studies improved because I had a dream that was in reach and I met students that had already paved the way. This meant that I spent more time in the library revising, trying to share the knowledge I had gained with friends and family, which stimulated more debate and thinking. The financial woes were also shattered by an undergraduate teaching on the course – she told me that she had been in a similar position and explained in depth the different funding avenues – this had a profound effect on my Oxford/university applications.

I felt that, although I came from an underprivileged background where I was the first person to go to university in my family – I was that much closer to keeping pace when I went to university. The programme has been the most influential aspect of my academic life – without it I would not have gone onto achieve some of the things I am proud of the most today.’

After the programme, Barkhad applied to Oxford and successfully secured a place at Pembroke to study History. He is currently in his second year, and is interested in pursuing a career in law or the civil service after his studies.

Barkhad Yusuf
Barkhad Yusuf