"I was determined to maximise my time, and gain experiences that I wouldn’t regret later in life"

Joana Pedro smiling
Joana Pedro
Internship with the Civil Service
2nd year History Student
Joana made the decision to push herself out of her comfort zone and jump at any opportunity she saw that could benefit her future career.
Joana Pedro smiling

Fear and rejection held me back.

Year one passed by without engaging in many extracurricular activities. I saw comfort as my safest option. How could I fail? Failure meant I had lost. Failure meant that I couldn’t try again. Failure meant that I had reached my limit, and couldn’t advance beyond the ‘glass ceiling’ holding me back. So, what changed?

Well, I would say that I took a step back, and began challenging these thoughts. Professionals call it ‘Socratic thinking’ – a way to objectively evaluate the evidence and reasoning behind one’s beliefs. You’d think that as a history student who comes across evidence everyday, I’d be an expert, but I was not. In my mind, I didn’t belong here. I stood out as a black student in a predominately white cohort. But why? I had received an offer to study here. I received an acceptance letter from Sheffield. I passed the entry requirements. So why did I think I didn’t belong here?

This method of thinking made me realise that I did belong here. I was determined to maximise my time, and gain experiences that I wouldn’t regret later in life – so I became proactive.

I spoke to Gavin Simpson-Smillie (A&H Faculty Employability Lead), James Zeller (HE Skills and Employability Consultant) and Tom Jones (A&H Employability and External Relationships Officer) about completing a placement year or year abroad, all of which helped me decide on the latter.

I secured a two-week internship with the Civil Service at the DfE through Gavin Simpson-Smillie, where I researched, studied, and presented about the importance of HTQs, all under the insightful guidance and support of Corinne Austin (Higher Technical Education Strategy Advisor).

I attended a roundtable discussion with Mems Ayinla (current Director of Student Influence, and former Parliamentary Clerk at the House of Commons) as the speaker and asked her a question about the “gap in the market”, regarding the lack of racial representation in spaces and how we can address this issue.

I connected with Lavinya Stennett FRSA, founder and CEO of The Black Curriculum, who has inspired me to create my newsletter and piece of public history around important topics within history and the black community.

I networked with Rachel Lane, Senior Service Designer at the Ministry of Justice, at a civil service event, where we had enlightening conversations about diversity within the public sector.

So what changed between year one and two?

I did something. I had questions, and went about finding answers. I intentionally connected with people who would pour into me and share their kindness, time, and knowledge.

But to do this, I had to make myself uncomfortable. I had to take a leap of faith, embracing the changes that would make me feel temporarily uncomfortable in favour of long-term success.