Sheffield is generally a fairly safe place, a place where I feel comfortable being out and being part of the community here.
Watch: Our interview with Fiona
I looked at Sheffield because it had a General Engineering course, I didn't really know anything about the city before I applied here but then I came to visit and I found it was a really nice green city and everybody at the University was really friendly and answered my questions and chatted to me and I was like 'you know what' this seems like the kind of place I'd like to fit in. When I came to the open day at Sheffield and I met the staff and students on the course I'm studying now, they all talked to me, they all engaged with me and made me feel like a person who was cared about by the University rather than another statistic.
So I first came out to myself at 17 or 18 but bringing that into the world is a different story. Nobody really has one coming out story. In terms of how being queer, being bisexual has impacted my time at university. There's never been one clear event or anything like that. In engineering, particularly as a woman, you already feel in some contexts like a bit of an outsider. My course, General Engineering, has quite a good gender balance, some other departments like Chemical Engineering, have quite a good gender balance but equally, in my first year, I think in one of the lectures I was in there were about 50 women out 250 people in the lecture.
The University puts on events like LGBT History Month every year. It's generally a fairly safe place, a place where I feel comfortable being out and being part of the community here.
The main club or society that I've been part of during my time at University has been the Canoe Club. I joined in my first year, I had done a little bit of canoeing and kayaking already and I wanted to do some more. It's ended up being the place where I've met most of my friends again and been my main social network, while I have been at University. Canoe Club is full of engineers, which means that I've had friends who've been able to guide me through both the course content side of things, even if we didn't do the exact same course, we might as well have done similar modules and also the University side like, how do you find a house in second year; how do exams work, that sort of thing.
I'm also in the Women in Engineering Society and through them, I've got to know other women studying all kinds of disciplines of engineering and I've also had volunteering opportunities. Things like school groups and groups of Beavers and Brownies coming into the university to learn about science and engineering.
I work for the university as a Science and Engineering Champion, which is an on-campus role doing outreach related to science and engineering at the University. Through that, I've done all kinds of work with people from age three to 90 like science festivals, public events or private events where schools come to the university. Everything from getting six-year-olds to look at a fingernail on a microscope and going 'eww' to actually explaining some kind of careers related and university related stuff to prospective students.
During my time at university, I've had some mental health issues, specifically anxiety. There's no way around it does affect your time here. Everything from getting really, really anxious about exams to socially, if you're feeling really anxious it's harder to be yourself, meet people and make friends. But feeling part of things, feeling settled in a place, has really helped me with that, from support structures around friends to University Support Services, directly to health services and through DDSS, Disability and Dyslexia Support Services also do learning support for conditions like anxiety and other mental health issues, which I didn't realise when I came here but it's actually really, really helpful and it's something you don't often get in schools.
So it's been really instrumental to me working through and dealing with my anxiety and learning to kind of cope with it and enjoying my time here and fulfilling the best of my potential as an engineer.
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