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Graduation 2020: "I knew I wanted to prove people wrong”

Cynthia Royer celebrating her degree results

Cynthia during her summer internship in Beijing

“I was always known as quite a naughty girl in school who wasn't going anywhere. I knew I wanted to prove people wrong.”

If you had told a teenage Cynthia Royer that she would be graduating from university in the summer of 2020 and taking up a job at one of the country’s leading accountancy firms, she may have laughed in your face.

Having initially failed her A-Levels, because in her own words she chose subjects “she didn't enjoy but thought looked academic”, many might have decided that their time in education was up.

But Cynthia persevered, gained good enough grades in her retaken A-Levels to become the first member of her family to go to university and has not looked back since, taking advantage of a host of opportunities that Sussex offered her.

This included becoming a digital media guru, a paid-for role covering campus events on social media, which she credits with developing her confidence and understanding of social media and editing tools.

The 22-year-old also fondly remembers a summer internship in Beijing, fully funded by the University, which helped her make friends for life, connect with people from all over the world and raise her cultural awareness.

And she helped other young people from similar family backgrounds with no experience of higher education through volunteering with the University’s Widening Participation programme.

Through these programmes, Cynthia had the opportunity to interview then Universities Minister Sam Gymiah when he visited campus and also participated in a higher education meeting with then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Cynthia said: “Probably my proudest Sussex moments are from working as a student ambassador. The Widening Participation team is so supportive and I really do feel like they have been a huge part of my personal development over the years at university. I have seen students come and visit our campus initially uninterested and leave the campus with huge smiles on their faces and eager to want to go to university.”

Not that she forgot her challenges in school. They remained a challenge for her even at university.

Cynthia said: “One of the biggest challenges I had to face while at university was the fear of failing. As I had failed in the past I was scared this was going to happen at university. I failed one of my exams in first year due to poor time management when I was working two jobs which left me with no time for revision. As soon as I put my priorities into place in preparation for my second year then things started to turnaround.”

Despite the unusual circumstances of Graduation 2020 thanks to Covid-19, Cynthia is determined to make the most of the celebrations and is urging students considering starting university in the autumn to embrace a similar attitude.

Cynthia said: “It does feel really, really weird to be finishing university this way, but I am reassured that I am not the only student feeling this way. I'm content with my results and so I’ve still managed to put on a big celebration.

“For anyone thinking of starting university this year, I would say keep positive. Things will continue to be different for a little while - we all know that. But in my experience the University is constantly working on ways they can adapt in the background. Don't put your life on pause. Keep going, things will get better.”

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Friday, 24 July 2020