Renée Landell, founder of Beyond Margins and former BAME Rep for the Students' Union, introduces Ruben Elendo's story - the latest in her series showcasing amazing and talented Black Royal Holloway students and alumni in the hope of inspiring the next generation of Black students.
Student, MSc International Management (Marketing)
"My name is Ruben Elendo and I am studying for an MSc International Management (Marketing) at Royal Holloway, University of London. My journey in academia has been a culmination of perseverance and a hard work ethic. It surely has not been an easy ride, despite graduating with a First Class Honours in BSc Business Computing from the University of Greenwich. I am grappling with the uncertainty of passing my exams and battling with perpetual self-doubt. Nonetheless, I work extremely hard because my parents - who are from the Democratic Republic of Congo - instilled, in me, the belief that nothing good comes easy.
"My parents juggled many jobs to make ends meet, which made me realise that I will have to fight for the life that I want.
"From a young age, my role model has always been Barack Obama: an educated black man who had a dream to become the president of the United States of America. This gave me the belief that I can achieve anything, if I put my mind to it. In secondary school, I was certainly not the smartest and was not in top set. This prohibited me from receiving opportunities that were on offer at my school which made me feel awful and useless. In Sixth Form I was not able to apply for 'Deputy Head Boy' because my grades were not good enough for me to be considered a good representative. The obstacles that I have faced as a young black man trying to succeed, considering the way in which young black men are projected in the media, was horrific. Additionally, I lacked connections with positive and educated black men. However, things changed when I started university; it was an equal playing field, where I had the opportunity to network with industry professionals that soon became my mentors, companies such as Oracle, IBM & Barclays - fulfilling my interest at the time, which was a career in technology.
"I soon understood that I have to actively seek help and gain knowledge, in order to succeed. Once I submitted my dissertation, I had the opportunity to get work experience at the House of Commons with Steve Reed MP, which became a crucial experience for my journey into public policy and politics - the experience was unforgettable."
"Prior to that I had worked in a company called ELBA (East London Business Alliance) which works with businesses to deliver projects that help schools, universities and local communities - my experience there was really rewarding. Each day I learnt something new and expanded my capabilities within the workplace. They also have a scheme called 'Parity' which helps young black men find employment by providing opportunities which offer insight into the corporate sector. As a young black man, I understand the importance of initiatives like 'Parity', and so, I was excited to take part in one of the project events because...
"The unemployment rate for young black men has remained persistently high despite improvements in their educational attainment.
"After completing my undergraduate degree and gaining crucial work experience in industry, I got accepted into the prestigious Royal Holloway University; all my hard work and persistence paid off! I was ecstatic to receive the opportunity to study at this amazing institution, where I can interact with talented students from all over the world. Especially studying an international degree which broadens your horizons. During the first term at RHUL, I struggled with imposter syndrome because I believed that everyone in my class deserved their place because of how hardworking and intelligent they are, and because no-one on my course is from a working class background that I can relate to, as the majority of them went to private and international schools. The reputation that RHUL acquires also induced the 'imposter syndrome'.
"Then I spoke to Renee LandelI, a PhD student who was previously BAME Rep for the Students' Union, who made me feel very comfortable and reassured me that I deserved my place. I decided that I was not going to waste opportunities at RHUL. Therefore, I became an academic representative for my course, gathering feedback on student experiences in order to design strategies to improve student welfare, attainment and learning. I was also a part of the 'Inclusive Education' campaign video, which brings awareness to the areas which need improving regarding diversity and inclusion at the University.
"I will continue to seek new opportunities whilst I complete my masters at RHUL and strive for excellence in my education."
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