Student story: Umamah Tarvala

Umamah is a third-year medical student at Barts and The London. She is from Hackney, East London.

Umamah Tarvala, Barts and The London Hardship Bursary recipient

4 January 2017

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"I’m from Hackney, where I attended a rough state comprehensive school. Those days were incredibly difficult for me as we moved around a lot – while I was in year 7 I had moved houses three times! I was always under a great amount of pressure both at school and at home as I was having to help my mother care for my father who suffers from epilepsy and other medical complications. For me this has been the motivating factor throughout my life and has been the reason behind my determination to study medicine and help others that are suffering.

"Before I began my course, I took a gap year and during this time I taught GCSE and A-Level Chemistry privately to save some money before beginning a lengthy course in medicine. I knew from the start it would be expensive to be a student for five years so I wanted to be as resourceful as possible.

"But, once I started my course I realised how expensive studying and living in London truly is. Sometimes I would skip meals and sleep off the hunger. I would be under a lot of stress when I could not afford travel to university. I felt very isolated and could not share my financial worries with my parents who survive on a low income already. So when I found out I had received a hardship bursary to help me with my studies I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I called my parents to let them know of the good news. They were both so pleased for me and it meant I didn’t have to tell them how much I was struggling.

"Before I received the bursary, I was most definitely not treating myself to anything but necessities. Unlike many of my peers, telling my parents about my difficulties or asking for money was not an option for me as I didn’t want them to direct their already limited resources to me. However, as soon as I received the bursary I did a big shop at my local supermarket and can afford to travel to my clinical placements more comfortably. I am planning to use some of the bursary to fund workshops and conferences that will increase and improve my knowledge of medicine as they can further my success in this field. These are opportunities I definitely would not have been able to afford without the luxury of having a bursary.

"Although I’m now in my third year, I’m struggling to narrow my choices and decide what field I want to go into after I graduate and complete my foundation training. But this bursary has given me more opportunities and I am sure access to events and conferences will help me advance in my academic interests and find what I want to specialise in.

"I am incredibly grateful for the hardship fund and I’m so thankful to those who have contributed towards my happiness, health and potential success. If it were not for people as kind as my contributors, then I would not have come this far. It is because of the support of such people that I am able to go beyond the boundaries that have been holding me back and will help me develop into the person I strive to be.

"You’ve inspired me through your acts of kindness and I wish, one day, to give back to my community and help those who are as disadvantaged as I was. I want others to achieve their potential and be successful the way you are helping me to be. Thank you."