My journey at the University of Bradford began with me not wanting to stay at Bradford University.
I remember my first day, I had not packed or prepared anything for my new abode. All I had was a headstrong determination that I was not there to stay. I had enrolled onto the Clinical Sciences course, a medical course that offered 20 students who met certain criteria the chance to transfer to Leeds Medical School. This had become a goal post for me, getting into medical school would be the achievement that would give me value, ascertain my future and validate my credibility. Having parents in the medical sector meant that the only examples I had of successful professionals were in the medical profession and I had not explored anything outside this.
My first year of university was completely different to anything I had expected. My course was jam packed with lectures, seminars, various volunteering activities and medicine-related projects. There was a constant pressure to perform well in each assignment I was given. While peers in other subjects attended parties, joined social clubs and developed extracurricular hobbies, I stayed up in the library, studied anatomy diagrams, looked for – and found God, and also found the most wonderful friendships in my course-mates. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this experience was developing core skills of survival in me; resilience, determination and a mental strength that would surprise even me in the end. It was also during this time that I came across the ‘integumentary’ system and the phenomenon that was tightly coiled hair.
Growing up as a black girl, I found that there was not that much information on my hair texture and how to best maintain it. I found that women in my culture were not encouraged to wear their hair in its natural texture – rather opting for straighter styles either by using chemical relaxers or wearing hair extensions over their hair. When I began to learn about hair structure in my modules, I realised that there were several misconceptions and myths that I had learnt about natural afro hair. My own amazement at the facts made me to want to share this information with others, and so I decided to begin writing a blog on hair.
At the end of my first year, I found out that I had not made the cut to transfer to Leeds Medical School. It should have been a devastating time, but I was not as upset as expected. I knew that this had happened for a reason. And with the help of family and friends, I decided to transition to something that would help me get closer to my passion. I transferred to the Forensic and Medical science course which allowed me to study hair even further. It was here that I was offered the opportunity to take a placement year and managed to get one at L’Oréal marketing for a hair brand. I was nervous but excited about the opportunity and packed my bags to move to London for the year.
My placement was tough and fast, it was unlike anything I had ever done before but it opened my eyes to so many talents and abilities I had outside medicine. After my first week my manager said she was confident to entrust me with leading the next presentation. I overcame my fears and developed my confidence and skills. I was able to apply what I learnt to my own blog and I reached the decision that I wanted to continue in marketing after my studies.
Earlier this year my blog was featured on a television network where I was interviewed about natural hair. I would never have imagined those many years ago, had you asked me on my first day at Bradford university that I would end up running a blog that would take me to television talking about hair! But I listened to the signs, I followed my passions and I took every opportunity that came my way. It might seem to others that I failed because I did not become a Dr, but for me, I was successful because despite my start, I was able to find my true passion.
As my mother says: “it’s not about where you start, it’s about where you end”.
About the author
Metiya Chipala Ikowa is graduate of the University of Bradford. She studied Forensic and Medical sciences and graduated in 2015 going on to work in marketing. She currently works for KPMG UK LLP and runs a blog that incorporates natural beauty with travel and inspiration. Find more of her pieces at: www.metiyachique.com and follow her on social media at www.facebook.com/metiyachique www.instagram.com/metiyachique www.twitter.com/metiyachique