A paediatric surgeon in the making

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Diana Omokore is a medical science student at De Montfort University with the goal of becoming a paediatric surgeon. In this blog Diana tells us how she managed to focus on her education despite a number of moves between foster families and why she loves university. 

Education was always important to me and university is my second chance to fulfill my potential. To me, going to university means I will be free. I can get a well paid job and save up for my own place. I can become a paediatric surgeon and that’s where my motivation comes from. 

Being in care wasn’t easy. I had to move a lot during crucial educational years. I did well in my GCSE’s achieving 10 A*-B grades and sixth form had also started off well, but I then had to deal with a lot of trauma and it took a massive toll on my mental health. I had to go to a new college and even retake year 12. Despite all that, I really wanted to go to university, so I tried to compensate for the retake and took on plenty of medical work experience. I always wanted to be a doctor and getting hands on experience just reinforced that, so my efforts have definitely paid off. 

From care to campus

When I finally went to university I moved into halls of residence. This was a great choice because it provides the stability I need to achieve my goals. I have guaranteed accommodation for a set period of time and can focus on studying. If I need support, there is always someone I can speak to. The transitions team is particularly helpful. Their role is to support care leavers and they are always around for a chat and are happy to help organise support, such as mentors or counselling. My university also offers a care leaver’s bursary which makes a big difference. 

My advice in this regard: Make sure you tick the UCAS box that asks if you are a care leaver when you are applying to university. The information is treated confidentially but enables universities to help you out. They’ll email you to let you know what support – both financially and generally – you will be getting. There is lots when you are a student and you should definitely make use of it!

It means a lot to me that I can study, as it also means that I am getting closer to where I want to be. Still, before coming here I was worried. Mainly because I didn’t know how I would cope with my flatmates having their families over... It happens often and it makes me really upset because it’s something I wish I had. Sometimes, I go over and say hi, but sometimes I just make plans and go out for the day. 

More support needed

If I could change anything about the foster care system, I would improve the support for 16- and 17-year-olds. Without my self-motivation and constant dedication, I’d be in a completely different place now. We are resilient but there are massive barriers for fostered children. The stats about care leavers who go to university are enough to prove that.