Hifsa, mentee at Walsall College: Opening up to new opportunities
Hifsa was mentored by Boris while studying accounting at Walsall College. Growing up in a deprived area with the fear of racism holding her back from trying new things, Hifsa has flourished into a confident young adult ready for new opportunities and to give back to her local community.
Please could you tell me a bit about yourself?
I studied at Walsall college where I did my Levels 3, 4, 5, then top-up degree in accounting. When I was in my final year I got introduced to Boris, who was my mentor with 1mm. At the moment I’m doing work experience with Walsall College where I’m also promoting 1MM to make students aware of the programme.
Why did you choose to take part in 1MM’s mentoring programme?
I was somebody who didn’t have faith in terms of what careers and opportunities were available out there. The fact that I’m from a deprived area, Walsall, things like that would knock my confidence and make me feel like I’m not worthy, compared to people who are middle class and in a private school.
What challenges were you facing at the beginning?
I think personally my biggest fear was racism, because I had a lot of jobs where I was racially abused. The fact that I was brown would bring me down. The fact that I went to a state school or that I suffer from anxiety. I chose to study at Walsall College because it’s on my doorstep. I was stuck in the mind-set that I was too scared to go out there in the world.
Little things like the way the news or social media portray certain things had a massive impact on me. That was something I struggled with deeply because I was always around my own kind – the school that I went to was majority Asian. So when you have to go from one area to another and it’s populated with people from a different background, it’s challenging. People are sometimes not accepting.
I used to be scared to tell people my name – I would never say my name, just offer a handshake. I didn’t want to be at a disadvantage just because of who I am and my background. It came to a point where I hated being brown. I was proud of my culture but when going for interviews I thought I was going to be at a disadvantage. One of the first questions I asked Boris was “does my name sound like a terrorist?”
What have you got out of your mentoring relationship?
When I first started mentoring with Boris I just lacked a lot of confidence and that’s the main thing I took away – having self-belief and confidence.
Boris doesn’t have the same skin colour as me and helped me see that people don’t see me in the way I thought – the majority of people are open to diversity and embracing different cultures.
I now feel confident saying my name. Thanks to Boris and being able to ask him that question. He helped me realise that my name doesn’t imply anything and it’s what I do that matters.
I now feel more confident in myself. There are so many careers out there and we’re not aware of them and it’s not until we speak to someone who is more experienced, professional, that it makes us aware of the different routes that are available.
Have you learnt anything different from being mentored?
I’ve learnt that mentoring does help young people. It’s a way to show young people that adulthood isn’t as scary as we think it is. Yes, responsibilities do increase. But we’re just transferring the responsibilities we already have into a career.
Is there anything you will do differently in the future, now that you have had a mentor?
I think it’s that desire of being a mentor myself. When I come across other young people who are struggling, I give the same kind of advice that Boris gave me.
What would you say to another young person who is thinking about getting a mentor?
I would say always be prepared for when you see your mentor. Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Even if it’s not the sector that you’re interested in, gaining knowledge in the sector that your mentor is in is important because can open other career opportunities and make you aware of other careers out there.