My University Experience: Dee.

It’s be beginning of the school year again, and for lots of us, that means that it’s time to head off to university, either for the first time or for another year. If you are already there, we hope that you are LOVING the start of this year – but don’t worry if you are not! Everyone I’ve spoken to about university talked about the “wobbly” period at the very beginning: these things take time – don’t worry.

Last week, we shared lots of our hints and tips from the hive-mind about surviving and thriving at university: you can check that out here. But, we know that everyone has a different experience of university: some find this time super easy, while it takes a while for others; and for some, uni just isn’t the right option – and that’s great. Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be chatting university with some brilliant, successful people – those who went to uni, and those who didn’t.

This week we’re hearing from Dee: Dee is a police officer, and she had a very full university experience. I loved chatting to her last week, and hearing her advice around thriving at university, so I asked her to share her story: Dee is one of the most real people I know, and her story is a great one – grab a coffee and have a look. Over to you, Dee:


Growing up in a strict Caribbean household, education was always paramount. My ambitions to be a hairdresser were never taken seriously so when I said I wanted be a Dance Psychologist, my family were overjoyed.

I remember in 2008 waiting for my exam results for what seemed like years and praying to God: “if you let me go to University, I would give you my life.” A desperate plea, because my A-Levels were mega difficult for me and my teachers didn’t really think I would get into any university, let alone one that required grade C average – I was not a grade C average student.

I had never lived away from home; had never been drunk, smoked or slept around – so attending university seemed like a holiday away from home. How wrong was I!

My 1st two priorities. Find a church. Find a job.

I found a church similar to one I attended at home but something didn’t feel right – I just  didn’t feel like me. University is the opportunity to create your OWN identity. The only chance you can do this, get it wrong and be young enough to start again. So I looked for other churches, and eventually found one, out of the university circles: but they took me under their arm, mentored and helped me, fed me and challenged me and became my family in Derby.

Finding a job was simpler – I found work within the first two weeks. But, despite saying I was a church attendee, I was tied into several contracts of Sunday working meaning I couldn’t attend. Eventually I left those jobs.

During all this, I was living away from home and determined to make the most of it. I joined a sports team and was active on the social scene which including going out two to four times a week. My aim for a night out quickly went from having fun with friends to getting free drinks and male attention; something I was not used to.

After a few brief relationships and painful break ups, my behaviour escalated, and then promiscuity and a circle of guilt and pity started. I started asking questions like “who am I?” Due to my circle of friends being predominantly white, comments were made both behind my back and to my face saying I didn’t know who I was or I had forgotten. There were so many questions – was my identity stemming from the ‘bed count’ or by the course I was trying to complete. 

Whilst that was all happening, I made sure I kept up appearances and I could hide this from most: most, but my mother. Her battle started and ended on her knees in prayer, she told me. She saw the changes in my behaviour and my appearance (I went from a size 12 to a size 8 in a small amount of time); but knew nothing she said would change me – she left me to God.

One thing I noticed: whenever I felt rock bottom, whether due to assessments being due or feeling alone, homesick or the usual guilt circle, I always returned to church. Usually with my tail between my legs but I was always accepted with a big hug and they let me cry and weep for the whole service. It was my first experience of God’s grace.

“His Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the most gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”. 2 Cor 12:9 NLT.

This was the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel. Due to doing a dance course at university, I was asked to join the hip hop dance team at church, ahead of a youth service. Then, I was asked to do a dance at the Easter Outreach event. After that, I was asked to join the dance ministry team who would dance every Sunday: at the front. With the worship team. This was the team I watched month in, month out in awe of the beauty and powerfulness they had and thought “I couldn’t do that. But I REALLY want to.”

10 years later, I am still dancing. This became part of my identity. I invited one of my closest friends to a conference and to watch me dance when I had just joined the team. I thought she was oblivious to my past but I know now she saw it all. She said “I have never seen you so free. You were like a bird.” I kept dancing because it was the one thing I knew; a form of communication when words would fail me and I felt like my life was not a reflection of what God had promised for me.

He had promised me MORE than I could ever imagine.

I eventually pushed through, with the help of some key people: my family, my church and my some key friends. In my final year of university, I was the choreographer of the University Dance Team, member of the Church Dance Team and completing my degree in Psychology with Dance Movement Studies. After completing my course, I went straight into full time employment at the local airport and remained in Derby for an extended period of time.


My life at university was not perfect. But I took away from some key life lessons:

Firstly, YOU choose your identity. You choose how you want to behave, who you want to socialise with, what church you go to, what you eat, who live with. You get the idea. It is your choice. If you make a mistake, don’t dwell in the past; learn from your mistakes and move on.

Choose your friends wisely. They will be your moral compass, and/or prayer partners in your times of need. They will be loving when needed but challenge you if required. You may not like it but university can be full of fake friends; why keep them around if you don’t need to?

Lastly, prayer works. If it wasn’t for my mother and others who care, I believe I wouldn’t have pulled myself out of the mess I was in. I lacked confidence, self esteem, and I didn’t believe I had any value. These days, I am a woman who is mentoring other women in these topics. I am also married to amazing man who reminds daily of my beauty and my value. I thank God every day for bring him into my life.


I didn’t become a Psychologist. In fact, I am in an occupation I wouldn’t have considered 10 years ago. But I have my own flat, I drive my a nice car and I have a good job. Money means nothing to me because you can’t take it to heaven – I am in love with Jesus and when I think about where I was and where I am now, God is real to me and would choose him again and again and again.



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