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Jenni's Story

Jenni's Story
Jenni LU pic.jpg

Between the ages of 14 and 19 I was moved between eight different foster care placements. My desire to advocate for others and achieve my academic goals helped me stay focused and power through those years.

I was driven to apply to university but found it hard going to interviews alone. I remember having an interview at the University of Bristol - I took the coach, attended the interview, wandered around the city, and returned home all by myself. I envied people who came with their parents, people who had someone expressing pride and reassuring them the results of any interview wouldn’t affect their value or worth.

I was accepted to study BSc (Hons) Cognitive & Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Westminster. I was excited to study but there was, however, an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Moving into student halls meant my previous foster placement was now closed. I didn’t know where I’d go if any issues arose, or if I didn’t make it through university. It dawned on me I wasn’t anyone’s responsibility anymore and if I went missing or became very ill, there would be no one to notice.

I lived in student accommodation for my first year and moved into temporary accommodation in my second year. When I was eventually moved into my permanent accommodation, it was completely empty. I spent the first few weeks sleeping on a rug half my size. I’d make my main meals out of a microwave and would use the Wi-Fi in my nearest McDonalds to complete university assignments or download a movie which I’d watch on repeat. It took a lot of time and effort to create a home for myself, and even now I sometimes see the pain that went into building it for myself. Despite these and other difficult circumstances, I graduated with an upper 2.1.

I went on to work as a Service User Involvement Practitioner for the Barnet Leaving Care Team, where I organised and facilitated several groups for care leavers including the Strengths & Resilience group and the Young Parents’ group, where we used mindfulness and art therapy to explore the impact of being a care experienced young person.

I started my MSc in Global Public Health at Imperial College London, alongside which I worked as an Independent Panel Member for the Hertfordshire Adoption & Fostering Panel and volunteered as a trustee for Live Unlimited. I won the Westminster Alumni Social Impact award for the care-related work I completed.

As a care leaver, it can be difficult to be proud of myself. Not having a parental figure who appreciates how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved has meant I’ve had to learn to pat myself on the back. Step by step I’m learning to love myself in the way I’ve previously hoped others would. It’s a journey, but I’m making good progress. 

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