Katie Thacker (U19) is a second year studying History at Churchill. She is particularly interested in both global history and modern British social history and finds studying topics that are close to her heart, such as class and gender, incredibly interesting. Katie comes from a low-income background in Essex and is the first person in her family to attend university.

Before coming to Cambridge, Katie attended a local state grammar school. It was there she decided she wanted to attend university, although Cambridge felt out of reach until sixth form. She was inspired by some incredible teachers – Mrs Sanderson and Mrs Davidson – who helped her to love her subject as well as giving her the confidence to believe she could study it at university, and without whom she feels she wouldn’t be here!

Since coming to Cambridge, Katie has received financial support in the form of an annual Cambridge Bursary and a Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursary. Katie’s experience paints a clear picture of the vital role this type of bursary funding plays in the lives of those who need it:

Money was a huge worry for me from the moment we received our offers, due to the high advance deposit required and the fact we’re unable to have a part-time job alongside our degree. The bursary has enabled me to cope when unexpected additional costs have cropped up, such as laptop repairs or replacing my bike when it got stolen, as well as helping me to afford to stay at College for parts of the holidays to study, due to a lack of study space at home. It has also helped me to fully participate in life at Churchill and in Cambridge. From being able to afford membership of the societies I wanted to join, such as the Cambridge Union to being able to attend formals and May week events alongside my friends.

But it is not just the big things that have made a difference. Katie has also valued the small things – such as being able to say yes to grabbing lunch with a friend made in fresher’s week without having to worry about whether or not she could afford it – which have made all the difference to her time here and enabled her to grab all the opportunities that have come her way. Essentially, the bursary support removed the stress of having to constantly worry about money and allowed Katie to focus on the important things – something for which she feels immensely grateful.

Katie has hugely enjoyed her time at Churchill College thus far and particularly appreciates the lack of expectations to be a certain type of person, or to fit a certain mould:

Before coming to Cambridge, you very much have a perception of who the typical Cambridge student looks like, but within days of arriving at Churchill I realised this wasn’t true. There are no archaic rules or procedures to follow, and the relaxed environment at Churchill has helped me to feel comfortable with who am I without feeling like I need to change parts of myself to fit in.

She also likes that it’s slightly out of the centre, away from the tourists and the grand architecture, ‘It’s such a different (and less imposing!) atmosphere that coming back home after lectures feels like taking a sigh of relief.’ And her second favourite thing is Blazing Saddles, the on-site bike shop, which has saved her life (or bike!) more times than she can count.

Katie is now half-way through her degree and whilst her plans after graduation are still somewhat up in the air, she is really interested in going into Journalism. She is currently the Editor-in-chief for the Tab Cambridge, a student newspaper and writing for the Tab has really helped develop her passion for journalism – in particular news reporting and interviews. She is also considering a career in public policy and working with NGOs to help influence government policy, for example in relation to education or poverty as these are matters which are very close to her heart. If this is the case, she’d love to do a masters in either policy or history, dependent on securing funding. The dream would be to work at the UN one day, but she thinks there might be a bit of time before that!

Above all, Katie’s time at Churchill has been made by receiving financial support from the College. However, she is very aware that for every student like her who has benefited from receiving financial support from Churchill there are multiple students who have had applications for bursaries or hardship grants rejected because there aren’t the funds available; ‘The reality is many students at Churchill struggle financially and I promise you that whatever support you’re able to provide the college – however big or small – will have real, tangible impacts on students here.’