One thing: Thinking of volunteering overseas?

I remember falling in love with India straight away from waking up to the amazing views of the Himalaya mountains, to the colourful clothing, array of spices, phenomenal architecture,  Bollywood movies that left me crying from laughter and so much more.
I spent three months volunteering where I encountered some of the tragedy of India such as gender inequality, caste system and the sheer number of children living in slums . I also experienced the beauty of India with my team members where we built relationships with some of the most amazing people in the community,  carried out a needs assessment with families in the community,  taught in a Primary School and so much more. I look back at my time in India as one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences which continues to shape my life.
One thing I would tell my younger self is just go!!! it is by far one of the most character building and life shaping experiences ever, I nearly didn’t do it because so many volunteering abroad options were so expensive but eventually I came across a government-funded one!
Research!!! there are a vast range of volunteering opportunities with varying lengths, costs, projects to be involved in, development issues they focus on etc. Don’t be put off by cost as there are some amazing government-funded programmes including International Citizen Service
Author: Abigail Brown @build_potential

One thing: How I learnt to plan my career

I started off my career in catering at the age of 18 working in a hotel. I only cared about how much I got paid so I was always looking for the next big opportunity to make more money. Eventually I realised this career wasn’t for me as it would take time to build the knowledge and experience to get ahead and I just didn’t have the passion and long-term vision for that. My short-term goal had simply been making a good earning and consuming all the latest fashionable designer wear until I learnt it got me nowhere. Life had given me a challenge, to plan for the future.
One thing I would tell my younger self is that your career is a journey, think long-term,   don’t put all your eggs in one basket, get experience in different areas until you discover the thing  that makes you come alive
Take time think through your long-term goals and share with a career coach or mentor to help you explore it further and support you to create an action plan to achieve  it.
Author: Paul Brown

One thing: How I learnt to embrace my African name

I was about 14 when I was nominated for an award celebrating black achievers during black history month.  It was a large event where young people and parents were invited from multiple schools. The R Kelly song ‘I believe I can fly’ was playing in the background and as I sat with my parents I remember feeling extremely excited and proud
I will never forget the moment when the person giving out the awards called my full name Abigail Okunlola …….his extremely poor and stretched out attempt at pronouncing my surname which lasted about 30 seconds  meant the whole crowd erupted in a fit of laughter. As I walked up to the stage to collect my award I felt anything but proud and excited, I felt ashamed and I thought London is such a diverse city how could he possibly be that off the mark?
It was one of the many experiences growing up as a Black British African where I felt my heritage was made a mockery of and at worst was a barrier to me achieving my potential
One thing I would tell my younger self is be proud of your heritage regardless of the ignorance or discrimination which pervades itself within some establishments and where you see ignorance or discrimination never be afraid to challenge it!
The next time you fill in that job or university application or go to an interview. Say your name loud and proud! 🙂
Author: Abigail Brown @build_potential

One thing: How to make friends at University

I remember that awkward feeling of standing in the queue to get my ID badge at SOAS University amidst other equally awkward, largely silent students. Eventually I got chatting to a girl called Sabrina- we hit it off straight away and I breathed a sigh of relief!
A photo by Sidharth Bhatia.
One thing I would say to my younger self is don’t stress you will make friends at University. I met some of the most amazing people at University including one of my besties Ediri!
During Freshers Week/Welcome Week: actively chat to people from all different walks of life, find out about the different societies you can get involved in and join and the friendships will follow
Author: Abigail Brown @build_potential

One thing: What I learnt about applying to University

My Psychology Teacher encouraged me to apply to Oxford or Cambridge University. I was afraid of not being good enough so I didn’t even apply!
One thing I would tell my younger self is don’t be afraid to apply to Universities that are slightly out of your comfort zone. Take a chance you never know how it will turn out! And either way at least you’ll know!
Write a list of the different universities that offer your course. Choose some that are in your comfort zone and at least one that excites and scares you all at the same time!
Don’t forget application deadlines for Cambridge and Oxford University are: 15th October 2016 and for most of the other Universities 15th January 2017.
Author: Abigail Brown @build_potential

One thing: I want to be a….?

I often joke when speaking at 6th form assemblies that being from a Nigerian background, I was left with only four career choices: Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant or Banker.

Maths and I never quite got on at School so Banker and Accountant were quickly ruled out, the thought of blood ruled out being a Doctor and due to my love of writing and English Literature I chose the Law route. I was roughly 13 when I made one of the biggest decisions in my life to become a Lawyer. I had seen dramas on TV involving Lawyers, but I had never met a Lawyer, read a book about what being a Lawyer entailed or had any experience what so ever of the day  to day life of a Lawyer and whether I would be any good at it.

And so I drifted through the education system and did Law at A-Level as well as Psychology and Sociology, I loved the latter two but couldn’t quite see  what a high flying career in those sectors would look like they were too fluffy to be a serious career for a Nigerian right? and so I stuck to my gun of becoming a Lawyer.


A pivotal point came when  I went to study Law at SOAS University, during the summer of my second year, I finally got a taster of my ‘dream’ profession, my first window into what the life of a Lawyer was actually like and if it was a right fit for me, I did a placement at a Solicitors firm and a placement at a Magistrates Court, I realised this dream career wasn’t quite the perfect dream for me and the experience was the first time my career goal was ever challenged, and it was challenged by me, I had never been asked: ‘Abigail, why do you want to become a Lawyer?’ ‘What do you understand a Lawyer does?’ ‘What skills do you think are needed to thrive as a Lawyer?’

It made me think of all the people like me who have drifted into careers and the difference it would have made if we had actual experience earlier, people who would provide encouragement and challenge by coaching or giving careers guidance to help us understand who we are, what we love, what we are good at and give insight into different career sectors

As a result I created this blog community to provide tips and advice on  ‘ONE THING I WOULD TELL MY YOUNGER SELF‘ from guest bloggers of different ages and stages covering a range of issues from:

  • Applying to University/College
  • Alternatives to University
  • Exam revision
  • Job hunting
  • CV writing
  • Work experience
  • Taking a gap year

And much more!

Look forward to journeying with you

Abigail Brown