Sean is a first year student studying American History at UEA. As one of the recipients of this year’s The Difference Undergraduate Scholarships, Sean takes a moment to impart just how much of a difference receiving his scholarship has made on his personal life, his academic career, and his future prospects.
Sean Harbottle: The Difference a Scholarship Makes
Hi Sean, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sean I’m currently in my first year at UEA, studying American History. As well as being really passionate about the American Civil War and American Music, I’m interested in playing music of my own, theatre, creative writing, journalism and lots more. I’ve just released my second self-produced album, and am currently prepping for parts in a student film as well as an Edinburgh Fringe piece.
Sean delivering his speech at the Scholarships Reception, March 2015
What made you decide to come to University?
From a young age I was always keen to explore new opportunities, especially within the Arts. For example, I enjoyed being involved in Drama – I was in two cross-college productions and contributed to the Shakespeare Schools Festival. I wanted to record my first album, and also took an interest in becoming involved with charity services, extending from the work I'd done with inclusive theatre Orbit Shed and mentoring I'd done at Woodcraft Folk (an organisation which helps to develop life skills in young children). I wanted to make a difference and felt that continuing my studies at UEA would help me to achieve this and explore all these things further. I vowed to experience everything and anything I could, which is a drive that stays with me today.
How has receiving The Difference Scholarship made a difference to you?
Unfortunately for my drive, when I was going through my GCSEs, my parents separated. When my Dad moved out, being the main breadwinner in the family, we naturally took a hit. My mum worked part-time, struggling with health conditions throughout. I stopped going to certain clubs because we couldn't pay the subs. We only managed to stay in Reigate because we knew our new landlord personally. It was weird living in a traditionally affluent environment, but feeling a little poorer.
Around the time when I was applying to universities, the tuition fee cap had just been taken away. I know everyone says it’s the best loan of your life, but it’s still a loan. I wanted to go out and meet new people and get immersed in American History, but I didn't want to limit what I could do. At some points I thought about skipping uni altogether - at least getting out and working wouldn’t get me down. And that's around the same time The Difference Scholarship was offered to me. The idea of getting even a little support in covering my yearly fee was fantastic, so finding out it was a third off? Even better.
I found that the scholarship gave me a positive goal to work towards gave me a real drive to work harder at my A-Levels. And it paid off - I ended up with an A* and two As at A Level. I therefore got to go to UEA with fewer financial worries, which will help so much with getting out into the world and doing everything I want to do without unnecessary stress.
Now that you’re coming to the end of your first year, what is next for you?
I've recently released my second full length album and am working on a third, I’m on the committee for Norwich Nightline, a charity listening service, and recently got the main part in a student drama show going up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Difference Scholarship not only inspired me to come to UEA, but has made me think more positively about what I want to do with my degree and my life after university. Now I’m a recipient of The Difference Scholarships at UEA, I don’t have to worry about debt or anything that might put a strain on my university experience.
Sean with the other recipients of The Difference Undergraduate Scholarships 2014/15
What would you like to say to donors of The Difference Undergraduate Scholarships?
Mine is only one story, and I think I can speak for all the recipients when I say your generous donations have helped us all in what we want to do in the future, during and following our time at UEA. All the recipients have their own personal stories, and I speak for all when I say thank you to every donor for choosing to make the difference.