When something is worth having…

Saima OmarBy Saima Omar, bursary recipient 2013/14

When something is worth having, you need to work super hard for it; and this was the exact circumstance of my journey to get funding for a NCTJ accredited course.

I had been unsure of what I exactly wanted to do as a career until I was 18, and I knew my strength lay in essay writing and use of language and the study of Literature. So I made the natural choice to pursue this topic at an undergraduate level. My subsequent question was ‘what could I do to make a living out of my passion?’ And then it dawned on me, I loved keeping up with current affairs and I’d dutifully read fashion and lifestyle magazines each month, to find out the latest celebrity gossip and fashion trends, feature articles and travel issues.

Therefore I made the choice that my passion lay not just in reading these materials but I knew I wanted to be a part of the making of these. I worked hard after University working full time, to support my single-parent mother and save up funds for my Journalism education – but it is easier said than done.

I’d managed to secure a place at UCLAN University in 2012 and I remember preparing for weeks, in order to impress the course director – I got a letter soon after confirming admission for September 2012 and I was over the moon, until I came to the harsh realisation – my problem was I had no way to fund the course. So my dream came crashing back to reality, of working full time and not having any spare cash left at the end of each month to scrape any sort of savings.

I began my search for bursaries and scholarships to see whether I could get some help. This is when I came across the Journalism Diversity Fund. I did not give up hope and I decided to try my luck – I listed my work experience and my need for financial help and I held my breath in sincere hope to be selected for the interview stage. When a letter finally arrived stating I was unsuccessful due to lack of work experience.

At this point I could have given up and carried on working in my current sales position, resigning to believe that my chance would maybe come several years down the line once I’d had built up enough savings, but I am not a quitter. I decided to take the feedback letter as constructive criticism and I applied constantly for internships and work experience to better my chances and to prove my passion.

I rang up the University to ask if my course offer could be held until September 2013, and thankfully they agreed. I also managed to get myself some work experience at an online women’s magazine – Charee. Along with this I had done work experience at The Times and also had some work experience lined up at the Daily Express. Everything was coming together nicely as I re-applied for the Journalism Diversity Funding. I remember how I was checking my emails every single morning whilst my heart skipped several beats in the hope for some positive news – and it finally came! I was invited to an interview in London and I was overjoyed – I literally had the biggest grin on my face all week!

The interview day approached and I felt sick with nerves. I had to give it my outright best shot. But I left the interview room feeling uneasy. Had I impressed the panel of judges? What if I didn’t receive the funding? I had so many questions running through my mind.

I was in total astonishment then when I received a phone call two weeks later informing me of my award for a bursary. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming; because, believe me, I had several dreams of this very moment since I’d had my interview. I still could not believe it until I received a confirmation e-mail. This all goes to show how you should never give up and if you are lucky enough to realise a dream, don’t ever settle because of one or two fall-backs. Try your hardest; and if someone tells you, you can’t do something, prove to them you can.

Journalism Diversity Fund has helped me get a step closer to achieving my dream. It will change my life and I am ever so grateful for such a fabulous opportunity.

I thank everyone involved in putting together this funding and for all my friends and family who have supported me through this roller coaster of a journey.