When I tell people I studied the Biomedical Sciences, the first thing they say is “Wow, you must be so clever! I could never study that…” and I always say “Err, no, not really”. Not only because I am modest (ha!) but because it is true. I attended a grim, poor primary school: we had handwriting classes for an hour a week where we shared a pen between two and a couple of the graduating 11 year olds still wrote the letter ‘S’ the wrong way round. Even though I was not one of those, I did not leave thinking I was clever. It gave me confidence to realise that I had some academic potential, which came to fruition when I passed the (in)famous 11+ exams and went to a posh secondary with some of the ‘cleverest’ girls in the country. Here, I learnt that being clever is relative. At my primary school I may have been considered the ‘boffin’ due to the fact that I could spell the longest word we had ever learnt, ‘communication’, but at this school where the girls read Jane Austen novels for fun instead of ‘Bounty’ magazine, knowing the Prime Minister’s name was not a novelty (especially if he was your uncle as in one of the girl’s cases!), it was obvious to me that there is always someone cleverer than another in the world. While some of these girls may have discussed politics around their dinner table, making them technically clever than me, they probably didn’t know how to feed a family for a fiver as most of the girls on my Tower Hamlets estate had learnt by a young age- an invaluable and academic life skill.
Modesty is the same reason I chose to study Biomed as we neeks call it. Indeed, calling myself a neek (a cross between a nerd and a geek) is not me implying I think I am clever, being a neek is simply being seriously into whatever it is you’re into. This could be anything from cakes- my mum for example has been baking for over 20 years now, but is such a neek for cakes she is taking evening classes learning to make sugar paste flowers to decorate her creations, or say loving up racing cars so much that you memorise the developmental history of the engine. For me, it is science, more specifically the Biomed. Surrounded by girls with so much pre-attained knowledge than me, I felt it would be arrogant to assume that I could study anything else before I knew all about the obvious-me. After all, we are all living organisms, and however ‘clever’ you may be, we all have life processes in common. The study of life was then the obvious, logical yet still modest choice. How could I possibly understand anything like politics or history if I didn’t know the basics of life?
Completing my BSc did not make me feel that much cleverer, just proud and now I am at Big School (I try to make it seem less scary with this name, but in reality it is what I imagine boot camp to be like) with 15 extraordinarily clever, sophisticated people, undertaking a masters in Science Journalism. I am not overwhelmed by this, simply grateful that they are all from such different backgrounds and disciplines that I can add vastly to my knowledge bank, and hopeful that perhaps from them and their different experiences I can finally learn how to be clever. As fellow wordpress bloggers from Dingwall Primary School learnt from their special ‘How to be Clever’ assembly, “There was word smart, music smart. Self smart, people smart and many more”.