Luard Morse Scholarship student Nicholas Whiteside tells how his time at King’s College, London, clarified his ideas on what he wanted to do with his life
I first heard about the ESU US Luard Morse Scholarship in my sophomore year as an accountancy major at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The scholarship provides up to $25,000 towards a semester of study at a British university and the thing that excited me most was that it was specifically for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. There are not a lot of scholarship opportunities like that and, since I want part of my mission in life to be to raise funds to provide opportunities like this, I was keen to be part of the change that I want to see in the world.
I come from Whitehaven, a low-income neighbourhood in Memphis, Tennessee. I’d never travelled outside of the US before and, while I’d always dreamed of going to London, it was never a plan as such – when you’re not going anywhere at all, you don’t really know where you want to go. So when I got the call telling me I’d won a Luard Morse Scholarship it was like I’d won a Grammy!
I won a place at Kings’ College, London and, at first, I found the studying style, which was much more reading- and discussion- based than I was used to, quite challenging. As a new student, I also found it nerve-wracking to be expected to perform at the same level as students who had been here for two or three years, but once I settled in and started to think through my issues, I became more patient. I realised that it was about understanding the resources that were available and that there were people around who were willing to help. Over time, I was able to think more critically, which helped me to express my ideas better. It also helped me to better understand what I want to do in life, which is to help other people from communities like mine to understand the financial resources which are out there to help them find themselves and to succeed.
Ever since high school, I’ve seen fellow students limited by a lack of resources. It wasn’t that they weren’t excited about going to university or that they were incapable of getting a place, it was they knew they wouldn’t have any money to eat when they got home – or that they might not even have a home to go back to. That was the situation for some students. They were so stressed out and that was a barrier to education. If you have financial worries, it limits your ability to learn – you can’t go home and focus on homework if you’ve got to go to work. Likewise, you can’t focus on your studies or do extra-curricular activities if your parents are mad at you because you can’t come home and watch your siblings while they go to work. All of that limits your creativity and it limits your ability to find yourself.
I don’t want anyone to miss out on the great opportunities I’ve had. It breaks my heart to see so many of my friends not able to stay in college for the first year because they can’t afford it – they had to go get a job. Now they see me posting about my experiences and they’re so proud of me and so happy for me, but it’s a weird feeling for me. I’m happy to be where I am, but I wish I could have brought them along too.
Now, I still want to become a certified public accountant, but I don’t want to work for corporate America – I want to help people be financially ready so that they can’t start their own businesses and live their lives in the way they want. I encourage other students to apply for the scholarship but many tell me they don’t want to put themselves out there. My advice is this – don’t be afraid to go for those opportunities or to jump over those hurdles that you think are too out of reach or too high. It’s only when you surpass your limits that you realise what’s available on the other side. What’s meant for you will always be for you.