Arts Emergency

Alyson Macdonald

Research Centre Manager

I’m one of the first people in my extended family to go to university, and my decision to pursue a humanities subject surprised a lot of people, especially some of my teachers (there were a few “”but you’re clever – you could do a science degree!”” conversations). My mum wasn’t keen either, although in her case she couldn’t understand why I would take on the extra debt that came from moving away, when there was a perfectly acceptable university within commuting distance. I initially applied to study French and German, but I switched to English at the end of my first year when I discovered that I was passionate about literature, and having to learn a foreign language seemed like an unnecessary barrier to doing what I was really interested in.

Studying in a university with a reputation for extreme privilege was interesting, and although there were times when it felt as if I’d landed on another planet, I eventually got used to it, and having friends with backgrounds more like my own helped. However, one area where I feel that I really missed out was in not having anyone I could talk to who had been through all of this already, and could offer advice when I was preparing for, going to, and graduating from university. I think that what Arts Emergency does is great, and although my location means I can’t be a mentor, I’d like to do what I can to support your extended network of members and volunteers.

During my final year of university and after graduation, I went through a horribly depressing period of learning that many of the career paths that were popular amongst the people I had studied with were essentially closed to me. Without connections or money, my options were more limited, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found a career that I enjoy which didn’t require a lengthy unpaid internship or a Masters degree to get my foot in the door.