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Never a dull moment...

Inspiring Reigatian: Izzy Radford


In November 2018, Izzy Radford (RGS 2011-2018) dropped out of University after just six weeks. She explains how she has wrestled with the limbo world between education and ‘the real world’, but how much more confident and capable this experience has made her.

What advice would you give Upper Sixth students as they prepare for the next step on their journey?
Consider all possible options! Even if you think that a path may not be the right one for you, taking ten minutes Googling it or speaking to someone who has done the same thing is invaluable. Too often University is portrayed as a ‘one size fits all. It is not. Degree apprenticeships, gap years, internships and work experience are just as important. I spent years thinking there was nothing that would suit me except University because I was ‘academic’, but I learnt so much from embracing a more unconventional path. Additionally, if there is a subject or field you think you may be interested in, I would encourage trying to get some work experience in the area over the summer, even if only for a few days. Always try before you buy!

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
I think I would tell myself to chill out! I worked so hard for so long, when perhaps I should have been more relaxed. I’m not saying diligence is a bad thing at all but when you’re 13 there’s no need to be striving for excellence at all times. Being in a highly-academic environment encourages competition and meticulousness in all areas, but it’s okay to fail and it always worries me when people leave school and haven’t truly experienced failure or rejection. Perfectionism isn’t sustainable.

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome thus far?
Professionally, people underestimate me a lot because I’m 19, but often it’s simply about bouncing back with persistence and having a thick skin. Being able to tell people why you are talented and important, even if you don’t often feel it yourself, is a skill worth practising!

On a personal level, having left University I was thrust into a sort of limbo world between adulthood and student life, neither of which I fit into. It can be incredibly difficult and demoralising to self-motivate and face rejection without a support network of peers close to you and to feel you have failed both socially and professionally. I am still working on finding my own rhythm and I am incredibly lucky to have such supportive family and friends.

What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
Definitely being commissioned by BBC Arts to write, direct and voice my own audio piece, The Making of an Education. It is such a personal project and something which I have been so heavily involved with, it means beyond words that people can see its potential. Really though, some of the best things I’ve achieved cannot be compiled into a CV, or thrown around social media in a egotistical ‘round up’ of my year. Personal development and self-growth transcend all else. I certainly feel a more confident and capable individual since leaving education.

If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?
The importance of embracing the unconventional and slowly expanding your comfort zone. In many areas I was very anxious after leaving Uni ; I could easily stand up and do improv in front of a room of people, but felt very nervous about working as a Barista, for example. It’s normal to have your own specific set of limitations – gently expanding these takes time and patience.

Give us your top three tips for leading a fulfilling and rewarding life
Make sure you have a hobby or interest which you would NEVER include on your CV. Education should be about producing a well-rounded individual rather than someone who can simply tick boxes. I think it’s crucial that your sense of self never becomes too closely intertwined with your achievements.

2) Stop placing so much importance on your grades or visible accomplishments. When we measure ourselves by more than simply the sum of our materialistic achievements, we are far more likely to become passionate, holistic individuals.

3) Take time to switch off. Whenever we have a spare moment our headphones are in to listen to a podcast or music, to read a quick headline that’s popped up or to see what’s trending on Twitter. So much clutter and distraction masked as constant learning. It is not. We need time alone to engage with our brains and actually think rather than being told what to think.

What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Probably working as an Elf at Bocketts farm. A very tall elf who wasn’t sure how exactly she had ended up in that situation, but an elf nonetheless! The jobs you end up doing for money, structure and confidence don’t often sound particularly interesting or ‘normal’ but are an incredibly important part of growing up and finding your place in the world.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
On Strictly Come Dancing! But if that fails I suppose I could be content working as a writer in some capacity, hopefully a screenwriter. Having my own show on TV, is a huge dream. I would also love to continue with the educational speaking I do at schools but branch out to other conferences and events – a TEDX talk is the aim! These are big goals but there is no reason they shouldn’t be. I started as someone who wrote a blog about dropping out of University and since, have achieved some things I never thought I could’ve.

Follow this link to see all our Inspiring Minds activity in support of International Women’s Day 2020.

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