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Why Apply: Using The Zero Gravity Scholarship at Durham University


By Niamh Boyle – 19th June 2024

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Niamh, one of our OG members, speaks to us about the Zero Gravity Scholarship. She walks us through the hidden costs of attending a university like Durham (especially if you study Geography), budgeting, and paying for sports.

Hey, I’m Niamh, a 2nd year physical geographer at John Snow College, Durham University and a longstanding member of Zero Gravity. Some of you might recognise me from repping Durham in the Great Ambassador Race but I am also a scholarship holder, mentor and mentee at Zero Gravity and have been an active member of this community for over 3 years now!!

Money is easily one of the biggest issues faced with being a university student. Being in charge of your own money for the first time can be quite a daunting concept, especially when you know you don’t have enough money to afford all of the extracurricular activities available at university - or even rent and groceries. This was a big concern of mine heading to university, especially having heard the horror stories about how expensive Durham was - combined with the cost of living crisis! To combat this stress, I had planned out how I would use my loan to the fullest. Living in college accommodation in my 1st year meant that I knew how much of my student loan was going towards my accommodation (most of it 😂) and it left me with a rough budget of ~£60 a week. Luckily I had support from the university in the form of a £2,500 bursary meaning that I didn’t have to stress quite so much about my finances and finding a job as soon as I arrived at university. But then, the Zero Gravity Scholarship came through.

Applying for the Zero Gravity Scholarship was so easy that I don't actually remember that much about applying - I remember filling out some forms about my mentoring experience then promptly forgetting about it - until I received an email saying I had been shortlisted for the scholarship and to fill another form out.

I got the official email saying I had been offered a scholarship whilst I was exploring the Belvedere Gallery, Vienna during my solo travels around Europe. I was buzzing. In classic Niamh fashion, I celebrated by going to a café and buying myself a pastry. I messaged my mum asking her to call me, but she was at work, so she didn’t find out until slightly later that day - as it seemed too important to send over a text. I also messaged my mentor (shoutout Josh!!) to let him know I had been offered this amazing opportunity and felt that he should know since he contributed so much to my involvement with Zero Gravity (and I still stay in contact with him to this day).

£1,000 each year goes a long way. Most importantly, this money can go towards so many different opportunities which you may have previously had to pass on due to financial restraints. Joining sports teams and societies at university can be expensive, and so I used some of the Zero Gravity scholarship to pay for my memberships. Additionally, when doing sports at a university level there are membership fees which can be rather expensive, as well as race and equipment costs. Therefore, I spent a fair bit of my money on sports necessities which I would likely have struggled to otherwise cover. I even used it to cover an aerial arts coaching course which has allowed me to earn money by coaching for a society.

But a grand also goes a long way academically. Doing a geography degree means that a fair bit of equipment is required for field trips and data collection, meaning that my walking boots constantly need replacing. I am provided with a small bursary in my 1st year to assist with buying coursework equipment, but it barely covered any of it. Equipment I have purchased so far includes good quality waterproofs, walking boots and a hiking day bag. This funding has subsidised expensive field trips, and the plan is to use my final year of scholarship money to cover a two-week field trip to Nepal which I wouldn’t be able to attend without the Zero Gravity scholarship!!

Overall, this scholarship has been so beneficial over my first two years at university and has allowed me to fully enjoy the university experience and not have to worry about my financial situation as much. In my 1st year I felt much more comfortable about job hunting since I had this buffer so didn’t have to accept the first job I got offered and I haven’t had to work more than 12 hours in a week. I have been able to enjoy going out, buying a drink, or catching up with my friends in a café without having to stress about whether I can still cover the important financial expectations. I have been able to go to college balls and events, club socials and races without stressing about how I can pay next week's groceries and that is something that I am extremely thankful for. Additionally, I haven’t had to work a stupid amount of hours each week so have been able to enjoy socialising with friends and actually doing my degree (doesn’t happen too often!!).

I would fully suggest you apply for the scholarship if you are eligible for this opportunity, and it has aided me with going for so many different opportunities at university which I may not have otherwise been able to do as I might have had to priorities working. The support from Zero Gravity has been unmatched and I can’t wait to see how they continue to support many more students and new grads in the future!!

Cheers Niamh, that was a great read. Always fantastic to hear about how our Scholars are spending their money - as they know how to make it work the hardest.

This can include academic necessities - which ranges from Niamh's hiking boots and field trip money for Geography, through to textbooks, laptops, software and even a few stethoscopes for our Medicine students. But this also includes paying for things to make sure that you aren't going off to uni just to do the bare minimum - so pay for societies, balls, sports teams, and even a few pints with your mates. Don't miss out. Uni is a time to explore and make the most of things.

And it's not just money. The Zero Gravity Scholarship includes advice on how to find a job after uni, career mentoring, and even exclusive job opportunities. Applications for a Zero Gravity Scholarship are open today - apply now.

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