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Making the brave decision to not go to university like her college friends, Lydia shares her remarkable journey of having Asperger’s Syndrome and studying journalism at Brighton Journalist Works…

My awareness of the Journalism Diversity Fund began with Journalism: A career handbook by Anna McKane. In the run up to beginning my NCTJ course last September, I had to research my options. To be a ‘journalist’ was not something covered in detail by my careers advisors; it was advised that I do a degree. Having disclosed my diagnosis to Brighton Journalist Works – that I have Asperger’s Syndrome – it was suggested that I contact the JDF. This fund runs in conjunction with the NCTJ, allowing people from an ethnically or socially diverse background to complete their qualification.

I filled in a form, expecting nothing to come of it (by nature, I can be a cynic). Later, I was invited to an interview at the Financial Times, a sponsor of the fund.
I was filled with dread. Complete with ‘one of the worst’ colds, I had to commute and then go back to college. All I could think was “You’re going up in the world”. Nothing like this ever happens to people like me, I thought. And I was sure that I was going to mess it up.

The panel of five journalists questioned me for what felt like a long time; apart from flying a glider, it was one of the scariest things I have ever undergone. We chatted about quite a range of topics – Caitlin Moran and freelancing, being an online columnist for my local newspaper and interviewing among them. Going back to college was a crash to reality.

The confirmation phone call came during a politics lesson; I was in, I WAS IN! In a lesson about Primaries and Caucuses in the US election, all I could think was “I’m going to be a journalist, I’M GOING TO BE A JOURNALIST!” (No, I could not focus at all on the politics).

Fast forward to September 2017, and things were looking up.

I started the NCTJ diploma part-time. Everyone I knew, by contrast, had gone on to do degrees, even though some did not know what they wish to do as a career. Doing this course is ideal for me, and has since become my intellectual home.
I still have the book now, a Christmas present from many years ago. Even though I have only been doing my course for one term, gaining the book, and starting off to become a journalist seems like a life time ago. Its pages are folded, yellowing, slightly torn and fluffy; it has been well-thumbed. The Journalism Diversity Fund saw past my learning disability, and has allowed me to pursue a career that would have been far more difficult otherwise. I am grateful to Brighton Journalist Works, who have asked questions, and familiarised themselves with Asperger’s, in order to teach me.

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