My name is Imani, which means faith in Swahili, and my story is definitely one of faith: in myself, in others, and in the endlessly rewarding process of empowering those around me and giving back.

Academically, my career to date has been one punctuated with success, for which I am very grateful. I am a 21-year-old, third-year undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, currently on my Year Abroad in Paris interning at Deloitte in Finance. I am studying Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Spanish).

I was raised in a single-parent family home in North London, by my Mum, and am of Caribbean descent (and proud!). My Mum is my inspiration and role model.

After achieving 12A*s at GCSE in 2013, I was awarded Diane Abbott MP and House of Commons’ London Schools and the Black Child Awards for my results. Those same results secured me a place at a top sixth form (The Henrietta Barnett School) in London.
I loved my time at Henrietta Barnett, and was determined to give back to the community, founding the Christian Union society at the school, and going on to secure 3A*s in my A-Levels and win a place at Cambridge. I was one of 23 black female students (one of 38 black students) accepted into the University in my year.

The University saw my potential, and after a rigorous interview process, awarded me their Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Scholarship so that I could study there despite coming from a less advantaged financial background. I went on to achieve a First Class in my first year, with a distinction in Spoken French—but the truly stellar experience for me that year was spending 2 months volunteering in Tanzania with fellow Cambridge students and Tanzanian students, to better the quality of education for secondary school students in Dar Es Salaam. Our initiatives made national news, and I made precious friends.

I also started a YouTube channel, in my first year, where to this day I give back and pass on my knowledge (this is my passion) to 9,000 loyal, 18-25-year-old subscribers, and on which I share with them how to ace their exams, get top grades, and succeed. I use my platform to empower people; to give academic and pastoral advice; to encourage a diverse range of students to apply to Cambridge—but also to share my love of singing and songwriting. My passion for diversity in high places won me the prestigious Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Scholarship in October 2016, and the Powerlist Foundation’s Future Leaders Award in September 2017.

In my second year, I was elected Welfare Officer for Cambridge University African Caribbean society and served on the executive committee. I saw that depression in my generation (millennials) is rife, and so—mental illness also being close to my heart because of my father—I wrote a book at age 20, while studying full-time, of self-care poetry and affirmations (‘Heart Shards and Lip Balm’) to help other young people manage and process their emotions. ‘Lip Balm’ became an Amazon Bestseller in January 2018, ranked 70 in US poetry. I was blessed to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, by Business Insider, by the Enfield Independent, and by Pride Magazine as a result. The book has been bought in countries I’ve never been to before; readers span Africa, the States and even Australia, and the buzz I feel when they send me a selfie with their copy is indescribable!

Poignantly for me, I was able to go and give back to the very same school where I achieved my GCSEs; the school invited me to give a keynote speech to encourage the girls to excel in their studies. Dozens of students and staff (including my English Teachers, who inspired my love of writing, and gave nostalgic press interviews about my antics during English classes!) purchased copies of the book that day.

Now, I find myself, at age 21, balancing being a published author, a black female Cambridge student, a YouTube personality and a full-time intern in Paris. The 9-5 routine is new, exciting, dynamic – and mine boasts a hint of Parisian flair! Having won a place on the Lazard Spring internship in Financial Advisory in April 2017, I went onto secure an internship for my Year Abroad at Deloitte in Paris, which is where I am currently. What I love most about my job is sitting down with top executive bankers and Partners, often twice my age and undoubtedly far more knowledgeable than me, and walking them through the Past Perfect and Imperfect tense conjugations of the English of Language, so that they are empowered to do their financial expertise justice when conveying it in English to potential clients. I get to be a languages nerd, a mentor and an apprentice all at once!

To conclude: for me, the ultimate joy is giving back—be it to readers across the globe, schoolchildren in the UK or abroad, or subscribers around the world. It is empowering others—be they executive bankers who only speak French, or GCSE students trying to learn French—and helping them flourish. Success to me is nothing if I am not helping those around me to taste it, too. I hope my story has shown this.

Thank you for your time and consideration.