Dominika's story

28 March 2023

Dominika grew up in Poland and moved to the UK with her parents, who were encouraging her to attend university in the UK, in 2016. Dominika recalls this time being very challenging for her - she spoke limited English, experienced a lot of differences in the culture here compared to back home in Poland, and had to take supplementary English lessons whilst also taking on her first year at the University of Bedfordshire where she was studying BSc in Psychology. As a result, Dominika felt quite isolated during her first year in Britain: “It was really hard for me to get used to the culture, there was a culture shock, there was a language barrier as well but in my family I was the first one to go to university as in higher education”.

Trying to study in English but also learning English at the same time, that was massively hard.

Dominika came across UpRising in 2020, during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. She hugely valued the flexibility of the programme at this time, as it meant she way able to balance the online programme alongside her other responsibilities. Whilst understandably, Dominika found making connections with other participants on the programme through only online interaction challenging, she recalls feeling that the programme quickly helped her to improve her team work skills -  something she’d been aware of developing and wanting to gain upon applying. Dominika was inspired by the range of change-makers she was able to meet through the programme: “I had never expected to see a presenter from BBC to come in or a politician, or any other people that were within politics and the decision making field, and it was just incredible to see that they’re involved with young people.  I think it was quite inspiring and like bringing the awareness that we could be like them, and that was very positive”.

[UpRising] totally changed my life.  It was such a great addition to my life for sure.

During her time on the programme, Dominika was supported to develop and deliver a social action campaign along with a group of peers. Dominika’s group developed a campaign aiming to support other young people with their mental health during the lockdowns. Learning new skills and being part of a campaign group like this supported Dominika’s confidence significantly and she soon took on key responsibilities within her team, such as making connections with local media: “I felt encouraged by the programme to reach out to people that I would never reach out to, for example, I reached out to Bedford Radio and to BBC Three Counties Radio, and we got interviews from both of these platforms… we all came in and spoke briefly about the programme and what we were doing, and that it’s really important for young people to talk about their mental health”.“[UpRising] helped me learn how to talk with people, and cooperate with them… team work was the biggest thing I took out from it, but also like the guest speakers were incredible.

Following her time on the programme, Dominika went on to complete a Consumer Psychology Masters at Anglia Ruskin University. Continuing to be inspired by the knowledge and skills she’d been able to develop with UpRising, she began creating outreach content for other young people who are in a similar position to her: “I’ve created a YouTube channel as well where I talk about study in the UK and personal development, and that’s my thing that I would like to help people about.  Give them some advice, career advice, and if they want to study in the UK and help themselves”. 

Alongside her work with students at Cranfield University, Dominika continues to be an active member of the UpRising alumni community, and has written guest blog contributions for the UpRising Voices blog. She has also taken on an important role as a governor on the board at Bedford College after feeling it needed to have better representation of other cultures and different types of people. She is also encouraging people to express themselves through art and artistic expression via Instagram page she created called Divine Spiral Art (@divinespiralart). Dominika always had a passion for drawing and mandala creations but only recently she realised that she can connect talking about mental health through art expression.

[UpRising] made me aware of different leadership styles and actions that we can do to improve our communities, our lives, our future.