Case study

Finding
my own
voice

University is a place where you can find yourself. Sile Sibanda found more than that - she found her voice. Sile is a poet, a singer and, now, a BBC Radio presenter.

Sile Sibanda tells her student story

View Sile's story video transcript

Being heard

For Sile, it started with her poetry. Not only writing it but performing it. For two years in a row, she’s been part of our team at the UniSlam Festival – that’s the UK’s largest team poetry performance tournament.

She says: “Taking part in this three-day competition gave me a chance to be around people who love poetry as much as I do. I also learned new skills that made me a stronger writer and performer. I met new people who will become my lifelong friends.”

Sile also joined the African Caribbean Society and the Gospel Choir. She says: “The societies I've been involved in have had the biggest impact on me. They taught me how to socialise with other students my age. I gained a lot more self-confidence.

“University gave me the opportunity to discover myself and my place in the world. And the most important thing I’ve learned is to trust myself and believe in myself.”

A student using the radio production suites
Sile has been our Facebook Live presenter and is now working for BBC Radio

Home away from home

Sile joined us through Clearing to study BSc (Hons) Forensic Science with Psychology. She says: “I felt so grateful to be offered a place at the University. Knowing that I actually had the chance to go to university was a big thing. My family was happy, especially my mum – she wanted to study Forensics before, so the fact that I got the chance to was amazing.

“I was excited because I was finally going to be independent and start my own journey in life. I could decide what time I can leave and come back home, what I wanted to eat, how to decorate my room – and no more sisters to steal my clothes.”

But, even though Sile was starting a new journey in a new place, there was something familiar about Derby. She says: “I loved how friendly and welcoming everyone was at the University. During the Open Day, the staff told me what I needed to know about the course, the accommodation, the city and making the best out of university.

“I wanted to come to the Derby because it reminded me of my town, I could see it as my home away from home. I felt comfortable. Derby wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too small – it was just right.”

First impressions

When Sile arrived in Derby on her first day, there were a lot more people than she had been expecting. “I remember seeing an atrium full of different people, from different countries and representing different societies,” she says. “The first few days are great, you get to meet different people.”

She also realised she had more free time than she had thought she would have. But this comes with a warning. “You don’t have someone telling you what to do and not to do,” she says. “You have to be independent and organise yourself - you have to be responsible and know your limits. Study. But have fun!

“One of the first societies I got involved in was ACS, which is the African Caribbean Society. I’m having fun, we socialise and have different events, like Black History Month, where they organised debates between lecturers and students. For me, it was really good to see lecturers and students collaborating together and debating.”

And Black History Month has given Sile one of her favourite University memories, when she performed her poetry. “I enjoyed the reception I received from the audience and the debate was really interesting and intriguing,” she says.

Sile also loves our free Unibus service – though she doesn’t always use it. “Sometimes I enjoy walking because I can clear my mind and get ready for the day,” she says. “It’s about a 30-minute walk to the campus from my student accommodation. And having Markeaton Park right next door to the University is a bonus.

“The staff are so down to earth. Not just academic but marketing, accounting, library, student services. They will help you when you need it. If you have a gift, they will give you opportunities to explore that gift and possibly get to do it in real life.”

A student using the radio production suites

Behind the mic

For anyone who knows Sile now, it’s hard to imagine her without her voice, without her confidence. If you follow us on social media, you may well know her. She has been the presenter for many of our Facebook Live broadcasts, chatting with guests, bringing our story to the wider world.

And she is soon going to be presenting to a new audience. She has got a job with BBC Radio Sheffield through their This Is Me opportunity. The radio station was looking for the authentic voice of North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. That voice is Sile’s.

She says: “I feel like coming to Derby was the best decision I ever made. I’ve grown as a person, I’ve grown more independent. Through university and doing poetry, I found my voice and I was able to go out and then apply for a job and be confident that I’m able to do it.

“I’m able to stand up for myself and be confident and believe in myself and in what I can achieve. I am looking forward to what my future has in store as I use the skills I learned here at Derby.”