Coming from a working-class background and disillusioned by her school experience, Abbie Tibbott is the first to say that entering the world of academia was not something she expected to achieve for herself.
Yet, her ambition of taking her education into her own hands led her to join The University of Reading and to become the first in her family to go to university.
"The welcome I received from Reading's History department removed any hesitation I had about whether going to university was the right decision. The supportive environment enabled me to navigate my way into university life, while my Academic Tutor and lecturers helped to demystify what academia is."
The first semester had lots of workshops that focused on study skills, research tips and employability and Abbie found that small seminar groups made it easy to make friends.
Abbie chose Reading as she wanted to study topics that weren’t taught in schools. From the broad range of modules on offer, she was particularly impressed with the department’s expertise in women’s and gender history.
“During my first semester, I took a module on Victorian childhood and gender. I visited the Museum of English Rural Life at the London Road campus and read accounts of WWII evacuees. This was my first hands-on archive experience, and further ignited my passion for women's history and material culture."
As she progressed on her degree, Abbie chose modules that helped her cover a broad base of time periods with the interconnecting theme of women.
“I'd always wanted to find out more about how a woman's role in society today had come to be, and I was able to study both the social and political evolution of women from the medieval to the present day.”
In her final year, Abbie chose a module about the first female MPs in Britain, which also explored the development of women’s political rights and their place in society during the interwar period. As part of the learning experience, Abbie was able to visit Parliament:
“Touring the House of Lords, watching a debate in the House of Commons and soaking up the atmosphere of Britain's political epicentre was a fantastic insight into political history that I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to experience.”
Rising to the next level
Abbie’s newfound passion for education and women’s history saw her return to Reading to pursue her master’s degree, working as a Historical Impact Assistant for the Astor 100 project, to celebrate the centenary of the first woman to take her seat in British Parliament.
“I was involved in selecting materials from the Nancy Astor papers to reproduce as part of a gift box given to passengers aboard the Nancy Astor Express, named by Great Western Railway (GWR) in her honour. I and several other students produced publicity material and participated in interviews on behalf of the University. We recorded podcasts and also presented a small travelling exhibition in Parliament at the Astor 100 conference. I also had one-to-one time with former Prime Minister Theresa May.”
Abbie is now pursuing her PhD on Conservative Cabinet politics of the 1920s, with a focus on citizenship and women’s voting rights. Recognising her achievements and the fact that she was not defined by her school education, she says:
"Today, I’m a completely different person to who I was five years ago. I’m confident in who I am and ready to take the next step to join the world of academia as an educator."
Abbie's next ambition is to teach, using her own research and to become a mentor for young, working-class students from educationally deprived backgrounds. She credits the University's History department with setting her on her next journey to become Dr Tibbott!
Abbie's story can be found in our undergraduate History brochure. Please view the brochure to learn more about our undergraduate degrees.