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South Asian Heritage Month: Rajwinder Kaur

My name is Rajwinder Kaur, and I have worked at the university for the last 17 years and this is my story.

I was born, raised, and studied in the Punjab region of India. I studied Bachelor of science degree but always knew that my life ahead would not involve working in this field, because of travel and security issues, that was the only option allowed by parents. My life in India was a happy one, we lived in a small community and everyone’s door was always open, just stepping outside my house I would often find my cousins, aunts and neighbours chatting while we enjoyed the sunshine. Loved home-made food.

Leaving my studies in 2004, I was introduced to a young man from Bradford, UK and twelve days later we were married and four days later he returned to Bradford. I was soon to follow a few months later. Leaving parents and 2 brothers behind was very difficult, this was the first time going far away from them.

Rajwinder Kaur University Receptionist

Rajwinder Kaur - University Receptionist

Leaving my studies in 2004, I was introduced to a young man from Bradford, UK and twelve days later we were married and four days later he returned to Bradford. I was soon to follow a few months later. Leaving parents and 2 brothers behind was very difficult, this was the first time going far away from them.

 My memories of arriving in Bradford are of the cold and shivering, I feel as if I did not get used to the cold for a few years. Not only the weather was bad, I didn’t like the food at that time and also felt lonely and scared. I did not know anyone, and my husband and his family would go out to work during the day and I was left alone at home, with no one to communicate with. Even though I studied in India, my spoken English was non-existent. In Bradford there was a strong Yorkshire accent with which I was not familiar. I spent my days alone, there was only so much TV I could watch, and waiting for my family to come home. I relied heavily on my husband and mother-in-law in terms of communicating for me such as Dr’s appointments speaking to the neighbours etc. I went through such a challenging time feeling lonely and depressed.

Soon my husband and mother-in-law started to notice the way I was feeling. At this time, my mother-in-law was working at the University of Bradford as a cleaner and suggested for me to apply for an opening that became available. Even though I was anxious about not being able to communicate in English and my husband wasn’t in favour for me to work as cleaner as he knew that I was overqualified for that post. I came to the interview with my mother-in-law, who sat in with me for the interview as an interpreter. I was so happy I got the job but was worried about how I was going to cope, as I had not worked before. My mother-in-law encouraged me, saying this way I could communicate with other people in English, and this would help me. I started off on the early shift from 6-9 where I did not get to meet many people and those, I did were like me, of the south Asian heritage and we communicated in our first language, however I enjoyed the company.

My family then encouraged me to enrol on a ESOL course at Bradford College, which initially was basic, but I persevered and benefited from this. This then started to give me a little confidence in myself.

In 2007 a day clearers job became available and that is when I started to practice my English and it started to improve. I continued to work at the university and had another job in a school, working as a cleaner. This was quite difficult coming from one job and then going to another. So, I decided to look for a full-time position in the school and was successful. At the same time, an opportunity to gain EDCL qualification came. I jumped at the chance as I knew this would open more doors for me. While I was doing the ECDL the trainer encouraged me to use my newfound skills to apply for other jobs at the university, however I still did not meet the skill set that was required for this post. After unsuccessfully looking at jobs at the university I decided to apply for a packing job at Farmers Boy and I was offered the position. I went to tell my manager and she said, ‘I cannot see you packing sausages, you can do better than that’ and that is the boost of confidence I needed. My manager told me about the position of a waste operator which I was already familiar with this post, and these additional hours meant my post would then be almost full time.

As I was becoming more confident now and had that ambition to move higher I approached my manager and spoke about how I would like to volunteer in some kind of office duties as this was my ambition to progress, she kindly offered me three hours three time a week  in the Estates office to answer calls etc I did this for six month and gained the experience I needed to build up my CV. Armed with this started to apply for administrative jobs at the university.  I applied for one at the library and one as a cleaning co-Ordinator and again I was knocked back as I still did not have the experience. Meanwhile a   full-time job came up on the reception desk which I then ,missed the deadline for, however it wasn’t long before the position came up again in January of 2020, and I tried my luck again, and a close friend working at the university helped me with the application and to my amazement they offered me the job. I cannot tell you how happy I was, and my family were so proud when I got home, my mother-in-law started crying when I told her this news. I continued to learn about the job and meet new people, I am still learning every day. After six month I was offered a full-time position and I jumped at the chance.

I often remember my husband taking me to a hospital appointment and saying ‘I’m going to wait here for you’ I looked at him in shock, he continued ‘you need to find your own way to the right department and speak to the Dr yourself, I don’t know how you are going to do it but you will find a way’ and he ushered me out of the car.  To this day I do not know how I did it, but I somehow did it. From that day forward I told myself I am going to do everything for myself, and I have not looked back since.

My mother in law has been my biggest influence and you don’t often hear this in the south Asian culture. I often looked at her and thought how she did it all, she had not even attended school yet she was working and managing to communicate in her broken English and live her life without any help, this is what I wanted for myself. Today the roles have reversed I do all the things she did for me and help her as much as I can.

I have met some wonderful people at the university and outside   who have encouraged and supported me. I am so proud of myself, and my achievements and I will continue to learn and go forward. I am proud to be a member of the University of Bradford community, and I encourage everyone to live their dreams.