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In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

Mona Siddiqui: Welcome to this week’s One Regret, One Hope. My guest today is Toni Jenkins – Toni – thank you for joining me. Tell us about your work at the University.

Toni Jenkins: Thank you for inviting me, Mona. I’m the Postgraduate Research Support Officer in the School of Social & Political Science and I’ve worked in various roles at the University for 10 years. My main responsibilities include managing the on-programme support for our Postgraduate Research (PGR) students and running the scholarships recruitment cycles and ongoing provision. We’re a large, active school so we’re kept busy supporting our 370 PGR students!

MS: How have you found life over the last few months?

TJ: I’m pretty lucky as I have a writing room which I converted into an office so I’m well set up working from home. I’ve kept the same daily routine throughout to keep work and home life separate which has helped. During the summer we spent a lot of time in our garden which has become even more precious since the pandemic hit. I have regular FaceTime chats with family and friends and take plenty of exercise. I think I’m coping well but it will be an amazing feeling to move around freely and meet people again when it’s safe.

MS: How do you think it impacted your students?

TJ: The first few days and weeks of the lockdown in March were crazy! The majority of our PGR population are PhD students, many of whom were on fieldwork all over the world when lockdown happened. There was a flurry of activity trying to assist them with urgently moving back to the UK or their home country before borders shut or planes were grounded, all while the rules and parameters were constantly changing. I think that was a really nerve-wracking time for everyone.

MS: Looking back, do you have any major regret you can share with us?

TJ: About 20 years ago, I had a near death experience from an operation that went wrong, followed by emergency surgery and a few days in ICU. I never had that epiphany you read about people having and I wish I had. I think I was so focused on recovering that I might have missed being more open to that lightbulb moment. I sometimes wonder what changes I might have made in my life or my perspective had that happened. Those near death stories always fascinate me and I feel like I missed out on something rare and special there.

MS: What is the one hope you carry forward?

TJ: My ultimate hope has always been to be a full-time writer. My dream is to make a living from my novels as writing is my greatest passion. I’m one of millions who have that same wish! I’ll always keep writing, not least because I love the process and it’s so good for the soul, and I’ll keep hoping that one day my dream will come true.