12/11/2013 09:06 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Fifth Week Blues, Beetroot Soup and a Light at the End of the Tunnel

The phenomenon of fifth week blues has struck me with a vengeance. I have been in Cambridge studying French and Russian for five weeks now and this is the point in term where everyone starts to feel a bit gloomy.

First years who were initially energised by the excitement of immersing themselves in their subjects now feel overwhelmed, overworked and overtired in their noble quest for knowledge.

I fell victim to fifth week blues when, earlier this week, my Russian teacher asked me (in Russian) "How have you prepared for this lesson?" I replied (in a vaguely Slavic tone) "I made beetroot soup." My learned supervisor proceeded to rest her head on the table in despair for a period of two minutes. Evidently, she was disappointed that I hadn't whipped out a thermos.

Furthermore, the Russian alphabet remains indecipherable, all the books I need to write my essay this week are on loan and I am running out of pants.

At this point in time, I cannot comprehend how I will finish all of my work, which is why I am positively procrastinating by writing this blog. But older, wiser and weathered second years have reliably informed me that a combination of Alka - Seltzer, coffee and Daniel Bedingfield's seminal track "I Gotta Get Thru This" are sure-fire ways to combat fifth week blues.


I have taken on board this advice and can safely say that I am slowly beginning to regain my sanity. However, the light at the end of the tunnel for me is the prospect of the Women of the Future Awards Ceremony which will take place on Wednesday 13th November.

The idea of being in the same room with other shortlisted candidates who have done amazing work for their industry is not only hugely humbling but really puts my essay crises into a rather harsh perspective. The work that I am currently fretting over is important to a certain extent, but I cannot help but question the value that it has in a wider context.

Sure, if you ever need to order beetroot soup in a Russian speaking country, I'm your girl.

But who is really benefitting from this study apart from me?

I have huge admiration for these women who devote their time and energy to working for a cause greater than their own academic development. Ultimately, that's what I want to do.

I miss the rewarding feeling I used to have after delivering a "Dare 2 B Different" presentation at a school or training a group of apprentices to go out and deliver a CV workshop at a local college. I knew that my work and efforts would have a positive impact. Even if it was just one student out of one hundred who felt inspired to follow their own path. These days I just feel sorry for my Russian supervisor having to deal with my subconscious and unusual fixation with Russian soups.

But if I take a moment to reflect on the successes of "Dare 2 B Different" I feel an overwhelming sense of pride.

• I trained 300 IBM employees to go out and deliver "Dare to be Different"

• 185 schools participated in the programme within the first 10 months of its launch

• This averages out to 11,000 students

However, some successes cannot be quantified. I am not only proud of the initiative itself, but also of other members of the team who supported me in rolling out the programme. I am proud that IBM will continue to support "Dare 2 B Different" as an active part of their diversity strategy. I am proud of the increased awareness about the importance of diversity that "Dare 2 B Different" created within IBM. I am proud of the improved understanding of opportunities for young people in business and technology that "Dare 2 B Different" instilled in schools.

I am just super proud.

As I trawl through my Russian grammar books, revelling in the complexities of the perfective and imperfective case, deciphering letters that look more like variations of stick men and desperately try not to sound like a Welshman when speaking the language, I take a moment to remember "Dare 2 B Different" and consider its future successes.

And also look forward to wearing a pretty dress on Wednesday. But that goes without saying.