“Love brought me here.”

Bea Underwood

Bea Underwood is a Student and Education Support Administrator, providing programme administration, support and advice for undergraduate and taught postgraduate students across Humanities and Social Sciences, Cornwall. Prior to working in ‘The Hub’, Bea held several roles in the former English department, Cornwall, and also worked in the Library for Falmouth University. And, as a graduate of Exeter as well, Bea has genuinely seen life in Penryn from almost every conceivable angle.

In our twelfth Penryn Perspective, Bea tells us a love story – of her family, her campus and her university.

“With a German mother and an American dad, my childhood was split between the Bavarian Alps and Chicago. My formative years, however, were spent in Munich, and it was there that I met my husband, who was of that generation from the 1980s who had had to leave Cornwall in order to find a good job. There were lots of Cornish people in Munich at that time, and we met when he was essentially ready to go back home. He ended up staying for me, but I knew that our relationship would eventually take me to Cornwall…so love brought me here.

“I’d been to Cornwall on holidays in the years before, so I knew what to expect when we relocated in 1999. At that stage, there was talk about the Combined Universities in Cornwall; Tremough had been bought, and we were all curious as to what was going to happen, and whether it would stop the brain drain of educated people. We were literally looking through the gaps in the fence as the campus started to take shape. And when they announced that they were demolishing the pool at the old convent school to make room for a new student gym – the pool where my children had learned to swim – I was among the demonstrators who gathered for the visit of Prince Edward!

“In September 2004, I secured a job at Falmouth, working in the Library. We looked after both Falmouth and Exeter students, and you got to meet so many people, and that was really exciting. I worked part-time, often in the evenings and on weekends, so I tended to see a lot of mature students and was inspired by them. And because Cornwall and England were becoming my new home, and I had gaps in my knowledge that only education could fill, I decided to take the plunge and do a degree in English Literature, which I started in 2007.

“It was fascinating to study English Literature, and at that time, we were sharing lectures with Streatham colleagues, and I loved that because we had such a variety of academics teaching us. And I kept my job, so term-times were full on with two little children, as well as the challenge of taking a degree in your second language. But I was so determined to get my degree because I was the first member of family to go to university. I genuinely kept pinching myself because I couldn’t believe I was doing it. And graduation was such a fantastic occasion, and I remember Floella Benjamin saying that we could be proud of our achievements, and I thought, ‘yeah, you’re right!’.

“Once I finished my degree, I thought ‘what now?’. And one day, as I was walking between two buildings on campus, I thought to myself ‘I don’t want to leave – I love it here’. And it was a while later that a colleague of mine said that the administrator from English was leaving and there was post coming up – so I applied for that. I started working as a temp, and then as a programme administrator for English. That was in 2011, and from then on, my job kept changing, taking on new departments like History, before we had the big transformation of going into one HUB at Penryn. At that point, I started to look after various subjects such as Mathematics as well. So, it’s the kind of role that keeps evolving to something different, something new, and we all help each other, supporting colleagues across the University.

“I love the journey of welcoming students in Freshers Week and seeing them all the way through to graduation. And I always volunteer for the graduation ceremonies, because you get these spontaneous hugs from the students, and it’s lovely to be a part of that moment. I’m also lucky, as a Scout Leader, to have been able to provide volunteering opportunities for students, and to bring local children onto campus for events such as the Bioblitz, or to work on their library badge.

“And while the campus has changed, with so many new buildings, it’s the atmosphere of working for a university that is so important to me. It’s international, it’s on the pulse of time, and you will always come across good stories in the media from the University. And I can say, ‘I’m an alumna! I work for them!’. It makes me very proud.”