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KarenName: Karen
Course: BA (Hons) Social Studies

My Journey as a Full-time Social Studies Student: from Gateway to Degree and beyond.

I had always thought about returning to education, but it was one of those things that I kept putting off. It never seemed the right time, and often life was just so hectic, that it just got put on the back burner. I always felt that I had more in me, despite failing my A-levels many moons ago. Then in the Spring of 2016 an advert for the Gateway course popped up on my Facebook feed. I had never heard of Gateway before, but when I read into it, I got very excited. Finally, I had hope that I could return to education. The Interview and admissions process were straight forward, and I was signed up.

Gateway was delivered in an excellent way and within no time I was back in the learning mode, although writing my 1st essay was a little daunting after 22 years. I was determined to do well in both the written and presentation assessments, so that I could be accepted onto the full-time Social Studies degree course. The Gateway course taught me study skills, how to work with others, essay writing skills and academic reading skills. Although, a compact course, it was amazing how much was packed into so little time. I got to know the others on the gateway course really well; and by the end felt very confident about my ability to study at degree level.

In September 2016 I embarked on my degree course, full of enthusiasm, all be it a little nervous. I chose a mixture of modules, as I was not sure what I wanted to have as my major at that time. Finding my way around the university was a challenge, as was trying to find books in the library. I worked hard and was pleased to average a 2:1 at the end of my 1st year. The exams I took were terrifying, as I hate exams, but I did better than I thought I would do. Unfortunately, on starting back for my 2nd year in the Autumn term of 2017, I got the wobbles and totally lost my confidence. So, I withdrew from university. I think it was a combination of choosing the wrong modules for year two, and the stress of struggling to park on arrival at campus each day.

Some time later (18 months to be precise), I decided that I missed University and that I really wanted to finish off my degree. After all, the year I had completed; would be all for nothing if I did not return and do the final two years. Apprehensively I approached CLL to request that I go back, not knowing if it was possible at all. Thankfully, I was accepted back and was able to choose modules for my second year. I decided to have sociology as my major and choose eight 15 Cat modules. I made the decision to do things differently on returning to Warwick, to make my experience less stressful and so that I could throw myself fully into my studies. This included paying for wrap around care for my daughter at the school kids club (so that I wasn’t limited to what modules I could choose) and being dropped off at university by my husband (and getting the bus home), so that parking would not be an issue (as it had been before).

I am now coming to the end of my 2nd year and I cannot believe how fast an academic year goes. I have enjoyed my studies immensely and have seen my writing skills improve so much. Despite two lots of strikes and this current Covid-19 crisis, I have surprised myself with a couple of firsts in my assignments. I am currently awaiting the results of my other Spring term assignments and am hopeful of getting good grades for them. During lockdown I have connected with several CLL students which has been good. It is nice to have intelligent conversations sometimes. I have provisionally chosen my modules for my final year and have a topic for my dissertation too.

I am apprehensive as to how my final year will pan out, with all that is going on and so much uncertainty around this virus and what that will mean for how I study. I am determined and know that whatever happens, that I will do my best. I look forward to connecting with other students more, however that may be, whether in person or through video calls. The support that other students give is invaluable and makes studying as a mature student that much easier. Once I have completed my degree, I hope to go on to do a masters (possibly in Criminology) and after that who knows. Part of me would love to go all the way and do a PhD, and should I make it I will feel very proud of such an achievement. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I was made to feel that I would never achieve very much. So now is my time to prove all the doubters wrong. I started my degree at the age of 44 and I will be 49 when I graduate; proving it is never too late to go back into education. Sure, it is challenging and yes it can be stressful at times; but it is also extremely rewarding. I highly recommend Warwick to those reading this. The lecturers are excellent and there is so much support. Take the plunge, you will not regret it!