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Name: Kelly
Course: BA (Hons) Social StudiesKelly

"My journey started 3 years ago. It was March 2017 and my little boy who was 9 at the time was graduating with his school for a project which Warwick University had organised. Presentation evening came and he was awarded his certificate, there was a speech by a lady called Maria, her presentation mentioned there were opportunities for adult learners to study without the necessary qualifications normally required to access higher education. This sounded perfect for my situation, I left school over nearly 20 years ago with dreadful GCSE result and it’s something I always regretted. I am now a mother to 4 boys; they all attend school and I was at a point in my life where I wanted/needed something to do. My life had become dormant an endless cycle of doing nothing. In the years pervious I had become unwell and in 2016 I had lifechanging surgery. So, by the time 2017 came I finally felt well and was itching for something to do.

The night of my son’s graduation I went straight home and searched the university website. Gateway to Higher Education immediately caught my eye and I applied without hesitation, not even the personal statement put me off applying. Things happened very quickly after that; within 48 hours I was in Steve Gascoigne’s office having an interview. Steve was enthusiastic, funny and was keen to get to know the real me. I felt confident for the first time in a long time that I had made the right decision and by the time I had got back to my car to leave campus I had received an email offering me a place on the course. Wow, I could not believe it!

The Gateway class started just a few weeks later and I was nervous, so many questions were going through my head; was I good enough? Could I speak out in class? Those questions seemed pointless now I think back. Every week I went to class on a Tuesday morning, I looked forward to Steve reading my short essays, I looked forward to the marks I got, which were never bad. I never even thought about skipping a class because I could not be bothered unlike when I was at school 20 years ago and never wanted to go. It was like I was finally ready to learn.

So, when the final essay, exam and presentation was complete, I waited and prayed it was enough. I needed at least 60% to get onto a full-time degree and it was something I wanted so bad. The results came through mid-summer and I was overjoyed to see I had achieved 62% and was offered a place to start in October that year.

The first year on the Social Studies degree was stressful. I think if it was not for a couple of close friends who I started my journey with on Gateway I would have quit there and then, they helped me through and gave me the confidence I needed to carry on. What also helped was the module, Creativity, which was run by Sally Tissington. She had a relaxed nature about her and always made me feel comfortable and never pressured me to read out in class if I did not want to. I was surprised by how creative I was and I really enjoyed writing which was not always on an academic level. Sally seemed to enjoy my work, and this was evident by the amount of 1st I received throughout my assignments.

However, by the end of my first year, my health had declined. I spent the whole of the third term and longer in hospital. The CLL team were fantastic and very supportive of my situation, they arranged extensions for my assignments which I tried my best to work on from my hospital bed but evidently, I was too unwell and couldn’t do anything till I returned home. One week after I returned home, I had little choice but to return to university to do a presentation; It was a group presentation and if I did not show up, I would fail and so would my team. So, I got my husband to drive me and I sat on a chair and did my bit. It was absolutely awful, because I was still recovering from being in a coma, I could barely talk and was very shaky, but I got through it, not just for me but for my team. I finally finished the year with a 2:1 and I was relieved.

The second year was approaching, and I was not sure if I wanted to return to university. I was still weak from being ill and my wounds had still not healed. I decided to meet up with Elaine Moore, the CLL Welfare Officer. Elaine was fantastic and listened to my worries and concerns, she helped me realise that I had already achieved so much in my life and although she could not help me decide whether to return to university or not, she was there to listen and reassure me that my concerns were normal after such a traumatic event in my life.

After much deliberating I decided I wanted to return. In October 2018, I started my second year. The year started with a bang, it was instantly clear that this year was going to be very different from the first year and that gave me a buzz. Research took up most of the year and it was something I enjoyed intently. I also had social work and mindfulness modules, which I both loved for very different reasons. Mindfulness was a module I enjoyed because it helped me deal with the trauma from my hospital stay at the beginning of the year. Dr Dean Howes is a lovely guy, who listens intently and supportively to every conversation from every student. Whereas Social Work has a special place in my heart because I am a mother and I feel like I have a protective nature, it is a module I did very well in. During this year, I also joined the CLL student ambassador team and I absolutely loved it. It gave me the opportunity to talk to new people and grow in confidence while doing it. I finally finished the year with a 2:1 and was so glad the year was over. The whole year was mentally and physically draining but I would do it all over again if I could.

My final year started in 2019 and this year I was excited. All summer I had a very clear plan. Whereas in year one and two I attended university 5 days a week and had up to 6 modules making up 120 CATS. The plan in the final year was to have just four 30 CAT modules, this would free up time to work on the dissertation plus give me more time at home with the boys and hubby. This plan worked and allowed me to attend the university 2 days a week. However, there was a downside to this, I missed the friendships I had developed over the time and I felt lonely and despondent and I never thought I would feel that way. I am a naturally quiet and shy person so normally this would be fine with me but over the course of 3 years, I had grown close to others and it was strange not seeing them every day. This is when I began to realise that this is what life would be like after university, we would all go our separate ways and we would not see each other as often. This is when I accepted university is not going to last forever but our friendships will still go on.

Now that my university journey is over and the entire three years have flown by very quickly, I have made some amazing friends who have been with me through the good times and the bad. However, they were not bad they were just tough, life is full of tough times and that is what makes us as people stronger. University is hard, it is supposed to be. Would I change it? No. Do I regret it? No. Would I do it again? Absolutely. University has helped me grow as a person. 20 years ago, I left school with 7 F’s and 3 E’s for my GCSE’s. In the year 2020, I graduated from University with a BA Honours in Social Studies and hopefully a pass for GCSE English which I also completed at college in my final year at university whilst studying full-time and trying to complete a dissertation, it has been a busy year.

What is next for me?

I love learning, I love the drive it gives you. I love knowing that after all my hard work, I can succeed. So, for me I am going to carry on studying and I will be applying for the MA in Psychology and Education at the University of Warwick.

My advice for the next generation of adult learners is go for it! You have got nothing to lose!"