When I was eighteen I declined a place at university to study Art in favour of full time employment. This decision allowed my partner-now-husband and I to get onto the property ladder at an early age and subsequently, we were in a secure financial position to start a family in the years that followed. I have loved every moment of my family’s journey, yet ever since I stood at those crossroads many years ago and made those decisions, obtaining a degree was always something I always wished I had done; my personal ‘what if’.
I have realised that my children will not be children forever. My husband and I were fairly young when we became parents, we are now preparing for the next chapter of our lives together; we continue to support each other as a couple, a family, and as individuals with distinctive dreams and aspirations. Working in a state secondary school as examinations officer for the past fourteen years has allowed me to spend quality time with my family, a work-life balance I know I would not have had the luxury of experiencing in other fields of employment, and I am most grateful for this. During this time I have developed a love of learning and a passion for education, which is why I chose to study BA Hons Education and Special Educational Needs. I enrolled as a mature student at the Holy Cross University Centre in Bury in August 2015, feeling equally excited and petrified. In fact, on reflection, I would say that my entire experience as a mature student has been equally challenging and enjoyable, and both in significant measures.
As a mature student, I found juggling full time employment, a full time degree course, and busy family life immensely hard at times. However, I was thoroughly enjoying studying at degree level and my course content was fascinating. This, along with consistently looking ahead to my end goal, made the long nights bent over my laptop with little sleep much more bearable! A journal of some description and a highlighter became almost permanently attached to my hand, day and night, during pantomime rehearsals, swimming lessons and dance practises. I found myself envying the cohorts of young college graduates, the majority of which have more time study at a degree level with less adult or family commitments. Yet envious as I often was when sleep deprived and under pressure to meet deadlines, I realise that I would probably not have gained or maintained similar levels of academic achievement, resilience and determination if I had taken this commitment on at a younger age. I also realise that life experience has allowed me to reflect on the content on my course more thoroughly and deliberately.
The university tutors and college support tutors were incredibly supportive and understanding. Resources and communication services were excellent, and this helped me enormously to succeed. I am extremely proud to see my hard work and dedication come to fruition. Some of my year two assignment work is now used within the Liverpool Hope University’s teacher training department and contributes to training pre-service teachers and their understanding of the government’s SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Furthermore, my academic achievements were recognised by Hope’s Department of Disability and Education at a separate awards ceremony on the morning of my graduation. I am extremely grateful that this type of study is available through Holy Cross and the Network of Hope for mature students; there is no other way I would have been able to gain a degree whilst working full time and I would definitely recommend the university centre to others. I am passionate about education and equality and now intend to put my passions into practice. Holy Cross University Centre has opened doors for me; I am now able to apply for certain roles advertised at higher salaries and am excited at the prospect of finding a new career, albeit that I may now take a few stepping stones until I come to find my ideal role. Career wise, I am not yet sure what the future holds for me and I intend to ask for guidance from the university’s careers department, but I feel like I am stood on an edge about to take flight….and it feels amazing.