Blake’s Story

What was your pathway since leaving school?

After school I spend a year in further education resitting GCSEs and doing a few A-Levels that interested me. The next year I had to pick more courses to complete, none of which interested me, so I ended up leaving towards the end of the first term and got a job in retail. From there I ended up working nights for years. Eventually, for health reasons, I left retail and moved roles entirely to become a passenger assistant, helping transport disabled adults and kids. I was not in the new role for long before deciding to return to education.

What made you come back to education?

Working around those kids and with a colleague who was putting himself through an accounting course is what gave me the push and motivation to return myself. Even though I knew it would be difficult financially I wanted to make it work.

What courses did you start with, where did you study and why did you choose that course?

Access to HE -Allied Health (Human Physiology and Sociology). I scoured through the UCAS website looking at which degrees interested me. In the end I only had science tabs open and settled on Forensic Science, and the Access to HE course had a human physiology component which was what I needed. Initially, however, I had no idea that Access courses existed and I was fully prepared to go back through A-Levels to get to uni. Fortunately my tutor from my first day on the A-Level course also ran the Access course and so I was able to transfer to it.

What kind of barriers or concerns did you encounter? How did you work through these? Who supported you? Where did you find help?

My only barriers were financial, but I was able to make it through with support from the college, friends and family.

Looking back to that decision to return to education, what advice would you give yourself now that you’ve completed your course?

You don’t need to take as many things with you when you move to student accommodation as you think you do! And things are hard during a pandemic, don’t lose your ability to make good lecture notes!

What would you want others who are thinking about returning to education to know?

Itwas the best decision I have made. I opted to move and live on campus and I have met so many amazing people and been presented with opportunities I would have never otherwise have dreamed of. Beyond that it gave me a space to realise more about myself, improve my mental and physical health and it allowed me to make plans for the future for the first time in….ever.

What did you go on to do after gaining the qualifications you chose?

Since completing the Access course I have moved to university, met some fantastic friends, become an ambassador, representative and Committee member for the university, my course, and for the LGBTQ+ society. I have also discovered that Forensic Science was not the correct choice for me and have moved to studying sociology (which my Access tutor predicted!).

How do you think returning to education as an adult is different to continuing into college and then Uni from school?

I am here because I want to be here. While in school I always felt forced to study and therefore never wanted to. This time though I am here for me, not because anyone told me to but because I want to reach the wasted potential I was always told I had.

How many different plates did you have to spin in your personal / professional life? Where does/did study fit in? (E.g. are you a parent or have someone you care for, do you work etc?)

My other responsibilities were reasonably low and as such I didn’t face the same challenges many others on the course did.

What benefits has returning to education brought you?

An LGBT accepting community and friends, a wealth of other cultures and religions, access to housing and employment opportunities, improved mental health and the ability to finally acceptance that I am Trans. And none of that even touches on the education aspect!

What five words do you associate with your higher education journey?

Confidence, challenging, inspiring, exciting, determination