Grant’s Story

22 years old, Silloth

Where did you grow up?

Silloth

What did you want to be as a child?

I had no idea! I only worked out what I wanted to do a year ago, and I think there’s too much pressure on children to decide what they want to do from a young age. If you come out the womb knowing what you want to do then that’s great, but otherwise if you work hard and do what you enjoy then you can’t go too far wrong! 

What are you studying now?

I’m just about to finish a PGCE in Secondary English at Manchester Metropolitan University. Before that, I studied for an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in English Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University. 

Why did you decide on this subject/area?

English was always my favourite subject at school and so it felt like a natural progression to study it at degree level. I didn’t think too much about what I would eventually use the degree to go on and do; it was simply a process of choosing something that I would engage with and enjoy studying for three (or eventually four) years.  In my third year, I decided to go into teaching after experiences of working in schools in Thailand and also working as a peer writing mentor at Lancaster University. It felt like the right thing to do at the time and I thought that I would be well suited to it, and fortunately it’s worked out well so far!

Has your career or education taken any unexpected turns? What were they?

I never thought that I would go on to do a Masters degree or a PGCE when I was first applying for university, so I guess that they have both been unexpected turns! I don’t plan my life too far in advance, and I think that that’s the best way to be sometimes (or at least that’s what I tell myself). If you have no idea what you’ll be doing this time next year, try to find excitement in it as well as terror.

Why did you decide on this university?

I chose Lancaster because of its reputation and its location primarily; I didn’t want to move too far away from home and also my brother had studied there before me so I was already quite familiar with the campus. I then moved to Manchester, again because of the reputation of the course and also because I’d always wanted to experience proper city life after growing up in such a small town. 

Why did you decide to study for a degree?

When I started sixth form, I didn’t think I going to go to university. I’m not sure why but I just couldn’t see it happening when I was that age. I remember considering an apprenticeship in accounting, which now sounds completely bizarre. As I progressed through sixth form, I realised that I was more academic than I initially thought I was, not just in terms of my grades but also how much I enjoyed learning new things. I remember being pleasantly surprised on my AS level results day and looking back I think those results gave me the confidence to start researching undergraduate degrees and applying for universities.

What did you study at sixth form/college? Why?

The four A level subjects I initially chose were Applied Science, Business Studies, Geography and Maths. I have no idea why I first chose Maths over English – maybe I was still planning a career in accountancy. I soon came to my senses (around 10 minutes in to my first Maths lesson) and swapped Maths for English Language. I remember being very conscious of having a variety in the subjects I chose because I didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards, but if I were to choose again, I would choose simply based on what I enjoyed the most and what I was strongest in.

How did you decide what to do after school/college?

I guess this links back to what I said about enjoying studying and pursuing an interest in English and a desire to spend more time learning about the subject. I had a good feeling about the course and about going to university, so I trusted my gut instinct and applied.

Did anyone help you to decide?

I did feel like there was a push from school during sixth form to get people to apply for university, so maybe that pressure subconsciously affected my decisions at that time. Apart from that, I felt like I had the freedom to choose where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I certainly wasn’t pushed by my parents, which I’m very grateful for looking back because I think that these kinds of decisions are personal and individual.

Who influenced you?

I would say my brother influenced me because he was the first in the family to go to university and he also went to Lancaster, so I guess I followed his lead there.

What support did you get?

My parents are always very supportive but not necessarily practically supportive – they supported me in the decisions I made but they couldn’t advise me on how to write a cover letter!  I remember getting lots of support from the sixth form college when I was applying and writing my application letters though.

What’s the best thing about studying with your university?

I would say the support given by the course leaders and listening to them share their wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience.

What is the best thing about your course?

This year, on the PGCE course, I’d say it’s the people on the course with me. We’re all going through the same process and being able to talk about your experiences with people who can completely relate is invaluable.

Did you find anything difficult about applying for and/or starting a degree? How did you get around this?

Nothing in particular, but I guess it was difficult generally because my entire lifestyle changed and I was living away from home for the first time. You soon get used to going to lectures and seminars, and for me uni began to feel like home pretty quickly.

Were there key any turning points in your journey into a degree?

Again, getting my AS grades made me think about things differently and gave me the confidence to start thinking about going to university.

What tips or advice would you give to someone from your area?

The number one thing I would say is do not be put off by the cost of studying. If you hear someone talking about student debt, correct them and tell them it’s a student tax. If you earn below £25,000 for the rest of your life post university, you won’t pay a penny of your student loan back. In terms of the cost of living, if your parents are on low salaries (like mine were) then you get a considerable level of financial support. Other than that, I would say choose the course that interests you the most, choose a good university and work hard.

What are you looking forward to the most about graduating?

Finally getting started in the world of work after five years of university, although I’m probably going to regret saying that when it comes to September!

Any tips for anyone choosing to study the same course?

For English Language, do all of the reading that has been set and ask the tutors for help whenever you need it – that’s what they’re paid for! For teaching, accept that you’re not going to be an outstanding or even a good teacher straight away, work on a couple of targets at a time and don’t do any work on Friday evenings.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

No idea! I don’t want to know to be honest – that’s what keeps it interesting! Hopefully, I’ll be happy and doing something that I love doing, whether that’s teaching or something else. I’ve had five years of studying at university now, and I’m sure that the qualifications I have achieved will open doors for me and give me options for the future, which is really what studying at university is all about.

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