Background – FE to HE

In the next few posts, I want to write about my academic background, where I have come from, the different routes I took, and reflect on the challenges to getting to where I am today. In this post, I write about my time from Further Education to Higher Education.

I didn’t start my academic life from a traditional educational background. I am certainly not a high flying, highly intelligent individual, rather I have to work hard at whatever I need to do so that I can accomplish it to a high standard – or at least as high as I am able to.

I left Further Education with, what appears to be now, very poor results. I managed to achieve two, poor A Levels (in chemistry (D) and biology (D)). How I will never know? I spent my final A-Level year travelling between three different colleges across the city of Stoke-on-Trent just to study chemistry. Often there were times where I missed lessons as I was stuck in traffic or there was a timetable clash.

My application for my first high education setting, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, must have been really good to allow me to be accepted even though I had not matched any of the entry requirements. However, things weren’t meant to be. To prevent me from rambling on, I’ll keep it short. I wasn’t exactly treated very well in the Halls of Residence whilst at the University and I decided that after three months of unpleasantness I would leave the University and head off to the wonderful world of supermarkets.

I spend about year and a half working full time at a supermarket in Edinburgh. I moved quickly from a checkout operator to working on the customer service desk to eventually finding my place in the administration office. I learnt a lot whilst working there. Meeting tight stock deadlines, multitasking and handling request from fellow colleagues across the entire shop. It was hard work, challenging, but not mentally stimulating enough to keep me amused.

It was about a year working full time when I became bored. To keep myself amused, I started an Open University course called, an Introduction to Science. I still liked science, but I wasn’t ready to commit to a full education programme. It didn’t take long for the spark of learning to ignite my desire to get back into higher education. In the summer of 2008 I applied to study for a BSc in chemistry with biochemistry at Keele University.

The first couple of weeks at Keele University were incredibly intense. I knew that I didn’t have the firm educational background needed to study chemistry and biochemistry. I also knew that I had spent 2 years out of education and so getting back into studying was difficult. But what kept me going was the knowledge that someone at the University gave me a chance. Someone took the time to look at me and understand where I had come from. To this day I am incredibly grateful for that act of kindness, and I will always remember where I came from and those who have helped me to be where I am today.

Everyone has to work hard, but ‘hard’ is relative to the individual’s situation and personal circumstance. I do not find writing easy (see this post). I do not find science easy to understand – I often have to sit down and look at the concept, review it and test my knowledge and understanding of it. It does take a long time for me to ‘get it’. But I can find ways around a problem and get to the end goal eventually.

In the next post, I wish to write more about my time at Keele University and my studies as a PhD student at the University of St Andrews.

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