My lack of qualifications and the sufficient standard of results meant that I could only start learning from a lower level. I had built a little ambition by then but my main reason to go to college was so I wasn’t back being nearly housebound again.
The subject I chose to study was ICT and I was enrolled onto BTEC ICT Level 2. I was kind-of looking forward to college especially the easier schedule. However I really struggled to fit in. There was support there but I feel it didn’t really help as it can make you distance yourself from others more. It can be very helpful but you need to work with them to ensure you gain from them rather than become dependant on them. I was very lonely. I wanted to make friends but I was too withdrawn. Despite this, I got a distinction.
Then onto BTEC Level 3, where I felt I wouldn’t take the support and was coming out of my shell more. I was making more friends, spending time with them on breaks. I was becoming quite comfortable with my tutors too. In year 1 I got a merit and year 2 a distinction. I was moving forward but with the sadness still there.
Remember, I still hadn’t been in any sort of paid job and was very unsure of what I wanted to do. What’s out there was very difficult to envisage as I’d not been in that surrounding. I didn't know what I could do or how I’d cope. I was quite negative. I was still trying to understand myself and what I liked. The college was my safe-place but I was not sure about what else was out there. There could be a lot to say on this topic of belonging.
I felt Business Studies was for me so I applied to Universities when it was the final year before the tuition fee hike. It was merely a phase of keenness on advertising and the like that really pushed me to go for it. Also I felt IT would mean it would not help my extreme shyness whereas business would provide more means of contact with others. I struggled to accumulate the needed UCAS points and I didn’t get in.
Fortunately for me though, the college I was at, ran a Foundation Degree course in Computing but I was unsure sure about this - feeling like it’s a step down from my ambitions. I eventually went with it and I was able to gain more confidence from it.
I found learning quite difficult but the social aspect was much better. There were much more mature students who I felt comfortable around and could get to know. I then got learn more about myself and what I like and would like to do. I began to feel like I could be myself with them. I did struggle with learning and there were so few class hours, this was a shame. I took on support again whilst studying independently. This really helped this time as I didn’t like sitting alone studying in a place where there were a lot of strangers. I find I can go into a negative mindset. Having somebody there to reassure me helped a lot.
I realised I was having emotional trouble again and my study-support worker helped get me the help I needed. I felt I could really learn my way around the college and see the people I needed to see alone. I didn’t feel I needed the help but I clearly did. If this is you then please talk to somebody about it as I gained a lot of ease from this and helped me really build on the confidence I already had gained earlier. Even though you can feel better, it really helps to remember what works for you as it’s very easy to slip back again. I was learning to make a routine of talking to people from class and keeping up appointments.
The support also allow me to really assess my worries and combat them. I then learned more about myself and generally found talking to people comforting. I look back fondly at my research report which was my first major written work. It allowed me to really use my initiative. It took a while to find a topic to write about, especially being quite unsure of industry but I explored areas that have caught my attention.
This was cloud computing, which I didn’t know about. I developed my professional writing skills which I now realise I’m really good at. I was quite tentative initially but I really enjoyed it as it went on. I took on my own research and interviewing an IT manager. I felt I surprised myself in how I behaved in the situation and gained a lot to write about. I also used my social media accounts to get people to fill in questionnaires I made as well which added more. I struggled socially and approaching people for my own research took a lot of effort but people were willing to help. I did really well on this and it finished off college on a high! I had my first graduation and it was quite nice!
I was getting better in education whilst it being the only place that gives me glimpses of inspiration. I choose to top-up the Foundation Degree to a full bachelor’s degree. I applied to my University and got in. They offered the Foundation Degree at the college so I felt my studies would fit in seamlessly. I was really nervous as I wasn't comfortable travelling so far alone. The support people seemed very understanding and they accommodated for me exceptionally.
It was really difficult settling into University. I was in an unfamiliar surroundings and the learning was actually a major change. I was not used to the way the tutoring went. I was just an emotional mess. Students who began their Higher Education there had already made their friends. I was now just fed up and barely turning up to lectures. This left me alone to study but I was accompanied a little by a support worker. That helped but when with them I felt I just wanted somebody to talk to. I was looking forward to making friends but I just didn’t find the people or even had the time - i.e. to join societies. I felt like I just had to get on with it and balance my emotions and really spend time on my studies. Many students in my classes had already been in industry and were working to a goal. I was avoiding that and just trying to get through each day.
My attendance stayed impeccable though and I met tutors regularly. When it came to our project, we were told to do a practical project. I wasn’t comfortable with the skills I had by then to be able to do this. I felt I’d prefer doing a dissertation that built on my research paper at college. The personal tutor accepted. I found this much tougher to get into - especially when having so much other work to do as well. I did more of my own research and did superbly well. It’s worth noting about presentations which I lacked confidence and experience in. I had to deliver my findings as a presentation to two tutors. I prepared thoroughly. Presenting felt awful yet when finished, they said they were astounded with how good it was!
Eventually there was work I delivered which I was happy with!
By then I was becoming comfortable at University but I was nearly graduating! I wasn’t thinking about employment as I just didn’t feel ready yet. I thought I’d be OK with my results too. I contemplated Masters Education but decided against going down that route. Another nice graduation! At this point I didn’t know how difficult I would find leaving.
Being at home and not having a place to go regularly really was demoralising. I was applying for jobs but not getting any interviews. I was still quite confused of what I wanted to do. I still struggled to get out of the house especially with my outdoor anxiety. I became so sad that I had to get support. Since then, I’ve concentrated on my health and wellbeing which I hadn’t had the chance to do. I’ve realised that I’ve had a tough time and deserve a break.
I’ve spent so much time battling my mental health troubles.
It was time for a new challenge, I decided to take up volunteering at Locala.
I’m now telling myself that if I work on my confidence and mindset and the rest will fall into place. It’s really easy to forget to look after yourself when there’s so much to do but sometimes taking a breather can be hugely relieving.