University of Life

In September 2004 I began a new chapter in my life that I could never have imagined would have taken so long to complete as it did. Having said that, the signs were there right from day one.

The day I registered for University my mum took ill and I spent the night by her bedside in Manchester Royal Infirmary rather celebrating a new beginning. There was a certain irony to it as it was freshers week and the hospital was packed students a little worse for ware after a few drinks to many, but not me, I was sober as a judge.

It wasn’t easy being my mum’s carer as well as trying to forge a career for myself on top of working as many hours as humanly possible to keep food on the table. I was only 21 but felt much older than that due to the strains the last few years had had.

University life itself was very different to what had gone before. The hours were spread out sporadically across the calendar and that made it harder to continue working and I had to reduce my work hours to nineteen a week. There were also fewer scheduled classes than I was expecting, there was a far greater emphasis on independent learning.

I found it very difficult to concentrate in Uni in between classes. Two friends I met at college also enrolled on the same course and I spent most of the time between classes socialising with them. There were just too many distractions at Uni and I always felt I learnt better when I had a big block of time to concentrate on something rather than just snatching the odd hour here and there.

Like a rebel, I did pretty much the exact opposite of what they told you to do in our study skills session. They said don’t work too late as you won’t produce your best work when you’re tired but I would do the majority of my work late at night when there was less going on to distract me. They said revise as you go along for your exams but I wasn’t organised enough for that. I typically would cram the night before an exam and it worked quite well for me. They also said don’t leave your coursework until the last minute but I would sometimes procrastinate until I simply had to start work. They said concentrate more on your weaker subjects, not the ones you’re good at. I concentrated almost entirely on the subjects I found interesting and my grades were polarised. If I liked the subject, I’d put a ridiculous amount of effort in and get extremely high marks. If I didn’t like the subjects I’d get relatively poor marks but the high marks were high enough to offset the lows. I still ended up with an average over 70 for my first year.

However, in the second year I started to hit more problems. My mothers illness was getting worse and dealing with her condition took its toll on me physically and psychologically. I had no time to myself and the strain was really stretching me. I was starting to burn out – something had to give so in the January of my Second year I took an interruption to my studies so that I could concentrate on my own welfare and that of my mum.