Following our popular ‘Day in the Life Of’ blog series, our graphic designer, Lynn Robertson, caught up with Early Years student, Tracey Callaghan again as she returns to college to study HNC Childhood Practice.
A year on from starting her Level 5 course at Kilwinning, Tracey is now attending our Kilmarnock campus along with her daughter, Alex, who is studying HNC Social Science.
Tracey’s story continues:
“I am so glad I did the NC course first, it gave me a good foundation to work from, even in terms of the language used and understanding of the education sector. That said, it’s been a huge jump from the Level 5 course to HNC, even more than I imagined.
I’ve settled in well to the new campus, but at first, I was a little intimidated by the sheer size of it – it was a bit like going from primary to secondary school!
Each week I’m in college for two full days and on work placement for two days, with a day in between to fit in all my coursework. It is quite a challenging course, with a lot of assessments, I have to be really organised to keep on top of everything.
Despite the challenges, I am still enjoying the HNC, I love learning and can understand why people move from one course to the next. There’s a nice atmosphere in the classroom, it’s a really supportive group, with a good mix of ages and the lecturers are great too.
At this level, I think you have to be really dedicated, having a passion for the subject makes it ten times easier. My placement helps keep me motivated, I could be having a tough week at college and asking myself, “Why am I doing this,” but when I get into my placement and actually do the job I am training for, I think, “This is why.” It’s definitely worth it – the children make it all worthwhile and what I learn in college really helps me in my placement.
The pace is constant – there’s so much to learn! The course is quite heavy on legislation, there are so many changes in the industry, so it’s a huge learning curve. You’re not just focusing on one thing at a time you’re putting all different things into practice at once so you have to learn to be flexible in your approach.
The hardest thing is probably the juggling, you have to adjust your life. If you’ve been working you’re not used to going home at night and opening the laptop to do more– but I don’t mind putting the hours in. It is a hard slog, but it’s only for a short time in your life. If you can come out of it with a job you enjoy, doing something you love – then it’s absolutely worth it.
My daughter, Alex started college at the same time as me and we support each other. We each go to our rooms to study and meet at 9pm to watch television together!
Our family think it’s great we are college together, my mum is chuffed to bits – she went to university as an adult learner to retrain as a social worker, she had a successful career in the end, so we really value education.
I worried if it was fair on Alex, starting college at the same time as her mum, but she’s really happy. When I see her on campus she always comes over to see me. We’re only in together one day a week and we car share. We were close anyway, but having this shared experience has helped build our relationship – Alex is so much happier at college, more confident and content, which is lovely to see. She also sees me as more than just her mum now – she can relate to me more.
Alex would have left school in fourth year if she could, but I was keen for her to get some highers first. We agreed we would wait until 5th year and see how she felt then. At that point she got good higher results and was determined to go to college.
It was the right decision. Alex did really well at school but I didn’t want her to stay if she wasn’t enjoying it, I didn’t want that experience to spoil education for her.
The transitions and links from school to college are fantastic now – I wish they’d had that when I was at school, I might have taken a completely different path. There are so many opportunities now, even just to dip your toe in and try different things. Alex had originally wanted to do Psychology here, but as that was more of a 6th year course, she came along to do Social Science instead.
Her plan is to go on to university to study Psychology. My son, Taylor went straight from school to university last year, but Alex needed a stepping stone. She was a bit younger, leaving school at just 16, and she wasn’t ready to live away from home. College has boosted her confidence and made her more independent. She is much better prepared now, socially and financially.
The only real downside for me, of us both being at college, is financial – I’ve had to give up work to study and it has been a struggle, but Alex has become really independent, managing her student loan and treating her mum to the odd hot chocolate! She’s never been a girl who asks for much, she’s very thoughtful, but it’s been good for her to understand the value of money. We might not have the luxury of buying lots of material things at the moment but we manage, again it’s only for a short while and it will be worth it when the wages come in and we are doing jobs we love.
Alex joins us to tell us about her experience:
“My friends always ask what’s it like being at college with my mum, they ask if it’s embarrassing, but I love it! I find comfort in it, just to know there’s someone there if you need them. We have a close relationship so it’s nice to see her about.
Although we are both really independent people, we do help and support each other – I’ll help my mum out with technology, perhaps helping her upload something to Moodle, and help her with her references, whereas mum will read over my work to double check my grammar. We have more of an understanding now, our mother/daughter relationship isn’t as formal. We try to finish studying at 9pm in the evening so we can have some down time together – I think that’s important, studying alone can be quite isolating so it’s nice to take a break and make time for family.
I’ve really enjoyed college, I’ve had a much better time here compared to school, especially in terms of friendships and relationships. I’m with like-minded people and I get on better with the lecturers. I was quite self-conscious before, but now I feel confident expressing my thoughts and opinions and listening to others in group work and class presentations. The learning environment is so much more relaxed and comfortable.
I’m really enjoying the course – you do get a lot of assessments, but I don’t stress about it or find it a burden. I am happy to study and take pride in my work, I’m very disciplined with my studies.
I love education, but I didn’t have the best time at school. I think if I had stayed on until 6th year I would have got a bit lost – I would have struggled in my exams and that’s not me, I’ve always achieved good results. It got to a stage where I just didn’t want to go in, I never feel that way at college, coming here is the best decision I ever made.
I’m thinking of applying to university to do Psychology. I initially came to college thinking I would go in to politics, it’s something I’ve always been interested in, but now I’ve learned more about what Psychology I find it fascinating – there are so many aspects to it.
I’m still unsure exactly what profession I would like to pursue, it could lead me to counselling which would be good, but there are other routes it could take me down. I feel college has prepared me really well for university – I have definitely needed it.”
Applications for our August courses are now open.