After retiring from the police force in 2003, I went on to do a number of consultancy jobs, which I didn’t really enjoy. The idea of studying for a degree had always been in the back of my mind, but I'd never looked into it seriously.
It was after assisting a local primary school with day trips to a small archaeological dig that I developed a real passion for the subject and decided it was something I'd like to get more involved in. Taking a degree in archaeology seemed an excellent way to learn more, but I was aware that the only qualifications I had were O Levels.
After a bit of research, I found an archaeology degree at the University of Southampton. I explained to the admissions office about my lack of qualifications and they advised me to take an Access to HE course – and I did.
Walking into the course on my first day was very nerve wracking, after such a long time away from formal education. However, I was amazed to discover that I wasn't the oldest person there and other students had similar life experiences to mine.
Finding the time to study was not always easy, even after giving up my consultancy work, but with some careful time management I settled in well. I welcomed the positive feedback from my tutors, who were extremely knowledgeable and supportive, and enjoyed the company of students from a range of different backgrounds.
I applied to two universities and received offers from each. After completing the Access to HE course, I went on to study archaeology at the University of Southampton - and enjoyed it so much that I am currently in the middle of a master's degree!
The Access to HE course was absolutely crucial to me gaining a degree. It taught me how to study and learn properly, giving me the skills and confidence to succeed at university. It was the first step on what continues to be an amazing academic journey for me.