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Transcript

 
My name is Esther Silva, I am 29 years old. I started the Access to Humanities and Social Sciences in 2005. My academic path was pretty much the same as everybody else's; I went to a strong comprehensive school, there were no issues to that point and then when I got into 6th form I contracted Glandular Fever so the plan was that I would drop out, have a little bit of time to recuperate and then rejoin - but it didn't quite work out like that.
I didn't end up going back at the time I should have done because I was then a year behind all of my friends, and also, I'd just honestly got too used to have a regular salary; I thought I was very independent, thought I was quite capable - little did I know!
I was pretty young, I'd just turned 20 when my daughter was born - so that was a bit of a shock to the system - it really struck me that I had a responsibility for another human being now and it was time to start planning a future that would give her as many options as possible. And I figured out that getting an education was the first step to doing that. All I did was, I just telephoned the college and at that point I just thought 'well it will be A Levels, as that's what you do to get into university isn't it?' but she said to me that there were other programmes available and outlined that the Access course might be more suitable given my circumstances.
I'll always remember, I walked into the corridor where the tutors' offices are and I could see other people and there were small children around and I thought 'gosh, these are people who are like me'.
It's a really well rounded course because as well as doing the academic modules we were also doing things around time management, looking at how to be more productive, to meet deadlines so again, all key skills that we need for university.
One of the tutors here had links with Cambridge [University] and I needed to fill six options on my UCAS form and I was struggling because I'd always thought I'd stay local, so I got to about four and thought 'what else do I put down - well Cambridge will fill a box won't it - so we'll have a go at that' but I kept getting through to the next stage and the next stage, and then it came to having an interview - 'well I'll go and have an interview and put myself through that, it won't go any further' - but it did, and then it got to the point where I got the letter through the door and I knew the envelope was too big to be a rejection letter; and at that point I started to take it seriously and think 'there's a decision to be made here'.
I came out of Cambridge with a 2:1 so I was absolutely over the moon, because it was never a guaranteed - I had to really work, really, really hard for that degree. It's opened doors for me it's a requirement for a lot of graduation schemes that you have to have a 2:1 or better; so having that in the bag made me feel like I had options.
At the present time, I'm working as a Project Manager for the NHS; so I did the NHS graduate scheme and this is my first substantive role.
I think it's fair to say that doing the Access course has completely transformed my life - and that might sound a little bit melodramatic, but if I hadn't have done that and I hadn’t returned to education then, I don't like to think too much about the situation we would be in, because it would be different, very different. It's something that I want my daughter to see, I hope she looks at it and thinks 'gosh, if my mum committed to that, there's no reason that I can't do the same'.
If you don’t put yourself out there, you don't know what you can achieve. Access courses are really geared up for people who have had a break for whatever reason. I would urge people to take up the opportunity because it can take you further than you'd ever, ever imagined.