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Rebecca Hague

Former Access to HE student in English and Creative Writing

I was a single parent at 18, I was unfortunate enough to suffer from postnatal depression, which set me back for a long time. It was only when my son was old enough to have some independence that I realised that one thing I had always wanted to do was go back to college.

Rebecca's story

I was already doing a work placement that the Job Centre organised for me, so I started to look around for short courses or something to get me back into education. It had been a decade since I was last in school, and I was terrified. I found the Access to HE Diploma at the University of Bolton and it fitted perfectly with my work. It was also in a subject that I had always loved - English and Creative Writing.

If you had asked me then what my experience was, it would have been stressful and overwhelming. I remember one particular day; I was asked to walk across campus to a building I had never been in before and I had a panic attack and walked the opposite way and went home. It was difficult, I was working part time and I was still a single parent. It was a lot to manage and to be honest, I almost quit!

Fortunately, I had started to build some confidence and went back the next day to a poetry class. The teacher asked me if they could read my submission in front of everyone - I didn’t think it was that good, but she and my classmates disagreed. So much so, that one of them came over and invited me to sit with them at lunch! That was the catalyst for me and as the course went on, my confidence grew and I started to enjoy taking part in class discussions. I walked to the building that had once terrified me and delivered a presentation. I had a panic attack afterwards, but instead of running away, I went back into class.

When I did my Access to HE Diploma, they were quite new, having been introduced in 2008 so there were some questions about it when I made applications. However, I always intended to apply to University of Bolton because I felt comfortable and knew that a lot of the tutors that I had on the Access to HE course would also be my tutors on the degree. I felt that I was well-prepared for the application and well-supported by the staff. The feeling of acceptance when I gained my offer was one of the most overwhelming but happiest moments of my life.

I was well prepared to move onto a degree, but I think the main benefit of the Access to HE course was introducing me to the different ways I had to think about life and myself. Before Access to HE, I was a recluse and barely spoke to anyone outside my immediate family. As I moved through the Diploma and onto the degree, my social circle grew and I gained the confidence to move well outside of my comfort zone. I still live with the long-term effects of my depression, but I have learned how to cope with it.

In 2017, I completed a Master of the Arts in English and I’m a qualified teacher. I am one of two directors of a training provider that specialises in providing refugees and asylum seekers with the tools they need to be successful in the UK. We have recently just been approved to deliver Access to HE Diplomas in English ourselves and I can’t help but think back to the woman I was when I started and how far I’ve come.

Without the Access to HE course I wouldn’t be where I am today. The Access to HE Diploma changed my life.

My son grew into his formative years watching me study at university, first on an Access to HE Diploma, then my undergraduate degree and beyond. He is now at university, studying Policing and Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and I couldn’t be any prouder of him. In the area in which we live, social mobility is sometimes considered a fantasy, but I feel that qualifications such as the Access to HE Diploma open opportunities to people like myself, demonstrating that the cycle can be broken.

My advice to anybody considering enrolling on an Access to HE Diploma would be don’t think about it anymore, just do it! Education is a gateway to so many great things and the qualification at the end is just one part of it. You’ll gain so much more than that piece of paper.