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Case Study

Chantelle Forrest

South Shields, UK


MSc Inequality and Society

BSc (Hons) Sociology

Although her journey into Higher Education didn’t get off to the best start when she dropped out of college, Chantelle Forrest realised she missed the challenges of learning and decided to apply to university, where she’s about to embark on her third degree. After graduating with First Class Honours in BSc (Hons) Sociology, she went on to complete the MSc Inequality and Society degree and is now pursuing her passion for teaching, soon to begin the PGCE PCET course.

My journey into Higher Education got off to a rocky start, as I only completed two years of AS Levels and eventually dropped out of college. Going straight from school into more education felt quite overwhelming and I wanted to earn some money working, so that I could gain a sense of independence. After working in a call centre for a year, I started to miss the feeling of challenging myself and being in a learning environment. I completed an Access to Higher Education course at Sunderland College so I could apply for university, and I really felt like I was back in an environment where I belonged.

I had originally applied to four different universities, one of which was Sunderland, and I was accepted into all of them. After attending various open days, I felt like Sunderland was the best fit for me. It was clear that the lecturers paid attention to you and made sure you felt welcomed and appreciated, which was such an important factor. During my undergraduate degree, I felt I had made a new family at the University, including the other students on my cohort and the staff within the Sociology department. Staying on at Sunderland for my master's was a no-brainer and I’m happy to be completing a third degree – a PGCE PCET – starting in a few months!

The MSc Inequality and Society course has allowed me to further delve into the specialism I had explored during my Sociology degree. Examining human rights abuse from the narrow lens of sex trafficking and being able to relate that to sex work academically was quite niche, however, I felt fully supported in what I wanted to focus my studies on. Finding my academic voice throughout my master's and fuelling my passion for further study has been key to my career development, as I hope to go on to be a lecturer in the future. I was already familiar with the academic staff on the course after completing my undergraduate degree, but the new connections I’ve made with both staff and my peers has been absolutely invaluable! Without the overall support, both academic and personally, the whole experience wouldn’t have been as rewarding as it has been.

My dissertation for the MSc was entitled ‘Blurred Lines: How does the conflation of sex trafficking and sex work impact public opinions on sex workers?’ This was the first large scale primary research project I had the opportunity to complete, due to the global pandemic impacting my Sociology dissertation. I’m hoping it will be the foundational basis of my PhD, as I want to look at how public opinion on sex workers impacts the workers themselves, within different facets of their working and personal lives. I think the main takeaway from my research would be to acknowledge that not everything that is seen is all that is there.

I’ll be starting on the PGCE PCET course in a few months, which will be my third degree at the University of Sunderland. I have always wanted to help people and I believe that teaching is an invaluable opportunity. During my Access course, I was inspired by my lecturer, as he had unwavering faith in my abilities, and I would like to be that person for someone who may be struggling like I was. Moving into Higher or Further Education teaching is my goal and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to do that alongside the family I’ve made at Sunderland.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my four years at the University thus far is to not be too hard on yourself. I think it’s very easy to feel like you need to tackle everything by yourself, but you don’t! The level of support from staff – including external support and library services – has really been the key to my success. It’s okay to ask for help or feel like you need a break, so take advantage of everything that is offered to you. I’ve also discovered that it’s so much better to start everything early! If you have that momentum at the beginning of the academic year, use it to make your time easier to manage. Oh, and read! Read everything!

My experience at the University of Sunderland has been life changing. It has given me confidence in myself and my abilities, and truly shaped who I am and how I interact with the world. During my time here, my whole life has changed – I am a key part of a project called Sociology North, I’ve got engaged and I’m having a baby. Sharing all my accomplishments with my university family has been amazing. To summarise, I’ve gained lifelong friends and a sense of purpose, and I can’t thank everyone involved enough.”

Published 30 September 2022

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