When I was considering leaving my job and applying for a degree, I started looking locally and I found that there were courses available at the University of Sunderland that I couldn’t find with other universities. On contacting the University, I was offered support from staff immediately and I really got the feeling that they cared. This small first impression hinted at what the campus would feel like, and when I visited it felt vibrant, positive and exciting. I knew then that Sunderland was the place for me.
When I left college, I went straight into full-time employment. For almost a decade I worked for a car insurance firm, negotiating insurance coverage and handling complaints. When the local offices closed down, the company paid for a college course for everyone and this gave me the reintroduction to psychology that I needed. I studied level 2 and 3 NVQs, but as the College was associated with another university, I didn’t think it was the direction for me. I then worked for a telecommunications firm for a few years and I found that I kept looking back and wishing that I had taken the leap into education. It was only during a discussion with a University of Sunderland graduate that I realised I could and should apply; that life won’t change unless you make the choice, push yourself and really go for what you want.
The Integrated Foundation Year that the University of Sunderland offers is absolutely brilliant. It could be the stepping stone that you need to get into the degree path you want or the year needed to return to education after a long time away from it.
I’ve learned academic writing and how to set out essays or reports; things I’ve never done before. I’ve learned ‘how to learn’, through study skills classes which are aimed at making sure I am fully prepared for the journey I have taken.
The Integrated Foundation Year also includes a mix of subjects, depending on your pathway, so you get to meet lecturers from different courses and the work you undertake reflects this mix. I also feel that experiencing the IFY means I have a much clearer view of what I want to do for the remainder of the course, and the ability to change courses within my pathway.
This year has really been life changing for me. The culture that the University has built up for its students is amazing – from access to sports clubs, gyms and social groups, to being able to speak to mentors, visit the SU and have an active social life across the campus. I often compare the feeling of being at university here to feeling like I’m at a home away from home. There is such a feeling of inclusion.
The talks in the Freshers/Induction week really helped – they introduced me to support services such as Counselling, Financial Advice, Disability Services and more. I actually contacted Disability Services over the worries I had due to anxiety and my health and they were fantastic. I’ve found that if you’re unsure about whether or not you could receive help, ask anyway. The staff are some of the nicest people I have ever come across and people are always happy to send you in the right direction or to the right people.
The IFY has really helped me with my future career aims. I actually changed course within my pathway, thanks to gaining confidence during the IFY year. I found that I had an affinity with research and that I now have bigger dreams than I ever expected – including the possibility of studying a masters and hopefully a PHD, both of which I would have previously lacked the confidence to even dream of.
I can honestly say that studying at the University of Sunderland is one of the most exciting things I have ever done. I feel like the whole experience is positive, from making new friends, to gaining independence that I thought I had lost. This is the place to change your life."
Published 6 November 2019