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Discover Sarah Horton’s Change of Career Journey

By: Sarah Horton

Working in a job that did not seem to have any progression for her, Sarah Horton – Adult Learner studying BSc Community and Public Service Management at City College Plymouth – decided to see what higher education options were on offer locally. Browsing the course options, her interest was sparked, and she took the opportunity to enroll. Discover Sarah’s light-bulb moment, how she went back to college while juggling family life and how she tried more than one course, in this honest blog post…

What were you doing before you became an Adult Learner?

Before taking up my higher education course, I was stuck in a job that I had disliked for some time as a medical secretary. For me, there was nothing rewarding about the job, and it was not a particularly social role as I was stuck under headphones most of the time.

What course did you decide to study and why?

I decided I wanted a total change of career. In the past, I was very much into running and swimming in my early 40s (although I was frequently getting injured)  and I found myself enrolling in the Sports Therapy Foundation Course.

While studying the course, my results were good and I was getting high grades but, after some time, I knew that sports therapy was not for me. In my view, you need to have a bit of an engineering kind of mind to know which parts of the body attach to others and I knew then that it really wasn’t the course for me.

The following September, I looked into the Public Services course at City College Plymouth where I found the subjects being taught such as democracy, crime, and the legal justice system really floated my boat. I was always good at humanities at school and already had studied economics and philosophy with the Open University. I knew I would enjoy social science much more – and I have.

How have you managed being a student with family life?

Regarding managing my study time and family life, juggling work, parenting and college was not too much of a problem. My employers were really good at reducing my hours and allowing me to work around the course. For the third year of my course, I stopped working so I could totally concentrate on my studies. My son was also at college undertaking a BTEC so parenting whilst studying fortunately was not a problem.

Did you have any concerns about returning to study?

I must admit I did have concerns about returning to study and being surrounded by people so much younger. Indeed, it was a little daunting being surrounded by 18 and 19 year olds, but I was shocked at how welcoming and approachable they were. I have really enjoyed working with them and find their views on the world very refreshing.

How have you found student life and accessing things like support or student finance?

I have formed some strong bonds with my group, better than I ever could have imagined. More recently, in the final year, less students were in class regularly despite the Covid restrictions no longer in place. However, our little cohort works well together and, as an entire group, we are incredibly supportive and a little competitive even!

I have not had any problems accessing the college and I am aware of who to see should I encounter any issues but luckily, I have not had to. Likewise obtaining student finance has not been a problem and all payments have been made on time.

How has studying higher education made you feel?

This degree is for me and me only.  It is something I need for my confidence and self-esteem. I had never really believed I was good enough to “get a proper job” throughout my life. I had not bothered with further education when I left school as it was easy to walk into jobs back then but, returning to the lightbulb moment, I knew something had to change in my life. My son had grown up, the mortgage was all paid for and so now it was ‘me’ time.  The course was really enjoyable, and the tutors were amazing both in their teaching and support. I have had down moments and the assignments can mean you have to make changes to your social life, but it is so worth it.  I would have no hesitation whatsoever in encouraging people to get involved with HE, it has been good fun and, more importantly, it has shown me what I am capable of.

How have you found lectures and assignments?

Sometimes during lectures we were set tasks in smaller groups. This was not always easy as some students are shyer than others and some may look to me as being older to lead. However, often we bounced ideas off each other and discussed them.

Being older I was also able to discuss things in my childhood like the threat of nuclear war which can be related to current times and discuss things that have changed during my lifetime with changes in policy regarding sexism, racism, and equality in general.

How have you stayed motivated throughout your studies?

Being motivated has not been that much of a problem as I find most of the topics very interesting. There have been days where I would rather be reading a novel or watching Netflix than doing assignments, but once I get into it, I find it interesting and learn so much. It’s motivating when the work has paid off and I have achieved better marks than I was expecting.

I think being older the course means more to me than if I was 18 or 19 and studying. From my experience of jobs where I had no progression, I knew that I wanted to change and to change my perception of myself.


Inspired to take up your own student journey or want more information on becoming an adult learner? Sign up to the NSSW Adult Learner newsletter for information and resources straight to your inbox.

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