My name is Daniel. I have just completed my first year of study in Computing Information Technology here at Queen's. Now my first year is complete, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences, challenges and feelings about life at university.
Firstly, some quick background information on how I got here. A few years back, I completed an access course at Belfast Met in Computing & Business Studies, and I went to Queen's to study in a completely new area to me, Social Sciences. I lasted a week. I wasn’t ready for it. Before I even took the time to speak to anyone or see what my options were, I left and returned to full time work. Fast forward a few more years and after speaking about it for some time and building up the confidence, I applied to return to Queen's, this time in a more suited discipline, Computing, and was accepted. I left my job and gave it another go.
In the interest of being as transparent as possible, the year began just as my previous stint had, full of self-doubt and a belief that I couldn’t do it, that this wasn’t for people like me and that as a mature student, I had been out of education for too long and that I would never be up to university standard. I had countless conversations at home about leaving and I was probably headed that direction when I received an email from the 21Plus team, a support service (working within Learning Development Service and Widening Participation Unit) dedicated to mature students, about a meet and greet. After a conversation with my girlfriend, that took some serious convincing, I promised that I would attend as a last course of action and if I felt the same way after, the next course of action was to leave.
My first interaction with Bridgeen & Michelle (21Plus team) was significant in two ways. Firstly, it was the first time I had reached out to someone beyond my immediate circle and secondly, it was my first time talking with someone who could understand all of my concerns, who had had their own journey as mature students and who had ultimately, come out the other side on top and happy.
For context, this was a five minute meet and greet in the foyer of the Library, but a quick conversation led to a reassurance that I was not alone and that ultimately, I was capable, I was accepted into a well-respected degree program and deserved to be here.
The weeks after were not without issue, and every time I reached out for help, 21 Plus was there for me and helped me regain my confidence and put me in contact with the right people.
I was struggling trying to find a balance between my social and study life. 21 Plus helped me speak to someone who helped me create a timetable and use my time in a more efficient manner – effectively to understand that I did not always need to work for longer, but to ‘work smarter’.
I was finding a new module very challenging, having no previous experience in it and feeling I was the only person who ‘didn’t get it’. 21 Plus again put me in touch with a lecturer with experience in this module who talked to me about some resources available to me and what sort of stuff I should be doing to improve.
These are just two examples of challenges I faced throughout the year, and at the time, they were huge issues to me and I couldn’t see a way through it all. Looking back, although I wished my experience had of started off on a more positive note, I feel very happy about my first year, as I overcame all obstacles and feel more equipped and stronger for the rest of my university journey, and whatever it brings.
My story might seem very doom and gloom, but I hope you take the opposite from it, I hope you see it as a message of support. I know there’s lots of people who’ve went before me and who are yet to begin, who can relate to what I felt and my message to you is that you can and you will do this. You might need help along the way, you might not, but you will not regret the challenge of a university education at QUB.