When Victoria Craig decided to return to education, it was essentially to help her children, one of whom was approaching their GCSEs. But the Co. Down woman is now set to take up a place at university to study English Literature and Sociology, following successful completion of the Access Level 3 Diploma in Foundation Studies at SERC’s Newcastle Campus.
Victoria (47) said, “I have lived in County Down all my life. I attended school in Lisburn, many years ago, and left with very few GCSE’s. I worked in the area around Queen’s University in my early twenties and often wished that I had the opportunity to attend university. The thought spurred me back to college in the early nineties where I obtained my English GCSE. But married life and children meant that I didn’t give much more thought to studying. Then one day I spotted the Access course advertised in a SERC newsletter – the course was free and there was a newly opened creche attached, so I went along to an Open Day for more information at the Newcastle Campus. Although I was very nervous, the tutors made the day relaxed and there was an informal atmosphere. I was encouraged that, even as a mature student who had not studied in over 25 years, I should have no concerns regarding my abilities, as I would be supported throughout the course. At this stage I had no thoughts regarding university, my sole purpose for enrolling was the thought that the course might help me support my children in their education – my eldest was at GCSE level at the time.”
Victoria continued, “I studied Psychology, Sociology, English Literature, Biology and Maths as part of the Access course. There was also the opportunity to do GCSE Maths or English, so I did Maths in my second year. There were also many different things to get involved in at SERC and I signed up to become a STEM ambassador. This meant that I was able to carry out the Coast Watch Beach Survey with my biology tutor, which was something that my whole family enjoyed.”
“My success on the course and progression is testament to the support and encouragement I received at SERC. It is hard to describe what I enjoyed most about my experience at the College – I loved every minute of it, right from the beginning. Even during lockdown, the online classes were well structured and provided a positive routine during a difficult time. The crèche facilities meant I could study without any concerns regarding my younger children, as the staff were excellent, and the children loved attending.”
“I also loved the subjects I studied too. After being labelled “not academic” as a young person, through SERC, and with support and hard work, it turned out that I was more capable than I was ever led to believe. It is also the confidence that I have gained from the positive atmosphere within SERC, from not only my tutors, but from all the staff and students, that I had loved. The feeling that everyone wants you to succeed and achieve goes a long way in making you believe in yourself.”
“So here I am, now preparing to start a degree in English and Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast. I carried the idea of going to university with me for years. But taking that first step in through the doors of SERC made it achievable. I would encourage anyone who is thinking of what they could have achieved – if they had had the opportunity – to take that first step back into education with Restart or Access.”
Victoria concluded, “Whilst my two years at SERC have enabled me to enrol at university, it has also allowed me to meet wonderful people who have supported and steered me in the right direction, and I have been left with only good memories of my time there.”
Ballynahinch Restart & Access Open Day 10am – 2pm Wed 24 August
Lisburn Restart & Access Information Session 6pm – 8pm Wed 24 August
Downpatrick Restart & Access Information Session 10am – 2pm Wed 24 August
Newtownards Restart & Access Information Session 10am – 2pm Wed 31 August
Bangor Restart & Access Information Session 6pm – 8pm Wed 31 August
Holywood Restart & Access Information Session 10am – 2pm Thurs 1 September
Visit www.serc.ac.uk to unlock your future #BetterOffAtSERC.