Andressa Gadda
Access to Languages
When I moved from my hometown in Brazil, to London at the age of 16 I had grand plans.  However, the reality proved to be much harder than I had previously anticipated, and six years later, I found myself feeling ever more discontent with my life.  I found myself on a vicious circle of low qualifications, low paid jobs, and a great difficulty in finding a suitable alternative.  It was about this time that I moved to Edinburgh.   

I knew that if I wanted to improve my job prospects I had to get back into education.  I started with the New Horizons course at The University of Edinburgh, but found it difficult to relate to the course and to the people on it as we would only see each other once a week.  Through them, however, I came to find out about the Access Course, and applied for it the following year.  I still remember when I got the letter from Stevenson College confirming that I had got a place on that year’s Access to Arts and Foreign Languages course – I could not believe that I had made it!  

My confidence in myself, and in my capabilities was so low that I would have never imagined that I would be able to successfully complete the course.  On the first day of the course, I looked around me and felt like running away.  I thought everyone was so much better prepared than I was – I thought they had made a mistake and I was in the wrong class.  But with time, I found out that I was not the only one who was apprehensive and that most people had difficulties just like me.  So, during the course of a year, we helped each other not only with course work but, most importantly, with building each other’s confidence.  The teachers were also immensely supportive and very understanding, which was a great relief and very different from the school setting I was used to.  I attribute much of my later success to these first, tentative steps taken with the assistance of the teachers at Stevenson, and I have a lot to thank them for.

By the time I finished the Access course and prepared myself to start at The University of Edinburgh, I felt like another person - I was more confident, my English had improved considerably, and I could express myself and my ideas much clearer.  However, I also noticed that, as when I was younger, I had tremendous difficulties with reading and writing and decided to investigate this further.  Through a simple test done at The University of Edinburgh, followed by a more detailed one done by specialists in Brazil, it was confirmed that I was dyslexic.  In a way I was quite relieved to have a new, nicer label to my disability.  At least now I knew that there were ways in which to deal with it and with the assistance of the Disability Office at the University, I came to find out more about a number of different techniques which now help me to study more efficiently.  Studying became, month by month, easier and more fun.  

Andressa's 2014 update - After I finished my MA (Hons) in Sociology I went on to do an MSc in Research and also in Sociology, both at The University of Edinburgh.  After completing my MSc I won a +3 case studentship from the Economics and Social Research Council to carry out a PhD research focusing on the experiences of young people who are subject to a Home Supervision Requirement in Scotland. I have completed my PhD in 2012 and since then have worked as a researcher, first for the Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, then at the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children. In a couple of months I will be embarking in a new adventure, starting to work at the Edinburgh University/NSPCC Children Protection Research Centre as a Research Fellow in Child Protection.   These past 12 years have been incredible! So much has happened and at every step I think back to those first days of my Access Course and what a defining moment that was.      
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