Tracey Kerr
Literature and History
I DID IT! I finished my degree!

I have a degree in American Studies and a MSc in Transatlantic Literature. I know—get me! You may think I’m bragging, and you’d be right, but wait until you graduate—after the initial relief and “I’m so glad that’s over” comments you’ll be telling everyone that will listen that you have a degree.
After 14 years working for the same company I was stuck in a rut, doing a job I hated, and feeling there was no way out. Friends had always encouraged me to leave, but the financial security provided by my job and the fact that I had a mortgage meant leaving was just as daunting as staying. Eventually though I worked up the courage to go and started looking at other options, including university. It was looking through some university information that I discovered SWAP.
In 2001 I started on an Access to Languages course. I had always wanted to study a language so it made sense. The first day of the course I was really scared, questioning whether I should or could do this, but looking around the class I was kind of relieved to see people of all different types and age groups looking just as nervous as I was. This class turned out to be invaluable for me. Sharing this experience with others in similar situations took away some of the fear of 'going back to school' after so long.
On of the benefits for me of the access course, which I could not have foreseen at the start, was figuring out what I was good, and not so good, at. Yes I had always wanted to study a language, and had intended on applying to do Spanish at university, but I quickly realised that my strengths lay in English and History. Of course it also helped that Literature and History are my favourite subjects. After many in depth conversations with my tutor I realised I would be better choosing a different degree, and so chose American Studies as it meant I could combine Literature and History into the same degree.
Looking back now I realise how long I thought the whole process would be at the start, and how quickly the time has actually passed. Along the way my occasional admin hours with SWAP have turned into a career in widening participation, which means I can give back in a way that is meaningful and thoroughly rewarding—and get paid for it too! This is something else that I couldn’t have predicted when I started my access course, but is a good illustration of the twists and turns that will happen to you during your time studying. I was told of the job opening in SWAP by a man who had studied on my access course the year before me, and who I’d met when he came back to talk to our class. It is amazing the opportunities that open up for you just because you are at university, or because you started talking to a person in a lecture.
For me, the main benefits of the SWAP course where the study skills provided within the programme, and the confidence this gave me in going on to university. The most important things, however, have been the advice and support of the course tutors both during the course and throughout university, and the friends I made during the access course.
No matter where we ended up, or what degree we studied, we still shared the same hopes, dreams, fears and concerns and supported each other through them. Yes, finances were hard for all of us, and money tight at times. Trying to juggle work, study and a personal life has seemed at times impossible, but with the help and support of family and friends I can honestly say I have never been happier. Talk to any mature student at the end of their degree course and they will say the same – it was the best decision they ever made!
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