Hi, my name is Caitlin. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to work with animals as a veterinary surgeon or in a laboratory doing research that’s based around helping animals. When I first left school in 2014, I joined my high school’s sixth form for A levels however I had immensely struggled due to an (undiagnosed at the time) mental illness leading to me to drop out and not complete the exams.
February 2018, I moved to one of the northern Orkney isles and spent the next 5 years running and managing a small-scale farm to provide for myself while also gaining hands on experience with a variety of livestock and learning new skills that come with the trials of living on a small island. Frequently, getting back into education would cross my mind but I would always hit a dead end with only finding online courses which I couldn’t afford.

Late July 2023 I learnt that Orkney mainland has a careers office so I got in touch with them for advice and while they usually work with younger people, they went out of their way to help me. They had heard about SWAP in passing but really didn’t know anything about it so I did some research and also emailed both the East and West admissions team about who I was and what I was trying to achieve. That’s where I was informed about the Access to Health and Life sciences course that Perth UHI run online which meant I could go into education as early as September. Doing this course gave me a path to the SWAP Access to Medical Studies to then go onto veterinary medicine. So, I applied immediately and quickly had an interview with my now PAT Joe which led to me starting the course almost straightaway.

Online learning for me seems to be the perfect way to ease into education after almost 10 years out of the classroom. The tutors are all incredibly helpful, supportive and are only an email away; there is no lapse between the help you get in comparison to campus learning. We also do 2 separate weeks within the college campus for practical work and there was no anxiety as I felt I already knew everyone really well. In particular with our course, I think the number of reports to write for the practical weeks and independent projects really help us to lean into getting used to independent learning ready for university while still having our tutors an email away to read over our work and give guidance which in my opinion makes it a perfect stepping stone.

Thanks to SWAP I have 5 university offers on various science courses as well as college offers for the SWAP Access to Medical Studies course to choose from for next year. With living in Orkney, I will have to move home to do so as it will be full time campus learning. I don’t predict the transition being difficult but exciting as I did live in a city for the first 19 years of my life and the trips to Perth for the practical weeks have helped me to get used to life in a busier area and on campus learning again. I haven’t had any struggles on the course bar my own medical ones which the tutors have been supportive of; being there for me to talk to and extending report deadlines. The course has a good range of ages and both genders and everyone has been made to feel welcome so if you’re thinking of applying, please do as it will lead you to new friendships and the career you want.

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