<carol_receiving_student_of_the_year_award_at_uhi_nwh.jpg> Carol is a mum to 4 children and lives in Ullapool. Her ambition is to join the ambulance service but she had no qualifications from school. In 2022 she enrolled on the SWAP Access to Nursing programme. Throughout her studies she continued to work as a pupil support assistant as well as finding time to work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and volunteer coastguard. Carol successfully completed the access programme and is now in 1st year at Stirling studying Paramedic Science.

SWAP caught up with Carol to see how she was getting on and what had prompted her to return to study.

What had been your experience of school? Not good, no one knew I was dyslexic so I was seen as the bad child who never done their work, but that's because I could not do it. Then I was put out of main stream schooling at 13 years old, where I was then put into care.

Why did you decide to go back into education when you did? I always wanted to do better in life, I just did not think it was possible due to not being in school when I was younger and having children. I’ve always liked to help others and wanted to help them when they were in need, so the ambulance service was always where I wanted to end up. I just never had any qualifications behind me so knew I needed to do something.

How did you find going back into study – was it a challenge to juggle studies with family and work? At the start it was hard to get my head around but as the weeks went on it got easier. The support from West Highland College was amazing and there was always someone to help and support you. It weirdly all worked in, my college and work landed nicely, and my family life was not too impacted. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. It was a nice routine I had managed to maintain.

Was it challenging financially? No, there was no point where I struggled financially as I never lost out on work, so it never impacted on my normal working.

What did you enjoy most about the course and what was the most challenging? I really enjoyed the new lease of life I had found and learning, I felt like a was a child again and soaking up all the information. At times I was like " am I really doing this and I'm I really this smart" because I knew what I was doing. The assessments were the most challenging, well the first few. I got a bit overwhelmed but after I done a few, I knew what they were going to be like and managed to settle down and be more comfortable doing them. I also got a great sense of achievement once I had finished them.

Has the learning experience given you more confidence? Absolutely, I always thought I was stupid because people always made fun of me for not having any qualifications and not being able to read or write properly, so I never had confidence but now I know I can do anything when I put my mind to it and also that I only need to be confident in my own abilities to achieve and be happy. 

Where are you now and what do you hope to move on to after your degree? I got offered a place at Stirling University to do my BSc paramedic science course which I accepted. I travel down when I need to be in class and still manage to work and have family time.I have just been on my first placement in the ambulance and absolutely love it, so can't wait to get out and do more. I hope to get a job in the ambulance service near to where I live.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of doing an access programme? ABSOLUTELY DO IT. In life there will always be obstacles in your way but if you don't try to get over the obstacles you will never know if you can or can’t do something. No matter the outcome you will learn something even if it’s just a little thing, it's still an achievement. Good luck to you all that decided to go back into education, you can do more than you think you can!

And good luck to Carol as well, from everyone at SWAP.
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