Seetal Kewal
Health Science - GKC Springburn 2014-15
UWS Paisley - BSc Psychology
I’m Seetal Kewal, a 34-year-old mum of two from Glasgow, of Indian ethnicity, and this is my SWAP story so far. 

I have a daughter at primary school and another daughter at secondary school.  I was out of study for 18 years before starting SWAP and had little confidence and belief that I could return to study again. I have proved myself wrong, however, as I successfully completed the SWAP Access to Health Science programme at Glasgow Kelvin College, Springburn and have just finished first year of BSc Psychology at UWS Paisley campus.  

I am so glad to have found SWAP and can’t believe how my life has changed over the past two years. When my youngest child started school, I felt that I needed a big change to progress to the next phase of my life and SWAP was the perfect catalyst for this change. Having been through a very challenging upbringing, my dream is to become a psychologist and help other people who have been though trauma. I am so happy to now be on the path that will allow me to accomplish this.  

I was very apprehensive about returning to education as my school days were very difficult. I moved around a lot as a child and always felt that I was playing catch up.  High school was a little better, but I felt that I had gaps in my learning due to my disrupted primary schooling. Also, education was never encouraged in my family, for cultural reasons. I wanted to make a good life for myself, including studying and also finding my own husband. My teen years were especially complicated and things unfortunately got worse before they became better. Unconventionally, I made the decision to leave my family home at 18 to make my own life. To cut a long story short, I worked in many different jobs before finally settling in a family business where I worked very long hours. I also had my two daughters during this time. When the time was right, after my youngest started school, I contacted Glasgow Kelvin College about returning to study, although I didn't have any expectations about what was possible.

I was invited to interview by Patricia Currie, who was wonderful and told me about the SWAP programme. She helped me realise that I really was in a position to apply for SWAP and encouraged me to do so. This was important as, until then, I could not envisage myself studying full time; I was afraid and saw only the potential challenges. Patricia helped simplify all the problems and her positivity rubbed off on me. I told my sister about this and she also applied for the same course as she dreamt of becoming a nurse. We were both accepted on the programme and were very happy to be in the same class! We travelled to college together and supported and encouraged each other throughout the SWAP year. This was very important, especially at the beginning.  

The start of the programme was a rollercoaster for me and I often thought about leaving; however, the lecturers and my sister helped me stick it out and kept reminding me that it would get easier. I remember crying when, in chemistry, we started learning about what an atom is, and I was thinking I couldn’t understand it.  How wrong I was! With patient help from the lecturer and perseverance on my part, I finally grasped it and was so proud of myself. This taught me to never look at a subject and think that I can’t do it. The right frame of mind is to think I CAN do this and tackle the subject logically, ignoring any fears.

I surprised myself as I did really well in my first assessments and gained more confidence and momentum as a result. I felt, “I CAN do this!” After block one, I went from strength to strength, gaining 100% in quite a few assessments. Biology subjects were fascinating to me and I just kept learning more and more. I was shocked and surprised that I could accomplish these so well. I went on to achieve AAA in my final profile grades and was so proud of myself and absolutely delighted.

I can only compliment the lecturers as they were so supportive, patient and approachable. No question was too bizarre, and classes were also fun and enjoyable. I developed a great rapport with staff as, through asking for help, advice or support, I got to know them more. They couldn’t have been more helpful and everything that I learned, from life lessons to subject material, has stayed with me and given me a solid foundation for university.  

One of the best moments of my SWAP year was receiving my offer from UWS for psychology, as this was my first choice and dream course. I was very emotional and couldn’t believe it at the time. Having the offer helped me focus and work hard for the rest of the programme. Another incentive was attending SWAP Study Skills Days and the University of Glasgow and UWS. These were inspiring and informative events where I experienced a lecture, learned much about university study, met current students, toured the campus and gained some useful skills too.  I was sad when SWAP came to an end, but anticipated the next academic year.  

UPDATE - June 2016:

After my first year at university

First year in psychology at UWS Paisley has been wonderful and I am happy to say I passed everything with A or B grades! I love the university environment and beautiful campus. I also enjoy the independent learning; I have more free time at university compared to college, but of course I use this time to study. I spend quite a bit of time studying on my own, but find this enjoyable, manageable and it always pays off!

The structure of the degree is perfect. You get your subject fundamentals in lectures and then build upon that in labs. Labs are challenging, but in a good way.  The lab reports are a small step-up from college as you need to reference in the appropriate style and write in a slightly more detailed way, including abstracts and introductions for some subjects. My subjects are so interesting and I have particularly liked taking my biology further, learning about perception, memory, personality types and being introduced to the theorists and theories of psychology. One of the highlights of first year was an experiment in Science and Crime where we had to examine a murder scene. This was really exciting, much fun and the learning sunk in naturally. The lecturers are all fantastic and I enjoy all of their styles and subjects. Richard Thacker, the “main man”, is fantastic. He is a very organised and brilliant lecturer, an inspiring man and is always there if you need help.  

Some tips for new students are:

*   Small efforts throughout the year pay off!

*   Try to keep to a study regime, but always take time for yourself and your family. (I probably spend better quality time with my daughters now)

  Never wait until too close to a deadline; start work soon after the task has been set.

*   Read through lecture slides before attending a lecture. (These can usually be found on Moodle.)

*   Approach staff for assistance, whether that be the lecturers or support staff.  (The university is very supportive in general and there are many services there just waiting to help)

*   Attend workshops or one-to-ones with the Effective Learning Service. The staff there are excellent and so helpful. (I was worried about using Mahara, but Alison McEntee from the Effective Learning Service gave me a brilliant tutorial, which sorted me out!)

After a really positive first year, I am excited about the challenge of second year.  I would also like to volunteer in one of the psychology projects at the University. This may hopefully lead to other opportunities to get involved in the wider psychology community. I am doing what I love, so even the challenges are enjoyable. I have open expectations about the future, but may like to study to postgraduate level. I am certainly a happier and more confident person having gone through my studies. The impacts of my happiness and confidence have rubbed off on my daughters and I am fortunate to be able now to guide and support them through their decisions and studies and also help them with their homework.  

My advice to those thinking of doing SWAP is, when you are ready, go for it!  SWAP knows what is required for adults returning to study and they do it well. Each stage of the way is broken down into manageable steps in a way that is perfect for those who have been out of education for a long time.   

Until the end of second year,  

Seetal Kewal

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