Meet our students

Mairéad Hill - 3rd Year Adult Nursing

I am a second-year mature student studying Adult Nursing at Keele.  I am 22 years old and live off-campus, with my partner, 2-year-old son and our dog.  I chose to study at Keele, as it was the university that I wanted to attend when I was 18 but did not reach the grades to attend. 

After having a baby, I moved back to the area with the intention of getting a job as a nursing assistant at our local hospital trust.  As a last-minute decision, I decided to attend the August open day at the Keele Clinical Education Centre and I was just blown away by the passion and approachability of both the students and staff.  I had my 5-month-old baby with me, and they seemed genuinely delighted that I had brought him along.  They even helped to distract and hold him whilst I asked questions about the different nursing courses and whether I was reached the entry requirements.  By the next Thursday, I had a place on the course to start in September 2017. 

I studied History, Music, English Language and English Literature at A-Level.  I also had previously completed a degree in history at a different university.  It was very daunting to think that I had not studied any science subject since my GCSEs in 2010 and was about to embark on a BSc degree.  I was also told in school that I would never make it into university and I’m proud to say that I have proved them wrong. My worries turned out to be completely unfounded. The support I received from a variety of different staff, and even other students was overwhelming.  

I began the course with absolutely no confidence in my abilities and had never achieved what might be considered to be a ‘good’ grade, to achieving marks between 72% and 100% in one assignment.  I am also dyslexic, which I felt had held me back previously and I hadn’t had any academic support with it until I arrived at Keele.  Student services made sure everything was in place to help me to reach my full potential. I was also worried about childcare, but this also was easily resolved. Student finance pays for nursery 5 days per week, and I have even taken my son with me to personal tutor meetings, and the staff have been understanding and willing to help.  I chose to study Adult Nursing as I always wanted to make a difference to others.  I have never been academic, but the variety of different assessments, including essays, practical exams, and presentations have been really well suited to me.  In placement blocks, it is just like going to work, which as a mature student, suits me well and the theory blocks are also easily manageable (especially with the weekends off!).   With nursing, there is a vast amount of career options and opportunities for further study.  With my experience at Keele, I would like to eventually work in clinical skills teaching, so that I can help future students in the way in which I have been supported. 

Meet our students

Jacqueline Fradley - 3rd Year History

I started at Keele University after having a long-term career in banking. I felt it was time for a change of direction and something different. I’d been in banking for a long time, more than 25 years and felt staid and comfortable but a little restless.

It was a big decision to leave a full-time job and wage and I had considered Keele a few years earlier but didn’t have the nerve to go through with leaving, but after attending an open day and having an interview, I felt Keele was the place for me. There didn’t seem to be any age barriers, and everyone was confident that I would fit in and be able to complete the work. I started in the Foundation year which I think was the best grounding for academic work, instilling a feeling of confidence and the opportunity to mix with other mature students. As my modules were mixed subjects, it allowed me to consider if I still wanted to do history as a degree. I did!

In the 1st year of my degree, I decided to learn Russian, which I thought was a fantastic opportunity. At the end of the year, I was lucky enough to win a bursary from Santander to go to Tver University for a month. I must admit I was nervous but went anyway and had a phenomenal time attending Russian language school every morning and spending each weekend in Moscow seeing the sights.  When I came back there were a few notices and meetings about an international year which I was a little curious about but thought I’d see what it was all about anyway. Now I am lucky enough to have been accepted by University Pontificia Comillas in Madrid where I will spend a full year doing some different history modules and hopefully becoming fluent in Spanish. Due to my circumstances, I’m relocating for the year and not staying in student accommodation, but it’s an opportunity to live abroad for a year and see life from another perspective.

I am hoping to gain a Spanish international relations diploma and have some flamenco lessons while I’m there as well as learn more Spanish.  It’s a daunting and scary experience to do alone, but I know that Keele and Comillas will support me and I wouldn’t have this opportunity otherwise. It has opened up lots of options for me, and I’m now considering being a Spanish teacher and this is my path to achieving it. I can’t believe how much coming to Keele has changed my life and my outlook. I thought I was just coming to university to get a degree but coming to Keele has allowed me to do so much more than I ever dreamed of or thought I could achieve. I’m just completing the 2nd year of my degree, and I can’t wait to see what the next 2 years bring because I know it's going to be amazing.

 

Meet our students

Sean Whitley - Ph.D. Geoscience

When I finished school I didn't know what to do at college, and initially chose photography, media studies, and computing. I wasn't particularly passionate about those subjects, and after college ended up working in a supermarket for a couple of years, before returning to college to study chemistry, physics, and maths.

I found these subjects much more interesting, challenging and engaging, but was unsure if I wanted to continue into higher education. I was uncomfortable with universities being in large cities, coming from a small town myself, which is why Keele and its countryside feel caught my interest. After finishing college twice and working, I was initially hesitant to start university as a 'mature student', and felt I'd be older than many who go straight from college, but I quickly discovered that all ages of students are found at university. Everything about the university (lectures, clubs, and societies, etc.) is inclusive, and everyone is welcomed and friendly. I joined the climbing club and made friends aged 18 to 50+.

I chose Geoscience at Keele, focusing on the geochemistry of volcanoes, as it captured my love of the outdoors and the sciences. Fieldtrips to Scotland, Utah, and getting to study abroad in Iceland for 5 months were great experiences. I'm currently still at Keele, finishing up a Ph.D. in using rock and mineral chemistry to understand volcanoes in Greece and Indonesia, which is something I would have never expected to be doing while I was in school! I'm now 11 years older than many of the new fresher's every year, but I now know that age doesn't matter one bit at university.

 

Meet our students

Rose Bridgewater - Forensic Science

I started university as a mature student, beginning my course at age 21. I chose to study at Keele University partially because it offered a foundation year which meant I didn’t have to study and pay separately for A levels to do my chosen degree. My other reason was I loved the campus university feel, and it wasn’t too far from home (approximately 2 hours in a car) so I could still visit on weekends when necessary.

I didn’t do traditional A levels, I did a BTEC extended diploma in performing arts, acting. Although I did very well on this course it meant that when I was looking at universities a few years later to study science it didn’t help me meet the entry requirements! With the UCAS points from this, and the help and encouragement or people around me, I approached Keele and found the foundation year was perfect for me to get the university experience while getting onto my chosen degree. Keele was great about alleviating my worries about returning to education, and during the foundation year and beyond supported me with learning important study skills in both course lessons and extra-curricular opportunities. This was invaluable to me, as I hadn’t studied academically since I was 16 and was very worried about this being a big challenge to overcome. In the end, I found I got back into the swing very quickly, as the university is a very different experience for everyone even if they are school leavers coming straight from education, and everybody was finding their feet alongside me.

I’m currently in my 3rd year about to finish my degree in Forensic Science (single honours). I have truly loved my time at Keele, fitting in far more than I could have imagined. I’m on the committee for two societies, a student ambassador and a student voice representative. My main concern about coming to university as a mature student would be not fitting in with the university culture, but there are people from every background and walk of life and extra-curricular from every possible area that there will be people you get along with and can spend your time here with! Keele is such a community feel due to being a campus university that I always felt safe and cared about.  My time at Keele has helped me grown in confidence and gain the qualifications I need to go further in my career. However, more than the qualifications, the experience, and friendships made are what I will truly treasure from Keele.

Meets our students

Alina Shrestha - Medical Pharmacology

Keele is a beautiful campus surrounded by several lakes along with an ideal small cohort of students that has been ranked number one in England for student satisfaction and in the top 10 for medicine all together attracted me to Keele.  High emphasis on feedback and student engagement to develop students were again great features as it helps students to develop into self-aware professionals. Most importantly, the fact that the school valued graduate and mature applicants with life skills obtained through a caring role for others in personal and professional roles were particularly appealing to me. 

Before coming to Keele, I did my A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths, and Further Maths. After this, I did my degree in Medical Pharmacology from Cardiff University and now I’m in my second year of Medicine at Keele.  As a mature student, readjusting back to student life was more challenging than I expected in terms of having to plan everything from scratch as opposed to a strict work routine. I also found it financially challenging as well. However, the medical teaching staff and student welfare services were extremely friendly and helpful in providing advice and support. 

So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Keele, and this includes both my teaching at medical school and University life. I am very passionate about volunteering and as a committee member for Keele Marrow society, I am able to hold events to recruit students on stem cell register for Anthony Nolan.  Another thing I am passionate about is my Nepalese culture and I was able to start a Nepali society along with other Nepalese students to conserve and spread awareness of my culture along with fundraising for charities in Nepal.

As a medical student, I have been fortunate to be involved in several medical events organised my Keele Medical School. I was able to present my research at a regional conference last year, present a neurosurgical case to surgeons and neurologists this year where I managed to win a joint first prize and also attended events like suturing competition and Women in Surgery Conference.   These experiences along with observing surgeries through my placements have all allowed me to aspire to be a surgeon. In the future, I hope to be involved in all the societies that I am currently part of and continue to explore my career path in surgery. 

  

Meet our students

Lauren Mullan - MA Social Work

I am currently in the second year of my 2-year master’s in Social Work. I also did my undergraduate at Keele in Psychology and achieved a first-class honours degree which I am incredibly proud of! 

My initial enthusiasm for social work stems from the struggles I faced during my adolescence, namely coping with my mother’s mental health issues and caring for my late grandmother. Due to a lack of mental health support available to my mother at the time, greater strain was put on me to manage her complex needs. At the age of 13, I made the difficult decision to become estranged from my mother and become a young carer for my grandmother who I cared for up until late December 2017 when she suddenly passed away.  It’s not always easy to be at university when you’ve got caring responsibilities for someone, but it’s definitely do-able. University has been one of the best things I decided to do, despite it being an overwhelming decision to ever make with such responsibilities on my shoulder. I didn’t enjoy university at first, but this is because I didn’t allow myself to enjoy it. The hardest part is finding the initial balance between the 2 and then building upon that in a way that works best for you – and remember this is different for everyone. I called my nan twice daily and visited home every weekend and every holiday to stay with her, do her shopping and check she was ok. We had a great time together and that’s something I’ll always cherish despite the difficulties the role entailed.

I also decided to get a job at university at the Student’s Union, which turned out to be one of the things that helped me with my stress of dealing with problems at home (surprisingly considering it's another commitment!). I met some of my best friends working at the Student’s Union and I also loved my job, so this became an escape for me. I had many things knock me back whilst being here, but the university experience, no matter how unique experiences can be, is the best!  Coupled with this is the estrangement from my parents. This can be incredibly difficult at university when friends have their parents visiting them, taking them for food and hearing how proud they are of them. This is something I battled with but it was something I also looked at positively about my situation, and always looked at it through the lens of ‘it could be worse’. I guess I’ve learned that even having parents comes with difficulty and that no one has a perfect life, so I was able to be grateful for the life I did have and strive to do myself proud despite the adversities.

During the final year of my undergraduate, my nan suddenly passed away. She was 92 but it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen. She went into the hospital with a chest infection 2 days after Christmas and suddenly stopped breathing in the early hours of her second day in the hospital. As cliché as it sounds, my whole life was literally turned upside down. I wasn’t in a good place with my mental health and I didn’t really know how to get through each day - it was a chore. I didn’t ask for the help and that’s one thing Keele is amazing for and something I can only say you definitely should seek during the difficult times. During this time, I was faced with the difficult decision to either carry on with the final leg of my degree or take compassionate leave. Not only did I decide to continue, but I also took my January exam just over two weeks after her passing whilst simultaneously planning her funeral, applying for a Social Work Masters, traveling between Birmingham and Keele and permanently moving to Newcastle-under-Lyme. I attained 75 in that exam and achieved a place on the Master’s course after a rigorous selection day. My most recent, and one of my proudest achievements was being the recipient of the Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year Award in 2018. This is something that I am proud to add to my story and promote to reinforce that individuals in difficult and challenging circumstances can be as successful as those not facing such adverse circumstances. The key message to take out of this is that finding things that ease a situation can make the world of difference between soldiering on or dropping out of university.  I would be lying if I said things were easy; being a young carer is difficult, being estranged from your parents is difficult and then losing your best friend is difficult but I’m here proving that it can be done. I hope my story can help just one person see the brighter side of their future and encourage them to pursue whatever they wish because there’s always a way around the difficulties!