For new readers, I will start from the beginning! So, I originally started a degree in social work in 2005. Unfortunately, I did not get to complete the degree as I became ill in the second year. I was later diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). After a long period of illness and many difficulties, I was finally well enough to return to the degree in 2014. As I had been away so long and so much had changed over the years, I was told that I would need to start from the beginning so I started year one again in September 2014.
The biggest hurdle of returning to uni for me was how much had changed in just seven years. Things seemed so much harder than they were before. Most of the other mature students had come straight from an Access to Higher Education course. The Access course is the equivalent to A-levels and where you are taught how to write, reference, analyse and critique. Therefore they were much more up to date with their academic skills and they also had made friendship groups and knew other people.
It was a busy year during which I had to complete a lot of assignments, a portfolio and give presentations. I also had to interview a service user (actor) while being video recorded. We were also viewed by three tutors who were behind a two-way mirror. We also had to complete a ten-day observational placement. I learned a lot about myself in that first year and I passed everything so I was really pleased.
In year two the workload steps up as alongside the assignments, presentations and portfolio, you also have a 70-day placement to complete. The first semester went well and I received a really good report from the placement. However, in semester two I encountered some problems as my dad was taken into hospital to have a pacemaker fitted. I was also campaigning with the student union to become the universities first ever mature student officer in the student elections. I had asked permission from the placement manager before signing up. The short story is that I ended up having an argument with my placement manager on day 55. The placement manager then decided that suddenly I was doing really badly and she was concerned about my behaviour with service users!!
The university was not very supportive and took months to organise me a new placement. At the new placement I was required to complete 50 days which I really enjoyed and passed. However, I did not finish until December so I had missed starting year three with my peers. Therefore, I then had to wait until the following September to start year three with a new year group.
In September 2017 I finally started year three. It was difficult joining a new year group who had already bonded together over the previous two years. I had also been ill over the summer with whooping cough so when I returned to uni I was feeling rather fragile having been months with hardly any sleep due to constant waking up and coughing fits. Year three requires a 100-day placement with a portfolio, assignments, presentations and an 8,000-word dissertation.
A week in and I am called to a meeting with my tutor and placement coordinator. I am told that the lady who had interviewed me for my placement had reported back that I did not seem very interested. She had said that she thought that I did not want the placement. I broke down in tears as I was already feeling fragile and I just could not understand why this lady would say such things. Especially when I had thought that the interview had gone well. I had truly been excited to start my placement with them. I just felt like it was all happening again like my year two placement.
The next day I was told that they would not be placing me as they were concerned about my mental health. They wanted me to have an occupational health assessment. I was so annoyed as I felt that everyone is entitled to one bad day. It felt like I was being judged for having depression. My only choice was to comply. I decided to carry on with the academic side of things and wait for my appointment. My appointment came through for December and at the interview, the occupational health adviser told me that he would be reporting to the uni that I am totally fit for practice and should be allowed to start placement immediately.
However, due to me not being able to drive the uni said that they did not have a placement for me so I would have to wait. My dissertation which was the last of my work was submitted on May 25th and I still had not even started a placement.
I passed all of my academic work and I was really pleased to have received a first for my dissertation. Yet I can not graduate this year as I still have to complete my 100-day placement and accompanying portfolio. Next week I have a meeting with the team that I should be going to for my placement so it looks like I will not be finishing until next year. I feel proud of myself for passing everything and not giving up but I also feel frustrated that it is taking so long!