From ‘slightly terrified’ to about to be arts undergrad – by Mark Nuttall

So, we have reached the end of Go Higher 2017- 2018, and quite the journey it’s been! My names Mark and I’m 30. I did well at school to be honest, coming out with decent A Level Grades at 18, but then life and the prospect of earning some money seemed far more appealing to an 18-year-old me than the prospect of 3 more years of study, so I jumped at the first job that was willing to take me on and began the daily grind. After trying my hand at several different jobs over the last 12 years, and not really finding them all that satisfying (and hitting 30 without much to show for it probably played a part too!) I decided to explore the possibility of University.

I’d often mulled over the idea of furthering my education but questioned if I’d be able to get back into the swing of it after so long, whether I’d really be capable of studying at undergraduate level and generally if I had what it took to see 3 years of university through. Anyway, hesitantly I began to make some enquiries and soon discovered I’d need a more recent qualification to back up my now slightly dated school grades, so I started exploring my options further.

This is when I came across the Go Higher programme on the University of Liverpool website and it seemed to tick all the right boxes. It was part time, which would allow me to continue working alongside my studies. It included exposure to different subject areas including History, English Literature and Psychology, all subjects I loved. Another reason I’d never taken the university plunge before was not being able to decide what I wanted to study, so having a taster of undergraduate study in different fields has been invaluable. Finally, the fact that it was designed and catered for Mature students was huge selling point. It somehow seemed a less scary prospect to study with other “mature” people as opposed to jumping straight into full time study with teenagers fresh out of school. It’s been this that has been one of the best things about the course, it attracted such a diverse group of people, yet we were all in the same boat. All a bit daunted by studying, lacking in confidence, unsure of our abilities, but all with determination and willing to give it our all.

So, we all arrived in September, slightly terrified, and were thrown straight in the deep end with Stage 1. Group work and presentations! Help! Immediately though I discovered how supportive and helpful the lecturers and the pastoral staff were. Naturally, as often happens when working in groups, we had a few teething problems. But both our lecturer James and our Learning support mentor Julia spent time with our group individually to help us iron out these problems and to offer advice and gentle steering to get us moving the right direction. And its been the case from then and throughout, the staff have always gone out of their way to make sure we’re supported and staying afloat (Including out of hours panic emails in the lead up to assignments reassuring us that we were capable of doing it!) I remember particularly stressing over my Close Reading assignment in English and thinking I’d literally gone about it all the wrong way, that I’d done the whole thing wrong and the deadline was near, and it was just all a mess. When Barb, one of the mentors, kindly offered to read through it and give me some feedback. Within the same day she’d read through it and returned it to me loaded with encouragements and ideas to think about or things I could expand upon, both reassuring me I hadn’t screwed it up and helping me fine tune my writing. Its this that the Go Higher team do so well, they understand it’s a real challenge to step back in a classroom after so many years and they are there to support you every step of the way if you ask them for it.

I’m writing this mainly to encourage anyone thinking about applying for the course to go for it! If I could study on Go higher for 3 years and come out with a degree trust me I would. The people I’ve met, the support, the experience as a whole has just all been incredible. There’s been so many highlights, the trip to Suffolk, Julius Caesar at the FACT. I couldn’t imagine a better way of introducing people to the world of academia and general student life than Go Higher. I’m currently waiting to enter into 3 years of undergraduate study in French and English. Naturally I feel a bit nervous, but now I also feel prepared and far more confident in my abilities than I was this time last year. The excitement now far outweighs anxiety! The only downside is I won’t be studying with all the other Go Higher students I’ve grown so close to as we all go in our chosen directions, but I have no doubt I’ve made friends that will last far beyond this academic year. I’m already missing my go Higher Wednesdays!

So trust me, take the plunge, you won’t regret it.

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