If you were to tell my 16 year old self that when I was 23 id be finishing my second year for the summer & preparing for my third year of university. I’d have laughed in your face, I can’t believe I’m actually in this position. Not once would I have ever thought I would be here.
When I was sixteen and finishing my GCSE’s, I knew that I wasn’t going to college, not out of choice, my family are very old fashioned and see earning a living as going to full time work and paying your own way as soon as you are legally able to. I had a paper round from the age of twelve, earning my own pocket money each week (£12 to be exact). It was a long time ago, its been 7 years since I left school, and back then there was no compulsory further education like there is now, I received no help in terms of funding, I was also so unsure of what I wanted to do for a living that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college, I just knew I didn’t want to be someone who works 9-5 everyday in a typical job on minimum wage that never lead to anything. I wanted to be successful and have a career, I just didn’t know what that career would be yet.
I applied for pretty much every job going online, even if it didn’t interest me, I would walk to the town centre once a week and hand out my CVs, and after a few months of nothing (nobody wants to hire a young girl with no experience) I received a call from a warehouse who sold car parts, they were looking for someone to help out in the office upstairs with things like filing, handling emails and processing payments, general office work really. I had a brief interview and I was so happy when they offered me the position, I could quit my paper round and earn £3.68 per hour in my first ever full time job. I was on cloud nine for the first month or 2, I got paid weekly and with my first wage my parents let me keep it all and I bought myself a fancy new blackberry phone, it was second hand but I was so happy I could have a nice phone. After that I started paying rent to my parents every week, and I’d spend the rest of my wages on lovely things for myself, shopping for clothes, treats and sweets. It was bliss, until I hit a wall where I realised that was it.
I never had time to see anyone from school who I stayed in touch with, as they were all in college and had shorter days and I would be working, so I lost contact with everyone, I realised I was getting paid £3.68 per hour to do the exact same job my manager was doing next to me for pretty much 4 times my wages. I knew this was all it would ever be, id never be able to afford to move out of my home (at least not comfortably), I had no savings because £3.68 per hour really does not pay for much! And the job got more stressful, I was working on complaints and returns so id be dealing with people who had not received their item or received an item that didn’t work. I would go home everyday miserable, and for £3.68 per hour. I stayed in that job for 4 years, I was safe and secure, by this point my wages had gone up to £5 per hour, I could pay my parents my rent, pay for my monthly phone bill, and had a little money to myself every week. I was still always broke. I would cry a lot, hating my job so much, id cry on the phone to customers because I’d be listening to them swear and scream at me, but I was safe with my income and I could afford my bills so I stayed where I was, too scared to leave, I had looked for jobs elsewhere but nothing ever came of that.
One day I went on a little weekend away with my fiancé for my birthday, and I came back to work to be told that the company was closing & it would be my last week there, I was told I would be paid cash as long as I stayed until the end and people were leaving left right and centre finding new jobs and signing on the dole, I realised I had spent 4 years in a dead end job, and I was 20 years old with no job and nothing. My life had literally flipped and I almost felt like my 16 year old self again, confused and wondering what I was going to do with my life.
I was so upset, I had 1 final payday to last me until I found a new job, my parents were worried wondering how I was going to pay them rent, I had to cancel my subscriptions like my phone, my driving lessons, and my gym membership. I was 20, lost and broke. My fiancé told me to use this opportunity to do something real with my life, and go to college. I spoke to a few colleges and none of them would accept me on the course because of my age, most colleges cover up to 19 year olds, which I thought was strange. Then I found an access course listed on a college website, I looked into it and it was for mature students (over 19) who were looking to get back into education and do a faster route in order to access university. So I spoke to the college and got some more information, I put in an application, at the same time still applying for jobs because I still needed to find a way to pay rent.
I got a call from Sainsbury’s, and went for an interview to work there on the fresh food section. The interview went so well and I was actually pretty excited about it, the hours were early morning, 5 days a week, from 5am to 9am, but it would give me enough money to pay my bills and I was just so stressed about sorting that out.
A few weeks had passed and I had got into this point where I had absolutely zero money, nobody was getting back to me about job applications, I had no way of paying my parents rent (they were supportive but also worried because it meant they were £200 per month down too). I was on a little bit of a low point, worrying about my life, realising I had worked hard for 4 years to be broke and lost. I was angry with myself and at the world, as much as I hated my job and wanted to leave, I was so scared to do so because I was worried about being right where I was there and then.
One day I was checking my emails looking for job responses and noticed a college had contacted me about the access course, they offered me a place and I had to go to the college to give my details and sign paperwork. I was over the moon, I was going to college! My parents said that I was allowed to do it as long as I paid my rent, as they still wanted me to pay my own way, which was fine – it just meant that I had to also find a weekend job in order to allow me to do both. Then on the same day I received a call from Sainsbury’s, offering me the position, I was so happy, I knew it was going to be so hard, because the hours were 5am to 9am, then I would have to catch a bus to college and do my classes from 10am to 3pm. So the days would be long, but I was determined to do well and work hard so that I would never have to feel that lost, broke or low ever again. Sainsbury’s then also told me the hours they wanted to offer me had changed, they wanted to offer me a full day on Sundays, and then 1 day in the week I would work late night. It was like fate knew and wanted to help me out, I was over the moon, everything fit together perfectly, I could pay my bills and go to college. This was the start of my real life!
College was absolute hell for me, nobody ever can prepare you for an access course, if you have done one yourself, you know what I mean. An access course is basically doing all 3 of your A-levels in the space of 7 months, instead of the 2 years that you would usually get if you went to college when you were 16. It was the hardest year of my life, assignments would never stop, as soon as you submitted one, another would be given to you. Working was also hard, I would pick up extra hours if I could just so I had some money, even though my hourly wage had shot up to £7.50 per hour, I was only working 12 hours per week which meant my monthly income was actually less than what I was earning before. After paying rent and my other bills such as travel for college and phone etc, I would have nothing for myself. So I was absolutely broke for the entire year at college. I was stressed, tired, and stressed a couple more times. I was offered several places at several universities but had to do pretty well on my course in order to get in.
I nailed it and got more than enough credits to get onto the course I wanted, I accepted a place at Manchester Metropolitan University, studying combined honours in education and psychology. I had never been so happy, I finished college and worked so many hours at Sainsbury’s over the summer, saved my butt off and quit my job so that I could focus on university and doing well, I got a student loan to cover my bills and flew through first year, It was 100% easier than the access course, I did really well and by March 2017 I got myself a Saturday job so that I could earn a little extra money and also have something to do over the summer. I decided to keep my job going into my second year so that I wouldn’t have any stress, I managed to pay my bills before but I wouldn’t have much left to myself and there were times i would struggle, I wanted to be able to start driving lessons again and have some money for my own.
And now here I am, another year later, my second year of university is almost over and my second summer break is on the horizon. This time of year is always hard, assignment deadlines all approaching at once, knowing the summer holidays are so close, revising for exams, its pretty stressful.
I’ve worked so hard to be where I am right now, while I have been broke for as long as I can remember, and I have another 2 years left of hard work and dedication. I have always been so determined to reach my goal of becoming a teacher, that the hard work doesn’t matter to me, I know it will all be worth it. I will be safe and secure and successful. Yes I still live with my parents, and my life hasn’t really started yet, I’m surrounded by people who wonder why I’m doing this, why I don’t just get a full time job and stop putting myself through stress just for this degree. But it will be SOOOO worth it when in 2020 I can start my career as a teacher, I can earn a wage that I deserve and be comfortable. I view my degree as an honour, I never ever thought I would be lucky enough to get to come to university, or even go to college, I’m the first one in my family to do any of those things. I would dream of being a uni student, wishing I could have the opportunity like people around me did, and its been the hardest experience, I work very hard to be able to do it, but I’m here, and I feel so lucky.
So on the stressful days of university or college life, when you feel like giving up or overwhelmed because its getting a too hard, just know that you are a very lucky person, you have the opportunity to go to university and gain a degree, remember that some people don’t have the choice, they HAVE to go to work full time, and some people try so hard but don’t get in. So remember how lucky you are, and remember how hard you’ve worked to be where you are right now, think of the future and how amazing this experience is going to shape that for you, and give you the changes and opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you were not here today.
Keep at it and don’t give up.
Love Kays xo.