Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pursuing a teaching degree from home: How I overcame my anxiety to pursue my dreams

Emily shares her personal experiences and triumphs in choosing to do a degree from home rather than moving away.

-Emily Smale

I have known from a young age that teaching is something that I have wanted to do. However, I struggled with the aspect of attending university. The thought of moving into halls with people I did not know brought on many anxiety attacks. I was content with living in my small hometown with my small group of friends and family. The year before I had set up a youth choir with my best friend, and took on more responsibility at work. I didn’t want to give this up, but I was being constantly plagued by people that my life wouldn’t start until I moved away from home. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody and I so desperately wanted to become a teacher!

I began speaking to a friend of my boyfriends. She told me how she began her training; she started a foundation degree at the college in our hometown, and progressed to Plymouth just for her final year. This sounded perfect and I was so excited that I could get my degree without leaving my home! 

After two years of studying my foundation degree in Early Childhood Studies, third year was looming over our small group and the prospect of having to go to Plymouth. A few of the girls on my course asked me if I wanted to house share with them – but the same anxious thoughts (and physical anxiety effects) stopped me in my tracks. I decided to do the progression route through Flecs (which allowed me to study through Plymouth but do the majority of my studies at home). Little did I know how much I needed other people around me. During the first term of this progression I felt so alone – I was no longer spending all day with my friends at college, and I was now trying to make sense of lectures and dissertation notes on my own at home! This is when I begun to struggle…a lot. Without having a lecturer who I could pull to one side if things were getting tough, or friends who were in the same boat as me resulted in me losing a lot of my confidence.  

I began to feel like I was drowning in pressure from deadlines. I would lie in bed feeling like I was so far behind in my work and worrying about everything I had to get done. There were only a few girls on my course that had progressed with me, and from a distance it looked like they were doing so well. That was, until I decided to reach out, and I messaged my friend. She told me she was feeling the exact same pressure, and after much relief we agreed to meet up as often as we could. Sometimes it was just the two of us and other times, we worked as a larger group. Having people around me and sharing the thoughts and worries I thought I was alone with made it so much easier to get on with. I stopped feeling like I was suffering alone, and I really felt that I could actually get my degree.  

Although this year has been tough (but it’s nearly over!), working with other people has been extremely helpful. I have never regretted my decision to not move away at any point. I still have the university experience (maybe just not as many nights out!) but from my hometown. In September I will begin my PGCE and I couldn’t be prouder of my achievements. Doing a degree is hard enough in itself, let alone tackling the issues of anxiety that can come with it! Voicing my thoughts out loud to somebody who will listen really makes it easier to get through these stressful times! 

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