Tracy explains why it’s never too late to learn

Nurse Tracy Hyde, tells us why she returned to education at the age of 35 and is now a qualified mental health nurse, doing the job she always dreamed of.

Tracy lives in south Leeds and is a community mental health nurse. She qualified from the University of Leeds during the pandemic last year and has shared her learning journey with us.

Tracy grew up Harehills and left school at 15 when she became pregnant. She had a range of jobs which, as a single parent, had to fit around her children. Over time, she realised that these jobs were not making her happy. After one job in particular which was having a negative effect on her mental health, she went back into education at Leeds City College. At the age of 35 she did her Maths and English GCSEs.

During a class Julie met a member of the Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds (LLC) who invited the class to a study day for mature students at the university. At this event, Tracy heard a mature student Learning Champion who was studying to be a mental health nurse talk about his learning journey. She describes how meeting someone who came from a similar background as her, gave her the inspiration to go to university:

“I don’t come from a really wealthy family, I don’t come from a really wealthy area. I was born and bred in Harehills. My dad was a postman and my mam worked in a factory and it wasn’t my lifelong ambition to go into education, it’s just not what people did. So seeing people that sort of resonated with me, meant that I could see a connection between me and university. That was when I thought, you know what, I could do this and I applied.”

Tracy then spoke to one of the guidance officers at the at Lifelong Learning Centre’s who advised her of all the possible options and helped her make a decision. She stressed how the application process felt supportive and not overwhelming and helped her make her decision. She was accepted on the LLC’s foundation year Preparation for Higher Education. This is a course for adult students and can provide a pathway onto degrees at Leeds University.

The following year, she was accepted onto the Mental Health Nursing degree course at the School of Healthcare at Leeds University. She told us,

“When I got accepted, I felt a bit like it was make believe, but there were such a diverse group of people going to university. By the time I finished I was 45 and there were lots in their 30s, so it wasn’t all younger students. There were also students in their 60 and 70s and for me I felt I was the young one.”

She sums up her journey:

“So in 7, 8 years, I went from having no qualifications to being a Band 5 qualified mental health nurse with a degree from Leeds University. I’m not going to say it was easy, but now that I’m not at uni, I miss studying.”

Tracy is clear about the benefits of studying:

“It gave me more confidence in myself … I hated education, I found it really difficult and felt that I never gelled with it when I was younger. At university I wasn’t told how to do something, I had to investigate it myself and prove why I found that information out and that’s what I loved about uni. I loved looking at the different sides of the argument.”

She also mentions the range of support available to students at university:

“I found out that I had dyspraxia and slight dyslexia as well at uni. Once I found that out and provisions were put in place and I got the support I needed, I found things a little easier. There was also support through the library, you’re never on your own.”

Before accepting her place, she was given lots of information about the financial support at university.

“At first I thought I can’t give up my job but it worked out and I chose not to work, you’re not on your own.”

It’s not always widely known that most people are eligible for a government student loan which covers their tuition fees and some living costs. This doesn’t have to be paid off until someone is earning £27,295 a year, the loan is also written off after 30 years.

What would Tracy would tell her younger self?

“Just because you haven’t been successful at a young age, doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful at any stage in your life. I think with mature students, you have got factors that might prevent you, but if you’ve got a passion, your time will come. I’d say that it’s never too late, ever.”

Tracy is clear that her strengths, gathered from her life experience, have got her through university:

“I was a young mum, I was pregnant at 15 and people were saying, “Your life’s over, what are going to do with your life?” and maybe I wanted to say to them, “Look what I’ve done, I’ve just got a degree.” For me it was sheer and utter resilience, determination and I wanted to prove it to myself, I felt that inside I had more to give as well, and just to say to everybody, well my life wasn’t over was it, look at what I’m doing now!”

If you want to explore your options in further and higher education please contact LLC on 07592 328670.

Thinking about studying this year? We are still accepting applications onto our part-time degrees for September 2021 entry. These flexible options are ideal for adults wanting to study alongside work or other commitments. Our part time programmes are specifically designed for mature students working in education, family support and other settings. You do not necessarily need formal qualifications as we take life experience into account.

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Hear Tracy’s story in full: