I enjoyed school and always knew that I wanted to go to university, but at 17 I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life long term, so the big question was "what should I study?” We had lots of careers talks and most of the speakers said "do something you enjoy", so I looked at what I was studying at A level: chemistry, economics and psychology. I loved chemistry and I always had lots of questions, I always wanted to know more, so studying it at a higher level seemed like the easy answer to my question. I went on open days, became enamoured with the idea even more, and when I was 18 I moved to Edinburgh to begin life as a chemistry student.
University life was everything I hoped it would be, the lectures were fascinating, the societies were amazing and the sense of freedom was incredible; but when I returned from my second summer as a camp counsellor, I realised that I didn't want to spend my life working in a lab, I wanted to be around children. I thought about finishing my degree and doing a post grad to be a secondary school teacher, but it didn't really appeal. So I looked in to routes to primary school teaching and found I'd have to do a 4 year degree (courses are longer in Scotland, which was now my home). So 4 years on top of another year of chemistry, the time alone seemed too long to a 22 year old, let alone the associated loans and fees. I thought long and hard and made the difficult decision to leave my course a year early, gaining a diploma of higher education.
Then came the hard task of once again navigating UCAS and whilst checking out all the different universities around me that offered primary teaching, I came across a paediatric nursing course. It was like a light-bulb moment. Nursing was something I had never even considered before, but when I saw that page in the prospectus and realised that you could specialise immediately I was captivated. I discussed my interest with those closest to me and realised it was something I really wanted. Then I discovered that the course fees are covered by SAAS, and you are given a bursary whilst studying meaning no extra debt (I had already accumulated approx £30,000 from my first degree course). I naively only applied to Edinburgh universities, after all, I had been accepted to all my choices for chemistry, but alas, times had changed and paediatric nursing is a lot more competitive than chemistry. I wasn't accepted and I was devastated.
I didn't give up, I knew it was what I wanted, I needed more experience; so I spent the year working as a nanny for 3 children under 5. I reapplied and widened my net, I was accepted to two universities. I chose Glasgow Caledonian University over Northumbria, as it was commutable from Edinburgh and I worked harder than I had ever worked before. 3 years later I graduated gaining a BN with merit and now I work in a children's Accident and Emergency department in the largest hospital in Europe. I love my job and am so glad I made the choices I did. Sometimes I wish I'd realised what I wanted to do earlier, but then I wouldn't have the life experiences that I have; I wouldn't have been able to spend my summers doing Camp America, or my Easters working at the Edinburgh Science Festival (which lead to me working at both the Abu Dhabi and Bangalore Science Festivals). If I had to offer myself at 17 any advice, it would be the same as everyone else's "do something you enjoy". Universities offer so much more than just academia, they shape who you become, and I became a paediatric nurse.
Kerry Foster, Paediatric Nurse