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As little as two years ago, rocking up to university and becoming a full-time student was certainly not part of any plan. To walk away from a career I’d spent a decade working towards and invest my efforts into forging a new more suitable path, seemed more of a fantasy. Fortunately, life intervened and I was gifted the impetus to change tack, enrolling as a Marketing Management student in September 2020. During the lead up to joining, I spent time immersed in doubt - had I made the correct decision? What is it I hope to achieve? Will I fit in? These anxieties have naturally worked themselves out through application of a positive and enthusiastic attitude; one year in and I am blessed with a sense of pride, refreshed perspective and purpose, having made the move to study at the University of Chester.

Choosing Chester was not a difficult decision, the University had come highly recommended and I was familiar with the area. The city has always been a highlight when visiting in the past, it is compact, rich in heritage, lively yet safe, and caters for many lifestyles. My experience of the application and on-boarding process was overwhelmingly positive; a balance was struck between feeling informed and not deluged with detail. Alongside the essential information, I was made aware of the ‘Languages for All’ and Work Based Learning schemes, invited to join the Mature Students Facebook page and join live Q&A sessions with the accommodation and academic departments. Before starting I felt equipped with the knowledge of what to expect and this helped deliver excitement and a sense of ease. I had been assigned a Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) whom I would meet at the very start of term, at which point I had begun to believe many more opportunities and resources would reveal themselves.

Moving in day. An immediate sense of relief, I would be bunking with a fellow mature student in a three-bedroom house. I was impressed and grateful to the Residential Life team for their consideration. Throughout the year, they would even regularly call for a check in and a chat. The early days were an opportunity to familiarise myself with the campus, my IT account, the online Portal, meet up with the Peer Mentors, sign up to mailing lists and start to settle in. During this period, it became clear to me that Higher Education is not simply alive with those just fresh out of college, but also a hotbed for elder students to thrive after having possibly taken the scenic route to university. I started to re-consider my pre-conceived notions, I needed to be far more open-minded and just get amongst it. There were so many people to meet and to learn from, young or old, staff or student, it simply did not matter. It was wonderful.

My studies began at the Chester Business School, and I continued to be impressed by the sheer scale of the support and resources available. The libraries, both their physical and digital environments, seemed to leave me wanting for nothing. I was enjoying a Financial Times subscription, extensive academic skills training (Study Skills/ASK) and an exceptional schedule of lectures, seminars and tutorials at the plush Queen’s Park Campus. Throughout the year, we were visited by six professionals from industry, all delivering key insights and opening their door for networking. Staff across the University are a breath of fresh air, always approachable, helpful and polite. A wave or a ‘hello’ certainly made a difference on a number of occasions – I really started to feel like I was a part of the institution.

Discovering Careers and Employability, their associated Careers Hub and the Volunteering and Mentoring team, amongst others, opened a new level of opportunity. There was a whole support network geared toward personal development and enrichment that sat outside of my academic studies. Both delighted and surprised, I couldn’t quite believe the resources available to me, there was so much more on offer than I ever first imagined.

The careers team offer an array of different services but I personally benefitted from hearing the advice and experience of ex-students who are now part of the Civil Service Faststream. Exposure to the professional and networking environment is only accentuated by The Venture Programme, who regularly run events open to all students, where industry professionals deliver presentations and Q&A sessions. Katy Carlisle’s ‘Managing Your Time and Being Productive’ seminar was a particular highlight – I picked up a number of techniques that I continue to apply today.

The careers team also work with external providers such as SRS and Bright Network, delivering mock assessment centres and online internships. I attended both of these schemes during the following summer and found them to be an outstanding experience where I was able to learn, grow and develop essential skills such as handling group exercises, networking and ‘design thinking’.

There are ample part-time work opportunities actively promoted, whether it’s in the city centre or on campus with Unijob. You could find yourself working at the bar, staffing the Covid testing centre on campus or representing the University as a Student Ambassador. Having taken on Unijob roles myself, I cannot speak highly enough of the experience.

Another way to make the most of your time in Chester is to volunteer. The Volunteering and Mentoring team offer the rewarding opportunity to make a difference; on campus and in the community, to your peers and to your neighbours. Including student-led projects, there is a vast range of activities to look out for. You can meet new people, build networks, try a new experience and have quite a lot of fun in the process. There are leadership roles available for students to manage projects such as conservation, dog walking and letter writing. The standard of training provided by the team has been impeccable during my on-boarding to the Welly Wednesday project and it’s exciting to be a part of.

As the summer break approached, I was grateful for amenities to open up so I could enjoy more of what is on offer here. Chester is simply a beautiful place to live. Venturing outside of the city walls, there are gorgeous villages, hills and beaches to visit, only a short train or car journey away. The University’s allotment has been open and welcoming budding volunteers each Tuesday for a working lunch, literally; it’s a great social and I’m looking forward to being a part of it moving forward. More recently, I have started to take advantage of the sporting and fitness facilities on campus, they really are superb. The pool is free, the gym is fully loaded, but for the time being my favourite is staff student football - really good craic!

Taking this moment to reflect on my time here, I feel grateful to have had the platform and the capacity to say ‘yes’ as often as possible. There has been a remarkable variety and value to my experience so far, and I’d like to extend my appreciation to the University of Chester and all those who are a part of it.

If you're interested in studying at the University of Chester, take a look at our full course list on our website or book your place at one of our Open Days.

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undergraduate mature student