Carol Hunter, award-winning care experienced Open University Bachelors graduate and Masters student.
Award-winning care experienced Open University Masters student Carol Hunter shares her personal and educational experiences in this blog for Care Experienced Week 2020.
You could say I didn’t start life under the best circumstances. My medical notes will tell you that I was born womb-starved and with foetal alcohol syndrome. After a catalogue of incidents, neglect and reinstatement attempts, I was removed from my biological family and placed into foster care.
But luck was on my side. I was eventually adopted by a loving couple, who were unable to have children of their own. They knew my background, my issues and the possibility that I’d present learning difficulties, yet they wanted me.
Growing up, I was classed as the “problem kid” due to my background and that my adoptive parents “shouldn’t expect too much from me, academically”.
I went to a university straight from school, but I felt isolated and alone. I couldn’t cope so I decided to leave the course after a year, with no additional qualifications and lots of student debt. I worked in the finance sector for the next 14 years and had two children.
Life had its ups and downs and in 2014 my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Before he passed away, my father asked me to promise to do something I had a passion for – to go back to education and pursue my goal.
So, I joined Fife College to do a social care Higher National Certificate, as a late starter and a mature student, which had its own barriers. However, I fought through and completed the qualification, before going on to complete a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Social Sciences with the college, during which I had my third child.
I was introduced to The Open University (OU), during my HND studies, through my criminology tutor, who worked for Fife College as well as the OU.
Until that point I had completely ruled out the idea of achieving a degree. But the OU meant that maybe I could finally achieve this goal.
I transferred my credits from my HND to the OU through the articulation route that Fife College has with them and began my one-year course.
I graduated with a first-class OU Bachelor of Art (Honours) Social Sciences degree and am now studying for an OU Master of Arts in Crime and Justice.
During my time studying with the OU at Fife College, I mentored fellow care experienced students as a Care Experienced Officer for the college.
It is vital that the voices of care experienced students are heard. Care experienced students face barriers that others don’t. Just to see the change that someone’s believing in you, someone’s got your back, and they’re providing opportunities, they’re supporting you, they’re there to chat whenever you want, I think it makes a big, big difference.
I think once you build the relationships up with care experienced students and they’ve got a wee bit of confidence behind them, there’s no stopping them.
I was told that I would never achieve much academically – but I’m now an award-winning student and mum of three who’s fighting to ensure all care experienced learners are fully supported.
The Open University has made my dreams come true!
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from The Open University, Fife College and its Student Association.
I wanted to make my dad proud, and to show my children it’s never too late in life to completely change your course of direction. I never thought I would be capable of a degree, but the OU meant that I could finally achieve my goal.
I’m aware that not all care experienced people will feel like they have such champions, and that’s why we need to continue celebrate and fight for the care experienced individuals around us!
The Open University in Scotland is a proud corporate parent to our care experienced students. We have a Corporate Parenting Plan and a one-hour free course in Corporate Parenting for universities and colleges in Scotland to better understand and support its care experienced students. All universities and colleges in Scotland are named corporate parents; they must safeguard the wellbeing of students who are care experienced.
Carol Hunter was awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award and a highly commended Student of the Year Award from Fife College. She was Student President for the college’s Student Association for two years. She is currently a Guidance Adviser at Fife College and a Fife Panel Member for Children's Hearings Scotland.
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