If Anna Barlow ever needs to remember how far she’s come in the past 18 months, she just looks at her first UCOL Student ID card. “I looked very sad back then,” she says. Anna had become a solo mum and wanted a better future for her and her four young sons.
In 2020, she enrolled in the 17-week UCOL NZ Certificate in Study and Career Preparation (Level 4) programme, as a pathway into Nursing. She was doing well until personal circumstances meant she had to take a break. “I couldn’t focus, so I withdrew from the course.” She says she made the decision to ‘take a step back’ so she could ‘step forward’.
UCOL Science & Health Lecturer and Programme Leader Lesley Collins says Anna’s journey through the programme is a familiar one. “Our students are adult learners, so they all come here with their own personal story. Some come from challenging backgrounds - some from bad school experiences, some from life.”
Although Lesley and her team put an emphasis on treating each student as an individual, providing understanding and encouragement, some students need to take time out. “That choice is offered, if necessary, but we work closely with our Engagement Coordinators, so our students always feel well supported,” she says.
After a few months, Anna was keen to resume her studies, so taking her ‘step back’ into UCOL, she enrolled in the NZ Certificate in Study and Career Preparation (Level 3). “I gave it my all and earned top marks,” she says.
Anna says her recent move back up to the Level 4 programme has brought her a greater sense of self-worth and wholeness, and she is thriving in UCOL’s learning environment.
“I have made lifelong friendships with my classmates. We are kind of like magnets, we stick together, and our bond is real, and funny and light. We celebrate each other’s successes.”
Anna says, “the staff at UCOL go above and beyond to help us succeed and they want to be right there with you. I don’t want to miss a thing in lectures and soak up every bit of knowledge they have to offer.
“Even on a bad day, I can’t wait to get on campus. Being here is a step towards my goal of being a Neonatal Nurse.
“This is where I am meant to be.”