Sophy, mature student studying BSc Sports and Health Sciences
Sophy grew up in care living in multiple homes and attending several schools and was one of the first children in care in Devon to go on to Higher Education.
“From when I was very young, I had always aspired to go to University, I was the first person in my whole family to do so,” she said.
She is now on her second degree as a mature student and mother but has the additional challenge of suffering from both a physical and learning disability.
Sophy was medically retired from her previous career as a graphic artist and has returned to education to help her recover and move on to a new career.
“I have faced many challenges getting into higher education, but it is important to note that I have always been supported along the way. As a mature student, with a child and disabilities, there are many obstacles to get to the position to actually get in to University. I did a night class then was accepted onto an ‘Access to HE’ course, which is vital in connecting the dots and helping people in my situation reach their goal,” Sophy said.
Sophy said her experience in the main at Exeter has been very positive with her able to overcome challenges with support around her.
“The University itself and all staff I have encountered have been really positive, nurturing and most importantly for me adaptable. This last academic year I became seriously unwell and have had to take extended medical leave, fully supported by all departments,” she said.
Sophy has been able to access support from staff including additional help with her complex health needs including physical and learning disabilities.
“There are many support avenues at Exeter and I have been lucky enough to avail of many. I receive Disabled Student Allowance which pays for me to have a specialist 1-2-1 who helps me manage my work and my writing skills. When my mental health was floundering, I received 8 weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy at the university for free,” she said.
As a mature student she initially felt on the periphery of University life but has volunteered and become a student ambassador which has helped her connect and enjoy the social aspect of being a student.
“I think it is a University that really values a holistic and inclusive attitude towards education. I love that courses such as mine are research- led and helps students to gain vital practical skills that are transferable in the real- world,’’ she said.
Sophy recommends Exeter as a place to study saying it champions people accessing higher education from all walks of life, but stresses there is still work to do on access.
“It is wonderful to see how much is being done for care leavers and children in care, the transition from 10-15 years ago is phenomenal. However, there is a gap of young people that are being denied a higher education in young carers. Helping to fund a carer would allow a young person to leave home and go to University or assisting in helping carers access all support service available,” she said.