As many of you may know I first enrolled at the University of the West of England (UWE) when I was 19, mostly due to family and social pressure. I picked Film and Media & Cultural Studies, driven mostly by my love of film and my uncertainty over what else I wanted to do with my life.
The years that followed have been filled with a series of challenges personally and professionally that have always left me feeling dispirited and ashamed and further pushed me into making a wide array of poor life choices. Fast forward six years, and I am coming to terms with my own neurodiversity and am finally making the progress I have longed for. I am now on different anti-depressants and have made significant dietary changes that have currently helped me lose three and a half stone. I also finally believed in myself enough to enrol at the University of South Wales to study Sociology, a subject which has fascinated me pretty much since I failed Uni and started hanging round with the smart kids. My first year at USW could not have been more different from my first attempt at academia - I went from failing to even attend class at UWE to finishing the year at USW with an average grade over 70. I was receiving comments like "I would expect this level of writing in a postgraduate level essay" and received marks as high as 90.
But whilst my academic work flourished, my past mental health issues felt like they were coming back to haunt me - because I had previously taken out two years of student finance, Student Finance Wales were uncertain about whether they could fund my first year of university at all, due to incorrect records it was even suggested at one point that I would be unable to receive funding for the first two years of my course. I survived the entire year on charity from my family which covered my rent, and my partner's paltry NHS bursary. I entered into a protracted period of negotiations with Student Finance Wales, during which they never gave me a firm answer about whether I would receive funds or not, but encouraged me to pursue seeking extenuating circumstances with regards to my previous experience. For this SFW required me to provide evidence that I had learning difficulties at the time of my previous period of study, however my previous university already destroyed these records as they'd been held for the legal limit of seven years. Whilst SFW eventually were able to award me a small maintenance loan, which was enough to pay a third of my outstanding tuition fees, this money did not reach me till July. This was the final straw, and without proof of my disability all funding opportunities through SFW and my university are exhausted.
I now need to find a further £6,000 to continue my studies in September. Because of the time-sensitive nature of this I am also looking at options like private loans, although this is unlikely because my previous patterns of behaviour also included racking up an appalling credit history. If I am accepted for any of these loans, money raised here would go towards paying them off as soon as possible to avoid embarking on another unsustainable cycle of debt.
I am asking for help because I don't believe that a person's past mistakes or crises should write the script for their future. I am a different person than the one muddling through life in the midst of a mental health crisis, but because I don't have the correct pieces of paper and didn't reach out to a mental health professional at the time, I'm being denied the opportunity to use education to make a new future for myself.
If you can help with anything at all, even if it's simply sharing the campaign to your networks, I would be so, so grateful. Thank you for helping me have my second chance <3 #reeducatingrich
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