Joy Essien is currently studying for the BA Education Studies degree at the Institute of Education.
Originally from Nigeria where she worked as a journalist, Joy came to the UK and got a job in a care home in Reading. Although Joy was working in a care related role, she was also interested in education. She thought about becoming a Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant, and did some supply work as a Teaching Assistant in a special needs school.
Whilst working in the care home she met two people who were studying on an Access to Higher Education programme, who encouraged her to do the same. The Access team at her local college encouraged her to consider a career in teaching instead. Joy then enrolled on an Access to Higher Education programme - the Education Professions pathway.
Joy said: "The Programme Director for BA Education Studies, Teresa, came to college to talk to my Access group about the course. It sounded exciting and I liked the different modules she talked about, particularly the art and drama related ones."
Joy then decided to apply for the Education Studies degree. She attended a University Visit Day for BA Education Studies applicants and took part in a sample lecture about Inclusion with lecturer Billy Wong, which she really enjoyed. This confirmed her decision that this was the right degree for her.
Now in her first year on the degree programme, Joy is really enjoying it:
"The teachers are fantastic, they are so encouraging - you can really talk to them. I did find it all a bit intimidating at first but we had to do group presentations which meant that we began to get to know each other and find things to talk about."
Joy is now a Support Worker at a Supported Living Service and has continued to work to support herself during her studies. Working shifts, including overnight stays and then coming to University lectures or having to write assignments is sometimes challenging but the way the course is timetabled means that working and study are both possible.
Joy says that being a mature student on this degree course is enjoyable:
"There are other mature students in the group and we are already good friends, but we all help each other. The younger students have skills that we don't have and the mature students bring completely different knowledge and skills. For our first assignment I had no idea what to do but I spoke to other people in the group and we all worked it out together."
In summary, Joy said: "This is a course I would definitely encourage others to do. You can tap into the resources and there is so much support. It's not restrictive and opens up lots of opportunities. You can explore interesting subjects such as social justice and inclusive education. If it feels daunting - stick with it. Persevere and believe in yourself!"