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How did I get here by Ashton

Eighteen. Clueless. And lost. That was the start of my journey into higher education.

My name is Ashton. I’m originally from Australia. I moved to England when I was eight. Why did I trade hot for the cold? Simple. Eight-year-olds aren’t included in life-changing decisions! Of course, I quickly fell in love with England. It’s where I’ve now spent two-thirds of my life.

Like most, I went through the bog-standard education system. From smiley faces and turkey dinosaurs at Primary School to overcooked pasta at Secondary. After five years of all-out nutrition, I progressed to sixth form. From here, I made a series of bad decisions, or rather, accepted decisions that were not my own. Looking back, I wish I had access to someone that had all the information I needed. Everyone was certain that BTEC Science and Psychology were the subjects for me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. My final exams and coursework were a disaster. As I approached the end of sixth form, my friends became increasingly concerned with their university applications, but not me, I got the impression that university wasn’t for someone like me.

After carefully listening to parents and teachers, I took a side step and went to Newcastle College to study BTEC Engineering. I lacked interest in this too. Enough was enough. I didn’t want to be the passenger of my own life. It was time to take control.

After lots of research, I decided that I wanted to go to university to study politics. I wanted to study something that I was genuinely passionate about, I wanted to explore different ideas in a space where it was acceptable to question everything. My first choice was Newcastle University, but I narrowly missed the grade requirements. I went with my insurance choice, the University of Sunderland.

My time at Sunderland was incredible. I met so many people from different backgrounds and made lifelong friends. I questioned the very world in which we live in and explored some of the most intricate political theories in existence. My outlook on life changed, and for the better. My time there granted me transferable skills that would later make me more employable. I can critically analyse issues of social significance using the application of academic concepts and theories. I can present complex academic arguments in a form accessible to a variety of audiences. And I can manage my time working to clear and detailed project schedules with time-bound goals and deadlines.

I graduated from the University of Sunderland in July last year with a First-Class degree in Politics with Criminology. I’m sharing this story because I want you to realise that your path doesn’t have to be a straight line. Your decisions aren’t life sentences.

I’m now a Higher Education Ambassador for FutureMe. I currently work in collaboration with five universities in the North East to support the development, coordination, and delivery of student mentoring and engagement programmes within a defined number of schools and sixth forms. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m here to give you all the information you need to make the best decision for you. I’m proud to say that I work with an organisation that wholeheartedly supports equality.