What's your top tip for other student parents?
During university hours, try to get as much work done as possible before heading home, particularly if you have younger children. As once your home you often find yourself without any time to do work, or you are so tired by the time the children are in bed you cannot focus properly.
Why did you choose to go to university?
I have always wanted my degree. I had always wanted to have a career which I enjoyed with the hope that one day I will be comfortable financially and not have to struggle as much as my mother did when I was growing up.
What are the best bits of university life?
Meeting new people and learning new things. University is an amazing experience, albeit a more challenging one for a parent. It has shown me I truly am capable of anything if I set my mind to it, which is rewarding in itself.
What have been the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges have definitely been organisation and using your time effectively, something I have to say I'm pretty rubbish at sometimes, but it's all a learning curve. Secondly because I am still quite young I find that students around my age treat me differently once they know I have a child, more so girls. I'm not sure as to whether it is just the nature of a lot of students at Durham as they have mainly came to the university directly from private schools. I'm a local student and have found that they can be quite judgemental at times.
How do you cope with money?
It can be a struggle, but then most people are struggling in the present economic climate, so I figure I would rather struggle and gain something at the same time. However when the student loan company are good they are really good and generally have grants etc. sorted on time. Pretty much all universities have finance teams and they are there to help you and support you. In St Cuthbert's at Durham University the finance officers are amazing and most universities have grants and hardship funds set up for students who are in need of support. It's well worth cutting back on spending to experience university.
What do you wish you had known before you started?
That sometimes life throws a load of problems at you in your first year just for laughs - apparently it's very common among student parents. As maybe then I could have tried to prepare myself a little instead of being thrown in at the deep end.
That students who suffer with long-term illnesses do qualify for support from the disabled students office, including exam concession for people who struggle to sit for long periods of time. I have a sleep disorder, so this proved to be particularly useful for me as I have a tendency to drift off when sat for a long time. They also inform your department of your condition which results in staff being a lot more understanding if you regularly have time off.
How do you juggle your responsibilities?
I can't really describe how, you just do! Maybe its innate, maybe it's just an extension of multi-tasking in your home life, I think I just went onto auto-pilot and got on with it. It was surprising, actually, but relieving. I do always make sure I give myself an hour or so to play with my little girl before bed or watch a movie and have lots of cuddles so she doesn't feel as though I don't care.
Where will you be in 10 years time?
Hopefully in a job I love, travelling the world just me and my girl, when she's not in school of course. Possibly living abroad, I tried to choose a profession where there is work in all countries, and every country has archaeology so I have broad horizons.
What are your top money management tips?
Open a savings account, when you receive your loan divide it by 3, as there are 3 months between payments, set aside 2 months of money into the savings account and leave your month's worth in your student account,. Then you won't go to the bank one day and find you have no money and 2 months before your next payment.
Keep a track on what you're spending. I have a calendar on the wall in my kitchen which details when all of my direct debits for bills, rent etc. are coming out of my bank and I have them all within a few days of each other because then, the rest of your money is free to spend as you wish.
Apply for child tax credit if you do not already receive it, as well as housing benefit, they are the only ones you are entitled to as a student but you must be living in your own home and not student accommodation. Tax credits are paid weekly and can often be a blessing when money is short.
Shop around online for computer accessories such as printer cartridges etc. PC World maybe convenient but it is often very expensive. The same applies for laptops and computer hardware.