“I have a great idea! I have decided to return to education.” I was in my mid-twenties, clueless as to where my life was heading and this declaration to my friends and family both excited and terrified me. Deep inside my heart, I knew that I wanted to work with children and this desire stemmed back to my early experiences of education. I was fortunate to have encouraging, supportive, creative, and inspiring nursery and primary school teachers who I remember to this present day and reflecting on these cherished memories instilled excitement in my decision and I could not wait to get started! Yet deeply rooted doubts in my abilities surfaced, threatening to hinder my decision and truth be told, those fears nearly held me back. After heartfelt discussions with my best friends Lee and Kelly, who have been a constant source of inspiration, I changed those fears into goals to be conquered.
Flash forward 8 years, I attended an Open Day at Sheffield Hallam University. There were three undergraduate courses I was interested in, but after attending the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies (ECS) discussion, I remember having butterflies in my tummy from listening to a lecturer. Having experienced varying teaching styles, I knew the lecturers needed to be able to spark my curiosity, create a positive learning environment, employ inclusive and creative pedagogies, and promote active communication. I was not disappointed! From day one, the ECS lecturers were fountains of knowledge who stimulated my desire for learning, elevated my passions in child development, inspired me to be the best that I can be, and their constant support and encouragement never wavered. It has been an honour to have had the opportunity to learn from them.
Starting at SHU was not my first but my second attempt at studying at a Higher Education (HE) level. Previously, I had studied Education and Social Sciences combined with Theology Studies in London, and I was extremely lucky to study as an international exchange student at the highly prestigious University of San Francisco, California, discovering Philosophy and Mysticism. You can imagine the variety of modules I got to study! However, truth be told, I was not 100% happy. I was experiencing a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings about what I truly wanted to learn and where. Staying true to my desires in wanting to understand and support young children and their families, the ECS modules helped me to understand how young children experience health, education and social issues on a global scale; explore and utilise the benefits of play through putting theory into practice on work placements; demystify social constructions of early childhood and portrayals of children.
Reflecting on my academic journey, one of the best decisions I made was to study Early Childhood Studies. The modules covered current issues and approaches to early childhood education and care, resulting in me becoming an insightful and passionate advocate for young children. I class myself extremely lucky to have met such passionate, engaging, and inspiring professionals, who truly transformed and elevated my university experiences. Overall, I am so happy with the progress I’ve made since sharing my career aspirations with friends and family. The support I have received has led me to achieve a First-Class BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies and voted winner of ‘Inspiring Individual’ in the ‘University Inspirational Students Award 2021’. This acknowledges how I have inspired others by overcoming adversity in my life and makes the journey even more rewarding.