My Story – the Mature Student – by Simon Downes, 2nd year BSc Computer Networks, Swansea Campus

How daunting, that was my first thought when I said “Mum I’m going to University”. In response my mum said “what, at the age of 39?!” to which I said yes! So what was it that led me to this decision? After working since I was 16 years old in various jobs, I felt that a change was needed. I knew I wanted to retrain but how? That’s where Zoe, my wife, comes in. She persuaded me to attend an open day at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD). Hopefully I can try to highlight what it was about UWTSD that helped me make my life changing decision.

Simon Downes 3

So why UWTSD in Swansea? Firstly, the course matched my ambitions and overall initial goals. Secondly, during a visit, the then head of school made it clear to me I could do this and finally, the course director and lecturers were very encouraging towards me. As I suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome requiring me to receive additional support I felt that this would be an issue. However the support offered to me from lecturers, student services and the counselling teams at UWTSD has been instrumental in my success to date.

One of my biggest doubts was could I actually afford to go to university and provide for my family. With the support from Student Finance Wales and the finance team at UWTSD, my concerns were alleviated. Looking at the financial aspect for mature students there is so much available, from Grants, Bursaries, Adult Learning Funds and most importantly Childcare. I have never once felt like I couldn’t ask to non-attend a lecture or leave early as I had childcare issues. The university is well suited to allow for single and parents with partners to get the knowledge they want.

My Family Ryan, Zoe (wife), Thomas, Charlie and Bethany

My Family Ryan, Zoe (wife), Thomas, Charlie and Bethany

So I’m now 40 years old and in my 2nd year of a Computer Networks BSc course. What you don’t know is that I am married and have 4 children, Ryan 17, Charlie 13, Thomas 8 and Bethany 6. So I hear you say “is he mad?” well the answer, simply put, is no. My plan is to graduate and build a strong foundation for my family. Getting over the initial shock my family have been very supportive and want me to succeed as much as I do.