I was missing days at college, caring for my Mum, and taking the kids to school. University seemed so far away – but now I’m at uni, studying youth and community work, and doing really well.
Ethan Mackay, youth and community work student, University of South Wales
I’d been caring for my mum since I was 14 or 15, so about five years. Mum has a slipped disc, fibromyalgia, and poor mental health, so if she had a bad day I would support her –either emotionally, financially, or by taking the kids to school. So, during my A Levels I was missing days because I couldn’t get to college on time, and I was self-employed with Deliveroo as well – in the end I had to leave.
Without A levels I never thought I’d be able to go to university. Instead I worked at Barnardo’s with young community workers for a year and a half – at which point my partner encouraged me to apply to university. I’d never had that encouragement before.
At first, I was unsure what to study – but, after working at Barnardo’s and having had a lot of support from youth workers, I wanted to give back. I decided on youth and community work.
I wanted to go to the University of South Wales (USW) because it’s close enough to home that I could get back, but I could still have a uni away-from-home experience. Mum knows that uni is my priority now and has got some friends to help with the kids.
I got an interview for youth and community work at USW. The lecturer actually said I’d be fine without the foundation. I thought I needed it to make up for not having A Levels, but he said I’d done 100 hours of care work, so I didn’t have to have the grades – they took me on experience. I was lucky with the timing of lectures on the full course – just one day at uni a week with around 14 hours of placement (200 hours over the year). This meant I could continue to work, as well as do my course, my placement, and get back home when I’d be needed.
I’d talked about university but never thought I would get a place. I enjoy the challenge and learning new things. I love youth work, and that I am able to better myself and support the young people around me. I’m studying the global youth route, rather than youth justice. I find both routes interesting, but global youth links up better with my placement, so makes more sense for me.
University supports you much more than college. Today, I got a call from my lecturer to talk about my assignments. You can speak to them when you want to – they’re very supportive. I also get one-to-one support for dyslexia and dyspraxia, 64 hours over the year, which works out as two hours a week. They check my spelling and grammar etc., and we make templates for my assignments so I know exactly what should go in there.
Carer or not – you can still do whatever you want in life. You might have to be stronger in yourself to push through, but anything is possible – the support is there if you need it, as long as you make sure they’re aware of it, at school, college, or university.
After I finish my studies I’m not sure exactly what I’d like to do next. Something to do with youth work, or I was thinking of doing a master’s. I’m not sure. I just take it as it comes. The one thing I would say – don’t set your limits lower than they should be.