I’m from Ghana. I’m a trained secondary teacher and when I came over here I decided not to go back to teaching.
I’m studying Criminology and Criminal Justice because I love the criminal aspects of sociology and learning about human behaviour and how to solve crimes. I’ve been a victim of crime myself, and through my experience I was interested in why people commit crime and wanted to learn more.
I had done a Forensic Psychology course before so I knew a bit about the area and the problems with the criminal justice system and the impact of reoffending. I really want to go into the Probation Service or the Prison System so I’m learning about the theory behind offending and then later I can learn more about the practical aspect of it when I move into the workplace.
Birkbeck’s evening classes are perfect for working people in London. I work full-time as a health and safety inspector for a housing trust and also study full-time. It’s very difficult but I just have to manage my time well. It’s not easy doing a full time course and working. I couldn’t afford to do the full time course without working because I have other responsibilities so I couldn’t give up work, plus I wouldn’t get any other financial support.
I came out of teacher training college in 2002 so I had been out of education for a long time. I had done other distance courses but it had been over 10 years without being in the classroom. It’s all about dedication and commitment. My first year was very tough. I didn’t know it was going to be so difficult but then I realised I would have to really give it everything and then finish it. Once you dedicate yourself then you have to go for it. When I started, some of my friends were concerned that I was too busy, but by the time I got to second year they could see I was getting there. My boss is really supportive, I am able to leave work early to go to uni.
Studying at Birkbeck has been marvellous. I never knew there was so much support available at university until I got to Birkbeck. It’s been fantastic, I always like being in class. I learn more when I listen more. At Birkbeck there is so much support, especially with study skills and my personal tutor directs me to the right places and responds quickly. It seems everything is in the right place. In class we all get along and people’s contributions are taken on board. We have debates about different topics but we’ve all been able to respect each other. We are all from different places. The majority are working, a few are studying full-time, a few are part-time.
Studying at Birkbeck has really boosted my confidence and the way I used to feel in the 1st year wasn’t the same as I feel now. First year is a whole lot of unknowns for everyone. There was a lot to read, and it was hard to keep on top of the reading. Halfway through I realised it was not easy but I had to keep on going. It’s all about being self-disciplined. Now I’m in the 2nd year and I’ve been a mentor for 2 people.
So I think after first year your confidence builds up and you begin to know what areas to study and that keeps you going. In the first year I faced challenges to do with referencing, academic language and plagiarism, but after attending the study skills workshops provided by Birkbeck I improved and I didn’t have any further problems with it. Halfway through, I feel very good in myself, and confident that I’m really going to achieve what I wanted to for myself. If I hadn’t come to Birkbeck I wouldn’t have really felt like I would be where I wanted to be personally.
Most of the time if I become tired when reading I use the computer reading to me, in my headphones and taking notes. I learn better that way than reading myself. I find it difficult and there are lots of texts. I have special software. I’ve been mentoring two first year students and I’ve encouraged them to be determined, they tell you it’s difficult, but I tell them what works for me and even if they can’t read everything they should be at lectures, it’s better to be at than to read a whole text or book which you might not be able to understand. The explanations that you get at lectures can really stick in your mind, that’s what works for me. I would encourage anyone to do it and use the personal tutors because that’s what they are there for. And there is a whole lot of support that Birkbeck offers, so make use of it!
To find out more about courses available at Birkbeck and the Trade Union discount go to the Birkbeck website.