James Shares Advice on How to #DreamBig at University

This month’s Dream Big Blog is from James. James is from an Armed Forces Family and is a recent graduate of the University of Aberdeen. He shares how his experiences helped him to THRIVE at University

The main thing that helped me was all those times we’d moved and I’d started at a new school. I feel my experiences growing up have given me a pretty good idea about how to adapt to new surroundings, make new friends; at least probably more than most people. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about starting uni. In fact, I was pretty scared. I was worried about moving out, having to cook and clean for myself, being responsible for my own finances, and being surrounded by people who seemed much smarter, cooler, and more mature.

It took me a long time to feel like I fitted in. Some of that was down to getting used to the new routines that come with uni life. More importantly however, I realised everyone else felt the same way. Everyone was nervous, everyone had doubts about if they belonged and worried about making friends. Fair enough, some hid it better than others, but at the end of the day, it’s a new experience for everyone.

Coming from a Forces Family, I feel actually had the advantage. The variety of experiences you get growing up, moving around a lot, meeting loads of people, mean you’ve already experienced a lot of what people are worried about when first going to uni. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy, but it’s not as hard as you might think.

For my degree (Politics and International Relations), a lot of the work involved ideas and concepts I’d never heard of before. The step up from high school to uni is pretty big and I definitely recommend keeping up to date with reading and making the most of office hours. What surprised me was how useful my experiences were in tutorial discussions. Everyone’s experiences shape their opinions but being from a Forces Family gives you a relatively unique outlook and this is massively helpful. For example, I took a module about Gender Roles and Identity in Conflict and the Military Wives Choir came up as a topic. The way other people in my class perceived military spouses was completely different from how I did. I like to think I changed some minds and made people realise how important military spouses are to our community. I know it’s only a small example, but for me it really demonstrated how much my experience coming from a Forces Family not only furthered my own learning experience, but could help further that of others. 

At the end of the day, uni can be a defining experience in your life and can really help you achieve your goals. If you’re worried about going to uni coming from a Forces Family, that’s natural, but what I realised over my four years was that the experiences I had growing up actually gave me a really solid foundation to thrive in further education. 

If you are thinking about going to college or university why not check out the My World of Work website and the ‘Learn and Train’ section. This has information on both college and university and will help you consider your learning options/pathways and funding information. It also has a course search function.  The site also signposts to individual institutions and organisations such as UCAS.

Furthermore, if you are considering if College or University is for you but are worried about whether you can afford to go please contact Karen, RCET’s Children & Family Support Co-ordinator on familysupport@rcet.org.uk or by calling 0131 322 7350 to get more information about our College & University Fund.