A fresh start for busy mum Catriona
Catriona Hawthorn, 41 from Ayr, is a mum of 3, who prior to starting her HND Countryside Management at the Riverside Campus in Ayr, had various part-time jobs, “ I was working part-time as a school assistant before starting college, and I am still doing that job 2 days a week. I also teach violin to a handful of pupils each week and have done so for about 14 years.”
A former pupil of Kyle Academy in Ayr, as a teenager Catriona always loved the idea of being a park ranger, “ I had attended the Young Naturalists Club at Culzean during some school holidays as a child and then joined the teenage section of it when I was a little older. I loved spending time at Culzean and learning from the rangers and reckoned that would be a great job. I remember checking out colleges and universities for suitable courses, but my parents and the careers / guidance teachers at school tried to discourage me from pursuing that as a career. They all reckoned I could do better and earn more money in another line of work. I chose my university course at Glasgow badly and didn’t enjoy it, and got no support when I had a few issues with illness during my studies, so decided to leave”
Starting again as a mature student has had additional considerations with a young family and part-time work to fit round however this hasn’t stopped Catriona, “The college staff have been friendly and helpful from the start. The SRUC are able to accommodate part-time and distance learners, and I chose the part-time study route for a variety of reasons. I have been able to keep working 2 days a week in my old job while attending college on the other days. I have studied Year 1 of my course (HNC level) over 2 years choosing to complete half of the modules the first year and the rest in my 2nd year.”
She is equally enthusiastic about the highlights of studying at SRUC, “Study tours, field trips and outdoor practical sessions. I have really enjoyed the study tours…a few days away with my classmates and with students from other campuses. The first year we stayed at Marr Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms and met various rangers and conservationalists in the region to learn about their work and assist them with a few tasks. This year we stayed near Tyndrum and have educational sessions in Glencoe, Oban and around that region.”
“I have also found my classmates to be a really nice group. Being a part-time student meant that my first group of classmates moved up to HND studies while I stayed to complete my HNC, but I have been fortunate to have nice classes both years. The students in my course tend to be mixed ages with quite a number of mature students mixed in with some students who are fresh out of school. The age differences have not been an issue and our groups have functioned well.”
Meeting new friends with common interests has been a big part of the course for Catriona, “the SRUC beach BBQ at the end of term last summer was a lovely end to the term…that was a great evening eating and drinking around a campfire.
Asked if she has any advice or words of wisdom to prospective mature students, she says, “Come along to an Open Day if you can as you can meet the staff. Ask questions…anything that is worrying you. The staff are friendly and helpful. The college have a good set-up for supporting students with additional needs.”