Young parents at university

Since joining Student Wire it’s fair to say I’ve looked around a lot of the articles that have already been posted on the site. There are definitely recurring themes that run throughout some articles e.g. Freshers, Money, Hints & Tips etc. The list goes on. However, I’ve never seen an article on Young Parents at University. Therefore I thought I’d take this opportunity to share one young woman’s experience with the rest of you. 

When I first started at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln on my Drama in The Community course, one of the first modules you take part in is called Studio Practice. This is where the third year students are the directors and they use the first year students as there actors/actresses for something they’ve adpated, written or choosen to perform. Following me so far? It’s at the start of the year so it’s nerve-racking to think you’ll be working with a third year student, though, I must admit I think I got the best director the third years had to offer. My directors name was Gemma Mills, a third year student who’d come to BGU after going through clearing to study on the course a few years previous. 

The first day we met our directors we all had to go off with them to make arrangements for the first rehearsals and what not. Gemma and our group went to the SU and sat in the bar to discuss details on what we were to do. Straight away we all introduced ourselves and Gemma informed us that she had a little girl only a few months old. Skip ahead to where we are in the thick of rehearsals and Gemma has become a close friend supporting me both on and off the course. Also at this point I know a lot more about her little girl, her fiancé and the journey she has come on to be where she was at that point and time. I always found Gemma to be a strong source of inspiration and support purely because of what she’d been through and how she had a little girl and was studying at university. “What a strong person, if she can go through all of that and still be studying at university, then I can keep going as well” is what I thought to myself. 

I decided that Gemma’s story and inspiration needed to be shared therefore I pulled together a questionnaire about Young Parents at University and asked whether or not she’d feel okay answering them. To my delight she answered all the questions. So now, I share with you what Gemma had to share with me.

  1. When you first found out you were going to be a young parent, what were your initial feelings? (Excitment, nervous etc) Nervous as I didn’t know if I was going to be able to carry on at university, worried about money and what other people would think.
  2. When you’d found out, how did you approach the idea of university? (E.g. staying, leaving etc) I straight away spoke to support at university, lectureres were fantastic at providing advice and being there to have someone to talk to.
  3. Did the university support you in your decisions? / What support did they offer? University fully supported my decision and said I didn’t have to make my decision until after the baby was born although it was good to have a plan in mind.
  4. How much did it affect your studies? When I was pregnant I had to swap a couple of practical modules for written ones, but once Ella was born I became more focused and motivated because I had to do it for her.
  5. How did you balance being pregnant and attending university? I jsut worked really hard, I knew I wanted a degree and I did everything I could to get it.
  6. Did people treat you differently? (E.g. did you tell people or did you have to approach it head on)  There were rumours and people talking behind my back but it’s university so it’s what I expected. I told a few close friends early on and then others as when they needed to know. I was working in a practical group at Christmas for a site specific module and had to tell them why I couldn’t jump off a block!
  7. Once you had your child, how did you balance your studies and your child? We had really good childminders and Ella started there at just 7 weeks old. I worked with fantastic groups of people at university who understood that Ella came first and supported me through certain modules. I worked in the library a lot in the time between lectures and worked at home once Ella was in bed.
  8. What was the hardest part throughout the duration of pregnancy/having your child? I didn’t find any of it hard, it was just a different experience and I just got on with it.
  9. What advice would you give to other young parents? Don’t let anyone tell you your life ends when you have a child, I’ve made some fantastic friends, and you realise who your true friends are once the baby is born.
  10. What advice would you give to other young parents in education? Take all the support you can get, apply for every bit of student finance and don’t feel bad about asking for extensions, and don’t put being a parent second, you will never get back those moments with your child.
  11. What support would you ask them to seek? (asides from family/friends etc) Student finance, university bursaries and anything else that’s offered to you!

Finally for the last question, I asked Gemma if there was anything she’d like to add, of her own personal accord and she had this to say:

“Being a student parent is amazing. It doesn’t change your university experience, well it changes what you let it. I still had time to see my friends, do extra-curricular activites and get a 2:1 degree. I was lucky that my partner was there to support me, even though he’s a university student too. Friends are so important as they will be there through everything, if it’s telling them about your child’s first smile or first steps!

And there you have it, a some what detailed insight into the life of a young parent at university. There isn’t much more I can add as I’ve never been through the experience but I just thought Gemma’s story was one that had to be put out there, even through an amateur article writer like myself. Gemma was fantastic in all the information she provided and really supportive in the article being written.

I should add that Gemma mentions her partner, Alex Liddle. They are happily engaged and of course have their lovely one year old daughter, Ella. Whilst Alex is still at university, Gemma has just finished her degree with a 2:1 and is continuing at the university to do her PGCE. I wish both of them all the best and all the happiness in the world. 

If you have any questions about being a Young Parent at university please feel free to comment or direct message me on my Twitter account: @JustGeorgeJ_UNI or catch me and my updates on Facebook: JustGeorgeJ and I will pass them onto Gemma and get back to you. 

I hope this article has been some what informative and inspirational. 

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George Burton

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