GCU graduate hopes to inspire others after being told she wouldn’t amount to anything  

Fri, 13 Aug 2021 16:19:00 BST
(Pictured above) Final year Social Sciences student Alicia Anderson
(Pictured above) Final year Social Sciences student Alicia Anderson

A GCU student has reflected on her challenging academic journeydeciding to share her story in order to inspire others. 
Final year Social Sciences student Alicia Anderson recently completed her degree, despite facing numerous challenges and being told she wouldn’t amount to anything. 

Now at the end of her time at University, Alicia talked of her relief of overcoming her difficulties and wants to inspire others to never give up. 

We spoke to Alicia about her journey and the advice she would give to current and future students: 


Firstly, could you tell us briefly about your academic journey so far (from school to university)? 

“I was badly behaved in school, getting expelled and on my last warning before I was thrown out. I was badly behaved with no qualifications or plan for the future. I was dealing with a lot of mental difficulties and I was bullied from primary school until around 4th year, so my upbringing left me a bit fragile. I had lack of friends and fear of neglect - I acted out to seek approval and attention.  

If it wasn’t for my year head, I don’t know if I would have got the sudden motivation to change.  
He told me if I didn’t change now, my future wasn’t looking pitch perfect. I was scared that I wouldn’t succeed, so I stuck my head down and studied hard. Everyone, teachers and students, expected nothing less than ill behaviour from me.  Within a few weeks, I was getting higher marks than half of those who doubted my intelligence and the teachers who dismissed me from their class were now welcoming me before I had even reached their classroom.  

In my final year in school, I was chosen by the history department to be an ambassador for History and had the opportunity to travel to Poland with other Scottish students, to learn about the holocaust and bring that education back to the school. This was probably the 
stepping stone to me actually realising I was talented. Despite this, my life was still chaotic.

After a few months, at the age of 19, I dedicated a year out for some “recovery time”. I worked in retail and went out with friends and just enjoyed myself. When the following summer approached, it was time to decide if I wanted to get back into education or continue working. I always like to push myself and when my mind fears something, I try to do the opposite. So, I went back to education at college. My HND Social Sciences course at college was undoubtedly the best time of my life. I met friends for life and learned that actually IWAS capable of achieving things other than hanging up clothes or sweeping floors. 
Long story short, I came out with AAB and I cried. It was a mix of happy tears and soppy ones because I was proud of myself because now I was off to GCU entering third year. This was everything I dreamed of.  
In a short space of time, I met my boyfriend who turned out to be in the same course as me. I also made new friends, especially Jordane who helped me all throughout my journey.  

 However, my little cousin passed away by October. This triggered me beyond anything I could ever imagine. By December, I decided, with the advice of my lecturer Ben, to take a break. Initially, I thought NO I can’t do that - I need to keep going. But Ben reassured me that it was just a break for a few months and I could pick up from where I left off. I am so thankful for Ben because this has helped me so much. 

 When I returned to GCU, I was brighter and more motivated and on a roll. I smashed my assessments and actually loved going to University. For me, one symptom of my depression and anxiety was shutting away in my room. I was loving life breaking my habits now, attending classes and socially mingling. But then COVID came - I was then forced to shut away and alienate. It was really hard, but, I pushed on because I knew I could face anything I put my mind to.” 


Now at the end of your academic journey, how does it feel knowing how far you have come? 
“It feels odd; it doesn’t feel like anything has changed. If anything, I miss University! That said, I am so relieved I never have to use “et al” or reference again! I’ve never been one for tooting my own horn, but I’m so proud of myself.” 

What advice would you give to students at the start of their journey? 

“My advice to students beginning their journey is that there’s nothing you cannot do. Having come from the HND Social Sciences course, I used to beat myself up when I got a mark around the 50s bracket for an assessment. I feel that coming from college, there’s sort of an expectation to achieve a certain result or work 10x as hard because there's an assumption college is easy. This is completely wrong! I thought like that and I ended up working too hard.  
Secondly, enjoy summer! My first attempt at third year I spent the summer reading and panicking to start, so I ended up relapsing and taking time off University. The second time around, I didn’t look at one book and I came into the course fresh as a daisy. It’s important to read for your course but don’t overdo it!  

It’s also important not to compare your work or efforts to your friends.  Social life at University is also hugely significant. Don’t miss out on going out with friends or even dedicating your lunch breaks for a wee gossip in the library instead of talking about dissertations and coursework. 

Have a healthy relationship with studying and I promise you, the results will prove you right. Take it from someone who went through both paths and had a positive outcome with the latter.” 


By Rachael McAlonan     

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