Student Carers Stories

Feedback from student carers has indicated that it would be helpful to include student carer stories on our web pages to help illustrate their experiences.

This could be helpful to other students who may not yet have identified as carers or reached out for support. It could also help staff to have a better understanding of the challenges student carers face, and what kind of things they can do to make a difference.

What could I include?

If you would be interested in sharing your story, these are some of the things you might want to consider including. This is just to help give you an idea, please feel free to tell your story your way.

  • When did you first recognise that you were a carer?
  • How did you find out about support for student carers?
  • What has been challenging for you as a carer at university?
  • What has been helpful to you?
    • This could include things you have learned to do to make things a bit easier for yourself. Do you have any tips for other student carers/applicants?
    • It would also be useful to know what other people have done that has been helpful (this could include any staff member, student or practice educator)
    • What could everyone (staff and students) be doing to be more inclusive of student carers?
    • What you would like to say to a student carer who is new to GCU?
    • Impact of COVID and concerns about the year ahead in relation to the proposed blended learning model.
    • What more you think could be done to help student carers or raise awareness of student carers generally?

If you would like to take part, please fill out this Consent Form and get in touch with us at Studentcarers@GCU.ac.uk

Jade - year one Adult Nursing

I first found out I was a Young carer at a young age, at just 10 years old I was caring for my younger brother who suffers from learning difficulties, ASD and a rare form of epilepsy. My caring role has always proven to impact my studies throughout school, college and now university. 

I found the support available at Caledonian to be so helpful and very accommodating to my circumstances. It was scary at first asking for help, I had seen posters around and stalls at freshers fair advertising the support that was available. 

Some of the biggest challenges in studying whilst being an unpaid carer are simple things. Things such as having a quiet place to sit at home to study, missing important lectures or tutorials because he has numerous hospital appointments and the constant worry that he is not ok.

GCU has been very understanding and have offered a great amount of support, as I am a student nurse whilst on placement I was offered that I could practice in an environment closer to home rather than in Glasgow as the travel time and long hours are hard enough for anyone. This choice could give me the flexibility to be home quicker and attend to any emergencies without delay of the travel time to get home as I don’t drive. 

With the lockdown in place life has been a little more difficult. I am unable to go to the library, which is where I would normally go to find a quiet distraction free study space and meaning I have to work around him constantly. 

My concerns about the year ahead are that once I go back on placement I will be at higher risk of catching COVID-19. As my brother has these difficulties it is scary as I do not want to give him the virus and in turn heighten his already serious conditions, such as the epilepsy.

I think that the best way forward in terms of support for student carers would be more recognition. If more people are aware what myself and others experience then perhaps more support would become available. 

Charlene - year 2 Occupational Therapy

I have been my partner’s full-time carer since his brain injury in May 2016. I normally receive external support, particularly from my Mum, to care for my partner. Due to COVID-19 and the lockdown measures, this wasn't possible. I had to take care of my partner, study, attend classes and complete assignments from home, without any support. It was a challenge to say the least. I found the first few weeks extremely difficult.

I found that establishing a routine really helped not only myself but my partner as well. I made good use of my time, e.g. completing uni work while my partner was resting. I ensured that I found some time for myself and took days off when I needed to. I have tried not be feel guilty or to put too much pressure on myself. 

I am very lucky to have a supportive family and friends who have been dropping our shopping off and checking in on us daily. I feel grateful to be on a programme that has exceptional lecturers and teaching staff who have completely supported me throughout all of this. 

I look forward to the lockdown measures easing as time passes and can't wait to be reunited with our family and friends.

N Elliott

I won’t lie, starting university whilst being a carer is scary. You are about to enter a world of unknown- and for many of us, predictability and routine is our safety net and our way to get through each day.

It comes with feelings of guilt- sometimes you have to make choices over what is a priority- is it your loved one or is it uni? And then there’s the resentment, resent the course because you can’t get advance notice of lectures and resent your loved ones because you want to have a “normal life”. Oh, and we could probably add a little sprinkling of feelings of guilt, selfishness and helplessness. These feelings are entirely normal.
Whilst it is challenging, there is help out there to support us. I would recommend setting up an initial meeting with the carers service who can discuss how to make university life a bit easier and more accessible. This really helped me- I was able to find out my placements in advance of my cohort which helped me organize care for my uncles and I was also able to contact my placement to let them know my personal circumstances to and try and either self-roster or have my shifts in advance. It also allowed me to have flexibility in my timetable and change classes if certain classes didn’t suit.

There is also a carers support group which allows for peer support to help you realise that you aren’t alone in this journey- other people are getting through it too. Its definitely worth talking to your personal tutor and the year lead too. The more people who know of your circumstances the more you create a support network to lean on when times are really tough. If you do find yourself struggling, the university offer counselling services and there are plenty of professional support groups out there.
I found it tough, but I didn’t let it stop me from doing what I wanted to achieve. Being a carer has really helped me as a nursing student as I have so many transferable skills. I am able to advocate for patients, I am able to communicate in different ways depending on the situation and I have good time management.

There are moments when you wonder if you are doing the right thing or if you can make it through your course. But I ask you to remember why you are doing this. Perhaps write it on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you can see it on a daily basis to remind you, on the toughest of days, why you are doing this.