Award winner overcomes challenging times

Alexandra Reading gained a Triple Distinction in BTEC Extended Diploma in Business whilst at The Henley College, and then went on to achieve a BA (Hons) Graphic Design with 1st class honours at Portsmouth University. Read more about her experiences and how she was helped to overcome many personal hurdles

At Henley College I had few friends and was in denial for a long time about my poor mental health. However, The Henley College has a fantastic collegiate environment with very supportive staff and a vibrant student population.

Having already spent a year in a sixth form, I found that at The Henley College, you are treated mostly as an adult, whereas at most sixth forms, you are still treated as a child. Being treated as an adult is very useful and prepares you for the style of learning you will experience at University, should you wish to go. Despite the troubling times I was personally going through, I look back on my time at Henley very fondly. The campus is lovely and rural, the staff are lovely and the college has a lovely vibe with lots to do.

I benefitted hugely from Kathryn Caulfield's supportive and nurturing demeanour at The Henley College. She encouraged me to seek counselling and made sure I was always supported, so I was able to academically flourish. She enabled me to finally see the value in myself, my potential and my abilities.

Studying the BTEC Extended Diploma in business really suited my style of learning as I have always found exams to be difficult and quite objective in testing my academic ability. Exams aren't for everyone! The BTEC Extended Diploma in Business covers every aspect of business as a subject, from marketing to economics and everything else in between. You have very regular deadlines and lots of business reports, which operate at Pass, Merit and Distinction level. You are encouraged to work to distinction level – but it isn't essential and there is no pressure if you do not want to. If you really want to challenge yourself, you can also do an AS level alongside the BTEC.

When I went to university, I initially studied Digital Marketing. This is a partially creative focused, marketing course. After one year, I felt it really wasn't for me and I no longer wanted to pursue an education in Business, I had a taste for a career that was entirely creative, in the Graphic Design industry. Because I had not a single art or design qualification, I had to argue my case for them to even consider me. Had Kathryn not believed in me more than I did myself and given me all of the tools to become driven to create a brighter future for myself, I wouldn't have discovered what I really wanted to do or fought for it. In the darkest of days, never be afraid to ask for help or admit that you are struggling, someone will always help you to get back on track. Trust the process and your journey, it will all work out if you have the determination and you work really hard.

My future aspirations are to work in a bustling, arty, print-based Graphic Design Studio. I'd love to work in lots of different cities, preferably: London, Berlin and New York.