Ceilidh joined us in 2017 and studied Psychology, Spanish and Sociology A level. She has struggled with her mental health issues, but claims " I was supported by both the Student Service team and subject teachers to such an extent I hadn’t seen before; they really went above and beyond to ensure I could stay and finish my courses". Read our interview with her to find out more:
Q1: Please tell us who you are, where you come from and what you are doing now.
I’m Ceilidh and I’m 19 years old from Kent. I come from a background of attending grammar schools and PRUs. Now I’m studying a Level 5 TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language qualification) to move to Spain, and hopefully attend university in the future.
Q2: When did you come to The Henley College, what did you study here, and how did you get on?
I came to The Henley College in September 2017 studying psychology, sociology and Spanish. I loved my subjects albeit with a lot of absences. Before I came to the college, I had been out of mainstream education for an inconceivably long time and adjusting proved difficult for me. However, I was supported by both the student service team and subject teachers to such an extent I hadn’t seen before; they really went above and beyond to ensure I could stay and finish my courses. For someone that wasn’t ever able to go to school for prolonged periods of time, I’ve done myself justice by coming here.
Q3: What was your first impression of The Henley College?
Admittedly, I was sceptical. I had experienced very poor treatment at previous schools and believed that it would be much the same at Henley College. However, my perception very quickly changed the more I got to know students and staff alike.
Q4: Why did you choose to come here? What helped make up your mind?
My application to the college was very last minute, in other words, my interview was the final week of term in July 2017! There was not much choice for me, from where I came from in Kent, most schools were aware of my mental health problems and refused to take me. The colleges in my area didn’t offer the subjects I wanted and were limited to maths and English; I wanted to do different things other than what was available and made the decision to move (despite still living in Kent!)
Q5: What is your best memory of your time at The Henley College and why?
Describing my favourite memory is difficult because there are now so many fond memories I can walk away with. I think for me, the extent of my mental health problems made it difficult for me to ever create positive memories in my childhood and adolescence – my circumstances were extraordinary – therefore some of the memories that I can walk away with here are ones that have made me feel as if I have had a taste of what it is like to be a ‘normal’ teenager. That is very important to me.
In retrospect, most of my favourite memories were in Spanish class with my peers because at last, I finally felt completely comfortable in a classroom environment (even if at times we drove our teacher loca).
Q6: Did you always want to do what you are doing now?
No. In fact, I came in with a completely different idea of what I wanted to do. Initially I wanted to be a clinical psychologist and get a doctorate in psychology. Now I’ve discovered that I prefer other things which means my path in life has changed and I’m learning to feel okay with that. I want to study sociology as a degree, but I really would like to study it in Spain which would mean I was studying it in my second language. It
sounds very ambitious, but despite acknowledging the difficulties ahead, I feel like I now have a better idea of what I like and what I want out of life, even if they present challenges.
Q7? What has influenced your decisions about the subjects you have studied and the career path you have chosen?
I think primarily, the decisions I made were because I wanted to live for me. There was no point in doing things based off “this subject will make me seem smarter” to turn out hating it or “this job will give me lots of money” if I don’t feel fulfilled. The subjects I picked at the time, were the right ones for me. I had to enjoy what I was doing, otherwise I would have been wasting my own time. Most of my life, I think I’ve denied myself the opportunity to just enjoy, and it was time to finally make decisions ignoring pressures from others.
It was never about other people’s perception of me or what they believed I should or shouldn’t do, it was about what I believed I could and ultimately would do.
Q8: What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambitions right now are very short-term… perhaps I will find longer-term goals in time. Some people like rigid plans but I just like to see where life takes me. Right now, my biggest short term goal would be getting into a university in Madrid to study sociology.
Q9: What do you think The Henley College did for you – aside from the qualifications you gained?
One of the biggest things I’ve gained intrapersonally was more assertiveness. It was a safe space to state what I needed and the things I did and didn’t feel comfortable with.
Another part was friendships, I have met some really incredible, genuinely awe-inspiring people. You can never really be sure for certain if friendships will be life long, but I hope these ones are.
Q10: If you had one piece of advice for a 15-16 year old thinking about their future, what would it be?
Live for you, Make decisions on your own behalf, not for someone else’s. Ultimately in your own life, you are one of the most important people in it! If things aren’t working out quite the way you want them to, that’s fine. We should all stop being so fatalistic, because there are unlimited avenues to get to where you want to be. There isn’t just one path. Do what you think will really bring you enjoyment, and if something doesn’t, reevaluate why that may be and make changes if necessary. You aren’t condemned to your circumstances forever.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I really struggle with my mental health and always have done. I’d like to thank every single member of staff involved with me on a regular basis particularly student services, who have never failed to support me both academically and with my external circumstances. They raised me up, rooted for me and ultimately, now I have finished my courses. They went above and beyond their job description, my form tutor even bought me a duvet when I had nothing during winter; I just hope this helps prove the extent of their kindness.
Everyone questioned if I ever would get to the end given there were bountiful barriers in my way, but at the end of it all, I think myself and the support staff have laughed more with me than they have ever cried with me. I’m so glad to have had a support network that never gave up on me (unlike my previous schools). My gratitude will extend to all of them forever.