We’re so proud of our class of 2022. They’ve overcome enormous challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities, and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done all of this during a global pandemic when life – and student life – changed beyond recognition. Here, we’re taking the opportunity to share some of their stories.
Tue 12 Jul 22
When she was younger, Charley Hodges hadn’t thought about going to university. But after completing an access course, and falling in love with the Colchester Campus, today she's leaving with a degree in criminology.
“University wasn’t something I ever considered,” Charley said. “I did less than a month of A-levels and then later I did an Access to Higher Education Course. It was only after I started to get accepted into universities, that I began to really consider it as an option.”
While Charley was researching universities, she found Essex ticked many boxes: a high ranking for sociology; less than an hour from home; and everything on one campus. “It was very comforting and felt right – I loved it instantly,” she said.
At the beginning, Charley struggled with the workload and said that, at times, she didn’t feel “good enough or smart enough” to be doing a degree.
She was struggling with personal issues and her counsellor at the time suggested she get tested for dyslexia. For Charley, this was a game-changer.
“I tested for dyslexia at the University and was diagnosed with it. From then on, I received more specific support and software to aid my learning. I started to pass and exceed all expectations in my grades – and now I am so happy to be graduating.”
Charley, from the Department of Sociology, is proud of herself for not giving up. She is also proud of a voluntary work placement with a charity for the homeless in Southend-on-Sea, called HARP. She regularly volunteers in group counselling sessions, as well as in art groups and in an evening cooking group where residents come together to cook, eat and socialise together.
Charley said she has learned a lot from the experience.
“I never truly understood the benefit of these types of groups until I started to see the positive, and very real, effect they have on people experiencing homelessness,” she said. “It helps to prepare them for independent living, to find creative outlets for their emotions, to learn new skills and find new passions and purposes. It also helps them to work through their struggles in a healthy outlet.”
Charley plans to continue her voluntary work with HARP. She has also benefited from the experience in many ways – and it has made her think about her plans for the future.
“I have made many positive relationships, have been supported in my development and been guided in learning how to handle different situations. It has been an experience to remember and one to continue,” she said.
“After working with those experiencing homelessness, I feel that the only way to understand how best to help individuals in need is to learn from their experiences and understand their struggles to invoke policies that work with them, not against them. In the long term, I would like to work in policymaking, either in the charity sector or at government level.”