Claire Bate completed her Masters in Psychology at Essex while unexpectedly home-schooling her two young children and dealing with the pressures of lockdown,
She had taken a career break to have children and once they were settled into primary school she had expected to return to work..
But then, the pandemic hit.
“It became apparent that 2020 would not be the time to start a new job, as I needed to be home with my two children being mum and teacher of two,” she said.
Claire had always been interested in psychology but hadn’t studied it at undergraduate level. Instead, she chose a business degree which took her down a very different path – one where she said she never quite felt settled.
“I felt like I was working in jobs that I didn’t really feel suited to. Psychology has always fascinated me as I am drawn to working with people. I am inquisitive about individuals, their behaviour and personalities, and what makes them tick.”
She decided to use the time she had at home to her advantage and pursue her interest by enrolling on the MSc Psychology in the Department of Psychology.
Essex was the obvious choice as it was so close to home.
“I live near campus and having two young children, I needed to balance study with motherhood. Being available to my children at the drop of a hat was a must. At this point we did not know how the rest of the year or the next one would go, and I decided that I needed to be close to home for the children and their needs. This worked out really well for me as studying at Essex could not have been better.”
When Claire started her Masters, her son was five years old, and her daughter was eight. She said that during the first term of university, her children were in school, which was easier to manage, however the period between January to March 2021 was particularly intense.
“This was the lockdown and home-school period which also coincided with exams. This was a tricky time and an intense lesson in time management and prioritising. My husband was also working from home and finding four devices for us to study, work, and home-school was our first stumbling block.”
Balancing her research project with the children’s summer holidays was also tough, especially as the deadline approached.
“It was certainly a challenging time, with other significant events occurring unexpectedly throughout the year,” she said. “However, it was one of the best things I have ever done, and I am so proud of myself for completing it. Submitting my research project was an emotional moment as it was a culmination of the whole year of really hard work and achievement.”
While studying, Claire initially worried about the lack of social contact – everyone was studying from home, and she felt they were missing the ability to create friendships and support networks. She said that her worries were eased when the University created an online chat room and held ‘coffee mornings’ over Zoom, which gave her and her fellow students the opportunity to talk about any concerns and give feedback.
“I found an amazingly positive, supportive, and encouraging group of friends from the course,” she said. “We kept each other going throughout the year and I can’t thank them enough.”
Claire is currently working as a learning support assistant in a primary school with a view to becoming an educational psychologist.
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