Brian Marling, 48, left school at 16 and worked in a cosmetics factory for 22 years before being made redundant.
"I clearly remember sitting in the job centre, aged 38, and being asked ‘What skills do you have?’ ‘What do you want to do?’ The answers were 'very little', and 'I don't know!' This was an unsettling and frightening experience.
"I decided to take the summer off, enrol on some short courses and do some volunteer work in Glanrhyd Hospital, Bridgend. This is where I had a taste of mental health nursing and thoroughly enjoyed it. From here I got a job as a healthcare support worker which led to the HCSW course at USW.
"The first couple of months of the HCSW course were tough. I’m not an academic person and having been out of education for twenty years made it even more daunting but there were many other students from the same background, many of whom were also mature students, and the support offered by the University was superb.
"Completing the HCSW course gave me the confidence to apply for the degree. Starting the degree course was like the first day at school. I was unbelievably nervous, however, I was fortunate that another student also started from the HCSW course, and knowing somebody else made the transition so much easier.
"Going back into education has been difficult and there have been times when I have wanted to throw the towel in. The one thing you lose as a mature student is confidence but doing the course (and being four months off being a qualified nurse!) has made me realise just how much I have to offer.
"As a mature student, I can relate to the service users. Having life experience allows me to put myself in their position and show greater empathy. People who live with mental illness can be ostracised from main stream society, but they are often interesting characters with a story to tell. Also, coming to nursing from my previous role has made me realise just how much I love what I do now and how important this is in life.
"Ten years ago I would never have imagined myself doing a degree course, let alone in mental health nursing. Even though being made redundant was devastating, it allowed to follow a career which I find rewarding and thoroughly enjoy.
"I finish my course in a few months and I already have a number of job opportunities open to me. Doing this degree has opened so many doors!
"If I could offer any advice to other mature students, it is to have faith in your abilities and accept there will be times when you doubt yourself. In these times remember you are not alone, seek help there are many levels of support from personal tutors, lecturers and academic support services, all of whom want you to succeed."