Suzanne Watson with one of the children she met during her time in Belarus
Suzanne Watson was in her mid-30s and a mum of four when her eldest encouraged her to go back to university, and she hasn’t looked back.
And having recently graduated with a degree in Learning Disability Nursing from the University of South Wales (USW), she has one piece of advice for anyone thinking of returning to education a little later in life – ‘just go for it’.
Suzanne first attended university in the late 1990s, completing the first year of a degree in adult nursing in 1999. But life changed for her when she had her first child.
“Obviously having a baby had an impact on life, so I decided to take a break from education for a while,” Suzanne explained.
Heading back to work, she was employed in Family Aide at Caerphilly social services for about 10 years, and then went on to become a childminder.
“By the time I started looking after children myself, I’d had four of my own, so I needed something that fitted in around family life,” Suzanne said.
“But after doing that for a few years my eldest started asking me why I didn’t think about going back to university to finish my studies. I didn’t see any reason to hold back, so applied and was accepted.”
Suzanne’s experience in Family Aide was a key motivator in her choice of course.
“I enjoyed the work with people who had additional needs, I found it really fulfilling, and the course at USW was ideal for me to learn more about that sort of career,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne also had the opportunity to use her skills to support children overseas, following a visit to USW by Leaves of Hope, a Cardiff-based charity that helps children in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.
During a visit by Suzanne and fellow USW students in 2017, they got first-hand experience of how they could make big changes to the lives of disadvantaged children and orphans.
“It was quite an experience seeing how different the lives of these children is to ours in the UK, and how a little help can make such a massive different to their lives,” Suzanne said.
Now a USW graduate, following four years of study, Suzanne and her family, who lived in Blackwood, have now gone west, setting up home in Ceredigion. Suzanne has secured a job as a full-time community learning disability nurse, giving support to those who may have additional physical and emotional needs.
Suzanne’s success has motivated her to advise others to follow in her footsteps.
“You’re never too old to give it another go,” she said. “Although I left uni after a year when I was younger, I always wanted to give it another go.
“My experiences while out of education really motivated me to go back, and I’m so glad I did.
“It was challenging at times being at USW and having a family, but the support was incredible. They really understand the challenges, and want to help as much as they can.
“Don’t wait around for the right time, just do it and you will prove to yourself and others that it was the right decision.”