A mum-of-three who swopped a career in the Navy for life in the lab has graduated with upper second-class Honours from USW's Forensic Biology degree.
Sarah Taylor, 36, from Penarth, joined the Royal Navy twenty years ago but decided on a change of career to better suit family life.
At the age of 16, after weeks of research, Sarah set her mind on joining the Royal Navy. She collected her GCSE results and went straight to the Careers Office.
"The Royal Navy appealed to me as I didn’t want to be someone with no aspirations. I wanted to do something. I wanted to have a career. So I turned up with my results slip and asked ‘What can I do?’” she said.
Sarah joined as an Operator Mechanic Above Water Warfare Specialist, training initially at Plymouth. She was then based in Portsmouth, where she was trained on radar, communication and gunnery on naval ships.
In 1999, Sarah was based in Kosovo, working on aircraft carriers during the war.
Three years later, following the birth of her second child, Sarah made the difficult decision to leave the Navy.
"I went to work for the NHS as a Healthcare Support Worker. After my third child arrived, I realised I wanted to do more, so I enrolled at Cardiff and Vale College and alongside working, I studied part-time for an Access to Higher Education qualification," she said.
Sarah then applied for the one- year Foundation degree at USW and progressed to the Forensic Biology degree.
"I made really good friends and was pleased to see that there were other mature students on the course. The lecturers were great and it didn't take long for me to feel at home.
As a single parent of three children, to study for five years was challenging at times. But my children have been really supportive. One of the major benefits of returning to study is that I can now help my children with their education. They come to me and ask me for advice on their homework.
I am glad that I thoroughly researched which course I wanted to study. You have to enjoy what you do in order to see it through. Forensics was absolutely the right choice for me. I find that I learn better in a laboratory setting. The modern facilities at the University of South Wales were fantastic.
My advice to anyone considering returning to study is: "Don't be afraid, age is just a number. It's the best decision I ever made."
Just a week after her final exams, Sarah was offered a job with Genesis Bio Science as Quality Control Laboratory Technician.
"I absolutely love my job. I have done the academic work but now I am constantly learning on the job. No two days are the same. I am working with really helpful and supportive people," she said.
"I can’t wait to go to work the next day."
The training and knowledge acquired while serving in the Armed Forces can earn you part of an undergraduate or masters degree. You could start university this September.