Gran gains degree from UWTSD Lampeter, realising lifelong dream


Grandmother, Paula Bollen has graduated from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) in Lampeter with a BA degree in Archaeology of Egypt, Aegean and the Near East, realising a lifelong ambition to return to education.

Paula Bollen

Paula Bollen.

Paula had not been able to pursue further education when she was younger, having had her first child at 18.

“I also always believed I was not bright enough to study at degree level,” she says. “I have always been interested in archaeology and never in my wildest dreams thought I would be able to study it at university.”

Paula has a large family - two boys still at home aged 12 and 16, three grown up girls and eight grandchildren. She decided to enrol at university after seeing an advert in the local paper.

“I was not able to access employment as my son was six and, living in a rural area, travel to and from work to school was not an option and would entail working for petrol, so part time study was just what I needed,” she says. “At the time I was unaware that funding was available but when this was pointed out to me, I jumped at the chance.”

Once she started studying archaeology, she was delighted to discover that she could narrow her field of study to an area that especially interested her.

“I decided to change to more specific content: that of the Archaeology of Egypt, Aegean and The Near East, the Mediterranean region,” she says. “I found myself enjoying every minute, thriving on the work, and reading everything I could.”  

Paula had a previous career in education: she had worked as a family worker, qualified as a nursery nurse, and worked in nursery and school situations and at a family centre. She had decided to leave the profession while her children were still young.

“During this time, I had lost all confidence in myself, becoming withdrawn and suffered from depression, which in turn contributed to and further aggravated my longstanding asthmatic condition,” she says. “Starting university was a big step for me; I found myself one of only a few part-time students. Not knowing anyone and not coming through any scheme to introduce me to higher education, I flourished and surprised myself with the marks I achieved and the feedback from the lecturers.”

Paula was unaware of the dyslexia screening tests offered to other students until overhearing conversations during lectures, after which she plucked up the courage to ask what student support was - and found out that she might be eligible for help.

“I was assessed and to my amazement was found to be dyslexic along with other conditions,” she says. “The assessor reassured me that I was eligible for help with not only practical support with my learning but with technology and all areas associated with higher education expectations - even extra time for exams.

“I believe this push provided me with more confidence to succeed; I had someone to talk through my work with and help with editing and spelling and so on. Since gaining the support my work has consistently improved, allowing me to benefit from the various modules I completed and enjoy each one knowing I had back up should I need it.”

As for her future and any career prospects, she says she completed her degree for herself, not for financial reasons or to pursue a career in archaeology. The sense of achievement is enough.

“I have been asked constantly why I was doing the degree and my answer was always for myself to prove to myself that I could and that I had the ability,” she says.

Paula’s tutor Katharina Zinn is delighted to see Paula graduate. “It was a pleasure to see how Paula gained more and more academic confidence over the six years by doing what she was enthusiastic about, and how her strong class performance then resulted in high marks in the assessment,” she says. “She combined a large family, living rurally, with studying. She also persevered despite very serious health conditions. Not only that, she inspired fellow students and also academics through her way of thinking and her commitment to work. 

“Other students commented on the fact that they enjoyed having Paula in class as she encouraged them and created a very lively and inclusive atmosphere. For her dissertation, she chose a very challenging topic which combined academic excellence with practical work (making replicas of near Eastern glass beads) and was awarded a first.”

Paula says she would strongly recommend the university experience to others.

“I would advise anyone to give university a go,” she says. “My experiences with both staff and fellow students have been invaluable. I got to have intellectual discussions with both, that left me feeling, 'yes I am able to have a valid opinion'. I got to talk to youngsters and fellow mature students alike, and they will never know how important they have been to my university journey. I have gained new friends over my six years of study. University changed my life for the good, thank you!”


Further Information

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