Ahlam’s inspirational journey with the Growth Company

06 Sep 2023

At the Growth Company Education and Skills, we know that your education journey may not always be straightforward and there can often be some challenges along the way.

Because of this, we have facilities and support systems in place to help you to succeed.

Ahlam Ali has studied with us all the way from level 3 to 7, balancing her studies around raising her children and also overcoming struggles with dyslexia, English not being her first language and adapting to studying during Covid.

We caught up with her to find out more about her incredible journey with us and how the Growth Company has supported her every step of the way.

Why did you decide to return to education?

Unfortunately, in my childhood I had a lot of personal reasons not to finish my education. I think the last year that I finished was year six, but that wasn't smooth, I had to drop years and then come back. Then when I came to the UK at the age of 17 my mentality was that I was going to be a mother and look after my kids but I'm eager to learn, so I wanted to do something for my kids to be proud of me and to look up to me.

How did you decide on the Access to Higher Education course?

I was doing a lot of entry level courses, but the main thing I was looking to do was midwifery at that time, but I wasn't sure how to. English isn’t my first language, I have kids, and I just wanted something to start me off at that level, but I couldn’t find that at the college I was at. I also struggle with dyslexia, I’m good at speaking English but the problem was with my writing, and everyone was just moving me to different places. I didn’t want to keep doing courses that felt like I wasn’t going in the right direction.

Then a friend of mine suggested that I try the Growth Company and so I spoke to the tutor and told her that I was anxious and explained that I didn’t finish high school or primary school and I wasn’t sure what to do, and she said why don’t you try the access course.

How did the Growth Company support you with your dyslexia?

I used to have someone who would proofread for me and sometimes there would be a tutor who would do 1-1s with me.

But before that, my teachers used to give me lots of time. I remember in one lesson I said to my teacher that I felt like I couldn't write because my brain was really tired and I was saying to him that I did understand the answer, but I couldn’t explain it. So, what he used to do was give me the questions and I would answer them in the way I wanted to and then I'd have extra time to use resources like Grammarly to make my writing better.

How was your experience on the Access course?

When I started it was a bit tough, but the amount of support I got was amazing. The tutors kept telling me that I could do this if I was struggling, they would give me extra time if I needed it. So, I managed, and I passed, I did very well, and I was proud of myself. The biology module for me was the hardest and I remember when they told me that I had passed I was jumping like a child I was so happy.

What did you do after the Access course?

After I completed the Access course, I couldn’t go to university straight away for a few reasons and I felt like I wasn’t ready, so I took a year out. Because I have four children and my youngest was four at that time, if I went to university or went studied through the NHS it that would be full time which I couldn’t do because my priority was my family, so I decided I needed to do something else so, I started the Foundation Degree in Education which was part-time.

How did you manage your studies alongside family life?

It was hard in the beginning, but my husband was very supportive. I found that I work better in the Centre because when I’m at home there are a lot more distractions, I must cook, clean and do other things which can be hard.

During the course I only had lessons three days a week, but I used to come in five days a week, or if we finished early I would stay an extra half an hour when my children were in school to finish my assignments or to ask my teachers for help if there was something I was struggling with. This also really helped when I was feeling anxious about exams because I could just do an extra hour here and there and didn’t need to do any coursework on Saturday and Sunday.

How was your experience on the Foundation Degree in Education?

My experience with the Foundation Degree was tough because I couldn’t do a placement because of Covid and so I wasn’t as familiar with the theory. Sometimes the teacher would ask questions and my classmates would already know about it because they taught it in their classes and so I felt like I was the odd one out. So, the year after I did the BA Top Up in Health and Social Care which I enjoyed a lot and was better for me.

What have you been up to since completing your Top Up year?

A friend of mine suggested that I do a PGCE to go into teaching Health and Social Care, so I asked my tutors about it, and it seemed like the best fit because I want to work with adults. So now I’m studying for my PGCE part time.

I want to be a teacher. Then I hope to do a master’s in the future, either in Psychology or Health and Social Care Leadership.

Would you recommend the Growth Company?

Definitely, yes! The atmosphere here is nice and the main thing as well is, some people get anxious about going to university and there being lots of people and I’m one of those people that would struggle to focus. Here there is only a few students in your class so it’s much smaller and the amount of support I got is amazing.

As a parent it’s also good, when I did the Access course it was only three days a week and the timing was also good, it was only 10am – 2.30pm which meant if I needed to, I could drop my children off at school and then pick them back up. The facilities are also really good, and I could just come in here and sit in the coffee shop to work on my assignments if I needed more time.

Feeling inspired by Ahlams journey? Click here to find out how we can help you on your journey!