To a degree, I've always been drawn to the idea of being a doctor, although it sounds cliché! I loved the idea of the job, the idea of helping people, but unfortunately I wasn't interested in science at school. It really felt like a pipe dream, especially after I made the decision to drop all of the core sciences after GCSE. I'd never considered it a possible career path for someone like me, and I'd put it on some sort of unattainable pedestal in my mind when it came time to do UCAS applications.
I had no idea what I wanted to do as a job in the future, but the subject that came most naturally to me, and the subject I always enjoyed at school, was Welsh. As a result, it felt like the obvious choice when it came to deciding which degree scheme I wanted to pursue. At eighteen I went to Aberystwyth to study Professional Welsh, which focused on Welsh in the workplace and contemporary skills such as translation and editing. Still not sure what to do after completing my degree, I went on to do an MPhil degree on minority representation in Welsh literature (and enjoyed myself far too much in the meantime!).
During my research degree, I read about alternative routes into medicine, and realized that the door was not necessarily closed. 'I decided to go for it and originally applied for a place on a Graduate Medicine course at Swansea University. The purpose of that pathway was to give individuals who had previously completed another degree the opportunity to train as doctors in four years rather than five. 'I tried to teach myself the scientific material in a matter of months, before taking the massive GAMSAT exam. Although I did better than expected, my application was unsuccessful, and I realised then that I would have to pay my debts and catch up on the scientific side of things first.
So, finally, after sitting the UKCAT 'I applied to do Medicine with an Introductory Year at Cardiff University. A six year course for those who do not have a scientific background - a foundation year in Science and five years following the usual course of Medicine. I fully appreciate how privileged I am to have been able to take advantage of this opportunity, and realize that many do not have the opportunity to do a degree at all, let alone second or third degrees. I would like to tell anyone who is keen to follow the path of higher education, but is concerned about financial obstacles, that there are ways forward and financial support available - not only through Student Finance Wales, but through a wide range of different grants.
I am about to start my second year and plan to finish my course at the new Medical School in Bangor. Yes, it's been a terribly winding path and yes, I'm a mature student in the middle of a sea of those younger than me, but I have to say, I do not regret going to do Welsh at eighteen for one second. It was definitely not a "waste of time" as some would suggest. I had an amazing time meeting lifelong friends and making unforgettable memories. In fact, without the qualifications and life experiences I had at Aber, I don't think I would have been accepted on this course! Every experience builds character and improves an individual's resilience at the end of the day, and I'm sure those formative years prepared me to tackle many of the challenges I face on the course.
It feels quite strange to be back at University at times, especially when all my friends are working and earning wages, but I know it's worth doing in the end. It really feels like a job. And I knew that I could either spend six years in a job that really does nothing for me, and probably be there for the rest of my working life, or go for it and spend those six years training to do something I really enjoy. Now that I'm twenty-seven, I know how fast time goes by, so if you feel like taking a year out, or going back to study Medicine after doing something completely different, please, do it! Don't feel you have to follow what other people are doing or follow society's narrow schedules - always do what's best for you, and follow your own path!