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'My children helped me graduate'

8 August 2016

Mature student Leanne Gourlay was already expecting her first child when she decided to come and study Food, Nutrition and Health with us in 2012.

She then decided to have a second child while she was in third year.

Although it took a lot of skillful time management and determination, she managed to juggle bringing up her two children while studying full-time.

Here she tells us how she did it, about her course, what it was like studying at Abertay and what’s next!

Leanne Gourlay-2

Keep a strong, positive mental attitude

'It feels amazing to be graduating. I’m excited, happy and really proud of myself. Back when I first started I had my doubts about whether I could do it, knowing I was pregnant, but I just kept a strong positive mental attitude and just believed in myself.

'If you believe in yourself and you believe that you can do something then you will achieve it. You have to have that determination and that’s what I’ve had all the way through and it’s got me where I am today.

'There were points, don’t get me wrong, where I thought I would never see this day. When I just thought "this is too hard". Especially balancing my family with uni. But if you get that balance right, you stay determined, you believe in yourself and your own abilities, and you have a strong enough passion and ambition to get somewhere, then you’ll do it.'

Starting university as a mum-to-be

'I was pregnant with my daughter when I started university and was pregnant again in third year with my son. Both pregnancies were planned – I’m a bit crazy that way!

'I breastfed both my children whilst attending university. It was a bit awkward feeding my daughter as she refused to take expressed milk from a bottle, which meant I had to feed her in-between classes.

'By the time I had my son I had moved to Glasgow so had to commute on the train with my son so I could continue feeding him, and I enrolled him at a nursery near the uni so I could feed him between classes.

'None of it was easy and it took a lot of hard work and sheer determination to get through it.'

The children were my motivation

'Having Emily at graduation with me in particular was sentimental, as she’s been with me all the way through and at times when I struggled she was my motivation to keep going. It's a nice feeling to know she is proud of me.

'With William, I went through a difficult first semester going into fourth year because I had to travel with him as I was still breastfeeding. That was really difficult and I nearly gave up on my Honours year, but then having him with me all the time was a reminder of who I was doing it for. So although having my children at times meant it was incredibly hard they were what ultimately got me through it.'

Home Economics

'I studied Food, Nutrition and Health because I loved studying Home Economics at school, and I chose Abertay as I wanted to teach Home Economics and the food courses on offer were compatible with a PGDE (Postgraduate Diploma in Education).

'Because of my career aspirations, I did a three-month work placement in third year in a secondary school. This involved lesson-planning, leading classes under teacher supervision, participating in a parents evening, and generally getting to know and understand the role of a Home Economics teacher in much more depth.

'My Honours dissertation was on a related topic, and focussed on the role of Home Economics in building pupil cooking confidence. I was responsible for my own research, and arranged for five schools to take part in a questionnaire I had designed. I also ran focus groups in two of the schools.

'Overall, the work placement was what I enjoyed the most about the course, as it gives you a chance to test your career aspirations. It's an opportunity to confirm if your dream job is really your dream job. If it's not then you have plenty time to consider other options.

'On the other hand, if it is what you want to do then you can use your work experience as an important reference for future job interviews.'

Inspiring lecturers

'I was inspired by both Karen Barton (lecturer in public health and nutrition) and Adilia Lemos (lecturer in food and drink). Karen is everything you would want from a teacher: she is encouraging, supportive and has a great sense of humour. Adilia is very patient and caring. She is willing to go above and beyond and has high expectations of, and belief in, all her students.

'I have learned from both of their teaching styles and will definitely carry that with me when I go into teaching myself.'

Come to Abertay

'Definitely come to Abertay! Don't waste time thinking about it – just do it! You won’t regret it! Going to uni is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s such a great learning experience. I’ve met some amazing people along the way and I’ve built life-long friendships.

'I’ve learnt so much about myself on an academic level as well with my achievements over the year – it’s a real feeling of satisfaction now that I’ve managed to complete my course.

'I left school and I didn’t go to university straight away. I didn’t have all my Highers that I needed, but I went back and got them. I sorted all that out and so it can be done. Just because you are a little bit older doesn’t mean to say that you can’t do it. It goes back to that positive mental attitude again – if you really want to achieve something, you’ll do it.'

Leanne has been accepted for a postgraduate degree in teaching in Glasgow. We wish here all the best with her future career!

To find out more about the course she studied, please visit our course pages:  BSc (Hons) Food, Nutrition and Health

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