Bernadette Syme is from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, near Stirling. She successfully completed an HND at college which helped her gain the qualification to move directly into year two of the BA (Hons) International Hospitality and Tourism Management degree and then onto the MSc International Management and Leadership at QMU. She has a brain injury and struggles with aspects of her learning, but with determination, drive and help from QMU’s support services, Bernadette is progressing well with her degree studies. Through QMU, she also secured the prestigious Apex Hotel Shooting Stars Scholarship, which is gave her hands on experience in every aspect of the hotel’s business.
Why did you choose QMU and this particular degree course?
QMU has smaller lecture and seminar class sizes similar to college. I therefore felt that if I was struggling I could easily approach the lecturer for help, rather than being one of thousands of students, as is sometimes in the case in other larger universities. I felt I wouldn’t get lost in the crowd at a smaller university, and also my college lecturer highly recommended QMU as a place to study hospitality and tourism.
What did you do before coming to QMU? Were you at college?
I attended Forth Valley College where I studied HND in Professional Cookery
Did you face any particular challenges in your educational journey before coming to QMU?
With an Acquired Brain Injury, every day can be a challenge, but Disabled Students Allowance helped me pay for aids to enable me to achieve my potential.
How did you feel about coming to QMU?
I was excited as I never thought that I would ever be able to achieve a degree and I was finally getting the opportunity to do so.
How did you settle into university life? What support networks/initiatives were in place to help you get to grips with university level education and general student life?
I struggled at first but spoke to my Personal Academic Tutor who helped guide me in the right direction.
What were the most useful/helpful services that you used at QMU?
QMU’s Effective Learning Service is brilliant. You can drop in during University hours and get one-to-one tailored support from a tutor with any aspect of your learning that you may be struggling with. The Disability Services team at QMU helped me to get things like ‘sonocent’ and ‘read and write’ which have really aided in my educational development.
The Peer Assisted Learning sessions (PALS) are great and help if you are struggling to get your head around a specific subject. The great thing about PALS is that sessions are led by other people who have had similar educational pathways to you, so they have a good idea what the issues are and what information/support will be helpful to you. I have been a PALS leader myself now for two years, which has led me to become a senior leader with full responsibilities for the programme.
I first attended PALS sessions to see if they could help me get my head around a subject that I was having difficulty with and they helped me to find new ways of understanding the module which in turn enabled me to pass. I then decided to join as a leader to help others as I had been in the same shoes of the ones who attend the sessions; therefore, I found it easier to understand how difficult it can be before the lightbulb ‘switches on’.
Becoming a PALS leader has helped in my self-development, both personally and professionally. I have learned more about myself and how I can share my knowledge with others to enable them to succeed. Furthermore, I have been encouraged to come away from my own comfort zone and to expand it. Being a PALS Leader has enabled me to sharpen my existing skills and gain insight into new techniques and strategies that could aid in my future career.
Where did you live whilst studying?
As a mature student I lived at home with my family.
What were the course challenges and what do you consider to be your successes?
For me the challenges were more about how different the academic work required was compared to college. My grades were pretty low to start with, but by putting the effort in, I would say my first A was definitely a success.
Any advice for students who might be interested in studying at QMU?
From what I have learned so far at QMU I can safely say that the things you are taught, as part of the course, are useful tools in developing your career.
"The Disability Services team at QMU helped me to get things like ‘sonocent’ and ‘read and write’ which have really aided in my educational development. The Peer Assisted Learning sessions (PALS) are great and help if you are struggling to get your head around a specific subject."
[Story published in 2018]