AoC staff share memories of their time at college

18 Oct 2019

As Colleges Week (14-18 October 2019) comes to a close, we asked Association of Colleges (AoC) staff to share their memories of their time at college and consider the impact it has had on their lives.

Marguerite Hogg, Policy Development Adviser
College: York College
 
It’s fair to say I made a bit of a mess of my A Levels. My ideas of going to university were dashed and I felt hopeless until someone suggested a post A Level diploma at York College which built on my existing foreign language skills but added in some other key skills and knowledge such as business, administration and marketing. However, what I gained most was a newfound confidence and self-belief. I did go onto uni but dropped out but that grounding at York College gave me a key set of employability skills which enabled me to create a successful career without the need for a degree. It’s only now 30 years later that I’m studying again for a degree and thriving at adult learning alongside my work at AoC.
 
Aaron Hussey, Head of Communications
College: Xaverian Sixth Form College, Manchester
 
It used to take me an hour and a half each way to get across Manchester to get to my college, but it was worth every second. Xaverian was the first place I was ever able to be truly, completely and authentically myself. I made best friends that are still my best friends 17 years on, I was encouraged, supported and given real talk when I needed it. The two years I spent at college were the most formative of my life.
 
Elizabeth Wenzerul, Head of External Partnerships and Relationships
College: Brockenhurst College 
 
I went to Brockenhurst College 2001 – 2003 and I had a wonderful German teacher who arranged a really inspiring German trip for us, it was the middle of winter and probably the coldest place I’ve ever been but it did wonders for my German grammar! Liebe unsere College! (okay I just google translated that… it’s been a while).
 
Nikki Brown, Member Services Coordinator 
College: Southgate College
 
In my first job I was invited to take part in the Prince’s Trust Personal Development Programme and as part of this attended Southgate College in 1998 (now Barnet and Southgate College) on a part-time basis – it was only for a few months while I was doing the programme, but it was such a great experience and something I will never forget.  
Even though we were not at the college full time, we were welcomed and made to feel part of the community. I actually ended up receiving their Faculty prize for my overall achievement and standard of work while on the programme, which then led to an article in the Prince’s Trust magazine, which led to a radio interview, being asked to speak at a Prince’s Trust event and being invited to meet Prince Charles at an event at Lewisham College.  This experience did wonders for my personal development at a young age when I was just starting out at work and inspired me to always go over and above in everything I do.
 
Alice Kempski, National Football Development Officer 
College: Hills Road College 2006-2008, A Level PE, A Level Human Biology, A Level Psychology
 
The thing I loved most about college was… sport! I played football, basketball and table tennis for the college. I remember going to a National Championship to represent the East Region at the University of Bath and it was awesome. The staff were very supportive, and the college was a big believer in enrichment - allowing me to meet lots of people and keep fit. I felt lucky to study at a college with such great infrastructure and facilities.
Emma Meredith, International Director
College: Winstanley College
 
I had a really good time at Winstanley College from 1991-1993. I received constant encouragement at college, both for my studies and to continue playing music. The Vice Principal taught my A Level French class and she really pushed us to take our knowledge and fluency to a new level. My year group had a bumper crop of state school kids like me who went on to Cambridge and Oxford, proving that college can take you to many destinations, including to the best universities in the world. I went back to college in 1998 to what’s now The Manchester College to take my TESOL teaching certificate. It was an excellent course which included 2 weeks’ teaching practice in Croatia.
Matt Rhodes, Sport Policy Manager
College: Selby College
 
I went to Selby College in 2002 to study A Levels in PE, Geography, Business Studies and Maths (for 3 weeks). I chose the college over my school sixth form because of the football academy and other sporting opportunities. Of 17 years in education, this was the best period and one where I made lifelong friends and memories. Having attended a small school in a sleepy market town, college opened my eyes to a new world of opportunities and diversity.
 
Grace McCatty, National Women's Football Development Officer 
College: SGS College
 
I went to Filton College, now SGS College from 2006 to 2008 and loved the opportunities the college gave me to pursue my love of football whilst getting a great education alongside it. I studied A Levels in Physical Education, Human Biology and Psychology and really enjoyed being in an environment where I was championed to develop both on and off the pitch. Without the fantastic environment the college provided, I would have never gained a strong education which has led me to now study a PhD alongside my role at AoC, whilst also progressing to play football at the highest level in England. A place I truly credit as a pivotal chapter in my personal and professional life!
 
Catherine Sezen, Senior Policy Manager - FE
College: Worthing College
 
I went to Worthing Sixth Form College, now Worthing College, part of Chichester College Group. I studied English Literature, Government & Politics and Religious Studies A Levels. I credit my Government and Politics teacher, David O’Dell, with teaching me how to write effectively.  His paragraphing advice has stood me in good stead ever since and no doubt helped me get the job at AoC. I loved the social side of college too and joined a student led drama group.
 
Geeta Halai, Research Officer
College: Weald College
 
I went to Weald College 1996-1998 (it has since been through a couple of mergers – firstly it merged with Greenhill College to become Harrow College; then more recently Harrow College merged with Uxbridge College to become HCUC).
I studied A-Levels in Economics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics.
I just loved learning!
 
Kirsti Lord, Deputy Chief Executive
College:  NEW College, Worcestershire
 
I returned to college in my 20’s (NEW College, Worcestershire) in 1995.  I went to learn to sight read music and ended up studying Music A level, GCSE Italian, AB singing, piano and music theory, falling in love with learning and going to university.  The opportunities were just extraordinary: composing for professional musicians, leading workshops in schools (I was a paid assistant in my second year) singing at the RSC and having the cheek to sing Britten at the Aldeburgh festival, all whilst I was a college student... truly life changing.
 
 
Christopher Pitts, Research and Business Development Officer
College: Sixth Form College Solihull
 
After secondary school, I went to the Sixth Form College Solihull for my A Levels and studied Music, Art, English and Maths. I loved the opportunities the college gave me to revitalise the LGBT society and take part in so many extra-curricular opportunities. I knew in my second year that I didn’t want to go to university and instead went to another college, University College Birmingham and studied Theatric, Special Effect and Media Makeup. As a purple-haired teenager, this is where I had my first introduction to WorldSkills UK competitions, little did I know that eight years later I’d be the manager of my own WorldSkills UK competition in a completely different subject area.
 
David Hughes, Chief Executive
College: Woodhouse College
 
I studied at WoodhouseCol back in early 1980s, which helped me to be the first in my family to go to Cambridge University. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who had been to uni at all. They had great teachers, including Julie Warren, my geography & geology teacher. My teachers gave me confidence to apply & skills to succeed in my degree. Thank you. My college experience was life changing and life enhancing and I’m forever grateful.