“I was looking for a challenge, but not necessarily a degree. However when I found Bristol’s BA in English Literature and Community Engagement, the course seemed to have been built for me,” explains Hannah Mahoney, 32, one of the youngest students to graduate from the six-year, part-time degree at the University of Bristol.
The course combines community engagement work, which Hannah already does through her current role as Programme Manager of Golden Keys Bristol, and one of her lifelong passions: reading.
“Reading has always been a powerful constant mechanism for me as a source of stress management, escapism and enjoyment, as well as a social activity, sharing thoughts with others who read the same books.”
Reading was the key activity in the community engagement work she did for the degree, holding workshops for women involved in the criminal justice system through the Eden House Project.
It’s been a busy six years for Hannah and it hasn’t been all plain sailing. Over the course of the degree she has discovered she is dyslexic, changed jobs, bought her first house and given birth to her first child.
“My friends and family were surprised I was able to do the course with everything else going on,” she said. “After you've had a baby you're chemically imbalanced, but focusing on the degree helped to balance me after my son was born.” Support from her family and friends has been important, as well as her peers and the course’s co-ordinators.
Hannah took as much as she could from her studies, while keeping a constant check on her own wellbeing. Looking back, she has gained much more than she expected.
“As well as meeting people I never would have met otherwise, the course has given me more than I realised in terms of how I see myself and what I’m able to do. I now know that I can do anything if I want to; it’s all about managing your time.”
Hannah enjoyed being a student so much that she’s now thinking about further education.
“I consider myself a lifelong learner, so there’s definitely more to come. Next I’ll probably do some leadership training for work, but I would certainly consider doing a Master's at some point.”