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Mum of three Victoria Burns graduates this summer with First-Class honours in Psychology and a Diploma in Professional Practice.

Victoria first became interested in Psychology at the age of 15 while living in a children’s home in Bangor. She was encouraged to read a book on the subject by one of the staff there.

“I remember the first thing I read in the book was about ‘maternal deprivation’ and how this can affect development. It kind of opened my eyes a bit, I thought it was fascinating. It applied to a lot about who I was and the situation I was in. I discovered very quickly that there was a lot more to me and everyone around me; that not everything is black and white.” 

While the book sparked her interest in Psychology Victoria never considered herself smart enough to study it at university or even to do well in school. Victoria experienced a lot of trauma during her childhood and was taken into care as a teenager. During those difficult teenage years she developed mental health issues and was diagnosed with ADHD.

“I was told my whole life that I was stupid, so that kind of became part of my identity. No one expected anything out of me, I didn’t expect anything out of myself, so I never tried.”

Aged 19, Victoria’s social worker Vicki and personal advisor Connie suggested she enrol in an access course in social science at the Northern Regional College. Although nervous at first Victoria soon thrived at college and passed her course with distinction. This was the confidence boost she needed to apply for university and she has enjoyed her time at Ulster University “from the first day to the last.”

Victoria had all three of her children while studying at University and successfully juggled her studies and a placement year with parenthood.

“Jamie was born a few months before I finished my second year. That was extremely difficult, while I was doing my exams, I had a new born baby. I decided to take a year out, just to be a mum, however when Jamie was 4 months old, I found out I was pregnant with twins, Jude and Remy. The twins were 6 months when I started back to uni and Jamie was a year and a half old.

Studying with children was one of the biggest challenges so far. I never wanted my children to look back and remember me in front of a computer, so balancing everything was difficult, but doable. The days I was off uni, we spent playing or going out. When the kids were napping, I was studying or working on assignments.

It seems like a lot, but my kids gave me a lot of leisure time. I was able to play with them, they make me smile and laugh so much, I don’t ever remember feeling too stressed about anything because of them, or if I was stressed, I quickly forgot about it because they really do make me laugh so much."

Victoria was awarded the Subway Ireland Scholarship in her final year, which she used to buy more childcare hours during exam months. The scholarship gave her the freedom to spend more time revising and finishing assignments and also a much-needed opportunity to spend some time with her peers and forge friendships.

“There was no way I could have fit in enough revision without the scholarship. It also allowed me a little time for myself. My whole life was about rushing to gather up time. I used to leave immediately after lectures to get home and fit in some time to get assignments done before I had to pick up the kids. After the scholarship, I was able to go for coffee with peers, I ended up becoming friends with a lot of new people, which has been amazing because we have all been a good support to each other and that’s something I didn’t really have before.” 

Victoria is continuing her studies at Ulster this September, starting a Masters in Health Psychology. For Victoria, Ulster was the obvious choice her Masters degree,

“The staff at Ulster are so incredibly supportive, especially to care leavers. They always make time for you and are so welcoming and encouraging. My self-confidence really grew at Ulster. If I felt like I couldn’t do it, they reminded me I could and why I could. It’s so different than what I was used to hearing. They don’t let you forget about how capable you are.”