Student Blog | "If you are considering studying with UHI I would highly recommend it! It has transformed my life."

BA Sustainable Development Kayley Carruthers shares her student story.

Kayley Carruthers chose to study BA in Sustainable Development part-time and online whilst continuing to work. Read her story and find out more about courses starting with UHI North, West and Hebrides in January 2024.

My name is Kayley Carruthers, I am 32 years of age and born in the Highlands. I left school at 16 with just one higher and some Int 2 grades to my name, all I wanted to do was work with horses and so school didn’t interest me. After two years of working with horses and gaining an SVQ 2 and 3 in Horse Care Management, I realised I hated working with horses despite my love for them. I decided to join the Army and ended up becoming part of the Intelligence Corps through sheer hard work. I was channelled into doing a degree in International Relations through my work and I absolutely hated it. I didn’t last three months and this left me with serious confidence issues at my ability to do academic work. When I left the Army, I knew I wanted to learn but it wasn’t until I went to a, funnily enough, oil and gas company for work experience where I met the environmental team. They inspired me to take an environmental science higher with the UHI North, West and Hebrides to learn more about that field. I enjoyed my time so much on that course, I was considering studying a degree again. Something I was really fearful of, but the tutor and other students built up my confidence enough that I jumped into an academic world.

Why the BA in Sustainable Development?

Sustainable Development became my obvious choice, I loved anything to do with sustainability and after learning so much in my higher, I wanted to eventually help create a brighter future through the power of sustainable development. I also felt this was a job market that is not likely to suffer in my lifetime. I chose the UHI North, West and Hebrides because it was local, I knew the faces who were supporting me at the learning centre from growing up and working there, making it an easy transition. The course was also delivered by UHI Outer Hebrides as a networked course. I chose to study part-time because I had a house deposit, although I couldn’t afford to buy in my area, and to avoid using that up as a full-time student, I opted to work whilst also studying.

Your time as a student? What I enjoy and what it is like being a student

My first year as a student on the BA Sustainable Development Course was an eye opener. It was amazing to learn about all of the processes involved with studying, how it operates online and your interaction with students. As an extrovert, I felt a little lonely to begin because I lacked the social interaction, however, as time went on, I learned how to make it work for me. I used discussion forums, joined students Whatsapp groups, tried to attend the live sessions whenever possible and engaged with the tutor any time I had a question. This worked wonders for me, once I had found a rhythm that suited me and the style of learning I enjoyed, everything felt far better. The materials so far have been extremely interesting, and it is not just reading books every night after work, but there are podcasts to listen to on the way to work or walking the dog, short videos to watch and films to enjoy that brings the course more to life. Working full time and studying is not easy and it requires determination.

a group of people in a poly tunnel

Kayley with her fellow students on a Sustainable Development residential trip to Eigg in 2022.

What I do now

I was working as an NHS Analyst when I began my degree in Sep 2021, now I work as a Junior Environmental Consultant for a company based within UHI North, West and Hebrides - Stornoway. This was all thanks to the BA Sustainable Development course which had advertised the position and I was enjoying the course so much that I decided to apply and move across! I have been here for 9 months, and I love my job working within the heart of sustainable development in the Western Isles and further afield.  The job is now improving my academic work as I have learnt skills in GIS (Mapping software) and in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) which are modules within this course. Both the job and the course go hand in hand and I am excited about my learning as a result.

What would I say to others studying this subject and thinking about studying with UHI

I mentioned previously that you require determination if you wish to work full-time and study part-time, this is essential if it is a route you wish to take. I have had to prioritise my life to the point where ‘free’ time is almost structured.  I have found that 45 minutes before work is when I am best for writing assignments because I am a morning person, however, evenings are best suited for reading and watching whilst taking short notes. You learn a lot about yourself and how to effectively manage your time.  I have found it is best to imagine a two-year course and you get a HNC, then I will re-evaluate my life, decide how the last two years have been studying and then aim to achieve the HND and so on.

If you are considering studying with UHI I would highly recommend it! It has transformed my life, opened my eyes to real world issues that needs to be addressed and we are the only ones who can do that! Learning on courses, such as the BA Sustainable Development Degree, is the key to helping solve the global climate crises and changing mindsets. This course, despite being early in it, has shown me how I can think critically about these issues and allows my ideas to come to the table where previously I had my head buried in the sand without even realising it.

Learn more in 2024 – Explore over 100 courses available across our campuses and centres starting January 2024. Discover UHI North, West and Hebrides - Where Learning Means More.