When Ayaan bravely revealed her aspiration to pursue a degree, she found herself worrying she’d left it too late to start again and find a new career.
Ayaan, who is now in her third year studying Criminology and Psychology at Arden University. Having overcome her doubts to start studying with a Foundation Year during the pandemic, Ayaan has battled her own inner critic, as well as those close to her who questioned her decision to pursue a degree.
A proud mother of five boys, Ayaan combines her busy family responsibilities with flexible study at our Birmingham Study Centre.
Having previously done what her family asked, and what her children needed, Ayaan is now doing what she wants by following her passion – making her a role model for her boys in the process. Silencing her critics, Ayaan is thriving in her studies, and overcoming the potential barriers stopping her.
Hi Ayaan, you’d never studied psychology or criminology before. What was it that made you want to start now?
Originally, when I started the course, I was interested in mental health and trying to understand why people with poor mental health might commit crimes as well as these stereotypes are perpetrated by things like law enforcement.
But then as I started studying, I realised it was more in depth than that, and it’s completely different from what you see on TV.
What were you doing before studying with us?
So, I originally started studying business a few years ago, but I didn’t enjoy it and dropped out. Then I took some time out for personal reasons, but I thought “Now's the time to go back” and do something I actually enjoy.
Why did you not think business was for you?
It wasn't something that I wanted to do, it was more a thing that my family encouraged me to do. I did business GCSE, and so I just thought, okay, just continue that.
When studying, I wasn’t enjoying any of the learning materials, and I would basically just quote a lot of the stuff back.
What was it that made you realise that you wanted to do something different?
I did a lot of research, before I applied. I think I've always had an interest in psychology though, but the way it’s sometimes perceived made me want to research it a bit harder. It’s the same with law enforcement. People see the police and make assumptions about what they stand for. Especially as a female Muslim from a minority ethnic group, I was worried a bit about discrimination.
At times, I did think, “Am I too old?” but after doing all that research I realised “You know what, I can do it.”
Did you have any doubts about returning to university after your time away from education?
When I decided to go back to university, I was initially a bit worried about what people think, especially because I’ve got a very busy life.
I've got five kids, and I also work part time as a housing support worker. When I started enrolling at Arden I had a six month old, but it felt like “it's now or never”.
So, there has been doubts: internal doubts, external doubts, and some doubts from other people. It felt like people were saying to me “You're too old”, “What are you planning to do with a degree at your age?” And that was kind of making me doubt things.
I overcame those doubts, however, because I wanted to do something for me. I wanted to study criminology and psychology, because that was a passion of mine and I felt like I could cope, not just because my children are a bit older, but also because I wanted to be a good role model for them.
I've always advocated to them how important education is. So, being able to do it myself was a way I could be a great role model for them and show them it's never too late to follow your dreams.
How do you silence your doubts and your inner critic?
I think the most important thing is like for me is to remember why I started this journey. And once I know the why… That keeps me going.
I find the hardest thing is when you've got your own inner critic and then you find your family, friends, or others are also not supportive. Sometimes, I do feel like maybe they were right to doubt, but then what was keeping me going was the fact that I'm living for me. I have faith in myself and I'm going to do this.
I think you can manage it all if you’re good at time management. So, alongside working, and looking after five kids, I'm also the Vice President of the Student Association. It's a lot of things going on at once.
You’re studying one of our courses with a foundation year. Why did you think that was right for you to add on that extra time?
Because I was out of education for a while, I wanted to sort of start from that place because I've never done anything with psychology, criminology. I wanted to strengthen my academic skills before I jumped into my first year. I needed a bit more support when it came to things like writing and referencing and I did not want to rush into the first year.
Now that you’re enrolled, what sort of things have you learned about on your course?
With the criminology side of things, we learnt a lot about criminal behaviour and what may make a person commit crimes. With the psychology side of things, it’s more to do with a person’s background and trying to understand the internal and external factors that have made them the way they are.
The most interesting thing so far has been the influence and impact a person's childhood can have on how they behave in their adult life.
What do you want to do at the end of your degree?
At the moment, I'm leaning more towards the criminology side. There's a master's programme I’m interested in looking into serious and violent crimes – then after that I’d like to join the police.
How have your tutors been?
The tutors have got a real passion for the subjects. Criminology and psychology aren’t something that you can just study for the sake of studying, you actually need to have an interest.
The tutors have a lot of experience in the fields, in terms of teaching and through their work, so it has been really good. They're able to talk about their personal experiences and things they've seen when they were working in the field.
What would you say to anyone who was nervous about going back to education?
You’ve got to know why you want to do it, why you want to study, and understand what you're hoping to gain from your degree. If you know all that, you should go for it. There is a lot of support out there for mature students, for students that have got disabilities, family commitments, work, and anything else.
If you're thinking your inner critic is holding you back though, the hardest step is always going to be taking the first step. Once you take that step, though, just continue. There will be lot of challenges and a lot of hurdles you might have to jump over, but just keep continuing and it will get always get easier.
Silence your Critic with a degree from Arden University. Visit our course pages today.