“I had always been interested in fashion and beauty and when I left school, I did a Level 2 in Beauty at what was then Newtownabbey Tech. I didn’t pursue work in the sector after I left, and to be truthful, it was a matter of finance – I had a home to run and family to rear, and at that time I was able to earn more working in retail and hospitality.
"I have always had an interest in beauty and fashion, and have always been doing hair, makeup and nails for friends and family, so it seemed the right choice to come back and do something that really sparked my interest. I enrolled on the VTCT NVQ Level 2 in Nail Services at SERC’s Lisburn Campus, as I was keen to get a qualification for any learning I completed. For me, this is the first step of planning to work for myself. My son, Jake, is also at the College and is completing a Level 3 in Barbering. He has ambitions to set up his own business, so who knows, it could be a family business. It is early days, but right now we are both taking it one step at a time and doing our best to get through our courses.
"I was very anxious the first day, but I have landed a great bunch of fellow students, and everyone is very friendly. It has been a breath of fresh air meeting so many different people – some real characters - from all walks of life. I was a bit worried about being an adult returner but since there is a real mix of age groups in the class it wasn’t even an issue as we are all in the same boat, learning new skills from the start.
“I am particularly enjoying having ‘something just for me’. This course has become ‘my thing’. I am still a mother, but whilst I am in class, I am Nicole or Nic. You get so wrapped up in looking after everyone and everything that you do forget about yourself. So, even though I have only been on the course for a few weeks, I feel I am getting some of my identity and my confidence back.
“Every student took part in enterprise fortnight at the start of the year where we worked in teams to develop a solution to a real life issue. My team focussed on wellbeing and mental health – something close to my heart – and promoted wellbeing paper sessions. It was a great induction to the College, your classmates and the course, and it meant you got to know everyone really quickly.
"The tutors are lovely and very understanding about the challenges of juggling family life and learning for a mature student. They have been very flexible, accommodating, and supportive to ensure I keep up to speed.
“Every day we are learning so much. Besides learning everything there is to know about nails – from nutrition to allergens - we take part in a number of student enhancements where we can complete courses in ear piercing and electronic filing. There are also guest speakers, opportunities to get involved in charity pamper days and a trip planned to the Dublin Beauty Show next April, so the course is exciting and varied. I am quite creative, so I am looking forward to developing my own nail art style once I learn all the fundamentals.
“Don’t over think it, just do it. Don’t let anxiety get in the way of letting you do what you want to do. You’re never too old to start realising your dreams. I would 100% recommend coming to SERC, the college is lovely and clean, and all the staff are very welcoming, plus there is great support from different teams including Student Carers who have been very informative.
“For me, this is more than just a course in nail services. I want to make my kids proud of me. So, besides all the new skills and knowledge, I am building my own self-worth, gaining self-confidence – it is way beyond nails for me.”
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