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"It’s been amazing.  I am very grateful for everything. This degree shows that I’ve made the right choices. I’m proud because it wasn’t always easy. It’s not just a degree, it’s so much more than that."

Four years ago, Merle May, who is from Hanover, Germany, spent her gap year in the UK as a volunteer, working with young people with special needs. Today she is graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Applied Psychology and is a therapist for the Children’s Society.  She accomplished it all in her second language.  

“For everybody that comes from a different country I highly recommend a smaller university like University Centre Shrewsbury instead of going to a really big one. At UCS I felt appreciated as a foreign student, that I added value to my programme because I come from a different culture.  

Coming from a different cultural background and speaking English as a second language can be challenging. But at UCS you feel like a team. You’re one group; you’re in this together and we help each other out. Whenever I had a question, I always felt comfortable to ask and I really needed that because if I wouldn’t have asked my questions I probably would have struggled a lot more.

If you are in a new country, even one that has a similar culture to your own, you will always be slightly different from those around you, so you might as well be yourself. I kind of fell in love with that idea because it’s so much easier for me to be myself here in England than at home in Germany!  

My course at UCS was brilliant because it’s applied; so I was able to gain more work experience while studying. I found it really helps having both at the same time. You get the chance to not only be in the bubble of education - to be protected by that bubble and learn in that bubble - but at the same time you can make contacts in your field, gain experience in the real world and see how you can apply your knowledge.

And, I was able to live in Shrewsbury which is a beautiful English town. I think the buildings are just amazing. Sometimes I find myself just standing there and looking at nice houses because they’re so quirky. Shrewsbury has a lot going on and has a nice mix of people and generations. I love sitting in The Quarry, by the river, just reading a book. The town is absolutely lovely and I think the university suits Shrewsbury very much.”

Since April, Merle has worked as a therapist with Beam, a local, emotional well-being drop-in service for children and young people that is part of Children’s Society, as well as an art therapist. 

"I started working as a therapist while I was still a student. Doing both at the same time was difficult  but the two went hand-in-hand, which helped. The job has been amazing. It’s hard work but I really enjoy doing it.

I am starting a Masters in Research in Child and Family Psychology in Autumn. The degree is about child development, and also abuse and intervention and working with young individuals who have experienced abuse, which again I am very passionate about. Interestingly, I didn’t know that until I came to UCS.

It’s been amazing.  I am very grateful for everything. This degree shows that I’ve made the right choices. I’m proud because it wasn’t always easy. It’s not just a degree, it’s so much more than that."