Kelly Holness – Applied Psychology student and a Mum

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Kelly, I’m 37 years old and I have a 15 year old son called Matthew. I have just finished the second year of a psychology degree after starting in the Foundation Centre in 2013.

Why have you decided to come to Durham?

I decided to go back to uni in 2013, prior to that I was managing a nightclub. I’ve always worked in the bar industry and thoroughly enjoyed it. However working til 3/4am was starting to take its toll, so decided it was time to retrain. Psychology is something that I’ve always had an interest in so was the obvious choice for me.  Durham University was really the only option for me as traveling further afield was not suitable due to family commitments.


Friends from the Biology of the Environment class

How difficult is it to combine work, family and uni? How does it feel to be a mature student?

I found it quite difficult to combine uni with family life, but making friends with people in the same situation was a great source of support. I found it quite easy to make friends and  found most people to be friendly and helpful. I have not found being a mature student to be a barrier to communicating with others. I am quite pleased to be a mature student and I think if I had done it when I was younger I would not have been so focused and probably spent too much time in the pub!

What can you tell us about socialising as a mature student?

I did do a little socializing with the mature student society on their regular Friday night get together in the student union in Durham. It was a good opportunity to get to know other mature students in similar circumstances to myself.

I did not really have the time to get involved with college life, however during some difficult personal circumstances in the first year of my degree I received a great deal of help and support from my college.



Ebsworth Building at Queens campus. Home for Foundation and Applied Psychology Department

How did Foundation Centre help you to prepare for your degree?

The Foundation Centre was incredibly helpful to me. Prior to returning to uni I had been out of education for 16 years and it was a huge learning curve. The support and guidance from the Foundation Centre really helped to relieve some of the stress of returning to education after all of that time. They taught skills such as essay writing, time management and critical thinking. Without the foundation year I feel I would really have struggled in the first year of my degree. Instead I had made friends and established a support network which helped me feel more confident.

What would you advise to people who are thinking to apply for Durham University Foundation?

I would recommend the Foundation Centre to anyone. My advice would be to make the most of it, don’t be afraid to ask questions, all of the staff are more than happy to answer any questions no matter how stupid you may think they are. It is a fantastic place to learn new skills and meet new people before embarking on the first year of your degree.

Veronika Tomilina: Finance foundation student and cheerleader

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Veronika Tomilina and I am 19 years old.  I am from Riga, Latvia.  I like studying, dancing, photography, reading and trying different crafts. Literally everything  🙂

Why did you choose to come to the UK to study?

I did not want to study in Latvia, because I think that education in the UK grants a chance for a better career opportunities. I was considering different universities from different countries such as Russia or Norway, but my final decision was UK because of Durham University.

Why did you choose Durham University?

Durham has a really good reputation and it is the only top university that accepts applicant from Latvia straight after school. Foundation year is the only gateway into getting onto a Durham University degree, so I didn’t mind doing an extra year.


Veronika (right) with a friend at one of the John Snow formal dinners

How did your Foundation year go?

My Foundation year was good. I just got my results so I can honestly say it went well and I got a first (1st). I learned a lot and I think all the skills and knowledge that I have gained here will help me in years to come.

What college are you in? Are you involved in college life?

I am in John Snow college.  I feel like I was involved but could have done more. I really like the collegiate system, but I think that all colleges in Durham vary in activities.


Veronika at a freshers week event


Are you a member of any societies or sports?

I am member of finance society, Women in Business, and  Durham University’s cheerleading team, called Durham Divas. I would like to be more involved with the Finance society, but because I go to cheerleading practice 3 times in a week I simply do not have the time.

Why did you choose cheerleading?

I wanted to do dancing, because it is one of my  favorite hobbies, and before Durham I had been dancing for 13 years. There wasn’t a dancing club that would suit my level and also I wanted to try something new, so I decided to choose cheerleading.

What is the most memorable thing about your first year in Durham?

I think the most memorable was freshers week, especially matriculation day. It was a first step towards something new in my life, new people, new prospects, new friends. Another thing which I really enjoyed was being in Durham cheerleading team. It was a completely  new sport for me and I really like it now! I met many new friends and had a very good time participating in competitions. Moreover, during the Easter holiday we went to Disneyland and took part in competition there, were we took the 1st place!! These two things made my 1st year amazing!


Divas in Disney

What can you advise to other people coming to Durham and taking Foundation year.

Just enjoy your first year, but do not forget to get all the knowledge out of your teachers because it will be very useful in the future.  Students come to university to get knowledge and the skills so that they can get a really good job after, but if students are drinking and partying every day and doing nothing there is a really small probability that they will get 1st or 2.1 in the end.  It is very important to understand what you are doing and why!


Veronika and her flatmates on Matriculation day

Revision tips from the Foundation Centre staff and students

Revision, revision, revision….

So many things to do to get ready for exams. But what is the best way to revise? Where to start?Here are helpful tips that we collected from staff and student to help you do the your best in your exams.

First of all, eat right!

Revision period for many equals junk food season as you have no time to spend preparing your meals. It should not be that way. There are a number of foods that will keep your body and mind healthy and also help you to remember better. Bananas, apples, blackberries, sweet potatoes all those things you loved since you were a kid actually have super powers to energize your brain. So instead of ordering Dominoes, go pick up some fruit and veg.


Rachel Dunn thinks that revision mode starts with your plate. Researchers discovered that student who have proper breakfast on the day of their exams perform better. What is a proper breakfast you ask? Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of porridge oats for your carbohydrates, and egg, milk or yogurt for protein. Also no breakfast can be complete without coffee or juice; that is just something we know you want so enjoy.

Some of you might have already read the stress avoidance advice by the Durham Marketing student , but we will repeat few of her tips here just in case you missed it. Make schedule of your own revision. It always helps to write down what you have to learn. When you do write it all down, do not panic! It might seem like a lot but if you just take it step by step, taking breaks in between (very important to do that!) you will see that it is all doable.

Now we told you where to start, here is how you revise.

Once you have made a list of what you have to do you, take a look at the past exam papers. That is what a lot of our former students, including Jess Roche, Alex Harrison-Wood and Lee Simpson, advise to do. You can find them on duo, on library tab.


Ok, so now you know what you need to learn, and how you will be asked to display your knowledge. That is what these people who were talking at you all year want, they want you to remember what they said, understand it and be able to explain it all yourself. Usually your lecturer will tell you if they want you to use their examples or come up with your own.If they haven’t done yet, don’t hesitate to ask.

Now when you have opened the books, notes and power point presentations you need to know good ways of learning.Here is what our staff and student have come up with.

Steve Leech says that it is important to taking breaks from your revision. You can go for a walk or a run between your study sessions. That will help your brain to work better.

It’s also helps to speak out loud. You are more likely to remember things if you have talked it over out loud. Former student Lee Simpson suggests that getting a study group together and teach each other if good way to revise. You can also try to teach your pet, toy or a poster, if you don’t want to look weird talking to yourself. Talking during a walk is a good idea, just don’t be too loud when you are walking through crowded areas. People might be interested in finding out what happened to Hamlet or Pavlov’s dog and they may start following you.

Reward yourself for a job well done. If you have completed your task, have a snack, treat yourself to chocolate.

If your exams are essay based you can write down your plans or draw them in diagrams before you write them. If you have the plan you already know what you going to do.

If you are typing your notes, research suggests that times new roman is easier to read and remember. Foundation former student Jess Roche says that colour coding your notes also makes it easier to learn the material. She also mentioned that putting up dates and facts on posters helps memorising them.

Watch educational youtube videos to help understand tricky concepts.

Flashcards can be useful when you are studying, especially because you can turn to them on the go.

Check out more advice here

Alison McManus advice is to remember not to stress and take deep breaths. So sleep well, breathe and keep calm otherwise you will forget what you need to write and even if you actually know it.

So here it all is. Remember your teachers, friends and colleges are there to support you.

Good luck! Though you don’t need it, you will be great.

Foundation Centre visits Nigeria

Foundation Centre teachers Nick Pearce  and Julie Wilson recently visited Nigeria to learn more about the educational environment there and try and encourage more Nigerian students to come to us.

They visited a number of schools in Abuja and Lagos and met with staff and students. The foundation centre offers an opportunity for Nigerian students to get into Durham with the WAEC which is not considered equivalent to ‘A’ levels or IBs.


Wining and dining in Ikuyi club


Nick and Julie met with Rose from Nubi education and her husband George in the Ikuyi club which dates from 1938. They had the opportunity to try goat pepper soup, which was apparently ‘very spicy’.


Both Nick and Julie enjoyed visiting the country and met lots of great people. They enjoyed sampling the food and the culture. Lagos is certainly a very different city to Durham!

Meet the staff : Steve Leech

We are continuing with our ‘Meet the staff’ blogs to give new students a chance to meet Foundation Centre staff and for our current students to learn something new about their teachers. Please meet Steve Leech :


How long have you been a part of Foundation Centre and what do you do here?

I was first part of the foundation centre in 1998, when I studied here. I then joined as a staff member about 10 years ago. I teach Social Science subjects, like Anthropology and Sociology, but mostly Academic Practice – the things you need to know and do to survive in Higher Education. I am also the head of our admissions team and it’s my job to make sure we get the right students on the courses we run.

What are your areas of interest in your subject?

My Anthropological research was about social sleep , how mums, dads, and babies sleep together. More recently my interests are in social mobility within education and widening participation amongst under-represented groups in HE

What are you scared of?

Anything that creeps or crawls – or has teeth. I don’t like wasps especially, and do the ‘wasp dance’ whenever one comes near me.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Beer (real beer), cheese, crusty bread.

What is your favorite place on campus?

I don’t know. I’d never really thought about it.

What kind of student were you?

Really irritating I’m sure. Some of my working practices were not really very good – I used to need a certain amount of pressure before I would start writing, which meant I always left things to the last minute. Obviously I’m not like that now 😉

What would you advise to your new students coming this year?

I have loads of good advice, none of which anyone listens to. Perhaps the biggest is “Own your education” – we’re here to guide you, but you need to engage. We are not here to learn for you.


If there are any other questions you want to ask our staff members, let us know in the comments.

Foundation Centre visit to Turkey

Two staff members from the Foundation Centre recently visited a snowy Turkey to meet with students and agents.

The foundation Centre has been recruiting students from Turkey for a number of years, and provides an opportunity for those studying in the Turkish system (e.g. the Devlet Lise) to come to Durham and study a wide range of subjects.

Centre Director Catherine Marshall and social sciences teaching fellow Nick Pearce visited Istanbul and Ankara.

There they met agents from ATEC and SI-UK . All the agents Catherine and Nick met were great specialists who have been successfully sending student to educational establishments in UK. That is why Foundation Centre is delighted about how keen they were to learn so much about our beloved Foundation Centre and all the opportunities we offer our students.

Catherine and Nick also met with prospective students and their families who were interested to hear more about student’s prospects directly from our teaching staff.

Turkey16 046.JPG

Nick Pearce, Catherine Marshall and new friends from ATEC in the Ankara office

In between meetings, Catherine and Nick were lucky to sample the fantastic history and culture of Turkey, including the Aya Sofya and some fantastic cuisine (including fresh fish cooked on the boat it was caught in and honeyed aubergine!).

Our Foundation family will gladly hear again from everyone we met on this trip.

Turkey is a great country and we hope to see more Turkish students join us in future years!



Exam week tips from Previous Foundation Students

Tests and exams are stressful for most of us as we want to do our best. That is when we make silly mistakes like staying up all night trying to stuff the last possible information in to our overloaded brains.

Here are few things for you to remember during your exam period that will help you stay calm and succeed.

First of all, you need to know that your exam papers are written by your lecturers. The same people who tried so hard to explain something wrote those questions you will have to answer. This means that there will be nothing unusual on your exam paper and by now you are probably used to their style and know what they want to see. The lecturers aim is to help you succeed, not to make you fail. So think carefully when you revise about what was taught to you this term, and anything that the lecturers have highlighted and you will be fine. Most importantly stay calm!

Second of all, make sure you go to sleep at a reasonable hour the evening before your exam. It might seem like a good idea to stay up and study, but it will not do you any good in the end. You might remember some new facts, but your attention on the exam will suffer and you will make little mistakes because of that, which all counts.

On the morning of the exams, do not rush, take your time. Some students in the past preferred to have a long breakfast, or meditate or just take a slow walk.

Finally, check the time and the room number, make sure you take your student card, a bottle of water and enough working pens and pencils.

Good luck from all the Foundation Students of previous years.

If we made it, YOU can! IMG_3977.JPG