Graduation 2020: "I thought my anxiety would be a barrier from attending university"

University can be a time of self-learning for many students. For Amy Knight, university was when she first learned about her own anxiety and how to learn to live with it.

“I have a very strong interest in mental wellbeing because of my own battle with anxiety. I didn’t receive a diagnosis and thus access to support until I reached crisis point at university. I’d never even heard the words ‘mental health’ until shortly before.”

As a first-generation university student with caring responsibilities, for her mother who has Crohn’s Disease, and mental health difficulties, Amy describes her journey to university as “not straightforward”.

"I’d say my social anxiety started at secondary school. I was scared of socialising in groups, putting my hand up in class, speaking in front of people. It really affected my self-confidence, especially knowing I wanted to be a teacher. There were lots of times where I thought my anxiety would be a barrier from attending university. "

Learning about her anxiety and how to manage it allowed Amy to adapt to university life. And her experiences have helped Amy to become a strong advocate for mental wellbeing provision.

She has been a Nexus Education Blog Award Nominee for her candid writing about mental health and in October 2018 she was the only trainee teacher in the country to attend the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Teaching to discuss teacher wellbeing.

Amy is also a tireless advocate for the wellbeing benefits of reading and has been a judge for the BBC’s 500 Words Story Writing competition and part of the team selecting the book for this year’s Young City Reads for all young readers in the county.

During her time at Sussex, the 21-year-old has also won a Sussex Education Award for her part in helping to develop a new undergraduate degree and recently picked up the MacQuitty Award for achieving the highest final mark for a humanities student.

This, along with her first-class honours degree, is what Amy describes as her proudest moment at Sussex. She hopes to use her share of the 10,000 prize money to complete an MA in educational psychology so she can support children with mental health difficulties to reach their full potential.

Amy said: “It feels very strange to be graduating in the midst of a global pandemic. However, completing my degree during the COVD-19 outbreak has encouraged me to be resilient and adaptable. These are skills which I’m hoping will be transferrable in my future career.

“I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering Sussex to begin this Autumn. Whilst you may be worried about what the upcoming year will look like, it’s easy to forget that everyone is in the same boat. You are not alone and there is a wealth of both academic and personal support available to you.”

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 23 July 2020

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