Unconventional would be one word to describe OIiver Houfe’s eventual journey to Edge Hill University.

The 31-year-old from Sheffield, who graduated with First Class Honours in Teaching, Learning & Child Development last month, completed a Fastrack course before undertaking his degree – via the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, where he’d taught thanks to a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate.

“Naturalising into a country where the cultural and linguistic norms were unknown was a challenge”, he said. “However, through body language and an increased awareness of learned cultural knowledge, I managed. As a teacher I overcame my inexperience by reading widely and with practice. I became more efficient in my approach and established a strong professional foundation.”

Having left school at 16, higher education was low on Oliver’s list of priorities as he pursued a career first as a chef, then as a network engineer. But he always thought there was something missing…

“Despite engineering being highly paid I wasn’t satisfied with my job as it was impersonal. So, I decided, on a whim, to ride from England to the Far East on a motorcycle as a form of soul searching.”

It was 2014 when Oliver embarked on the 8,000-mile, three-month journey which ended in the city of Amaty. He soon settled into his new environment, learning Russian and adopting an understanding and approach to teaching. But he felt he needed a more rounded education.

Oliver (second left) with fellow students outside the main building at Edge Hill

Without the required grades for University, an option presented itself in the form of Edge Hill’s Fastrack course, which Oliver undertook in 2015.

“It was a rare opportunity for me to experience what further study would be like and equipped me with the knowledge to succeed academically. Not to mention, the chance to pursue a career in teaching which I had grown passionate about.

“The excellent tuition from academics fostered my creativity, coupled with my real-world reflections, helping me attain laudable grades, a byproduct of toil, passion and dedication.”

This experience meant Oliver was prepared for what lay ahead in embarking on three years’ intensive study, grateful for the support he received.

“The staff are approachable, kind, understanding and knowledgeable. Clare Woolhouse was one of my first tutors and she was excellent, her personality and knowledge inspired me.

“Gillian Pye, Susan Williams and Mark Anderton are the course leaders and despite having more than a 100-person intake they made sure everybody was supported. They also taught numerous modules with passion and expertise. Ian Shirley’s module about creativity was a big reason why I wanted to pursue postgraduate study.”

Summers were spent on self-funded trips to China, where he is again this year, missing out on his graduation due to work commitments.

“I designed a creative curriculum and taught it at an international kindergarten with the aim of putting my theoretical knowledge into practice, crucial not only for my professional development but, more importantly, my students in their journeys to creatively learning English.”

Oliver learned enough Mandarin at Edge Hill’s Confucius Institute to earn 88 per cent in passing his HSK (Chinese proficiency) Level 2 exam, something he’s keen to continue as he embarks on a Masters at Oxford University.

“All the support and activities EHU offered have given me invaluable skills, which is ultimately the reason why I was accepted onto the MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. This course is particularly difficult to get onto because they only accept 25 of the highest potential graduate students, globally, per year.

“I am proud to represent EHU because it is a fantastic University that has equipped me with the knowledge base and skillset to thrive in an ever-changing academic world where technology is prevalent in every aspect of society.”

To find out more about pursuing Fastrack, visit our preparation for higher education page.

Visit our course page to learn about the Teaching, Learning and Child Development degree at Edge Hill.