Go Higher: 'It was a great adventure'

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The Independent Online
Kate Mackenzie, 31, gained a degree in Arts and Social Science from Glasgow University in 1993. Before applying to university, she worked as a care assistant at an old people's home in London.

When she graduated she joined the City of London Police as a WPC. She was also selected to be a member of the British Rowing Squad and competed at the Atlanta Olympics.

She is currently training to go to the Sydney Olympics and is about to start a masters degree in Child Forensic Psychology and Law.

"I hated school. I saw no point to it whatsoever and found lessons boring. The only reason I turned up every day was to be with my friends. I don't think anyone was surprised when I left at 16 with very few qualifications.

"For the next few years I drifted about doing various jobs to save enough money to travel abroad. Then when I was about 20 it dawned on me that if I was going to go anywhere in my life, I had to get some qualifications.

"I didn't really know what to do so I started off doing an Ordinary National Diploma in Science at my local higher education college. To my surprise I really enjoyed it and started thinking about a career in nursing as it meant I could do voluntary work abroad.

"In 1989 I applied to Glasgow University to study nursing and was accepted.

I didn't feel at all nervous because I was looking forward to it so much. It was another great adventure.

"The four years I spent there were among the best in my life. Not only did I change my degree course, but it completely changed the whole direction of my life.

"I was determined to make the most of everything university had to offer and threw myself into lots of different sporting clubs, as I'd always loved sport.

But it was the rowing which really took off. Although I'd never been in a rowing boat in my life before, I discovered I had a talent for it.

"After a couple of years of hard training in the university team, I started winning inter-university races and national championships and was selected to row for Scotland.

"In my final year, I realised that I wanted to continue my rowing and see if I could make it to the top. When I graduated I moved back to London to join the police force and joined the Thames Rowing Club in Putney. Within a year I was selected to row for British team, first as a sub, then as a fully fledged member and to train for the Atlanta Olympics.

"It was fantastic. When I was selected to row for England in the 1996 Olympics I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe what a long way I'd come.

"Going to university and studying a degree gave me the opportunity and confidence to give my life some direction and I've never looked back."