Alyson Shaw: "Quitting work and going back into full-time education was quite daunting"

“When you feel passionate about a subject, you really put the effort in”

Alyson Shaw is in the third year of the National Bakery School’s BSc Baking Science and Technology course. She is the winner of Frank Brake Charitable Trust Prize for the Best Student in Bakery Science Technology (Level 5 Foundation, 3rd Prize).

LSBU was the only university that offered exactly what I wanted to do. I studied hospitality and catering at college before going to work as a chef. Pastry was my real love, and I realised I wanted to know more about it and get a proper grounding. The National Bakery School really drew me in with what it had to offer. I was the first in my family to go to university, although now my brother has started studying too.

Quitting work and going back into full-time education was quite daunting. I think it was the idea of being in a classroom environment again. At school, I never liked having to stand up in class and speak in front of other people. Then there was the prospect of having to write essays too. Having not done that kind of work for so long I expected it to be hard, but I was determined to keep an open mind. I think that attitude really helped. The experience has been the opposite of what I was expecting. I’ve really enjoyed the theoretical side of the course, as well as all the practical work.

The Bakery School staff are so supportive. They’re always ready to help if  you need it. I was nervous about doing presentations to begin with, and my tutor would talk me through it and give me plenty of opportunities to practice.

For me, going to university a bit later on was definitely the right move. I just think you have a clearer idea of what you want you want to do. I’ve realised that this is my passion. And when you feel that way about a subject, you really put the effort in.

I’m studying full time, and working part time. I do the bread shift, two days a week, at Aji Bakery in Westminster, which is actually run by a former student at the National Bakery School. The money is useful of course but the main reason I do it is because I love it, and I just want to gain as much practical experience as I possibly can.

Winning a prize didn’t seem like something that would happen to me. I must admit, I was very surprised when I got the email. I thought, that can’t be right. But when I found out it was real, I was delighted. It’s really nice to get some recognition for the hard work you’re putting in, and it motivates you to keep going. I think it’s encouraged the people around me to work harder as well. Now they know these prizes are out there, they want one too!

I’ve definitely gained confidence since I’ve been at LSBU. It’s great being in such a diverse environment. You’re meeting so many different people all the time, and talking to and working with people from all sorts of backgrounds. No two people here are the same. You learn how to interact with everyone and really respect and value the differences that make us all unique.

When I graduate, I’d love to travel. I’d like to put my prize money towards going away, visiting some different places, maybe working there and gaining some more experience. Eventually, I’d like to open my own bakery. And I love working with chocolate – it’s so methodical and precise. Becoming a chocolatier is another dream of mine.

My advice to anyone applying for this course? I’d just say, give it your all from the start. Don’t hang around waiting for someone to tell you what to do. It’s up to you to initiate things and manage your time. Decide how hard you want to push yourself, and really commit.


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