9 year old tells mum “You’re going to be amazing” as she graduates with a first class degree in Law from Birkbeck

Chloe Livingston, 29, took the meaning of multi-tasking to the extreme when she decided to enrol for a law degree whilst working full time and raising her son as a single parent. On 6 November 2018, she graduated with a first class honours in Law from Birkbeck.

Growing up, Chloe had always dreamed of being a lawyer or a doctor, but fell into a career in banking on leaving school. Although successful, she never lost the desire to return to study. “People always told me I was smart, but I had nothing to back it up,” she explains. “When I first began looking into university, it was really so I could tell people that I had a degree.”

Discussing returning to study with a friend, Chloe was reluctant to become a student again. “I didn’t want to go back to being a student with no money,” she says, “It wouldn’t have been fair to subject my son to that lifestyle.” That’s when Chloe’s friend suggested Birkbeck – the evening study model meant that she wouldn’t have to give up her job and could continue supporting her son while getting the education she’d always wanted.

Chloe knew that it wouldn’t be easy to give up so much time to study, but was lucky to have a support network of friends and family close by to help with childcare. Despite being only five years old when his mum started her course, Chloe’s son was really supportive. “Some days I would be locked in my room or glued to the dining room table working and he’d come in and say ‘are you ok mummy? Do you need anything?’” she remembers.

As well as her responsibilities as a parent, Chloe took on the additional challenge of full-time study while working. “I took part in a Birkbeck alumni mentoring scheme before starting my course, and my mentor asked if I was sure I could take on the workload,” she remembers. As a relationships manager for a bank, Chloe’s day job is no nine-to-five and she would frequently be required to stay late, even completing an additional banking course at one point during her studies. “I thought that because lots of Birkbeck students also work during the day, the lecturers might go easy on us, but that definitely wasn’t the case!” she laughs. Thankfully, Chloe’s employers were very supportive, especially as they could see the impact of her studies in the workplace, as she became a voice for key issues like diversity.

Just as she was hitting her stride though, a terrible accident almost changed everything. A near fatal head-on collision towards the end of second year threatened to stop Chloe’s progress in its tracks. “Thankfully I was okay,” she remembers, “Birkbeck were really supportive and gave me the adjustments I needed to complete my assignments. Second year nearly broke me, but I had too much to lose to not pull through. I couldn’t let the sacrifices my friends, family and most of all my son had made for me be for nothing.”

There’s no doubt that taking on further study alongside other commitments is tough. Chloe’s advice is to be realistic about what will be expected of you in terms of time and effort – “They’re not going to spoon feed you anything,” she warns. Having heard of the non-traditional routes that students take to Birkbeck, Chloe wasn’t expecting to make good friends on the course. She says, “People told me that I wouldn’t meet like-minded people at Birkbeck, but you get out what you put in and I’ve come away with some brilliant friends.”

Having begun her degree to prove herself, Chloe was surprised to find how much she enjoyed studying Law. On her course, she learned skills that she could put to use straight away – an in-depth knowledge of contract law proved particularly useful during a booking dispute for a family holiday!  Now, Chloe is looking to leverage her experience in finance with a career in corporate or commercial law and will be applying for a masters in Law next year.

Graduating with a first class University of London degree, Chloe is proud to be a role model for her son. “At first, I think he thought that university looked too much like hard work!” she remembers, “But when we were walking home from school the other day he turned to me and said ‘I’m so proud of you mum, you’re going to be amazing.’” Chloe, who has taken her son to both her siblings’ graduations, is looking forward to celebrating her own graduation with her family.

“The way I got my degree worked best for me,” she says. “If I’d gone to university at eighteen, I don’t know if I would have completed my course, or got a first. Now I’m wondering what to do with my evenings!”

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4 thoughts on “9 year old tells mum “You’re going to be amazing” as she graduates with a first class degree in Law from Birkbeck

  1. Such an inspiring story, keep up the hard work and continue to be a mentor to the young people you will be an inspiration to their generation. Well done Chloe!

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