Loughborough University: Inspiring graduand demonstrates the power of not giving up

“You can think you have failed but really, you have learned a little more about yourself. Don’t see your challenges as failed tests, see them as experiences you’ve learnt from.”

Politics and International Relations graduand, Ross Webb, has certainly not had the most straightforward road to completing his degree.

Ross admits that he was not the most well-behaved child at school, being nearly expelled twice, suspended once and in detention every other week. He didn’t enjoy learning and after leaving school he faced several setbacks in both his education and career.

After initially struggling to find a subject he was interested in, Ross pursued several topics including a carpentry course and a Law qualification before returning to A-Level studies. He found himself failing all of his subjects and ultimately made the decision to give up on education and start work instead. Ross’ life began to change shortly into his career as he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This began to make it more difficult for him to focus and apply himself at work and he moved through a few jobs before eventually being let go.

After a period of self-reflection, Ross found that some of his difficulties had been due to a lack of enjoyment in his career choices and so decided he would pursue a career choice he was genuinely interested in. He initially applied for a Chemistry, Biology and Physics Access to Higher Education Course. He juggled 35 hours of college work and 40 hours working ‘part-time’ to support himself so that he could complete the course with perfect marks and was subsequently accepted onto the Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology course at Loughborough.

In the summer between college and university, Ross experienced a mental health crisis that resulted in exacerbated mental health symptoms spurring panic attacks, paranoia and de-realisation on an almost daily basis. He continued to experience these symptoms throughout his first year at Loughborough. Aware of his situation, Ross engaged with Karen Watts, the Mental Wellbeing Manager in the Mental Health Support Team at the University and together they managed his symptoms. However, the combined impact along with his new advanced studies resulted in failing his first year.

Together Karen and Ross looked at his skillset and his growing interest in politics, empowering him to switch his degree to Politics and International Relations. This was a turning point. After trying several different avenues within both his education and his career, Ross had finally found something that complemented his skillset and that he was passionate about. He said: “After that, I never really looked back. Yes, I still struggled with my mental health, but I was really applying myself and working incredibly hard to achieve what I wanted. I was going to prove to everyone that I could do it.”

The Mental Health Support Team worked with Ross and other teams across the University to provide him with extra time on exams, deadline extensions and free re-sits to alleviate some of the pressure when he was struggling with his mental health. Karen met with him every week during his time at Loughborough and Ross describes her as a ‘major influence on his subsequent success’.

Karen said: “It was an absolute privilege to get to know Ross, to see him flourish having found the path for him and, to play a part in the successful completion of his course. Ross should be so proud of himself for his dedication and perseverance, and I have no doubt he will take all he has learnt into the next phase of his life.

“We would encourage everyone to seek the support of others if they are struggling. Situations can and do change. Ross is a shining example of how life can turn around. Well done Ross and the very best of luck in all you do!”

For those who may be experiencing similar mental health issues to Ross, he advised: “Reach out to friends, loved ones and the support available at university. Never be afraid to confide in the people you love.

“It is not necessarily going to fix your problems, but the support can take a huge amount of that pressure off. I might not be here today if it wasn’t for the support from Karen, my long-term partner Ellie, my parents and my friends.”

Reflecting on what his biggest takeaway was from his experience, he added: “You can think you failed at something but really, you have learned a little more about yourself. I didn’t ‘fail’ all those times I was unsuccessful, I just learnt more about how I work best. Don’t see your challenges as failed tests, see them as experiences that you’ve learnt from.”

Ross will be graduating on 21 July with a 2:1 classification and has secured a position at Siemens as a Revenue Assurance Data Analyst. He is a true testament to the importance of reaching out for help and the power of never giving up.