Kirie-Lea Cussen

Fashion Design- BA (hons)

Kirie-Lea was having a difficult time dealing with post-natal depression, especially juggling it alongside University. Her personal circumstances also deteriorated, dealing with domestic abuse and later on having to uproot and flee home. Mentally the stress played a huge toll on her health, but with the support available at BCU, Kirie-Lea has become more confident and has grown as a designer.

Prior to becoming a student at BCU, I studied BA (Hons) Fashion at another university. During my first year, I fell pregnant and I decided to drop out. As my son turned three months old, my ex-partner and I relocated to Birmingham which prompted me to consider university again. I believed that finishing my degree would give me an outlet and allow me to be something other than just “Mum”.

I was made to feel very welcome at BCU and the transition was very smooth. BCU have been really supportive in terms of helping me complete my goals and reducing my levels of stress. My son had a serious accident during my first year and I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital but the tutors were very understanding. I also experienced domestic abuse and had to flee home, and again my tutors responded really well.

The struggles continued in to my second year whereby I was facing homelessness. My tutors were extremely helpful and made it easier for me to attend university whilst my son was able to go to nursery. This meant I could focus on my studies and not lose sight of my personal goals. This gave me that extra bit of motivation and I was able to focus on something other than ‘just living’. My mental health took a real beating in the second year, and shortly after moving into a women's refuge I discovered I was pregnant with my second son.

I was given the option to defer my final year of study as it was fairly impossible to continue my studies whilst recovering from birth of my second son. Since returning to University, my final year has been yet another difficult one as I have been dealing with financial difficulties and family troubles. BCU financial services have helped with both my short term and long term finances by providing me with food bank vouchers which has allowed to feed my children. Earlier in the year I was awarded with the hardship fund which allowed me to buy necessary materials for my course. Overall BCU has been extremely supportive, even when the issues were not linked directly to the course itself.

Graduation is round the corner for me and the finish line is definitely in sight. I would like to achieve a 2:1 and have my portfolio ready for industry. I will be proud to graduate in general, and for both of my young boys to see. I hope this will inspire them to reach for the stars and meet their future goals.

I am proud that I chose to continue my studies and I can ultimately prove to the nay-sayers that you can be a full time parent and work on your career. I feel that I have accomplished a lot, despite the obstacles that have been thrown at me.

Before attending BCU I suffered with social anxiety and was uncomfortable with public speaking, I can happily say that now in my final year I have overcome that barrier. I was appointed as the School of Fashion and Textiles student representative and was able to share my research at the first student-led conference, both of which kept me busy and helped to boost my confidence! The University definitely has helped me to prepare for life after graduation and every teacher has been a joy to be taught by.