Returning to education can be daunting, especially when you'd thought you’d left it all at the school gates. Since 1984, ION has specialised in training mature students to become nutritional therapy practitioners.

Nerves, excitement, and some trepidation. Anyone may feel these emotions when they start their journey towards studying for a degree.

But for adults who are returning to education, these emotions can become magnified.

Additionally, choosing to study science — especially when you thought you’d left it at the school gates years before — can make it feel even more daunting.

Returning to books and assignments, after years of focusing on a career, family, or both, can certainly be a giant leap. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible one.

My hair may be going grey, but my zest for life has never been more vibrant

Why study science for nutrition?

Since 1984, ION has specialised in training adult learners in nutritional therapy — an approach based on the principles of personalised, functional nutrition, which practitioners use to support the health and wellbeing of others.

On completion of ION’s BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy, which is validated by the University of Portsmouth, graduates can work one-to-one in clinical practice as fully-insured practitioners.

They can also register with the regulatory body (the CNHC) and join the professional membership body (BANT).

Graduates often go on to develop a ‘portfolio’ career; choosing to work in product development with food, supplement or testing companies, education, the media or research – to name a few.

But whatever their future career aims, it all starts with science.

Science pervades every aspect of nutritional health. This is why ION’s science access course (SAC) is designed specifically for people who want to study on the BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy course, but do not have the science entry requirements.

SAC students study chemistry, human biology, and anatomy and physiology, but also prepare for studying the degree by developing their study skills and growing their confidence.

Imposter syndrome

Jane, a former SAC student, says there were several challenges when she started the course.

She lists returning to education at the age of 46, never having studied for a degree before, and her own self-doubt.

“[I] had in my mind that I ‘couldn’t’ and I wasn’t smart enough,” she says. “Turns out I am smart enough! But it took time and effort to dedicate to the [study] and work through the fears.”

The best bit about SAC, she says, was how it built her confidence.

“The first few weeks of chemistry I was utterly terrified,” she says. “But you have to get used to learning again, and as the course progresses your confidence in yourself and your fellow students grows too.

“It is the best feeling in the world realising just how much you have learnt!”

Jane praises ION’s academic staff for “unwavering positivity”, but says that support from fellow SAC students also helped to keep her motivated.

“Our WhatsApp group was and is phenomenal. If you ever had a bad day, there are a gang of people there to pick you up which is just amazing. I feel I have truly made some friends for life.”

It really is never too late to begin something that makes you feel alive

Am I too old?

When former SAC student Emma started the January course, she was worried that her age might be an obstacle to returning to education.

She soon found out, however, that she was the youngest in her cohort.

“I…absolutely loved it,” she says. “There was a lot of material, and it was pretty fast-paced. But the organisation and positivity from our module [coordinators] made the process manageable — [and], most importantly, enjoyable.

“There is constant support with ION, it really is like a little family. I was fascinated by what I was learning and have a better appreciation of science now I am a little older.

“It really is never too late to begin something that makes you feel alive.”

Study science remotely

Former SAC student Lori says: “While it was a challenge at first — both the demands of the subject matter as well as learning how to re-oil my brain to process and assimilate the information — the support I received from my tutors as well as my fantastic cohort made the difference.

“Help was never more than an email or text away.”

Because SAC is delivered online, students can be anywhere in the world — studying independently.

Emma says support from others helped with this. “Even though a lot of the learning process is solitary and individual due to the distance learning platform, there is a sense of camaraderie within the cohort and support from tutors, which means no one is left on their own.”

Lori, who hadn’t been in higher education for nearly 30 years, says she “was so pleased the science access course was available”.

“I did well in science previously,” she says. “But as the saying goes: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’ and therefore I knew I needed a serious refresher.

“What I learned in nine months completely eclipsed my previous learning. The solid basis in chemistry, biology, and anatomy and physiology… was comprehensive.

“Not only do I now have a very firm foundation to go forth to the BSc, but it reignited my love and enhanced my understanding of the cellular-level workings of the body.”

The benefits, though, are not just about science. “My experience with SAC has been enriching both academically and in terms of my personal growth,” says Lori.

“My hair may be going grey, but my zest for life has never been more vibrant.

“The sense of personal accomplishment I feel after completing SAC has shown me that I have what it takes to succeed in my goals. I cannot wait to begin the degree programme and challenge myself even further.”

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