Going through a bereavement at uni


By Neil Chattle a Mechanical Engineering NTU Alumni

I attended Nottingham Trent University (NTU) from 2003 until 2007 studying for a BEng (Honours) Degree in Mechanical Engineering whilst working at Rolls-Royce as a Customer Manager managing technical, logistics and commercial activities in Civil Aerospace within the Customer Business Team. The biggest challenge I had whilst attending university, was doing a challenging degree on a part time basis with a full time job and a family to support. I was extremely fortunate to have an understanding family who supported me through my academic studies and allowed me to allocate my time appropriately between work commitments, family life and university.

During my last year, the pressure started to really mount as this was worth 80% of my overall degree marks. As well as assignments, all subjects also had final three hour examinations. If this wasn’t challenging enough, I also had a final year dissertation to write and I actually wrote this up during overnight business flights to Johannesburg in South Africa.

As I approached the closing months of my degree, just before the Easter vacation, I was going on a business trip for a few days to Zurich and then extending my stay there for a holiday with my father who was travelling with me. The day before we were due to fly to Zurich, my father suffered a stroke. I was in hospital with him for many days; he slipped into a coma and then passed away. I was totally devastated as was my mother. I couldn’t think about anything, my life had been turned upside-down. The very last thought on my mind was university; I just wanted to give up and didn’t know which way to turn for weeks after my father passed away.

You never get over events like this in your life, you just gradually learn that life goes on. Rolls-Royce were extremely supportive but I particularly appreciated the support the NTU staff and lecturers provided me at this difficult time in my life. I found that the lecturers were extremely supportive, especially with part time students who have other significant demands on their life. I knew that my father would not want me to give up and although I had missed around four weeks of university at a critical time, they provided me extra one-to-one tuition and additional time to catch up on missed assignment deadlines.

Knowing that my father would want me to succeed drove me forwards. I did manage to complete my studies, and I know that he would feel justly proud of my First Class Honours Degree and being awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Frederic Barnes Waldron Best Student Prize and the School Prize for Best Student at NTU.

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Personal Pastoral Support at NTU (general worries and anxiety, homesickness, loneliness, a relationship breakup, or a bereavement)

Let’s Talk About Loss: Bereavement support for young people in Nottingham
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Depression advice
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness

This post is part of our regular NTU Alumni feature. Over the next few weeks we will be posting guest blogs written by our Alumni Fellows sharing their experiences and tips on their student journey while here at NTU.
If you are an NTU graduate and are interested in writing for us contact: alumni.fellows@ntu.ac.uk
You can find more information about our Alumni Fellowship volunteering programme via the alumni website


One thought on “Going through a bereavement at uni

  1. We are always on a journey with life and when things like this happen it can knock us for six. We never know how loss affects us until it happens. It is true when people say ‘time is a healer’. I loved reading this and Neil should be proud of himself for completing his degree.


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