A new student parent forum is being set up at Sussex. Marian Barrios, a second-year PhD Migration Studies student, is working with other students to start the forum. She said: “The idea is to support each other in terms of facing the challenges of being a student and a parent and to create a community where we can find help, support and ideas to deal with our daily lives.”.
Ms Barrios has also set up a mailing list and encourages any student parents to email: firstname.lastname@example.org to receive information on workshops and meetings.
The Badger has asked Ms Barrios why she feels a forum is necessary. She said: “An organised community of student parents at Sussex is necessary for many reasons, the main one being offering each other support to achieve our academic goals, which are more often than not in direct conflict with our family lives. If we are organised, we can support each other and we can gain visibility within the university to ask for more institutional support.”.
The PhD student said that her main inspiration for starting the forum was her friend: “Really it all started when Lorena, a good friend of mine who is finishing her PhD in Migration Studies approached me. I was with my son on campus and she came to me and asked me if I wanted to meet and try and help each other… One thing led to another and I found myself organising things for parents. I myself benefited from sharing my experiences with other parents and from support I found in them, so I thought other people would feel the same.”
She also said: “Also simply knowing other parents with whom you can organise play/study sessions, or share a nanny or take turns to babysit, etc., these things can really make a difference.”
Ms Barrios also identified some of the main challenges of being a student parent. She highlighted a lack of time as the main challenge: “When you have kids you don’t necessarily have all the time in the world to study and if you have to work on top of that, well you have even less time.
Additionally, sometimes you may be tired when you have time. But that is not only for studying, it is also in terms of attending training events, workshops, conferences, lectures, etc. Childcare is very expensive in the UK and international students are not entitled to any of the little financial support the government offers.”
The student parent forum already has a mailing list of over 60 people and a Facebook group: ‘Sussex Student Parents’. The forum uses the page and email list to share skills, stay in touch and organise events.