July 28, 2020

Liam Brooks headshot

I was introduced to computers from a young age. My dad used to build them, which was influenced by my grandads’ job at IBM. As a child, I would sit and watch my dad fix and build computers for other people, but I just liked to play with them.

In 2009 I finished school with no GCSE’s due to illness and went to college to do Plumbing and Functional Skills, because our landlord refused to fix our boiler and it was only me and my mum, who suffered with mental health issues. I loved the hands-on experience and problem solving that plumbing entailed. After a few years of working 50-hour weeks in plumbing while working in a bar, I started experiencing knee pains and knew that I couldn’t do this for the next 40 years. So I decided to go back to college to get my GCSE’s.

The college initially told me that I wouldn’t have been able to do my GCSE’s as I could not find my certificates, meaning I would have to retake Functional Skills. A month into doing Functional Skills for the second time, I took a test which would determine what grade we were working to. Having realised my ability, they put me on a fast track to GCSE, as well as offering me a place on Access to Higher Education, provided I passed.

Once I finished my GCSE’s I applied for Access to HE IT. At this point, my cousin was on a decline suffering from cancer, I had lost my job due to new management and needed housing. Just before I was due to finish in college, my cousin died in 2016. My cousin supported me a lot and before he died, I made a promise that I’d go to university… but before I could do that, I had to finish my college course. I moved in with a friend 40 miles away and worked in fireplace installation to earn some money while doing my college assignments from “home”. I passed the Access course and was accepted by Cardiff Met to study Computer Science. I moved to Cardiff knowing full well I would be homeless as my plans with a friend had fallen through. I lived in a hostel for a month and a half before finally finding somewhere to live.

Liam Brooks speaking in front of Malaysian students
In my second year, I was selected to go to Indonesia though the Erasmus+ scheme.

My first year on the Computer Science course was mad. It was seemingly obvious that I was behind in my work, as I had to work full time as well as attend uni, but my Head of Department Catherine Tryfona offered amazing support and genuine advice. Reassuring me that I was not that far behind and was doing great considering the circumstances.

In my second year, I was chosen to go to Indonesia through the Erasmus+ scheme. What an amazing opportunity this was, I lived in Indonesia for 4 months while studying Computer Science. I met wonderful people and experienced a whole new culture and lifestyle. This was the biggest test of my resilience and mental health.

Third year was yet another mad year. I was anxious about writing a dissertation, trying to find work, and whether I would be able to finish, and then bam! The Coronavirus hit; everything was disrupted, but I was not worried as I find it easier working from home. Thankfully, the lecturers of my modules were very supportive in this time and assured us instantly of what the plan was. Now I have successfully graduated from the BSc (Hons) Computer Science with a 2:1 and looking for a job within the sector. Thankful to all the great staff at Cardiff Met for all their support, but most of all thankful for myself and for my cousin’s guidance for helping me reach so high.