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Juggling study and children, with honours

6 May 2014

Juggling study and children, with honours

The last thing Claire Sweetman expected to come from her divorce was a law degree.

After being inspired by the family lawyer helping her with her divorce, Claire decided to change not only her own life, but the lives of her three children by starting something new.

That change has paid off. Next week Claire graduates from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours, in a ceremony she says has always been her end goal.

“When I was working through a particularly hard assignment or up late studying, I would visualise myself walking in the parade, knowing my children would be in the audience.”

Although Claire found that the balance of full-time study and parenting was often a struggle, she still made time for all her children’s activities, even if it meant sitting at the playground reading text books.

“I would literally take my law books everywhere. I would go to the dentist and if they were running 10 minutes late, I would get 10 minutes of reading done.”

Five years later she is incredibly proud of herself but says she couldn’t have got through without the support of her friends and family.

Her children, Zac (now 12), Noah (10) and Holly (7), were her “chief cheerleaders”, using pom-poms and high-fives to celebrate their mum’s success.

One special memory for Claire was hearing that Zac had given an impromptu speech about how his mother had inspired him, how well she was doing at Law School, and why she had started studying in the first place.

“No words could describe how proud we are of her. She has got so far, and didn’t give up once,” says Zac.

All three children have had a sense of how hard their mum was working.

“We would help by keeping the house tidy, and reassured her when she felt like giving up.”

Claire hopes that she will be an inspiration for their future study and that she has “set them up for success in their own lives”.

After all the ups and downs, Claire was thrilled to hear that she had received first class honours, in recognition of the effort she had put in and her level of academic achievement.

Claire knows that the Faculty of Law is a competitive environment but she doesn’t think that should put people off.

“I hadn’t realised how relevant the law was in everyday life – it’s everywhere. I can see why lots of people go back and study law.”

Claire admits that she was aware of the ‘mature student’ connotation, but she was there to learn and wasn’t afraid of putting her hand up in class.

She created a network of fellow students studying law.

“There was always someone I could ask to take notes for me if one of the kids was sick.”

Claire will graduate with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours on Wednesday 14 May at 6pm.


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