Fircroft College of Adult Education | Birmingham, West Midlands

Access to Higher Education Student Profiles

Thomas Byrne

Posted : 1st June 2016

"During my teenage years I became severely socially anxious, leaving me unable to communicate my thoughts and feelings to my fellow peers and teachers. This was made worse, as I began to experience extreme panic attacks, plaguing my everyday routine such as catching the bus to school and sitting inside a classroom full of students. Soon enough, school had become a place I feared and loathed, which left me feeling Isolated and depressed.

The feelings of depression led to countless fantasies of suicide, often fearing that I would one day snap and jump from a classroom window. Once I had finally relayed these feelings to my mother, I was instantly put into counselling, which I visited on and off throughout my teenage years. During this time, I was also experiencing bullying and peer pressure from those I perceived as friends. As a result, I became incredibly difficult to live with at home, unable to deal with emotions, expressing myself through bursts of anger and persistent crying. Consequently, I left school with poor GCSE results. Unfortunately, I was prescribed anti-depressants, which made me feel worse.

Uninterested, uninspired and unengaged from the world, by my late teens  the dole office became part of my routine; spending my benefits on alcohol-fuelled weekends, I found myself on more than one occasion in A&E after being injured in fights. My obnoxious behaviour had begun to wind down after I managed to locate a care assistant job, a job I managed to maintain for five years before the stresses of work and two broken relationships led me to seriously contemplate suicide again.

The next day I quit my job as a care assistant and received help from a psychiatrist, who told me about Fircroft College. I began by applying to short courses where I took small steps in improving my essay writing skills and maths. For the first time in my life I had a sense of ambition and direction. Before I knew it, I had caught the learning bug and was fully immersed in the world of adult education. I decided to apply for the Access to Higher Education course with the eventual aim of prgressing to university.

Fircroft has inspired me immensely, even on my darker days, the staff and my peers have all inspired and encouraged me to keep going. My family have stopped being concerned about me and are now hopeful for more future, taking a huge interest in my education. In particular, my relationship with my dad, which has been fraught in the past, is much better–he can see that I’m trying to do something positive with my life and he asks how my course is going. Fircroft has enabled me to bring myself out of the dark place that I was in. Returning to education has changed my life immeasurably. I now look forward to the future whereas in the past I dreaded it!"

Thomas has now successfully completed the Access to Higher Education  Diploma at Fircroft College and has applied to study Literature and History at Oxford Brookes University.

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Thomas Byrne
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