To celebrate Colleges Week 2021 and the theme of 'Get In, Go Further', we caught up with one of our adult learners about his decision to return to education and why that decision will help him go even further in his future.

Just two years ago, Daniel Mohammadzade was leaving treatment for a long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol and was continuing to struggle with his mental health. 

Now, after completing two college courses aimed at supporting adults to retrain and reskill, he is embarking on a degree in Counselling and Therapeutic Communication, with an ambition to support others who have been through similar experiences to his own.

“I was in a really bad place mentally back then,” says Daniel. “I was mentally broke and I was suicidal. Luckily, I went into treatment for my addiction in 2019 for six months. When I came out of there I tried to go back to work, but very quickly realised that my heart wasn't in it.”

Talking about his decision to return to college, Daniel continued: “I began volunteering within the drugs and alcohol services but when Covid hit everything was shut, and even when things were starting to open back up they weren’t able to accept volunteers, so I decided that I was going to study for a Level 2 in Counselling. It was a free course and it was only six weeks, so I felt that it wasn’t too much commitment to find out if I would like it.”

In fact, Daniel found the experience of returning to college so positive that he stayed to complete a Level 3 qualification thorough the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, before setting his sights on a degree.

Daniel continued “I always hated academic studies. I got my GCSEs and went to college at 16 but never completed a course.

“Coming back as an adult, it feels different. I’ve really enjoyed my time studying and I still am. Study is very different when you actually want to be here. I didn’t enjoy school but now I'm coming back and I want to do it, the environment is a really good environment to learn in.

“I like how hands on it is and I like how interactive it is and keeps me engaged. I think I would have struggled at University because of the type of setting it is and how formal it is, so this definitely offers something different to a university or a sixth form. The course I’m on has its own Counselling Academy, which is really nice because it means that you’re in your own little bubble.  I do like the smaller class sizes and the more personal experience and relationships you get here. 

“My Level 2 course was free and I accessed my Level 3 through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. I probably still would have looked at doing the course if I had to pay because my heart was set on doing it, but it definitely made the decision easier because I didn't have to think how am I going to be able to afford it? I know a lot of other people on the course that were able to attend because of it, so it’s been a really positive thing.”

After completing the 12-week Level 3 course in Counselling, Daniel was able to progress to a Foundation Degree at Newcastle College University Centre, and aims to one day open his own treatment centre and create services for those who need it the most.

“I can see myself going to go into drugs and alcohol service, whether that’s working with adults and firefighting or with younger people and try to prevent,” he explains. 

“One of the issues I had when I went for help with my mental health was that I was told I couldn’t access help because I was drinking and using drugs, but then it became a vicious circle. I know that the mental health services are stretched, but I think there needs to be a way to walk hand in hand from the start the journey, otherwise you lose a lot of people.

“Somewhere down the line I’d like to find the funding to open an affordable treatment centre. I was lucky and able to attend a free one locally, but across the country they can cost upwards of £8,000 per month. Not a lot of people have that money and not a lot of regions have something free or affordable on offer, so I’d like to address that.

“I’m glad I came back to college to study, even though I thought I’d finish at Level 2. Now, it’s going to help me make a difference to other people’s lives.”