Great things can come from taking that first step

Anna's story is being shared as part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2022. The Festival highlighted how everyone can #LearnYourWay, at your own pace, in your own community. The learners involved spoke at the “Learners as Leaders” event on Wednesday 9th March 2022, to celebrate and promote the value of returning to education as an adult.

"I think a supportive environment is crucial to an adult on their educational journey. It’s important for everyone regardless of age, but as an adult who has taken a break from studying it can be difficult to get back into a study routine and that support becomes crucial to your success."

- Anna Jakobek, Cork College of FET Morrison's Island Campus

Leaving school and going back to education 

I always enjoyed learning never had a problem with being in a school setting but unfortunately, I had to leave school at the age of 17 due to severe anxiety and depression. That was a hard time for me, and I doubted myself a lot.  I always had good grades and wanted to go to university. I took two years off and spent the majority of that time in London trying to figure out what to do next. I went back to study at the age of 19.

Anna in Dublin
It was terrifying to walk into a school environment again after two years, and after all I went through. But I couldn’t have made a better choice. I was lucky I stumbled across a small community training centre close to me. I was asked to come back to the centre with all my documents and was accepted on the spot.

I began to love school again. I was in a warm, compassionate, supportive environment that allowed me to flourish and realise my true potential and I’ll forever be grateful to the staff at that school for being so kind-hearted and supportive.

Now I’m finishing my college course and preparing to be a university student come October, which I never imagined would happen. It is a scary but exciting new journey and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Realising my Potential

Adult education allowed me to realise my true potential and be more confident in my skills. When I first went back to study at age 19, I doubted myself a lot and I wasn’t confident in myself at all. At one point I was scared I’d drop out again. Luckily, I was able to focus on my education in a supportive and encouraging environment and things just took off from there.

It has been a difficult journey but the rewards have been worth it. I created and took opportunities I never thought I would have. Thanks to adult education, I was able to transform my life.

Supportive Environment

Being in that initial supportive environment allowed me to work at my own pace and slowly build up confidence, that’s why I’m able to be here, to share my story and talk about the importance of adult education and the learner voice.

Next year, when I go to university, I’ll probably be one of the oldest in my class but that doesn’t bother me. I took my time, my own journey took longer and looked different to others, but it all allowed me to be more confident, and my accomplishments attest to that.

Your educational journey can be scary because, in a lot of ways, you are alone trying to figure things out and trying to see what will work for you, but don’t let that discourage you. Great things can come from taking that first step, which is the hardest, but once that first step is taken things get easier and you begin to love and appreciate the journey.

Making Adult Learning Better

Adult learning practitioners and organisations need to reach out to marginalised groups. As an immigrant, I don’t see enough representation and I really wish that would change. There is still a lot of stigma around being an immigrant. So many groups of people – such as the Eastern European migrant population, Travellers, refugees, the Roma community – do not see representation in organisational bodies or institutions and are still stigmatized by the wider population.

Adult learning organisations are leaders in your areas, and you have the power to create those opportunities for marginalised groups. You have the power to set an example and contribute to breaking down stereotypes.

Actions speak louder than words. That’s why it’s so important work gets done to include every minority group. So many people come to Ireland with good qualifications and a dedication to work, but they don’t always know what opportunities they have and end up wasting their potential. Creating a strategy to reach out to these groups could be the catalyst for many amazing things for not only these people but our wider society. Reach out to them, offer translations to target these groups, engage in conversations, give minorities a voice and set an example.

Anna is currently studying Business at Cork College of FET Morrison's Island Campus. She is also the Vice-Chairperson of the Learner Voices Group for Cork Education and Training Board.

Find out more about the AONTAS Adult Learners' Festival 2022 by clicking here