"We all have different learning styles, but can excel when our educational and learning needs are met"

Carmel's story is shared as part of AONTAS’ Adult Learners' Festival 2022 to celebrate and promote the value of returning to education as an adult.

My name is Carmel and I am currently doing a QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) level 5 Sports, Recreation & Exercise course and ITEC Gym instruction level 2 course in Gorey Training Initiative. Gorey Training Initiative is a Local Training Initiative that is part of Gorey Youth Needs Group.

I left school when I was fifteen and even though I always had a job, I constantly had to prove myself. I got married at a young age and it never seemed the right time for me to go back to education. Deep down, I wanted to return to education, but I was also a little scared.

Carmel, at her graduation at Gorey Youth Training Initiative
In September 2020, I returned to education with Gorey Training Initiative and in June 2021, I completed a QQI Level 4 Sports, Recreation & Exercise course. I obtained distinctions in all modules and was awarded Student of the Year.

Choosing a Course

I decided to do a course in Sports, Recreation and Exercise as it covered health, fitness and nutrition. At the age of thirty, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was hardly able to walk and I was very ill for the next few years. I learned that diet and fitness had a big part to play in living with this illness and with the guidance of my consultant and my own sheer determination, I was able to achieve a better quality of life whilst living with the disease.

I started to understand the role of health and fitness in my life and I talked about finding out more to my family. My husband, James, saw an advertisement on Facebook for the level 4 course in Gorey starting in September 2020 and gave me the phone number. I rang and I spoke to Peter Hayden (the then coordinator). He suggested that I come down to Gorey and speak to him the following day. I had made my decision that morning at home not to do the course, but to get information and talk about doing it the following year. At 48 years of age, I was scared for the first time in a long time in my life. All my past fears returned including a feeling that I would not be able for this course.

But I met with Peter who was lovely and, after an hour, he had me signed up to start two weeks later! Peter motivated me by telling me other learner stories, which really inspired me. Peter came across as a person who would help me. I felt comfortable and unjudged in his company.

Learning to Learn

In a year and a half, I have learned a great deal, covering nutrition, anatomy, exercise and fitness, gym instruction, coaching, word processing, communications and personal and professional development.To find out more about how best I learn, I took the VARK questionnaire from the VARK website and discovered that I am a very strong aural learner. This makes sense to me as I like to talk things through even if it is only to myself. I found secondary school hard as their main way of teaching was reading and writing.

I have found coming back to education a much different experience and I would say a very enjoyable one in Gorey Training Initiative (GTI), where the tutors are exceptional people in every way. I owe them a lot and I am very grateful to them. Peter Hayden (previous co-ordinator of GTI), Chris Furlong (current co-ordinator of GTI) as well as Matt Dunbar and Celina Hayden have all catered for my learning needs, supported me, and have given me the tools and motivation to progress in my education and future.

A Bright Future Ahead

I would have never thought I would be in my second year of Sport and Recreation and my goal for next year is to do a level 6 Sports Massage Therapy Course. I know I will continue in education.

I am not fully sure of my end outcome yet, but I do know I have endless possibilities and opportunities and a bright future ahead, because I took that first important scary step back to education.

We are all-different and have different learning styles, but can excel in our careers as long as our educational and learning needs are met. Secondary school and college is not for everyone. That is why adult education is so important, where there are so many courses and so much help and support available.

Age is not a barrier; returning to education as a mature student means you will have a lot of life experience. I have been the oldest in my class the last two years—all the other students have ranged in age from 18 to 35. It certainly has not made a difference. I have made wonderful friends and really enjoy their company.

I am delighted I have gone back to education. I am really enjoying it. It’s like peeling an orange: each year you learn a new layer. I am excited and passionate to gain more knowledge in this industry. I am proud of myself and happy to share my story. I hope that it will help someone make the decision I made.

For more information on the AONTAS Adult Learners' Festival 2022, take a look at our website. 

Find out more about Gorey Training Initiative here