Chris Stewart
Chemistry & Biology at North Glasgow College (2012-13)
BSc Microbiology at the University of Glasgow (2013-Present)
Please introduce yourself:

I’m a 35 year old male from Dundee who returned to full time education three years ago, after a decade of decadence. My life up until now has been enriched with the friends I've made through the common loves of music, keeping fit, animals, nature and importantly now, science! I am the first person in my family to attended uni, so my Ma is real proud. I would describe myself as a bit of a dreamer and a thinker but with a thirst for knowledge and truth.

Most people take a gap year between school and higher education; I needed 15.  I managed to get all the partying out of my system during that time, even though it’s still in there a wee bitty, but it’s a lot easier at this stage in life to prioritise what’s important.  

What was school like for you? 

School…  What’s that? As soon as I turned 13, I just stopped going to school and bunked off with my friends who were doing the same thing.  I didn’t leave school with much other than great memories of not actually being there.  

What did you do after school? 

As a teen I bummed around with my friends, with music being the main focus, until I turned 19 and got a job as a glass collector in a bar. I fell in love with this environment and turned pro, quickly rising to Manager, then Licensee, I stayed with this career until I was 30. Worked in lots of different types of bars and hotels, made great friends along the way and had many amazing experiences. There’s a lot to be learned about humanity from shepherding drunks!  After working at this career, I just reached a turning point in life as we all do.      

What led you to return to education? 

I knew I have something else to offer, not just to a different job or career path but to myself. I always loved science, reading about it from the layman’s point of view or watching science documentaries, It was just drawing my soul closer and closer to doing it. This combined with the realisation that education is the key to betterment in our society and through the luck of the birth lottery I’m blessed to live in a country where a skint guy can have this amazing opportunity that so many others in this world don’t, so I just let go of any reservations or fears I had and jumped into it and applied for SWAP.  

What was your SWAP programme like? 

The SWAP programme was amazing! Everything was totally new to me but was all delivered one little manageable bit at a time.  The atmosphere of the class was super friendly, not just between students but the lecturers too, I’ll never forget how much they helped me and the support they all gave, never once did I feel overwhelmed or drowning in work. The friends I made on the course along with a lot of the skills and lessons learned will now be with me for life.  I cannot recommend this enough, I have been telling my friends who feel stuck in a rut that this is a lifeline; you just have to want it then go get it. Easy!  

How are you finding your current studies? 

The SWAP programme vitally prepared me for university; I feel I would have been overwhelmed if I didn’t learn skills like maths, basic science, essay writing, IT, etc at the bite-sized, manageable pace that I did at college. Currently I’m going into 3rd year and have had no problems at all with the course. I feel like I’ve found a new passion. If you love what you’re doing, it makes the task so much easier.  

Are you involved in the wider university community? 

At uni, there is a massive social aspect to enjoy, if you want to connect with it.  Everybody on your courses will all come together to help each other out, you’ll bond and make friends with so many people from different backgrounds, with so many clubs and societies anybody is bound to find something of their own interest along with likeminded people to share them with. Opportunities are always arising for work and play. The sense of belonging and community is strong. It’s brilliant!  

How have you changed and what are your future goals?

This whole education experience has changed me as a person from day one. By gaining knowledge my whole outlook on the world is completely different now. I actually feel smarter with each new skill or piece of information gained. My future goals now are to fully enjoy the rest of uni (it flies by quickly), take advantage of every opportunity that appears and then to fully focus on obtaining my dream job of microbiology lab work.  

Anything else?

This has only been made possible by choosing to just ‘go for it’, facilitated at first by the SWAP programme. Five years ago this was just fantasy, now it’s very much in sight and obtainable. My future is looking very bright!    When I was just considering this a friend gave me a great piece of advice:  

“How do you know if the parachute is gonna open unless you jump? Just go for it!”

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