Gareth MacColl
Humanities at Reid Kerr College (2012/13) *  University of Glasgow (Celtic Studies & Gaelic)
My name is Gareth MacColl, I’m 28 and from Paisley. I have just completed my Access to Humanities course through SWAP and achieved the grades I needed to go to my first choice university.

I have always been keen on history, language and culture but over the last few years I’ve developed a strong desire to learn all I can about the history of Scotland, in particular the history of my own Gaelic heritage. It was this more than anything which drove me to look for any possibility of getting back into education and, thanks to SWAP, I’m now on track to study Celtic Studies and Gaelic at Glasgow University.

For the most part I really hated school. Although I did well academically, I struggled socially and often felt sick at the thought of going. I also felt that, apart from one or two, there was a general sense of apathy among the teachers and I quickly became disillusioned. I stopped caring about my school work, couldn’t see any kind of a future for myself and eventually dropped out.
  For the first two years after I left school, before I moved out on my own, I really didn’t do much of anything except become quite isolated. I had a series of brief and unfulfilling minimum wages jobs, from working in kitchens to call centre work, and I had a similarly brief enrolment on a college course early on. However, the majority of my ten years since leaving school have been coloured by my mental health issues, with long bouts of depression and unemployment.  

While I was convinced that I had missed any opportunity for higher education, I still had a desire to learn and an abiding love of history in particular. I also developed a keen interest in languages in the years after school and took a year-long night class in Japanese for beginners. It was while I was working in my last job, as a night shift cashier at a petrol station, I found out about SWAP from a colleague and former SWAP student. When I learned it would be possible for me to go to university through the programme, I jumped at the chance and applied for the Access to Humanities course at Reid Kerr College.

 <2012_13_rk_humanities_01.jpg> My SWAP programme has been fantastic. It was quite overwhelming at first, having been out of education for a long time and lacking in confidence as I was. Thanks to the great atmosphere in class, with the support and encouragement of classmates and tutors it wasn’t long before I’d found my feet and started really getting to grips with the work. Not only were the tutors brilliant but the entire body of staff at Reid Kerr have been friendly and willing to go the extra mile. As a humanities class we covered a range of stimulating subjects and I was introduced to areas of study I had never considered before, finding some of them much more interesting than I would have thought. In general the course was very well structured in setting us up with all the skills needed for the next step, such as research skills, extended writing and encouraging analytical thinking.
  I have benefited so much from this course, not only academically but personally as well. I have gained confidence in my abilities and really come out of my shell as a person. I have learned to trust my judgement and how to work well with others. I feel most of all I’ve gained a greater sense of belief in myself, of hope for a bright future and confidence in socialising.  

I definitely feel prepared for university and while I still have nerves about going, they are good nerves. I really can’t wait to get to Glasgow, meet new people and get stuck into my future subjects.
  I’m not the sort of person who looks too far into the future, so my only real goals at the moment are to go to university and do my best. I think being at university will open up avenues and opportunities which I may never have considered, and I intend to keep myself open to all possibilities. I only hope that my time at university is as enjoyable as my time at college has been.  

This last year really has been the best year of my life to date. I’ve made some truly great friends and learned a lot about myself. The difference in me is clear to anybody who knows me and even my classmates, who have only known me for a year, comment on the positive change in my attitude. I can’t speak highly enough of SWAP and would recommend the programme to anybody, no matter how long it’s been since they were last in education.  - Gareth MacColl

"Before SWAP" 

"After SWAP"  (ha!) 


First year update

Things are going well in first year.  I love my subjects and can't wait to take Celtic Civilisation and Gaelic further. I'm reading up on Iona and Columba just now for my second Celtic essay, about the impact of the early Christian church on the Celtic world in the early medieval period. I'm really into the Dark Age period, the Saints and their cults, and I've really enjoyed reading about Patrick and Columba. I love the fact that aside from the really impressive miracles attributed to Columba, you've also got ones like the time he prophesied that somebody would drop their book in a bucket of water =D.    Alexander Carmichael is very interesting and has popped up a couple of times in our Gaelic background lectures relating to Gaelic literature. I think it's really impressive that he was able to gather so much material, considering he was an excise man.  Second semester has been easier to get to grips with and I’m really enjoying myself.  

Second year update

My Gaelic is progressing 'beag air bheag'. It's interesting to me how different aspects of your language can improve at different rates: for example my reading and writing are much more advanced than my speaking and listening. I had a nice wee confidence boost at the end of the first term though. I'd been emailing a member of the Celtic and Gaelic department, about taking part in some research she's doing about Gaelic learning, and when I actually met her she said she'd thought I was a fluent speaker from reading my emails.   I'm taking Latin this year in place of Archaeology. I really enjoyed Arch but wanted to take advantage of the option to try another subject. It's a fascinating subject I do very much enjoy language - learning and Latin is brilliant for understanding the mechanics of language in general.   I'm enjoying my time at uni and things are ticking along nicely. There were a few bumps in the road in the beginning but now, halfway through second year, I feel much more at home and like I know what I'm doing. I had better wrap this up now as I've got a Gaelic class coming up shortly - Bàrdachd an 20mh Linn (Poetry in the 20th Century) - and I've rambled enough I think. 
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