GCU gives inspirational student a second chance

Tue, 23 Feb 2021 16:19:00 GMT
Daniel shows off his impressive weight loss
Daniel shows off his impressive weight loss

A direct entry student has opened up on being given a chance to rebuild his career at GCU, after the pandemic resulted in him losing the job he’d held for the past twelve years.

Daniel Robertson had a wealth of experience in retail and was ready for a life-changing transfer to the USA before last year’s lockdown left him with nothing.

However, he viewed the situation as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, and applied to join the BA (Hons) Business Management programme at GCU.

Daniel spoke candidly about his journey, which is arguably more fitting to a Hollywood script than a man from Shetland.

He said: “It was definitely a difficult time because I had been earning a good salary and had this clear career path ahead of me. Suddenly, the pandemic comes around and I’ve lost everything I’ve known overnight – I couldn’t pay my mortgage or anything.

I had originally went straight from school into an apprenticeship and worked from there. I recognised that it was now or never in terms of going to University and I wanted to put myself in the best position going forward for employment. I think it’s obviously going to look impressive if you can show that you’ve achieved a degree during a pandemic.”

Having secured his place at GCU in September, Daniel was also lucky enough to pick up another job a couple of months later. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

He explained: “At the end of 2020, I managed to get an assistant manager’s job with a company but I then caught coronavirus.

I was very ill with it and actually had to be hospitalised. It was all really stressful but the University was an amazing support to me.

GCU as a University are so far ahead of the game. The fact that there was mitigating circumstances in place and it was so easy to complete was a massive bonus for when I had coronavirus. I was actually thinking of dropping out at one point but Dr Julie Thomson convinced me to stay and made clear the other options available to me.

I’m also a class rep and involved in a few group chats - everyone has just been so supportive of each other. It’s been such a good experience.”

For most of us, dealing with the stresses of University, a new job and coronavirus would be plenty to be getting on with but Daniel decided to set himself another challenge.

He said: “I started a diet in July and since then I’ve lost nine stone. I’ve limited myself to 2000 calories a day and I’ve also been walking 10,000 steps, seven days a week.

I basically just decided one day that I didn’t want to be a big guy anymore. When I actually thought about it, I realised I had a really unhealthy lifestyle and had to make a change. You feel so much better for it when you’re exercising and eating right.”

When he’s not out pounding the pavements or sat at home engaged in an online lecture, Daniel likes to spend his time researching politics – which led to him featuring on the Labour Leadership Debate last month.

He explained how he got involved: “Way back when I was 15 years old and living in Shetland, I used to be involved with Shetland Youth Voice, which is basically a way for young people in the area to have their say.

At the time, I was really interested in people of my age being represented on issues that affected them. That then spiraled further and I was part of the Scottish Youth Parliament and also led a massive funding bid for a charity in England, called UK Youth around engaging young people who are deaf and disabled.

Life then moved on from that and work took up all my time. Nevertheless, I have continued to have an interest in politics and I actually used to be a member of The Labour Party.”

Daniel added: “I saw a tweet asking if anyone had any questions for the leadership debate and I did - it was as simple as that in terms of me getting involved. A guy from the BBC then messaged me and asked if I’d be happy to read out my question on air.

It was recorded on a Sunday and went out on TV on the Monday. We were asking the questions live but you couldn’t see them, which was a bit strange.

I’m 32 years old now, so I’m a mature student and getting on a bit! I wanted to go on the debate because I’m petrified what kind of burden my generation and younger are going to have in terms of finance, jobs and tax when the pandemic comes to an end.

I’m just hoping things can keep going in the right direction and normality can resume soon enough.”

By Ross Clark
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