Jason joined Emmaus Colchester back in February 2018 and was with the community for 18 months before starting on a new journey. We met up with him to find out how he’s been getting on and to ask him to reflect on how Emmaus Colchester helped him get back on his feet.  

It’s never too late to fulfil your dreams, and Jason, who has a passion for history, has proved that nothing can stop him achieve his goals. Since applying to Essex University to complete a degree in Modern British History, he has just completed a foundation year in readiness to start the course.  

The support team at Emmaus Colchester helped him with his UCAS application and the charity paid for the application fee. “I was anxious about being accepted and nervous because I’d been out of education for so long,”  said Jason.

Although his year has been full of ups and downs, with coronavirus throwing in a few curveballs, he’s now in a better place to start studying for his degree in Modern British History. 
Jason has spent his first year living on campus, but it didn’t go without a few problems. Although he’d been used to living within a community at Emmaus, he found it very noisy, and managed to move into alternative accommodation with fewer students on each floor.   

He also had to contend with managing his money and having enough to cover this rent and living expenses: “I didn’t get the maximum amount of student finance, so I was struggling to pay my rent and balance everything out,” explained Jason. “At one point, I was threatened with eviction as I couldn’t pay my rent, but with help from the Student Union, I was able to sort things out.”  

It wasn’t a smooth start for Jason, but life got easier: “It took me time to settle in. During the first few days, it was very difficult. It was like setting foot in an alien world, and I wondered if I’d made the right decision, but after I got the financial problems straight, I felt more settled, and began to take a more active role in university life.”  

Jason also managed to secure some work at Sainsbury in Tollgate over the Christmas period that helped to see him through.  

Although Jason had moved around a lot, being at Emmaus prepared him for university life. “Living in a community and living and working with others was a big help. Now, after year one, I’m ready to move off-campus.”  

One challenge Jason wasn’t expecting was COVID-19 and the associated lockdown restrictions and resulting isolation. “Once students were told that all face-to-face teaching had been suspended, people started to pack their things and go. I had to stay. I had no other choice. I spent six months feeling isolated. It has a real knock-on effect with your mental health and can leave you feeling anxious.”  

Jason was not the only one struggling. He was able to help another student who said she had nothing to live for. Jason helped to turn her suicidal thoughts around and offered her support.  

While Jason found the busy university nightlife noisy, the lockdown was the other extreme. “The isolation was eery, I’m only now getting used to being around more people again. At one time, I was in my room for 23 days.”  

Once the lockdown lifted, Jason spent a lot of his time in the IT labs, where he’d not only go to study but for company, “It’s become like a family.”  

Jason praises the university for the support that’s been available. As a mature student, he’s had the support of Essex Pathways. They help undergraduates, without standard entry requirements, to access university life and academic study. He’s also received support through Residence Life, Student Services and the Student Union.     

With this help and tutor support, Jason is proud to say he’s passed his Foundation year with a 2:1. “I did struggle with applying my knowledge to the essay questions, so I’m relieved I passed. One of my tutors said that I’ve been a great student and a joy to teach.”   

Speaking about his first year, he says: “It’s been a learning curve. I’ve talked another student out of suicide, bonded with people and made some good friends, and for the first time, I feel focused and have clear goals.”  

Jason has several options that he’s considering, with the first being to complete a doctorate in Modern British History. “I’d like to work at the Essex University as a history lecturer, or as a defence correspondent for the Military of Defence, but I’d also like to be involved in student support and help those with anxiety and depression, or family problems.”  

Before he started to make his way back to the university, Jason recalled what his Community Support Worker told him during one of his support sessions at Emmaus Colchester: “She said when people come to Emmaus, it’s often a turning point in a person’s life. I’m proof of that. You can make your life better. I’ve still got a long way to go. But from an uncertain beginning, I’ve come a long way.”   

You can read Jason’s original story here.

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