Sometimes the smallest step is the biggest of your life.

Tourism student Marie Doran from Kilwinning shares her story about how taking the big step to come back to college and retrain for a new career helped change her life.

I loved my old life as a support worker working for the learning disability team in Kilwinning where I helped people who had a learning disability to live independently in their day to day living. I had 30 clients a week and supported them in ways like shopping, budgeting, paying bills, attending meetings and arranging holidays. It was a challenging but extremely satisfying job and I felt I was making a difference. I also attended college on day release to achieve HNC Social Care. Married with three children, I was confident and happy with my life, but it turned out fate had other plans for me.


In 2011, I was involved in an accident and suffered a horrific injury to my back. I was on a bus when the driver took a corner too sharply and I fell off my seat hurting my back. An MRI scan revealed that my spine had popped and I needed an operation immediately as any delay would result in me being paralysed.


My recovery has been a painful process – not just physically but emotionally too. I was left with my left leg numb and had years of attending hospital and receiving physio. I lost my job through the accident and was told by one of my doctors that it was unlikely I would ever work again. I was completely unprepared for this and it put me under enormous strain, mourning the loss of the life I had. My marriage broke down and I had to rely on my circle of friends to look after me and my children. I became depressed and began a rollercoaster ride of different emotions.


My condition is called Cauda Equine. Having never heard of this before, I researched it online and discovered a Facebook page for women with this condition. This was the lifeline I needed. The whole group was so supportive and inspirational, and it was not long before I was Skyping other sufferers around the world. I finally started to take charge and feel in control of my body.


Around the same time, a new friend encouraged me to get back out there and meet people again. I am a people person and need the socialisation to stimulate me and get my positive outlook on life back. My first small step was volunteering in a local community centre as a secretary.

I have a passion for travel and always loved researching holidays for friends and family online, and it started me thinking that maybe I could do something like this as a new career. It was time to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do! I applied for college and was interviewed almost immediately. I started on the course before I had the chance to lose my confidence.


Coming to college has been a big step for me to take, but it was a positive step that gave me a purpose and an incentive to get out of bed in the morning. My class has been amazing – we all gelled right away, and even at my lowest points when I thought of giving up they encouraged me to keep going. I have had great support from the College’s inclusive learning team and student services team. They have been a godsend and helped me overcome the difficulties I have had juggling a health condition with my college work.


I would encourage anyone reading this who might have a health problem, or who is at a point in their life when their confidence is low, to seriously consider coming to college to help them rediscover their life. College is liberating – you have the freedom to think in different ways, discover new ideas and skills you never knew you had. I have started to focus on who I want to be rather than dwelling on who I’ve been so far. There is a whole new future opening up for me thanks to finding something I am passionate about. Doing something you enjoy definitely helps you get your confidence back.


My advice is to find a level of course you can cope with and don’t push too hard – take baby steps at first. Although I have a HNC in Social Care, I could not have managed the HNC Travel and Tourism first time around. The NC has been a perfect choice. It lays the foundations of learning about the tourism industry and I can’t wait to discover more. More than anything, the NC Travel and Tourism course has given me the confidence I needed to push myself.


Ideally, I would love to get back to work. I have a work ethic and I want to be a role model for my children and make them proud of me. I am also interested in doing some peer mentoring, using the skills I have to help others discover the joys of learning. I love researching travel and particularly enjoy product management, and my dream job would be in this area or working in a travel agency. 

My next mission is to get some relevant work experience so that I can start to make that dream a reality.


9 thoughts

  1. Well done Marie, you have inspired me and helped me progress through class. It wouldn’t be the same without you X

  2. As one of ur class mates you have been a big inspiration in my life and am glad u were in my class your our one and only Marie xxx

  3. Marie is such an inspiration to all of us, she shows a can do attitude and pushes us all to be the best version of ourselves. Thank you for being my rock.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s