Twenty year old Arran from Fort William tells us how the Polar Academy changed his life for the better!
From the age of four, I didn’t speak a word. The doctors told my parents when I was younger that I had autism and I may never speak. From the age of eight, I could only say a few words and a couple of sentences. But now at 20 years old, I can’t stop speaking!
I had a life-changing experience that proved to everyone who told me I couldn’t achieve in life.
I was involved with a charity called The Polar Academy. This charity helps teenagers from the age of 13 to 17 to help rebuild their confidence by training to do an arctic expedition in Greenland. I was one of ten selected to join the programme.
When I was in high school, I was bullied a lot for being a dancer. I thought I had friends, but they left me out, didn’t invite me to things and made fun of me because I was different. I am also dyslexic and have dysgraphia which meant I found subjects like English, Maths and Science very difficult. I wouldn’t ask for help from the teacher because I was too scared for other people to find out and make fun of me. I also got told by my school that I couldn’t get into university as they didn’t believe I could get the grades.
So in my first 4 years of high school, my mental health was not in a good condition. Now that’s all changed because of The Polar Academy. Since doing my Arctic Expedition in 2017, I have spoken to over 14,000 people in Scotland, America and Canada, from schoolchildren to high-end business owners. I also got an unconditional offer at the University of Highlands & Islands to study Adventure Tourism Management in Fort William, which I’m currently halfway through my second year. Throughout my time in university, I have been passing outdoor qualifications which have led me to work across the world in Iceland and Canada.
In 2023 when I graduate, I will be joining the Polar Academy to train to become a full-time Arctic Guide. Coming back from the Arctic at the age of 16, I look at life differently. I used to be very shy and didn’t have any confidence, not knowing what I wanted to do in my life. Today, I am a positive thinker and motivated to pursue an outdoor career, wanting to help others rebuild confidence. If I put my mind on something, I believe I can achieve it.
Even on the days I feel down, I do my absolute best to keep positive knowing that there are better days to come.
The outdoors is the main thing that keeps my mental health strong, even if it’s a small walk. COVID-19 and lockdown have hit hard for all of us with our mental health. But this is when we need to be stronger than ever! I have been mountain biking, going on hikes and exploring my local area. It has made me realise how important it is to get fresh air and enjoy being in nature. The outdoors has changed my life, can the outdoors help you?
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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.