Konrad Buras, a mature student from Poland who has been living in Northern Ireland for the past 18 years, was awarded a HNC Level 4 in Construction and the Built Environment with distinction at Northern Regional College’s annual Higher Education graduation ceremony.
The graduation marked another major milestone for Konrad who is now a full-time student at Ulster University doing a BSc (Hons) degree in Energy. As a result of his positive experience as a mature student at Northern Regional College, Konrad said he would encourage anyone looking to upskill or reskill to check out the options available at their local FE College.
Konrad did the equivalent of A levels in Polish, English, Maths and Geography in Poland but realised that for his career progression and to provide a secure future for his family in Northern Ireland, he would need accredited qualifications that are recognised here.
Although he was already a fluent English speaker with a full-time position with IFS Global Logistics in Larne, Konrad knew that to achieve his goal of going to university, he would need GCSE English, which was the start of his association with Northern Regional College.
He studied English at a College outreach centre in Larne and, for good measure enrolled on the HNC in Construction and the Built Environment at the College in Ballymena.
Now living in Ballyclare with his Polish-born wife Anita and young son Nathan, Konrad admitted that studying part-time while working full-time was a big commitment, but said the short-term pain was well worth the potential long-term gain:
“The HNC was a two-year part-time course which involved a full day of classes on Tuesdays and the GSCE English class was on Wednesday evenings, so it was challenging to juggle work, study, and family commitments but I have never once regretted my decision to go back to school.
“Before committing to the course, I talked it over with Anita and she was 100 per cent supportive. She totally understands that I wanted to do these courses to provide for a better future for all of us and it is good for Nathan to see how hard work and commitment can help achieve goals.”
He also acknowledged the support he had received from his lecturers, particularly Stephen Fallon, co-ordinator of the HNC Construction and the Built Environment.
“Before I started the HNC, I told Stephen that my goal was to go to university, and he really helped me prepare for this next challenge. Now that I’m at Ulster University, I can really appreciate the benefits of the additional support I got from Stephen and the other lecturers as it has helped cope with the workload.”
Konrad added that going to the College had boosted his confidence and he hoped that his positive experience would encourage other mature students to follow in his footsteps.
“I had a very positive experience. I enjoyed meeting the other students and lecturers and working on the assignments helped me to concentrate on my grammar. It is great to have these additional qualifications on my CV and hopefully, they will help open doors for me in the future. “
“The lecturers at the College are great and they have an open-minded individual approach for all their students. They helped me realise that, even though I had left school 20 years ago, I could still do it. I was shown different ways to look at ‘obstacles’ and how to overcome them. I am truly grateful how they go the extra mile to support their students to make sure that they get the most out of their time at the College.”
Congratulating Konrad on his graduation, Engineering lecturer Stephen Hunter, who co-ordinates the HNC in Construction, said Konrad was a real asset to the class.
“Konrad is very determined, focused, and hardworking and I’m delighted that his commitment to his studies has paid off. Completing the HNC with distinction marks a major milestone on Konrad’s academic journey and I wish him every success as he continues his studies at Ulster University.”
Applications are open for all higher education courses starting in September 2024. For further details and to apply visit www.nrc.ac.uk