#ECGrad – College a memorable beginning of learning journey for Mario

Thirty-six-year-old Mario Vinicio Velasquez Montalvan is proud of his achievements during his time at College and leaves with a HNC in Civil Engineering as well as the Chair’s Award for Academic Excellence in Construction & Built Environment.

We spoke to Mario, who is originally from Guatemala, to find out more about his time at College and plans for the future:

How do you feel about Graduating?

I feel very proud, even though I am graduating from college, it is just the beginning of my professional development and it was quite a memorable beginning.

What made you choose Edinburgh College for your studies?

As a mature student who had not been involved in academic activities for a few years prior to college, I knew that I would require foundation studies. A couple former colleagues mentioned their involvement in college and their great experiences, after looking at the college website and seeing how extensive their Built Environment courses where I knew I wanted to get involved and apply right away.

What were you doing before starting at the college?

I was working in hospitality for several years.

Have you faced any challenges, either before starting or during your studies? How did you overcome them?

As a mature student, one of the challenges I was faced with is that I am fully supported by myself, meaning that even though I had student financial support, I had to maintain a part-time job to make sure I was able to make ends meet. At times, work would take away time that I could use for revision and college work. However, I always made sure to give college a priority. Not to mention we also had the COVID challenges.

What was is it like learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I will not deny that it was very challenging, especially because technology does not always work. Also, not being able to interact with lecturers and colleagues face-to-face. Studying Civil Engineering there would be activities which required to be more practical, but we would have to settle with video demonstrations. Even though it might have been more convenient in terms of not having to travel, I by far, much prefer the face-to-face learning. However, I feel the college was very accommodating with all students and always providing extra support when necessary.

Did you have to learn quickly how to use online platforms and how did you do that? 

In general, we always had material available online that we would use for research as well as for submissions even before COVID. So, overall, it was mostly a matter of getting used to Teams and ways of communicating with everyone other than face to face. I do remember how one week we were going to normal class and the next, everything was shut down and we were meeting through online platforms, however, everything was quite straight forward and not difficult to figure out.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student starting at the college now, what would it be?

With all activities still being online, it can be very easy to lose focus and stay behind with material. My advice is to always be involved with all classes and activities, ask for support if you need it, do not leave unanswered questions, and take advantage of all the great resources that college can offer.

Do you have any messages for the lecturers?

A big thank you! For their patience, for their understanding, I am sure this experience is as challenging for you as it is for us. Thank you for the extra time you offered us, even when it was not required.

I am not sure if I can make special mentions, but I especially want to thank Kamali Srirangam and Chris White for always being available, sharing your incredible amount of knowledge and expertise, and providing invaluable advice. Your passion for the field and for teaching really shows through and through, I am forever thankful for everything.  

What are your plans for the future? Are you going on to further study after college or into employment? What is your end goal?

I was offered a job from an Engineering Consultancy company due to start right after college, followed by starting at university in September. Instead I am starting a Graduate Apprenticeship through the same company and at my chosen university which is basically my dream come true and I am incredibly excited for. I will complete my bachelor backed by an amazing company and working towards my chartership.