A TRAVEL and tourism student who started college at just 14 is ready for take-off after beating the bullies and securing a distinction just as the holiday industry starts to emerge from the pandemic.

Caitlin Walmsley joined Darlington College as a pre-16 student after being forced out of her school by bullies.

She first studied health and social care along with maths and English before moving onto a Level 3 extended diploma in travel and tourism, which she has just completed with distinction*. The Darlington 18-year-old is now looking for a job or an apprenticeship in the travel industry.

She said: “I came to Darlington College at 14 and was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. But when I started the course everyone treated me like I was the same age and I felt very comfortable here.

“I passed my maths and English and two years of health and social care but when I discovered the travel and tourism course I realised I had found something that I was really good at.

“All the tutors at college are really nice and supportive and so helpful. Back then I thought the bullying was the end of the world but I have managed to rise above it and get a distinction with a star in my extended diploma.”

Her tutor Jeanette Tate said: “Caitlin has grown in confidence since starting her journey in travel and tourism in 2019.

“Her outstanding work has been used as an exemplar within the department and also shared with other further education colleges. Caitlin has demonstrated her commitment to her programme through excellent attendance and college representation when completing work experience and attending visits and trips. I wish Caitlin every success in finding her dream job in the travel and tourism industry.”

The travel and tourism course examines every aspect of a global industry worth billions of pounds a year. Caitlin studied everything from arranging dream holidays to the work of holiday representatives, children’s club entertainers and cabin crew.

She also experienced the college’s own DC Airways simulator where she enjoyed role play as cabin crew having to deal with difficult holidaymakers on a flight.

“Despite the impact of COVID on the industry it is something I really want to do and I know everyone is desperate to go on holiday so I think it will come back even stronger,” she said.

“It all started when I went into Hays Travel to book a holiday and my aunty asked if I’d thought about working in the trade. Since then I have loved researching countries, attractions, resorts and hotels and planning holidays for my mum, dad, granddad and grandma to ensure they have the best time at the best price.”

For more information on opportunities at Darlington College visit www.darlington.ac.uk.