How education changed my life

Peter Avetisoff is a Bachelor of Counselling student, a member of Griffith Honours College and a recipient of the Abedian Foundation Griffith Futures Scholarship.

Education is often described as transformational. For Peter Avetisoff, it has been a big part of his recovery from a drug addiction that lasted 15 years.

Now a Griffith Honours College student studying a Bachelor of Counselling, Peter says it is hard to reconcile the person he is today and the person he was six years ago.

Much of that change has come through re-engaging with education, which was not easy for someone who left school in year 9.

“Without education, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Peter said.

“I’m miles away from the person I was, to the point where I look back and I really have to convince myself that it was me who was that person.”

Peter’s life reached its turning point in his late 20s, when he experienced a drug-induced psychosis and ended up in hospital. It wasn’t the first time it had happened.

What changed during his last stint in rehabilitation was the realisation he was heading to an early death.

“I just made the decision that I wanted to live, as hard as that was, and started from there,” he said.

Peter had plenty to live for, including his young son, and knew he had to make a change.

A key part of rehabilitation was gaining a skill or qualification through education, and Peter took his first tentative steps back into study through TAFE with a Certificate in Community Services, followed by a Diploma of Counselling.

“I suffered a lot with anxiety in relation to returning to study, and it was more over the social aspect of being in a class with people again and being in a class with considerably younger students as well,” he said.

“I felt out of my depth, so it was just small steps. It was just taking a big breath before I did everything and then just keeping on going.

“I was lucky that I found something I was interested in — helping people and understanding people and connecting with them really speaks to who I am, so I think I was lucky in that respect.”

Studying a Diploma of Counselling at TAFE provided direct entry into Griffith University’s Bachelor of Counselling degree, and Peter took the opportunity.

Now in his third year, Peter is a high achieving student and a member of Griffith Honours College. He is also a recipient of an Abedian Foundation Griffith Futures Scholarship.

As part of his scholarship, Peter meets regularly with benefactor Soheil Abedian. He was moved by a speech the founder of Sunland delivered to the students the first time they met.

“There was a moment where we were all sitting at the table and he was giving an inspiring speech. He said, ‘all of you at the table are going to be agents of change’,” Peter said.

“The atmosphere in the room changed and I got shivers down my spine. I really believed what he said.

“My goal is to do something profound to help other people.”

The scholarship, and flexible study options at Griffith University, have helped him juggle his responsibilities as a dad to his seven-year-old son.

“I don’t know if I ever feel like I’m ever getting it right — balancing my responsibilities as a father with uni and work. But you just do your best.

“Griffith has made it really easy, because a lot of the stuff is online, so there’s the possibility of watching online lectures and engaging in content that way, which can be helpful.”

Looking back at his own experience, Peter’s advice for other potential students is that it’s never too late.

“You can turn things around whenever you want,” he said. “You just have to get to the point where you decide that you want to change, whether you’re a drug addict or you’re stuck in a job you no longer like.

“You can change your course at any age — I really believe that.”