Becoming one’s best self – interview with Polar Academy Graduate Matt Wood


We chat to Polar Academy graduate, Matt Wood, to hear a little bit about his experience…

How would you describe yourself before you started The Polar Academy programme?

I was quiet, not very sociable and didn’t like social situations, even going to the shop made me anxious. I didn’t really push myself to be my best self because of that. I wasn’t doing very well at school or going out with friends, I just kept to myself. I had no idea about my future and was constantly worried and anxious. I am very tall, and this meant I was bullied a lot – verbally, physically, and online. I was skinny and inactive – I just went to school, because I needed to, watched TV, and played the Xbox.

What led you to getting on the programme?

Craig came into my school and initially I wasn’t very interested – I just wasn’t looking for things to help myself. But somehow, I got a tiny bit of confidence to put my name on the wall, and only because my friend did it. I then went through the process of making it onto the team. At the start it looked amazing, but I never thought something like that would happen to me. I moved from the leadership team to the expedition team a few months after training started which was a big turning point for me. I had been to all the training and had started cycling and raising money. Now I am really focused on helping other people – I’ve always felt I wanted to do that but now I get myself out there and do it.

Tell us about the training and expedition.

At the start of the training, I wasn’t very motivated, I didn’t push myself that hard. But a month into it, I signed up for a gym membership and started going with my dad – suddenly I realised that I really enjoyed it and got a kick out of investing in myself. The expedition highlights for me were mostly about working as a team and helping others. The landscape was incredible, and I really enjoyed meeting the local Inuit community and understanding more about their way of life and how they deal with it in terms of weather and terrain. I didn’t find the physical part of the expedition gruelling – once I had decided in my head, I was going to do it, I just did it.

What impact do you think the programme has had on your life?

It’s really changed my perspective on life – now I look at things and see opportunities instead of burdens. I always strive to be my best self. Of course, there are still ups and downs, but my main thoughts are to keep going and be my best self.

What are you doing now and what’s next for you?

After the programme I went back to school to complete National 5 and Higher exams in Maths, English, Physics, Computing, Games development and Graphics communication as well as completing a foundation apprenticeship in Engineering Systems level 7. My dad is also an engineer and I’ve always been interested in that since a kid – I am intrigued as to  how things work. During the summer after I completed my Highers, I went cycling non-stop for 7 weeks – I was never home! I then started my apprenticeship with Leonardo where I am getting experience across different divisions and completing an HND in Engineering systems. I am also part of the work experience team at the company, helping other young people. Going to the gym and working on my car remain big parts of my life.

I am currently in Year 3 of 4 of my apprenticeship and really hope to stay at Leonardo. At some point I would like to go back to Greenland, possibly to see it in the summer.

The Polar Academy has had an enormous impact on my life and it’s something that I love sharing with other people. It allowed me to be a better me so I can help other people. And it’s brought my dad and I much closer together.