Letting your light shine

Friday March 7th 2014

During the month of February, I returned to Belfast for my second semester at Queen’s. I suspected it wouldn’t take too long to get back into the swing of things, and such was the case. In fact, it has probably been one of my busiest months yet!

It felt a bit strange to start a new semester almost in limbo because we didn’t receive our results until a week after the semester began. I don’t think I allowed myself to become as nervous as I would have been compared to my GCSE or A-Level results, most likely due to the fact that University exams have such a quick turnaround period between taking the exam and receiving your results. However, I can’t say that I didn’t experience any ‘butterflies’ in my stomach in the few days leading up to results. It’s even more nerve wracking to hear that the results have just went up online immediately before a lecture begins. All I can remember of that moment is a blur of students frantically checking their phones to see if they passed. I couldn’t bring myself to do that; this surprised me as I’m usually quite impatient, but I decided that I wanted to open them in my own time. It may have been the longest hour of my life, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I can actually remember anything from the lecture itself, but thankfully, I passed! I think I predicted my results relatively well, but there were definitely a few pleasant surprises, also. On one hand, I’m so glad and so relieved that my first semester has went so well, but I’m also aware that not every student is able to say that.

Unfortunately, it’s almost an inevitability that some students may not have done as well as they had hoped. At university, the ‘pass mark’ is significantly lower than school and students may not hit the high scores as they were in secondary school. It takes time to adjust to this, and at the time, it feels like it’s the end of the world, but after the initial disappointment, things seem to look a little brighter. There’s the option of repeats and a large network of support put in place to find out where you went wrong, or help you to cope. Above all else, I think the most important thing is to remember that academic results do not define a person in any way. What truly matters is the personality behind the student; what your values are, the person you are, the life you lead, and how well you get on with others. I always remember what fellow scholar Fionnuala said in her address to Loreto students about the Michaela Scholarship application, “It didn’t ask about grades. It didn’t ask about achievements. It simply was finding your personality and letting your light shine.” I feel as though this can be applied to everyday life because at the end of the day, that’s what matters – that is what people will remember you for.

This month, I also celebrated my birthday – the grand old age of 19 and the final instalment of the dreaded teenage years. Fortunately, I don’t think mine were as bad as they were made out to be when I was about to turn 13! Maybe it’s because I never really experienced that stereotypical moody and rebellious phase! Only one more year before I actually have to behave like an adult (sounds pretty boring if you ask me.) But I guess it means one last year to make the most of before responsibility takes over. (To listen to me, you would think I was turning 100!) However, I digress. To celebrate, I had a meal with my friends in a restaurant called Cosmo. If you’re studying or living in Belfast, it is definitely a must! It’s a little bit on the expensive side at £13 per head, but it’s delicious, has so many different types of European and international cuisine to offer, and you definitely get your value for money as it is an ‘all you can eat’ buffet! All in all, it was a really lovely day and I received some really pleasant messages. – Up the February birthdays, like Áoise and I!

Birthday

It seems that February was completely filled with Michaela Foundation related events! I’ve had the time of my life and enjoyed every second of it! The newly established society at Queen’s held their first AGM in the Students’ Union, where we received a brilliant turn out. It was so great to meet many new faces; some who had volunteered for the Foundation before and others who wanted to begin their journey. We also elected the committee for this academic year, and I am extremely pleased to be the vice-chairperson of the society. That dreaded word of ‘responsibility’ is creeping back in again, but it’s another role I was eager to adopt and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Already, we have been able to hold several events. The first event was Refreshers’ Fair held in the Students’ Union. It was another great opportunity to invite new people to become members of the society. It was also brilliant to have so many volunteers taking the time to help out at our stall, despite the horrible rain that day!

Group Photograph 1

The following week was RAG week and because Michaela Foundation were one of the chosen charities, the week was filled with fun events for both staff and students. On the Monday, Kelly, myself and several volunteers assisted Úna with inviting people to participate in our fundraiser on the Tuesday. Kelly came up with the great idea of having 2 spinning bikes to cycle continuously for 7 hours! Each person would cycle for 15 minutes before changing over to the next cyclist. It was a huge success and one of my favourite events to have so far. We even managed to get the President of the Students’ Union, Niall McShane to cycle for us! I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise, seeing as he is also running 4 marathons for 4 charities (including Michaela Foundation) in 4 counties for the ‘Run for Rag’ event! I also managed to twist the arms of a lot of my friends who kindly agreed to cycle – I know we all appreciated it so much!

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I also had a lovely meet-up with Aoife and Killian this month. We decided to head to the place which is predominantly filled with students. Yes: Nando’s. It was great to have a wee catch-up before Aoife returned back to Dublin. Great food, great craic and even a lot of inter-county rivalry banter. As Killian and Aoife discussed in their blogs last month, the Michaela Foundation Scholars are running the Belfast Marathon this year! For a number of reasons, I won’t be running the actual marathon per se, but I will be there on the day to help the other scholars be motivated and help to raise funds. I also have a few wee tricks up my sleeve which can’t be revealed just yet…so Killian, Aoífe, Áoise, Eiméar and Fionnuala – Watch this space! Our goal so far is to raise £1,000 to go towards offering a scholarship to a fresher student this September and provide them with the wonderful opportunity that we have received. It felt like a natural decision to do something as a small token of appreciation and gratitude for everything the Foundation has done for us. I would say I speak for the other scholars when I say that, simply put, this opportunity has been life-changing and helped us to lead a ‘Life Without Limits.’ If you would like to donate, please visit: http://bit.ly/1fj6nDc 

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This blog also marks the half-way point of writing these blogs. What an exciting 6 months it has been! I’ve gained so much new experiences since September, and it begs the question, what does the next 6 months hold in store? Well, I’m making preparations, lots and lots of preparations. My friends and I are in the process of house-hunting for next year, I’m preparing to start out on new adventures and I’m also making plans for the Summer. While my plans aren’t as admirable or as commendable as Killian’s volunteering in Zambia with SERVE or Fionnuala’s pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Fingers crossed, all will be revealed in next month’s blog!

Until next month,

Stephen