Gas bills, tea stations and getting to Heaven…

Monday November 11th 2013

With a few lectures, tutorials, directions and culinary skills under my belt I haven’t even noticed the time pass by I can’t believe it is Hallowe’en already! Needless to say I wasn’t impressed when I realised for the first time in my years of education that Hallowe’en holidays are NON EXISTENT AT UNI!? WHAT!? Although, as our lecturers kindly but firmly reminded us … ‘You only started back four weeks ago’. I suppose we can’t have the best of both worlds.

After realising how quickly we can run up a gas bill, our new house rule is ‘no snow no heat’ therefore uni life is …cold, more so than anything else. In all honesty, I wasn’t one hundred per cent sold on university to begin with. I had always been told that St. Mary’s was a small, close-knit community and therefore I didn’t expect the transition from secondary school to third level education to be as huge as it was. The sense of community between the older students was undeniable, however as a first year, being the tiny fish in a pond of hundreds of towering adults was something that took an awful long time for me to adjust to. My heart was in my mouth looking around on the first day and recognising only a handful of students whom I knew were going to be in different classes from me. Despite St Mary’s unbelievable efforts to make us all feel as welcome as we possibly could, part of me couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps this wasn’t for me. This gut wrenching feeling was made all the more heart-breaking due to the fact I had worked so hard to get here, believing all along that teaching was the only vocation for me.

However as the days and weeks have passed and I have grown more familiar with the campus layout and with my classmates and lecturers, I can thankfully say that I’m starting to really like university. The notorious ‘Ranch nights out’ (St Mary’s is known amongst the students as the Ranch I don’t really know why though, I just smile and chant along with the rest of them pretending I know what I’m doing), extra-curricular activities, clubs and societies have resulted in many friendships being made that will hopefully last our time at St Mary’s and beyond.

Don’t get me wrong though, I still love coming down home at the weekends (with washing for Ireland) to spend time with my family …and to be reminded that vegetables do actually exist in a home cooked meal.

I returned to Loreto, my previous secondary school a few weeks ago to help out in taking retreats for the fresh faced first years – a feeling I knew only too well this year. Seeing their nerves and how they dealt with their new starts inspired me to deal with my change to university in the same way, whilst also fuelling my passion to teach. The retreat was also based on developing the student’s faith and giving them the opportunity to develop a close relationship with God. Watching how they communicated with one another and the respect they had for each other’s beliefs and understandings of God was enough to put the rest of us to shame. When an  11 year old  student reminded us that just because we went to Mass didn’t mean we were going straight to Heaven, it really hit home. If a child so young can understand that faith is something we live out day by day, rather than once a week, surely we can all learn from their example – as Marianne Williamson once said ‘In letting your light shine, you unconsciously give others permission to do the same’.

Establishing myself as a proud member of the Michaela Foundation has also made the transition to university much easier. Between the Fresher’s Fairs at Queen’s and St Mary’s, there were always people around for help and support. Killian, another of the Michaela scholars who is also a student at St Mary’s, came up with the fabulous idea of a tea and water station outside Elms for the students who needed warming up coming home from their nights out. Serving tea at three in the morning wrapped in coats and scarves was a somewhat unique way to get to know each other, but now being able to recognise another friendly face in the corridor has given me the foundations to find my own two feet living away from home, and begin to embrace this enormous change knowing that the road ahead is promising.

Speak soon,

God Bless,

Eiméar