Never forget who you are
It feels like yesterday since I walked into St. Mary’s and began my fresher’s week nervous, worried and very much overwhelmed by my new surroundings. Meeting new people, beginning a new course and having to become very independent was a huge culture shock. “What would this year be like?” and, “Am I cut out for University life?” were some of the many questions running through my head. The only way I could get the answers would be to start and keep on going…and now, nearly 10 months later, as I sit down to write my 9th blog as a Michaela Scholar…I’ve made it!
As I look back on my first year at University I begin to remember all the ups and downs of the months that have passed. My first year has been worthwhile, challenging and full of many happy memories. It’s been about taking every opportunity that came my way and making the most of it. From joining clubs and societies or sports teams, volunteering with organizations, nights out with friends or simply just having the craic, it has all come together to make one unforgettable experience.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from this year is to never, ever forget who you are. When we start University, we have the tendency to follow the crowd, fall into the norm and leave our true selves behind. We do this to make friends and to fit in so that people will accept us and not judge us for who we really are. However, we must always, always be ourselves and never shy or hide away from standing up for what we believe in.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to hold onto during this time in our lives is our faith. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of being frowned upon, laughed at or left out for believing in God and having a strong relationship with him. However, if we leave our faith behind and don’t try to increase it, then we are making the greatest of mistakes. By no means am I the most religious person or the, “No.1 Catholic” out there (Pope Francis or maybe at a push Fr. Martin has that title), but what I am saying is that it’s part of who I am and it’s something that I truly, truly believe in and enjoy! Undoubtedly, my faith has played a key role in my life. When I was growing up, my faith was there to help me through the toughest periods, and I knew that I could call upon it when I needed strength and hope. Difficult, life-changing events, such as the death of a loved one through tragic circumstances, were made easier by my family encouraging me to find comfort in prayer. I have seen that faith is not only a source of strength, but of great enjoyment in every part of my daily life. I’ve seen this through my family, friends and my experiences with Clogher don Óige and the Michaela Foundation. I believe that a life with faith allows us to enjoy the highs, accept the lows and try to set a good example for others in their lives.
Another obstacle that we can sometimes meet is the temptation to abuse alcohol, go out every night of the week and feel the need to live the stereotypical student lifestyle that many imagine. Believe it or not, you don’t have to follow all of this, and it’s okay to say no to it. It’s true – you can still enjoy the full, exciting and memorable University experience without the need for alcohol or drugs. At the start, there may be times you find it tough and think your missing out or not fitting in with the rest, but as time passes you realize that you don’t need it to have a good nights craic. I for one have been a Pioneer my whole life and I can tell you now, wholeheartedly, that it has never, ever held me back. A night is what you make of it yourself and not from something that comes from the bottom of a glass. I have had some of the best nights out, holidays and brilliant memories without the need for alcohol. Even though I am a proud Pioneer, I am not against alcohol in the slightest, and would never judge anyone who enjoys a drink. Everyone has their own reasons for following a certain lifestyle or different path and I’ll never ask them why or judge them for it. Nevertheless, I just feel that it’s not for me, and that I can live my life without it. Knowing that Michaela McAreavey was someone who never needed it continues to provide me with the courage and self-confidence to continue to follow that path, and that has made all the difference. People respect you a lot more for stepping out from the crowd and not changing your values or lifestyle because you came to University. As I have said, always be yourself because you will regret it if you don’t.
I couldn’t let this month pass without saying a huge Fermanagh thank you to everyone who donated, sent good wishes and supported us Michaela Scholars in the challenge we set ourselves to complete the Belfast Marathon in aid of The Michaela Foundation. We achieved our target of raising over £1000 and simply can’t thank you enough for helping us get there! The atmosphere on race day was immense, with the crowds and fellow runners encouraging us every step of the way. A special word of thanks has to go to the legends Stephen, who masterminded the super jerseys for race day, and to Áoise for the thoughtful gifts at the finish line (and don’t worry Áoise miracles do happen as I still have two legs!).
Now that there are no more lectures, assignments, teaching practice or those dreaded end of year exams to worry about, it’s time for me to pack up, move out of the student halls and say my goodbyes. With plans for the summer in motion and road trips across the North West on the horizon, I’m céad fán gcéad sure it will be first class. For now it’s time for me to head back home to God’s Country (or as some call it, Teemore) to kick-start my glorious summer months.
Until next time,