Stephen’s first blog

Tuesday October 1st 2013

Well, here we are! Hello and welcome to the first of my ‘View from the Student’ monthly blogs! Before I get started, I’d like to tell you a bit more about who is actually writing this. My name is Stephen McCrystall, I’m 18 years old and I’m from Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone. This month, I’m starting my course of Business Management at Queen’s University, Belfast.

So, let’s begin! I’ve finally reached the moving out stage. Scary and exciting! I knew that I wanted to go to university from an early age, but that desire had increased exponentially in recent years, especially as some of my friends were already studying at university. As you can imagine, this often left me feeling incredibly envious, but it also motivated me and made me more determined to get there myself. The past few weeks have actually been pretty hectic, to be honest. In previous years, I would have been well settled at school by now but this year, I’ve been busy preparing to move to Belfast and get everything sorted for the big move. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the whole process and it was so useful to have a good idea of what to get just by carrying out a Google search for a ‘What to take to University’ list. You’d be surprised at the things you could potentially forget! A trusty old tin opener, for example!

I have to admit, though, it was actually quite surreal not to be going back to school. I went to secondary school at Dean Maguirc College in Carrickmore which I absolutely loved, and for the first few days of September, I was experiencing a serious case of withdrawal symptoms! I was fortunate enough to go to a school where it felt like a community, partially due to the fact that we had smaller classes and also because the teachers and staff are both friendly and incredibly approachable. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end” and this was certainly the case for my secondary school. Last week I officially said goodbye to school as we had our annual senior prize giving ceremony which was really the last time for my entire year group to be together. It was a real mixture of happiness and even nostalgia to be back there and needless to say, I was so proud with the awards everyone received. I was extremely honoured to receive the top ICT student award and the inaugural post-16 ‘Board of Governors Perpetual Cup.’ As I was sitting down, the speaker Mr McGuckin announced the news about becoming a Michaela Scholar. Later reiterated by the principal Mr Warnock, it felt really good to know that my school both recognised the award and wished me well for writing the monthly blogs.

Of course, regardless of what school you attend, going into Higher Education will always be a massive transition. One of the good things about many secondary schools is that you receive a lot of encouragement, motivation and support from your teachers. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fantastic level of support available to you also at University. However, at University, you’re no longer chased after if you miss an assignment deadline, so this means you have to assume a much larger role of responsibility and independence. Naturally, this does tend to inspire an ounce of fear in most students and I feel like that’s perfectly normal. However, as long as you keep on top of things, are aware of all key dates and you try to understand the course content as best as you can, I fully believe there’s very little to worry about. As pointed out in one of my inductions, it is those who work who will enjoy their course. In contrast, those who tend to take their foot off the throttle and let the work pile up will only increase their stress levels.

This year, I will be living in Elms Village, the Halls of Residence at Queen’s. I’ve been looking forward to this aspect of university life in particular as I believe university is also a place to meet new people and form new friendships in addition to studying for your degree. I’ve heard from numerous people that staying in halls is a great option for first year students as it tends to be a community bursting with students, thus facilitating the ‘meeting new people’ aspect of University life. I found that Elms Village was great when I was considering my accommodation options as they have a great range of options for students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. For example, standard and ensuite rooms. However, what most appealed to me were the ‘Lifestyle Options’, something which isn’t frequently seen in many Universities. There are three options here: Single Sex (Living with either all boys or all girls), Non-Alcohol (Consumption of alcohol in these buildings is banned), Quiet Living (Reduced noise levels, especially after 11:00PM) or alternatively, students can choose no lifestyle options if they wish.

I decided to opt for a ‘non-alcohol’ room as I felt this would surround me with people who didn’t drink excessively. I really don’t have an issue with anyone consuming alcohol and it would in no way change my opinion of them, I just felt that if there were others who made the same decision as myself, then I might as well avail of that as it could be enjoyable. I brought most of my stuff up to Elms Village on 21st September and so far, I have met ten out of a potential eleven flatmates. As expected, I was nervous beforehand as I had never met any of them before, but thankfully everyone was so nice. If you’re moving into shared accommodation, I would encourage you to get a door wedge or a door stop to keep your bedroom door open during the day as this is inevitably more inviting for your other flatmates. By the time this blog is published, I will already have completed a week in my building. In fact, each building is assigned a Residential Assistant. They are there to help students move into Elms comfortably and ultimately try to make this huge transition as smooth as possible. It just so happens that the RA for the flat which I am living in is another of this years Michaela Scholars, Killian Barrett. So, it’s definitely reassuring to know that I have a point of contact with somebody who I already know!

In terms of this monthly blog, I’m so excited to finally publish this first of twelve instalments and I want to take this opportunity to express how honoured I am to be a part of Michaela Foundation. Although I am a Tyrone resident and therefore possibly biased, I think those from all counties in Ireland can appreciate the wonderful work that the foundation does; particularly the girls’ summer camps which undoubtedly helps to boost the self-esteem and confidence levels of young girls. In addition to providing readers with my experiences at university, I also hope to incorporate my advice for prospective students. University prospectuses and open days are all excellent tools in their own regard to help you make decisions about higher education, but I know that when I was going through the whole UCAS experience, hearing the experiences of those who either studied at a potential university or was completing a possible course the best resource available.

This first instalment has already went over the recommended word count, but those who know me outside of this blog would agree that I don’t know when to stop talking (Still haven’t decided whether that is a good thing or not!) However, I did feel that it was important to take this opportunity to introduce myself, inform you of my aspirations for the year, and to express my gratitude to the Michaela Foundation for choosing me as one of their Michaela Scholars. Moreover, to my fellow scholars, Fionnuala, Killian, Áoise, Aoífe and Eiméar, I wish you the best of luck both at University and your monthly blogs for the duration of the year. Whether you are still at school, at college or university, or maybe an interested reader, I hope you’ll accompany me on this exciting and electrifying new experience of my life,