Éabha O’Leary Fitzpatrick reflects on the reasons why she submitted to The Undergraduate Awards below, and how it has impacted her life since. Éabha is a University of Limerick graduate and is currently studying an MSc in Innovation Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in University College Cork. Éabha was named as Highly Commended in the Irish Language category in 2012.
I remember the exact moment it happened, I had finished class, I had an essay due and was eager to get home to finish it. I was walking towards the entrance of the Main Building when in the corner of my eye I spotted a green poster with ‘The Undergraduate Awards’ written across it in bright bold. Although I was in a rush to get home I retracted my steps to read what was on the poster. I wrote down ‘The Undergraduate Awards’ on my hand and thought to myself, I must Google this when I get home. Little did I know at the time, that simple decision to stop would have a momentous effect on what was to follow.
The wonderful thing about The Undergraduate Awards is that students submit work they have already completed. I had worked on my project; an analysis of the discourse of Existentialism in the poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill for several months, as part of my final year project and I absolutely loved it. I called it my baby! Receiving the email from The Undergraduate Awards to say that my project was one of the top ten percent selected gave me a huge sense of recognition, and confidence. Despite working all those long hours, doubt niggles at the back of your mind as to whether the work you do is good enough. Suddenly, following one email that doubt dissipates… but not for long.
I was terrified to attend the UA Global Summit, I knew that I would have the opportunity to meet many students from all over the world who were incredibly accomplished and talented and I did not feel like them. I felt like an impostor. Interestingly this is the reason why many friends did not submit their work to the UA, believing it was a case of ‘us versus them’. ‘Them’ being the prodigies of today who are so very far removed from us to the point that it would be impossible to relate to any of the participants.
I promise you this is not the case. The impostor syndrome wears off after ten minutes as I came to realise that the participants were wonderfully kind people from all walks of life who had intriguing stories to tell. They were so passionate about their own work and everyone I met was equally passionate to hear about mine. We shared stories, ideas and anecdotes. The UA Global Summit made me realise that in life you cannot be the best at everything but it’s important to be comfortable with that. Everyone has something to bring to the table.
The wonderful thing about the UA Global Summit is that you build a fantastic network of eclectic people who are passionate, hardworking and excited for what the future holds. The 2012 participants stay in contact and meet up from time to time. All of the participants from 2012 have gone on to do incredible things, and it has been a privilege to share successes with them, I was so proud to read Meicen’s blog on her attendance at the Clinton Global Initiative. I think to myself; I have the coolest friends.
Before the UA Global Summit I had never thought I had placed a glass ceiling over my head, I thought of myself as ambitious and determined. That was of course until I began to listen to the wonderful, enlightening speakers at the Summit, and there came a sudden realisation that I had placed many limitations on what I believed I was capable of.
These wonderful speakers from many diversified backgrounds were people who had not taken the conventional path. Listening to their encouraging and exciting stories, I could see that the glass ceiling of limitation was cracking and by the end of the Summit it had shattered completely.
The UA Global Summit gave me the confidence to embark on a completely new adventure. I was offered a placement on a fantastic and prestigious graduate program before the Summit, but on the train home I knew I wouldn’t take it. Instead I asked a very inspirational lady could I come work for her where I was offered an internship that completely changed the path I took.
Consequently I decided to do a Masters in Innovation Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship which is something I would have never before considered, (I didn’t even use mobile applications on my phone and I was about to undertake an MSc that had technology at its core). It was a risky move but as I am a few months short of completing that Masters, having recently returned home from participating in the International Graduate Competition in Montreal, I know in my heart that I would never have taken this route if I did not submit to the UA and thus attend the UA Global Summit which invariably led me down the path less travelled to the point I am at today.
I shout it from the rooftops, the UA Global Summit offers you the opportunity of a lifetime! I implore, urge and plead ANYONE who reads this, or walks by a UA poster to submit your work!
At the end of the day, however, it boils down to the decision that is made – to submit or not? Certainly that one decision I made shaped me in ways I would never have expected. In the words of F.W. Boreham, “We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.”
What will your decision be?
Submissions are open until June 2nd 2014. Students in the penultimate and final year of their degree are eligible to submit, as well as those who graduated from their degree in 2013. The submission page is available to view here.