The UA Blog

Sam Gordine Reflects on the UA Global Summit

Sam Gordine (University of St. Andrews) was Highly Commended in 2013 for her essay ‘Extracting drift rates from compressed dive profiles by using a step-wise filtering method’ in the Life Sciences category. Below she gives her account of attending the UA Global Summit in Dublin last November.

Attending the UA Global Summit was a fantastic trip to the UA headquarters in Ireland’s capital Dublin, pure luck, and a very rare experience indeed.

‘Pure luck’, you may wonder. And yes, pure luck it was. Not maybe in terms of being chosen as one of the Highly Commended candidates – a lot of work is invested into my coursework and the same is true for all other Highly Commended candidates. I mean pure luck in terms of attending this Summit, but let me explain what exactly I mean by this.

Firstly, let us go back in time. Almost exactly one year ago I submitted three pieces of my most promising academic work to the UA, just like you will have done this year. I was graduating that month too, so over the bustle and hustle that graduation brings with it, I totally forgot about having submitted some of my work to the UA. I also had only a small idea of what The Undergraduate Awards were. ‘An award for undergraduates…’, that is what I thought – and, back then, I could have never guessed the magnitude of an impact the UA would have upon my life. Summer passed and I recall my friend sending me an email congratulating me for being Highly Commended in the UA. Since I had kind of forgotten about it, it came as a great surprise. The following week I repeatedly checked my emails, but I remained a Highly Commended student and the winner of my category was chosen to be someone else. So I forgot about the UA again as the busy life of a new PhD student took hold of me.

At that time I was not really considering attending the UA Global Summit – especially because I was not among the winners. It was two other girls from my university (also Highly Commended) that made me think about attending when they enquired about receiving funding from our university in order to attend. This is when I talked to my PhD supervisor (who was also the lecturer I wrote my Highly Commended piece for). Rather surprisingly he encouraged me to attend the Summit and – here comes the luck part – was also willing to financially support my attendance. So I went.

Once I had confirmed my attendance and the UA Team started sending us some information on the event, my excitement grew gradually. I saw Cindy Gallop’s name on the speaker’s list. Slightly more excited, I heard we would get to experience some Irish culture. Also, that we would go to the Google headquarters and meet the Irish Prime Minister. The excitement continued to grow!

Nevertheless, when I got on that plane to Dublin, I was not at all sure what to expect. I was over-loaded with work the day I left for Dublin and I recall getting on the plane without knowing where to go to on the other end. I will never forget the welcome that awaited me. When I entered the hotel, I recognised two, three people wearing UA t-shirts. Surprisingly they also recognised me – knowing me by name and where I had come from, handing me a personalised goodie-bag and sending me off to my room. ‘Super organised’, I thought, and this impression was reinforced over the next three days – and lasted. To this day I am still very impressed by this genuine welcome.

The three days I shared a room with another Highly Commended candidate. It turned out that she was Dutch and that I had been to her village in Zeeland just two months previous. What a coincidence – we bonded immediately! However, not only did I bond with my roommate. Over the course of the next three days, I met about 65 of the most intelligent young undergraduates the world currently has to offer. Did we bond? Yes, very much so. Why? Well, because we all have certain attributes in common: hard-working, intelligent, interested, young, smart, like-minded, incredible human beings!

What happened at the UA Global Summit was completely unbelievable. To my friends I have described my experience as follows: Imagine a small fire, a light burning within you. Then imagine many people carrying these little fires within them, coming together to light a massive bonfire with their hearts and minds, their own flame growing steadily within their little bonfire hearts.

For this very reason, you, this year’s Highly Commended candidates should attend the Global Summit. You may think, ‘Since I did not win, is attending worth the expense?’. The answer to this is simply ‘yes’; because if there is one thing that I can guarantee you it is that this Summit will change your life. Having your hard work finally recognised by so many other students and people is amazing. This Summit is not about winning a shiny award. Whether you are a Highly Commended candidate or a winner does not matter. Not one single second; because this Summit is about recognising excellence and giving like-minded young individuals a space (temporally and spatially) to meet, to mingle and to mentally challenge their own thoughts, that of others and of paradigms of society.

At the Summit you will sleep too little, but you will not need that lost sleep – for you will be carried on an energy wave that will last days after the Summit has ended. When it ends you will ask yourself, ‘Have I really only been here for three days?’ and ‘Have I really only known these people for 3 days?’. For you will have seen so much of Dublin an average tourist needs a week for; for you will have grown together with this bunch of foreign people as though you had known them forever.

Maybe it was Theo Dorgan reciting one of his poems in the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Maybe it was Cindy Gallop inspiring interesting conversations about feminism. Maybe it was the atmosphere at Farmleigh House or receiving the Highly Commended Awards in Trinity’s Long Room. Maybe it was the Guinness, the Irish dancing and folk music, or maybe it was dining and celebrating together in the crypts of Christ Church on our last evening. All put together, this made the UA Global Summit one of the best experiences in my life. I was lucky to be part of this rare experience. I urge you, take this rare chance in your life. You will never regret it!

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