By Jody Moylan
‘It’s all ahead of you’ is one of the most common (and clichéd) phrases college students will hear. But what, exactly, is ahead of you? I spoke to seven college graduates and mature students about life in the outside world, what they’ve experienced, and most importantly; what they’ve learned.
I remember walking out of school after my last leaving-cert exam in 1998 relieved that secondary school was done forever. If you had told me then that I would end up being a secondary school teacher, I would have told you that help was needed! I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do, but I enjoyed playing the role of the class clown in school, so I decided to pursue the performing arts. I still remember my first audition for Inchicore College and after two years, I’d achieved a Diploma in Drama, before gaining a degree at University of Ulster Coleraine. In between the diploma and degree, I travelled a bit. I would advise everyone to travel. I went to America on a J1 in the early 2000s and loved every second of it. I now teach drama in a secondary school in Aberdeen. I had not planned on staying in Scotland, but then I fell in love and married a Scottish woman. I feel like an old man recounting his life and past experiences, but I’m still fairly young and I still have a lot to experience and learn. As you get older, time seems to go faster like some sort of black magic, and as you only get one shot at life, I feel it’s important to savour every day. And be good to yourself, but don’t compromise it by not helping others. Good luck!
I can definitely say that I am now applying some of the life lessons I have learned from the past, which is helping me tremendously as a mature student here at NUI Galway. Some of my favourite sayings are ‘expect the unexpected’ and ‘go with the flow’. By doing this, you take on a much more relaxed approach to things and you don’t get too disappointed if things don’t work out as planned. Not to forget; spending some time on your own for self-reflection is really a must and provides substantial opportunity for improvement and advancement!
I met my wife on my college course in the mid-2000s and we recently had our first child, who is essentially a product of that course! The course itself, I felt, could have been better but the love that surrounded me then is the love that surrounds me now. The world after college is a harder slog, as you try and find your feet in a competitive adult world. But my advice would be, and I learned this way back then: when you find the things you love, do not let them pass you by!
A lot of life is about appearances: the appearance of success, wealth and confidence. In the past 10 years, I’d say I’ve become a bit more cynical than I was in college (early to mid–2000s). As time goes on, I’m less and less prepared to accept that other people know better than me, know more than me or are just more capable than I am. I wish I had felt like that in college, when I spent a lot of time doubting myself. I suppose it’s about the confidence that a bit of life experience brings. Really, you are every bit as good as the people around you.
If I was to reflect on one learning from my time since college, it is that things aren’t always set in stone. I graduated from Galway in the early 90s with a B.Sc. in Chemistry, but over the years, I left chemistry behind and now work in I.T. It’s a career very different to the one I envisaged when filling out the C.A.O. form! I’ve observed that no matter what degree you graduate with, some of the most crucial skills needed in the workplace, such as problem-solving, critical thinking and project management are learnings common to all degrees.
I studied media in the mid-noughties, went into media, realised that it wasn’t for me, and promptly left the media world. What I’ve learned from this, and the changes in career which have followed, is that the illusion in your head doesn’t always match the reality. And you need to be honest with yourself and react accordingly. I learned this a long time ago and it has served me very well – up to this point, anyway! Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. Nobody actually cares.
When I left college — having graduated in 2001 — I really felt as if the future stretched out endlessly ahead of me. I was excited and also a bit apprehensive. I suppose the big thing I’m conscious of, now that I’m 41, is the decisions I make. It didn’t matter too much in my twenties if I made mistakes; there was always time to correct them! Now that I’m married and working full–time, I’m fully aware of the importance of using time well. I’m also at a stage in life where I don’t need big, spectacular things to happen to give me joy. The little things in life are more than sufficient – be that heading to a football match (of my beloved Rossies!), watching a film or kicking a ball around with my son.