Finding Myself

I don’t know about you, but I have found it very difficult finding myself in this world. I’ve always wanted to share my opinions, but I feel that obstacles have always presented themselves…

I was born to very liberal, modern parents. They always encouraged me as a child, saying I could do anything I wanted to do. Early on in my childhood, I really believed it too. I had such confidence in myself. I was loud, boisterous and outspoken. My parents never hushed me, but other grownups found me irritating and poorly behaved. This instantly led me to believe that children should be seen and not heard. And slowly, as I grew older, I began silencing and shrinking myself more and more.

My childhood friends knew me as being crazy. I naturally have a pretty excitable personality and it was more intense during my childhood. I am not in contact with my childhood friends to this day, but I can only assume they would recall me as being crazy or eccentric and most definitely not opinionated or passionate.

That’s not to say I wasn’t. Even as a child, I was passionate and opinionated… in my mind. I became so extremely closeted in own beliefs that I felt embarrassed even trying to debate with someone or even go against a popular opinion.

I began to shrink more and more throughout my primary education. My perception throughout primary school was that being opinionated was a very negative trait to possess. My teachers rewarded classroom obedience, not talkativeness.

At 12, the free spirit I once was had more or less vanished into thin air. I remained quiet, cripplingly under-confident and entirely obedient to social and gender norms throughout secondary school.

But inside, I wanted to scream. I experienced examples of daily prejudice and regular instances of discrimination throughout secondary school, both by fellow students and occasionally, from teachers.

I will always remember the anger I felt towards teenage boys who would use gay as a way to insult their friends. I will always remember the pretentious, macho exterior presented by teenage boys, the pompous and sexist attitudes expressed by them. I will always remember how atheism was forbidden and even punishable in secondary school; how Catholicism was integrated into all aspects of our school activities and subjects.

Ultimately, and here’s the part that broke my teenage heart, I will always remember how each and every one of us in secondary school were assigned the same narrow box to live in, and the same narrow rules to live by.

At 17, I thankfully graduated secondary school and respectfully kissed goodbye to a damaging, restrictive and confidence-crippling institution.

I soon began to learn that who I had been taught to be in secondary school would get me virtually nowhere in the real world. A path of self discovery lay before me. I would have to learn eventually how to be a civilized, respectable member of society. But how could I do this? What was my life purpose? At 17, I was filled with so many questions but I had yet to find any answers.

I first began to gradually reject social and gender norms. I didn’t want to be seen as weak because I was a girl. So I tried to be seen as strong. I began helping more people and showing compassion. I also finally learned how to stand up for myself, approaching 18 years old. I didn’t want to be seen as stupid, so I decided to go to college but this time study something I wanted to study. My secondary school academic performance was, overall, rather bleak.

I felt like there was something wrong with my brain in secondary school. A lack of interest combined with sheer boredom resulted in quite poor performance; particularly in my junior cycle. I was treated like there was something wrong with my brain, too. School encourages a system of putting people into boxes. I was horrendous at Maths, so I was deemed to have a learning difficulty. I was then treated differently by teachers and members of staff as a consequence.

I’ve come to realize that the term “learning difficulty” can cause irreversible harm to a young person. When a student struggles, they are examined and labeled a word and thus identified by that word. How can we expect the youths of Ireland to become confident, well-spoken, functioning members of society if we segregate them as being smart or stupid in school?

I had to unlearn the labels assigned to me after I graduated. Nearly five years later, I have completed my self healing process. I now reject the term “learning difficulty”. Instead, I choose to openly tell others (if brought up in conversation) that I struggle with the concept of numbers and spacial awareness. Additionally, I have extreme issues with organization and am prone to anxiety as a result to stress brought on by poor organization.

This is me. These are my shortcomings, but they do not make me “unable”. They do not cause me to suffer from a “learning difficulty”. They do not cause me unmanageable difficulty in day-to-day tasks. At 21, I can say that I am an active, functioning member of society. I will not be a label. I will not fit into a box of gender or social expectation. I will not be defined by what people call me, or what people see when they look at me. I will not be defined by the way I laugh. I will not be determined by who I used to be in the past, I will be determined by how I show myself in the present.

At 21, I am also aware that I still have a lot to learn. And I openly embrace my future experiences and lifelong lessons.

I have only begun to truly regain confidence in my opinions in recent months. In school, I was always shut down. But now, I can express myself freely without being segregated or labeled as a result.

I’m still finding myself, more and more every single day. But every day I notice something new. I notice a different form of inequality. I become aware of our failed education system, when I witness the intolerance and ignorance of young people regarding social issues. Homophobia, trans-phobia, racism, racist stereotypes, casual sexism, rape, victim blaming, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the point in sending our children to public school at all from age 5-17 or 18; if we release them into the world as ignorant, intolerant or simply dismissive. What’s the point? I’d rather my child understands and rejects inequality and oppression instead of know how to do Algebra or cite a Yeats poem.

But maybe that’s just me. And who knows? Maybe that opinion will change. Because I am always progressing, changing and developing my mind. I’ve come a long way, but I’m still finding myself after all… I think we all are, ’till the day we die…

Aisling Kelleher

Advice for first time college-goers

I presume many of you are planning on starting college/university in the upcoming days or weeks. There are possibly thousands of students entering this exciting new time in their lives within the country.

But as usual, Auntie Aisling is here to offer you some good clean advise to ensure a happy, safe and educational few years at college. Although I myself am entering my first year of a degree course, I’ve been out of school for 2 years and have lived away from home twice. This year, I lived away from home and did a full time PLC course in Dublin. With my PLC results, I got into ITCarlow to get my degree… I may be entering first year, but I’ve been through the college system nonetheless, so I know what to expect, and hopefully some of you may find my advice beneficial… Just my opinions!

I can’t express the importance of this enough. Most of you will be attending numerous lecture halls and so forth, and if you decide to NOT take notes or even file your notes properly, you’re setting yourself up for an immediate disadvantage in the future. As the old saying goes, organisation is the key to success. If only I had known this when I was in school, then I would’ve been way more successful!

But it is the truth. Keep your notes, files and study materials ORGANISED from the start. It’ll save you a bucket load of unnecessary stress when you have an exam in a week’s time and you’ve decided it’s time to study. Instead of tearing apart your cluttered digs, save yourself the bother & keep your notes filed and organised from the very start! It will make studying 10x easier, less stressful and even perhaps a little bit fun! (What? No-one else likes those funky highlighter pens?)

This is so, so important. In most college courses, there will be a lot of socialising on offer. Now, you might be a broke student like most of us, but it is extremely unlikely that you won’t go out for the night at least once over your whole three years, even if it’s not really your thing. Going out is perfectly FINE! Please don’t get me wrong. In fact, it’s healthy. As long as you take care of yourself. The sad truth is that not many people like the embarrassingly drunk clingy person they have to babysit all night. It’s okay to be this person once, or twice even, because we all make mistakes, and most people over-indulge when starting to socially drink. But once you get the hang of it and begin to understand your limits, it shouldn’t happen to you again. If it does, you’ll just get a bad reputation, and of course embarrass yourself, and possibly do stupid things.

Get healthily tipsy if you like, but please, do not get intoxicated. It’s not worth it! Any night you can’t remember from alcohol was NOT a good night. Don’t allow older students to talk you into drinking yourself to stupidity. It’s NOT cool, fun or even worth it. Plus it’s a giant waste of money. Many young people don’t realise the position they’re putting themselves into when they get so intoxicated. People could take advantage of you, you mightn’t get safely home, you could get robbed, murdered or raped. Avoid at all costs getting yourself into this situation. And don’t land it on a friend to mind you either! It’s not fair on them. Hey, if you need to make the mistake once or twice, that’s fine, but don’t make it a regular thing. Save yourself the embarrassment, blurry memory and regrets!

Also, be VERY weary when accepting a drink off a stranger at the bar. You don’t know who they are. They could honestly be anyone, and no matter how good-looking the individual is, they COULD spike your drink. Never assume a stranger on a night out is safe. You have to always keep your wits about you, there are a lot of weirdos out there!

As most of you probably know, being a student generally means being short of money. There are LOADS of expenses a student has…tuition fees, living costs, books, travel, stationary, socialising, the list goes on. So from the start, I’d advise being very careful with your money.

Even if you only have a small bit of money weekly, there are ways around it to ensure you get the most value from your money. If you’re living away from home, grocery shopping can be difficult at first. Always try your best to buy the shop brands, not the well-known ones (ie. Supervalu beans instead of Bachelors) They’re nearly always cheaper. As for household essentials like soap and toilet paper, don’t constantly assume your housemates will sort it out! Take turns to buy stuff like that… Equally, don’t be the good guy always buying the household stuff because it’ll just automatically become your duty and that’s not fair either!

For travel expenses, make sure to always make full use of your Student Travelcard (You can apply for this on entry to your college) It means cheaper bus and railway fares, and additional discounts in certain shops, restaurants and online booking! You’d be astonished at how much you can save with your Travelcard. Don’t put it off. Get it sorted as soon as you can!

Finally, don’t blow all your money on alcohol. As I said previously, it’s not worth it, and most certainly it’s not value for money. Set aside a small amount for socializing weekly, but avoid neglecting day-to-day necessities like food or water just to binge drink. You will become unwell and unhealthy, and it’s not wise to put your education at risk for alcohol.

If you don’t want to drink, don’t drink. If you don’t want to go out, don’t go out. If you don’t want to ditch class, don’t ditch class. Don’t be ashamed of saying you’re going to study. If you feel ashamed, the friends you’re with are probably not the best for making you feel that way. If you find yourself making excuses to get out of doing X, Y and Z, the people aren’t right for you.

Not to worry though. Generally there are plenty of people in college with you. You don’t have to dedicate yourself to these same peer pressure pros just because you’re scared you won’t find any other friends. Of course you will! If they’re not in your class, don’t panic. Join clubs and societies, start a study club, attend piano lessons. Meet people in any occasion you can!

Don’t limit yourself to certain people you don’t even like for three years (What on earth is the point in that?) Essentially, if your so-called ‘friends’ are pressurizing you into doing ANYTHING, they’re not your friends. And if they ridicule you for making up your own mind about it, that’s your signal to move on. Don’t allow yourself to ever feel embarrassed or ashamed just for not being their idea of ‘normal’.

They might fancy themselves cool, but people will respect you a lot more if you make up your own mind instead of letting other people to do it for you. And there is a big difference between being ‘college cool’ and actually being cool. Because in the latter, it’s for the right reasons.

Try your very best to be on time from the start. You don’t want to get into the habit of being late all the time and missing important notes or lessons. Remember: a future employer three or four years down the line might decide to contact your previous lecturer, and they won’t be hesitant to say your punctuality was terrible if that was the case. So, get into the right habits from the start. If you don’t, it may come back to haunt you in the end, either for a future employer OR an exam which you’ve missed crucial information for. Also, in the workforce, they won’t put up with unexplained absentees and lateness. You’ll get fired! So prepare yourself from the very beginning. And remember: it isn’t like school. They won’t give out to you for not going in. It’s YOUR responsibility now, so be responsible!

Don’t listen to the government. If you’re looking for part time work as a student, it is VERY difficult. I won’t lie about that. But it is NOT impossible (nothing is). I was unsuccessful this year, but I am more confident about the upcoming weeks. Below are the steps I would advise in finding part time work during college (Just my opinions, if something else worked for you, that’s fine. These are the steps I am planning to take:)

a) The right CV: You want a CV that is visually attractive, but no longer than two pages. Some things are unnecessary to mention in your CV. If an employer looks at it and on the first page your Junior Cert results are glaring at them, this isn’t giving a good impression. Leaving Cert/LCA results are good to include, if that’s your most recent qualification. But employers aren’t interested in your Junior Cert results anymore. You should also have two decent references. One should preferably be a previous employer if you have worked before. If not, ask your old school Principal, someone you volunteered for, or even the manager of seasonal work you did last year. Anybody you think. As long as you did some form of work for them, and you did it successfully; and as long as they like you and will give you a good reference!

b) Handing in your CV: When handing in a CV, ask to speak to the manager. When you get face-to-face to him/her, be as friendly as you can. Don’t look dull and hand him a CV and then leave. They’ll forget you 2 days later. Make an impact on the Manager. Have a small chat with him/her. Explain your situation, say you’re a student who is desperately looking for work, that you’re an incredibly hard-worker and would be privileged to work in their company. Perhaps even expand on that by saying you’re a regular customer to the particular company. Hopefully, the Manager in question will be friendly. If not, do not get discouraged. It is nothing to do with your character; just their personal dislike for their job.

After you have your chat with the Manager, hand him/her the CV and leave. If they haven’t gotten back to you in a week’s time, return to the company. Again, ask to speak to the Manager. When face-to-face, ask the Manager if he looked at your CV. Say once again that you would be so grateful to work for the company and would appreciate any work at all. He will probably say he’ll do what he can. Return 2-3 days later if he still hasn’t gotten back to you. Ask to speak to him again, and this time offer to do an unpaid few weeks of work. Say that you would love the experience and opportunity. Continue to hound the Manager (in a friendly way, of course) until you get results.

You may be put to work in the company unpaid for two weeks. Now, something may or may not come from this. The ultimate plan of course is to make your mark in the company and prove yourself. After the trial, return to the Manager a week or so later and ask would he please consider you for any upcoming work opportunities. At this stage, he/she knows you well. You’ve worked for his/her company, you’ve made your mark. You’ve done what you can. After that, it’s up to the Manager.

Well guys, that’s it. That’s my advice! I hope I may have helped some student somewhere in the country (or even abroad). Remember, being a student will be great fun… Just avoid making silly mistakes! All my advice is just my opinions of course. They’re not fact, but I hope someone could’ve benefited. Wishing every one of you the utmost success in your studies!

Ballyfermot College of Further Education – Review

Course Code: ITC

Duration: 1 year


2 stars out of 5 stars

TUTORS: Most of the tutors I had in B.C.F.E were terrible, with the exception of a few. One tutor was rude, unhelpful and slightly crazy. She had a terrible attitude on her, and did as little work as possible. She explained steps once, and expected everyone to immediately get the hang of it. Another tutor was kind, but not very helpful or useful. We spent the majority of classes talking. She spent most of the classes gossiping about other students, or talking about her own life. We got no instruction for the rest of the year. For essay writing, they all informed us all after writing our first drafts that we needed a certain kind of referencing for all assignments. Perhaps they could have saved time, ink and work if she had told us what was required before our first drafts were submitted? Another tutor I had was alright, but I had no interest in the subject matter. He wrote endless notes on the board, handed us sheets, rarely explained things, etc. But, he was a nice character. No one had much interest in the subject matter, he knew that. The other particular tutor I had was the worst. He taught nothing to us. However, he, unlike the rest of my tutors, thought he was teaching us everything. Also, he expected our efforts to be perfect without having any instruction. He spoke to us endlessly about things, often going off topic and having debates with other class members. He spent the first few weeks of the year showing us practical elements halfheartedly, after that, he spoke in every class about random topics. We were expected to produce our practical work on our own. He offered quite literally no assistance, then became irritable and impatient if our submissions were poor. He was unapproachable and very distracted. I learned little to nothing from him. I had one very helpful tutor. In my opinion, he was born to teach. He was kind, helpful, cheery and wise in every class I attended. He also had miraculous patience and was a great form of guidance. He is the reason I have one or two good things to say about B.C.F.E.

STRUCTURE: I found the structure in B.C.F.E to be extremely poor. There is no organisation and a serious communication problem among staff. Events are poorly advertised, and tutors give out to students for not knowing certain pieces of information, when no-one is informed of them. Trying to contact the college or particular tutors is an absolute joke. They never respond to their emails, then the tutors go around in headless chicken mode because they’re not notified of certain situations, when if only they would respond to their emails (or even look at them) there would be no problem in the first place. Email addresses of tutors are not handed out for ‘confidentiality reasons’, although it is the only way people can contact their tutors. Ringing the college is also extremely useless. They don’t hand out any information you might need. Trying to contact your tutor about handing in work is the most excruciating task. It is impossible to contact them. They can never be found by secretaries it seems, and emailing the college to notify them is useless, as I said. Basically, you cannot contact tutors, unless they give you their personal email address. Tutors also often arrange to meet you to collect work, yet never show up, and never apologise either or even acknowledge the fact.

ATTENDANCE: Attendance from my class was appalling. There were a class of 21 people, but an average day would consist of about 7 pupils, and even that number decreased drastically as the year went on. I don’t know if I can blame the college for this – but I assume that if the college was in a better condition, attendance would be reasonable. Also, if there was any acknowledgement of the absence, perhaps people would make more of an effort to attend. However, it seems perfectly acceptable to not attend college for as long as you like. The tutors make comments like ‘You will be kicked out of the course if you miss 20 days’, however, you clearly are not kicked out of the course. And the tutors don’t really care about it.

EQUIPMENT: In my course, we were required to use Avid Media Composer for editing, and the JVC cameras to record. The Avid software had the potential to be good, but it was never updated or attended to by the staff. Whenever you logged onto the software, several WARNING messages came up, and there were detected viruses on all of the editing computers. However, for the entire year, they remained. They were never dealt with; although it was possible for student’s work to be affected. The computers in the college were also extremely slow. It took ages for an editing computer to start up, and on several occasions it froze up on me and I had to go to a different room. As for the camera equipment, the main thing I can say is that it is so, so, so outdated. They all take tapes and you are required to digitize the footage over to Avid after recording. However, the video quality so often suffered. Digitizing the footage was such an unnecessary task, and took hours at a time if there was a lot of footage to sift through. If the equipment was somewhat updated, perhaps SD cards could be used, and video clips could be converted over to the college computers in quicker time without so much fuss? Also, burning a file onto a DVD is outdated. You have to play it out onto a TV screen first, whereas it would be much more efficient to burn it on using a software like DVD Flick. This method is so unnecessary. All of the equipment is very faulty and rusty.

In conclusion, I don’t feel that B.C.F.E is all it’s cracked up to be. I had an alright year, mainly because of the people in my class. I also enjoyed the content, but most of it was self taught. The tutors are mainly lazy and uninterested, the software is damaged and the organisation is appalling. Considering that so many big names attended the college, it is being ran poorly now.