As most readers know by now, I did the Leaving Cert this year. To be honest, I’m surprised how I’ve now reached this stage. Many times I’ve believed it would never come. It’s called the Leaving Cert for a reason: I’ll be leaving it all behind. Before I do, I’m going to discuss the people who helped me get there.
The first person I will discuss is Owen O’Keefe. To some of you who may find the name familiar, he is the youngest Irish man to swim the English channel (when he was 16 years old) and he recently swam the river Blackwater (from Fermoy to Youghal). A lesser known fact about this young man is that he is a fluent (and proud) Irish speaker. I struggled with the language for 10 years and was eager to improve back in April 2012. I put out an ad in the local supermarket for grinds and he answered. Most weeks throughout the summer and the school year, we practised the sraith pictúir (picture sequences), the cómhrá (coversation), the cluastiscint (listening questions) and he encouraged me to attempt paper questions and essays. He was patient, friendly, intelligent, and had an extraordinary enthusiasm for Irish. In the end, my Irish exams went swimmingly and I got a C1 in Higher Level Irish. Míle buíochas Owen!
Owen O’Keefe in action (photo from openwaterpedia.com)
The next person I must give credit to is another grinds teacher: Elaine. I first met her in early 2010, when I was doing my Junior Cert. After her helping me get a C in Higher Level Junior Cert Maths, I knew for certain I would need her after Transition Year. With her help, I actually learned maths. Thanks to Elaine, I got a B3 in Leaving Cert Ordinary Level Maths. I may have not needed it for points, by my God, it was satisfying!!
Of course, I cannot thank Elaine without thanking the place that helped me find her in the first place: Fermoy Education Centre. This place is where I studied, had grinds and revision courses, had tea, and chatted to my peers at breaks. In my mind, it was a place of refuge. If that place (and the excellent staff) didn’t exist, my homework would rarely be done on time and I wouldn’t get the points I got.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my family for helping me in the long run; my friends for keeping me sane at lunch time and for making my life much richer; the teachers who encouraged me to get better and stronger; the Hiddlestoners facebook group (fans of actor Tom Hiddleston) gave me their friendship, encouraged me to fight on and helped me edit my French oral scripts; the local café near FEC who made the nicest chicken and relish wraps with tea; and anyone else who gave me inspiration and wished me well. I am truly grateful.
On reflection, it was definitely one of the hardest times of my life. The anxiety, the pressures, the blood, sweat, tears, and the excess amount of coffee. I put all my time, energy and money into this. Of course I had my share of good times too. The praise, the laughs, the charity sleepover, the whole graduation day and the day I finally finished the Leaving Cert. And when I opened that envelope on August 14th and looked at the CAO website on the 19th, I finally saw my future as a reality. Though all these people I mentioned helped me greatly, I was the one who did the Leaving Cert. My best friend once told me that I was the master of my own fate. As I look toward my new life as an Arts International student in University College Cork, I see that she was right.
Here’s to the future!