'Even if you're shy, you won't stay that way for long!'
My story: Vivienne Phelan Veterinary Medicine UCD
Vivienne Phelan had her mind made up on a career path at a very young age so picking the right college course was easy.
"The earliest I can remember wanting to be a vet was in junior infants", said Vivienne, now a happy second-year Veterinary Medicine student at UCD.
But she does remember the challenge of starting in college.
"I was very shy," said Vivienne, a former pupil of Heywood Community School, Balinakill, Co Laois.
She wasn't alone; a lot of her classmates, mostly girls, felt the same until peer mentors from second year brought them into smaller groups for learning the ropes and breaking the ice.
Soon Vivienne had new friends from Sweden and France and she discovered the International Student Society (ISS), which runs many daytime activities, including events in the UCD Global Lounge.
By April of first year, Vivienne was running for auditor and "needed a manifesto, to get people to vote and to make a speech".
She remembers a mix of excitement and nerves as her proposals, including extra cultural evenings and new trip destinations, carried her to victory.
The main activities of the ISS are a weekly free coffee afternoon for 'ice breaking', movie nights, table quizzes, day trips to surrounding counties and regular weekend trips all over Ireland.
This year, the ISS has held an African and a Russian cultural evening, as well as staging celebrations for Diwali. Vivienne also loves showing off her country and seeing it through new eyes.
"I've encouraged my other friends to join ISS and get involved and the Irish and international students get great craic from each other during trips and events."
For most trips, Vivienne fills two bus-loads. "We could easily fill five buses, but you have to keep an eye on the logistics."
Logistics, budgeting, fundraising, promotion and problem-solving are all skills learnt as an auditor that Vivienne is sure will stand to her when she fulfils her dream of running a veterinary practice one day.
Her sound advice to anyone apprehensive about the thought of making the transition to third-level: "Even if you are shy starting out, you won't stay that way for long!"