Thursday 12 December 2019

Cystic Fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley awarded scholarship for American Ivy League university writer Orla Tinsley has been awarded a scholarship to read an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University, New York.

The 27-year-old journalist from Newbridge, Co Kildare, will travel to New York in August to begin her studies.

The Ivy League university has a pioneering medical centre dedicated to cystic fibrosis research and treatment on campus, and its adult cystic fibrosis program offers state of the art clinical care

Ms Tinsley, who has cystic fibrosis, was awarded the scholarship based on her application which included an essay on Patti Smith’s autobiography ‘Just Kids’.

She says she wrote the essay while battling swine flu in hospital, and managed to get her application in with 29 minutes to spare.

“It’s incredible. I feel very lucky. Columbia is an amazing university,” she told

“It’s such an incredible coincidence that Columbia has one of the best CF centres in North America.”

“I applied for the course at the start of the year. It was a shot in the dark but I was hoping that I’d get in. The course is really incredible. I am so grateful to have been awarded a scholarship there and feel so lucky.”

“It means I can learn and grow as a writer, and be in a situation where I can feel secure and access world class care when I need it.”

As a campaigner for cystic fibrosis care, Ms Tinsley is also keen to learn as much as she can about treatment and care at Columbia.

“For me when I go to university, things like health insurance need to be considered, and living close to campus. If I was having a bad day, and I had to travel or walk far to college, that might inhibit my ability to get there.”

“It seems like everything is so integrated over there, and now I just have to focus on getting there.”

“As someone who campaigns for cystic fibrosis care, I’m looking forward to seeing how things are done over there.”

The two-year MA programme offers students the opportunity to teach high school students.

Notable Columbia alumni include the American actor James Franco, Booker prize winning author Kiran Desai, and director of ‘Walk The Line’ James Mangold.

Before Ms Tinsley leaves Ireland in August, her friends and family will hold fundraisers to help fund part of her tuition.

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