'I didn't want to be stuck in an office all day. I loved the outdoors... then a friend told me about a course in GMIT'
David Hartley, Galway Mayo IT
It was during his Transition Year (TY) work experience placements that David Hartley knew the outdoor life was for him.
He worked in both a leisure centre and with computers and what he realised was that he "didn't want to be stuck in an office all day, or to work indoors.
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"Throughout my life, I knew I loved the outdoors," says David, who has a particular passion for surfing.
As the former pupil of ArdScoil na Mara, Tramore, Co Waterford weighed everything up, it confirmed his view that he wanted to spend his working life in the open air.
It was a great journey of discovery and a particular example of how teenagers can benefit TY. But how do you translate all of that into a career?
As he considered his options, David was thinking "there wasn't a lot on offer in Ireland and then I heard from a friend about a course he had done in Galway Mayo IT, who said to me 'this is the course for you'."
His friend was referring to the BA in Outdoor Education at the GMIT Castlebar campus, Co Mayo.
For a full list of 2019 CAO courses, click here
Variations of the course are available at both Level 7 (ordinary degree) and Level 8 (honours degree) and David ticked it on both CAO lists, "knowing that if I didn't get the points I needed for Level 8, I could possibly get the Level 7". He needn't have worried; he received a Level 8 offer.
So David (19) made the move to Castlebar - it was, he says, "a big journey and certainly a life-changing experience". "You wouldn't have Mammy's dinner on the table, and you have to do your own washing. But you have to grow up at some stage."
The four-year Outdoor Education programme, which combines academic studies and training in adventure sports, encompasses four strands - environmental and cultural landscape; psychology and teaching; safety and first aid; and adventure sports.
David is currently in second year and "loves it". His surfing talent has been recognised by the college through a sports scholarship, which offers both financial support and coaching in his sport on top of what he is already doing as part of the course.
The famous waves off Ireland's north-west coast are an ideal base for a surfing enthusiast, and David is now captain of the thriving GMIT Mayo Surf Club, leading the team to first place in the surfing Intervarsities.
Two weeks after the Intervarsities victory, he was called up to the Irish Senior Surfing team for the Celtic Cup in November, when Ireland competed against Scotland.
As captain of the college's surf club, David can be found every Wednesday afternoon coaching beginners and intermediate surfers.
He was recently presented with an Irish Water Safety award for saving a life in the sea off Wexford last summer when someone was knocked unconscious from a kayak during a surf life-saving contest.
David has two years to go in GMIT but he is already thinking ahead: "I would love to open an adventure centre, and possibly go back to education and study geology".
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