'Don't be afraid to ask for advice. The student adviser was amazing with me'
My Story: Rachel Lee, Engineering, UCD
Rachel Lee was keen on architecture from an early age and took two Transition Year work placements in architects' firms.
When one of the firms spotted her natural inclination towards structural engineering and suggested she speak with someone in the profession. "I said, no thanks; I don't want to be an engineer!"
In her late teens, a horse-riding accident saw Rachel (21) needing extensive physiotherapy on her knee, opening up her interest in the field to the extent that her first four CAO choices were related to studying physiotherapy, either straight away or through transferring from a science degree.
When she got offered her fifth CAO choice of architecture at UCD, Rachel, of Cabinteely, Co Dublin, says she was "happy enough, not overly thrilled".
Nonetheless, the former pupil of St Andrew's College, Booterstown, Dublin decided to throw herself into the course. She soon discovered that it was not for her, but stuck with it. "I'm pretty glad because in the second semester we had a structural engineering module. It was my best subject and I loved it. I started thinking maybe engineering was for me."
Initially, Rachel had been reluctant to acknowledge her disappointment with her course, and was slow to speak to anyone about it. Now she would say: "Don't be afraid to ask for advice - the student adviser was amazing with me."
One of the UCD student advisers helped Rachel to explore her options, and set her up to meet the Head of School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, which led to her decision to re-apply through the CAO for omnibus entry to engineering, the following year.
Rachel is glad of her decision. Now about to start second year, last year she saw her grade point average (my GPA) rise and she enjoyed the subject more: "It's more 'for me'. The maths, visualising things, physics, It's what I enjoy doing."
Although she has enjoyed subjects like biomedical and mechanical engineering, she has chosen to progress with civil engineering from second year onwards. She plans to study overseas in third year, undertake a masters in civil engineering and work in that area.
Having experienced the "shocking and unsettling" realisation that her chosen degree was not the right fit for her, Rachel's advice to other school-leavers is: "Don't be afraid to seek help... Don't write something off before you try it.
"Looking back, physiotherapy and science wouldn't have been right for me. Engineering was something I never wanted to do, but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened."