My story: 'Travel helped me work out what I wanted'
Katie Henshaw | Athlone IT
Katie Henshaw's story is a familiar one in that she went through her Leaving Cert year without having any fixed future plans.
"I breezed through. I didn't try as hard as I could have because I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do," she says.
Katie, a former pupil of St Joseph's, Summerhill Athlone, Co Westmeath, was interested in sports, but "didn't know if it was something I wanted to go into" as a career.
The passion for sports runs in the family. Her brother, Robbie, is the multi-capped Irish international rugby player whose career highs include scoring the winning try against the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago last November.
Even though Katie didn't know what study or career direction she wanted to take, she says "to go through the motions, I applied for a course".
When the CAO offers came around, Katie had a place on a sports and recreation programme at Athlone IT, but she remained uncertain: "I deferred it for a year and I started working in a local health care company."
A year later, when she had the opportunity to take up the deferred place, Katie decided she didn't want to do pursue the course, but she did have a clear focus: "I always wanted to go travelling."
Katie (31) worked in the healthcare company for four years, saved money and then took off with friends on the well-travelled route of adventurous Irish youth, to south-east Asia and Australia, for a few years.
"Travel broadened my horizons," says Katie who, upon returning home, felt she was ready for college. By now, her preferences were social care or veterinary nursing, both available at Athlone IT.
She was over 23, and by fluke, she says she went into the Access Office at Athlone IT, and learned about a foundation course for mature students. While not a pre-requisite to entering third-level, such courses can be a useful point of entry for anyone who has been out of the system.
She enrolled, found it a "great transition; we did a bit of everything and I flew through it". In that year, Katie realised that social care was her calling.
Katie went on to complete a degree programme in social care in the college, from which she landed a job at St Hilda's, a Brothers of Charity service in Athlone for people with intellectual disability, where she has been happily working for the past two years, and hasn't ruled out doing a Master's.