What I learned by changing course

Credit: Ben Toal

There is no way to prepare someone for university – unless, like me, you take a very expensive trial run. Most students are very young (84 per cent of Leaving Certificate students applied for college places through the CAO in 2016), and understandably inexperienced.


Having been persuaded by family to apply for a course I had never considered because I had no interest in it (a degree which shall remain nameless), I accepted the offer through the CAO and off I went, un-enthusiastically that first September. Within the first month, people had already started dropping from the course.


I gave all my classes a proper go and did quite well in most of them; in reality I was suffering through. I tried to distract myself from the knowledge a future based on this course might offer, and focused on coursework with mechanical obsession. I cried every evening, I was restless between classes, and on the weekends I was a zombie trying to find balance between keeping my family happy that I was doing the course, while trying to let them know I was falling apart by continuing.

Towards the end of the first semester, I started to research other undergraduate courses, other options for transfers.

By Monday of the last week of that semester, I knew that I wanted to leave. I started packing my bags, made arrangements to meet with anyone that could help me withdraw, and I have never looked back.

Deciding what to do next was the problem. I had to get a job to cover the fees SUSI wouldn’t pay for me the next time around. I knew I wanted to go back to study, and through months of research between working full time in a greasy restaurant, I found what I now consider to be my calling – journalism.

So what did I learn?

First off, how to live with myself while becoming the family disappointment. That’s easier said than done. I had to learn to trust myself a little more. I learned that my own beliefs mattered most because I was the one that was going to be putting in the work, no matter what happened.


One of the best ways to get through arguments is to be calm, open, and maybe keep a smile on your face – it makes things a bit less scary. Some arguments never end, and making any decision on your own comes with a price.


If I was to offer any advice to someone changing course or thinking about changing course, it would be to research everything first. Know it inside out – what it qualifies you for, how it is assessed, how big the classes are, and what you can do to advance your chosen career once you are post-grad.

When you’re struggling with coursework, look at the meaning behind what you’re doing and if you don’t get some sense of relief, maybe reconsider.

Hard work should make you proud at the end.

Most importantly, always push yourself from the beginning to prove yourself in the end.


Beibhinn Thorsch