Don’t Call me Stupid; Tales From Your Local Institute of Technology.

The first time I really realized there was any sort of perceived educational divide in Ireland was a few weeks after CAO offers. Chatting with a former classmate (who was off to a University) I mentioned I had accepted a place in an IT and her response was a simple “oh”. This “oh” became a reaction synonymous with my announcement that I wasn’t making the big move up the country to a University; something which I had been going on and on and on about since I began secondary school (UCD has always been the dream)  A worse  reaction than the dry, shcok-filled “ohs” came when I heard “I’d rather die then go to an Institutes of Technology” and it’s variant on two separate occasions from 3 seperate individuals. It was here I realised that indeed there is still a stigma attached to attending an IT in Ireland; an idea that baffles and bewilders me but I believe still exits 4 years on.

This year I set off on the adventure of finding my first real internship in the marketing world. Facing fierce competition from the big named schools, I worked my socks off in college to get my grades up, filling my CV with extracurriculars and volunteer work to give myself an edge (like Gilmore Girls thought me so well) I had my heart set on applying for a placement with a particular worldwide internet company (who I shall not name for fear of being sued for all the €3 euros I currently harbour in my purse) I knew I probably wouldn’t get the place because of the intense competition but I was intent of creating an amazing application anyhow.  It wasn’t until not one but two individuals (in different recruitment based roles) told me that I’d never be considered; not because of my educational achievements, my abilities or my knowledge but because they don’t usual take students from “colleges like mine”. My dreams again were dashed and the presence of educational elitism in this country became a reality once more for me.

Attending an IT doesn’t mean I am getting any lesser of an education than someone who’s paid full fees to attend a University and I don’t understand why anyone would even consider this. It doesn’t mean that I won’t have the skills needed to work in the fast flying world of marketing and it certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t make a good graduate. Being an IT student doesn’t mean I’m stupid, under-educated or that I couldn’t get into a “real” college. (someone’s parent actual said that to me once and I nearly flew off the handle as I quickly mentioned my 500+ Leaving Cert Points and  offers from both UCD and Trinity) It means that I’ve had practical experience in the workforce through the amazing inclusion of a flexible semester where I am given the option to take responsibility for my education and career and get some life skills (a practise many Unis once lacked and are now including into their programs) It means I’ve been thought to be a free-thinker, I’ve been given opportunities to work closely with my classmate, my lecturers and real life clients. It means I’ve been educated in an environment with low lecturer/student ratios and so I’m not afraid to ask for help, to speak up or to make my voice heard. I’ve had amazing lecturers and mentors who’ve taken individual time to help me fine tune my skills and knowledge and I damn well believe my educational experiences have made me just as employable as someone with a University letterhead after their graduate title.

I like so many others in universities and ITs alike have worked so hard in the past 3 years to get where I am today. I’ve pulled the all nighters, spent the 100s of hours in the library and done enough study sessions to fry my brain. I’ve worked just as hard as I would if I were in a university and yet  I’m apparently not the same calibre of student for some unknown reason. Still I trundle on and I will continue this pattern until I graduate with my first class honours. For me, a degree is a degree whether you got it from the school of hard knocks or bloody Harvard. What matters is what you put into your studies and this will ultimately reflect on the degree you get at the end of your 3/4 years. Titles and “educational prestigious” mean nothing if you can’t put everything you’ve experienced and learned throughout your college degree into practise.

I’m a proud IT student but more so I’m a proud academic because I believe I’ve earned my place where I am today through my hard work and dedication just as much as my university counterparts.I will continue to work towards keeping this up. If it means I have to fight a little harder because I’m an IT student, then put it up; it’s on. In a perfect reality, it’s about time we recognise merits and hard work and not just a college/university/IT/Further Educational Institutes’ brand name.

The point of this blog isn’t to tell you the reader that you should take up sticks and move to a University if you ever want a job in a big named tech company, it’s to tell you to take the educational path that’s right for you.. Being employable and knowledgeable and damn good at what you do shouldn’t be limited to being a product of where you were educated or how you were educated; it should be about what you’ve put in and achieved from your education. Be it a world-class education in your bedroom or a 20 grand a year place in one of the world’s top universities, it’s what you put in that will ultimately decide what you get out of your degree. Work hard, achieve that first class honours and get that dream job no matter what the snobs say.

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Órla

(This post was brought to you by my deflated ego and several years worth of annoyance of being taunted for being an IT student)

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