In this personal account, Laura Mulqueen looks back at her college experience with fondness...
Not so long ago, I was deliberating my CAO choices as the deadline loomed, not knowing if I was making the right decision, if this was the college where I would spend the best years of my life. But time flies and before you know it, you are saying goodbye.
 
The very act of leaving home and moving in with strangers is an education in itself. Learning to be responsible for yourself in every aspect, making new friends and adjusting to a new place is character building. 
 
Doing all of these things and surviving are what will transition you into an adult. College will offer you amazing opportunities to explore yourself, whether it is your sexuality, interests while participating in clubs and societies and last but not least, allowing you to study what you choose, for the first time in your life.
 
On arrival, I was armed with no friends, no clue where to go and a powerful fear of leaving my room. From growing the nerve to speak up and ask for help, to figuring out train schedules, learning to cook something beside pizza and pasta to learning how to use a washing machine (and complaining on a weekly basis to have it fixed, which resulted in an unusual friendship with the Accommodation Officer), I have grown. 
 
It has been a long three years since I first moved to college, desperate to be an adult; to get drunk and be reckless, until now, where I ring my mum unashamedly instead of avoiding her inquisitive, worried hourly calls. 
 
My college course has been amazing, but it is microscopic compared to what I have learned about myself outside of the lecture theatre. You might not complete your undergraduate with the same career intentions in mind, but this is still progress, you are still growing and evolving as a person. 
 
Your degree can take you anywhere if you arm it with additional support outside your degree, such as my unsuccessful attempt to learn Chinese.
 
In just under two weeks, I will walk out of the exam hall with my friends, arm in arm, with a night of celebrations ahead. I will walk across campus on my way home, where I got lost countless times on that first September. 
 
I will walk pass the buildings I raced to at 9.05 a.m., the buildings it took months to find, the building where I finally gained confidence to step on a treadmill. I'll walk by the Students' Union where I had many a drunken night and made many a friend, then on along passed the Starbucks where I moaned and procrastinated in during exams, building lifelong friendships over an Americano and a shared distaste for Middlemarch by George Eliot. 
 
Three years ago I arrived with numerous bags, gazing at this strange place with people I didn't know yet, wondering if I would survive. Here I am, the tears, the homesickness, the perpetual fear of not making friends, of not fitting in, it's over; and I would pay to be able to do it all again. 
 
On departure, I am leaving with the closest friends I will ever have, precious memories and an ache in my heart that it could only last three years. 
 
To the Leaving Certificate students reading this, or the students who still have a year or more left in college, appreciate every moment, make amends, try everything, don't be afraid to say hi first and never forget a single moment.