"Throw yourself into the deep end and enjoy it": President of NCI Equality Society describes finding community in college
My heart has warmed so much, and what I have learned about LGBT life in college is how supportive everybody is.
So I know when you go to college everything is quite different, but in my own experience it was quite unique. I come from the countryside in Waterford, so growing up, it wasn’t an anti-gay environment, but it wasn’t the most open part of society. I was quite a closeted gay because that was the thing to do. The going joke was be gay but not too gay.
When it came to moving to Dublin I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect, and what I found was the most rewarding experience to date. To give you a little background, my current degree is Human Resource Management in National College of Ireland. My first semester was so hectic that it wasn't until second semester that I joined the LGBT society.
This is where my life changed. I met my best friend and really allowed myself to be who I was. In my second year, I was vice president - this is where the magic happened. Getting involved and running events brought me out of my own shell. College is a time to express yourself, and it's only now looking back I see how valuable it is. My advice for anyone unsure is to just throw yourself into the deep end and enjoy it.
Being so involved, I have met the bravest of people from just supportive families to one student who had fled their country and come over to study, hearing their story brought tears to my eyes because I have supportive parents so this was very alien for me.
My heart has warmed so much and what I have learned about LGBT life in college is how supportive everybody is. No one cares what you are or if you don’t know yet; it's about the person that you are. College allows you to grow and learn that it's really not a big deal; it’s a part of you, but it's not what defines you.
The picture that I have chosen is the best moment of my life when the Equality Society won society of the year at out college awards. I was so sure we had won nothing. I was reapplying my lipstick at the time and so not paying attention. I did wonder why everyone was looking at me, and then I just burst into tears. It was a recigonition I thought would never happen - that I was gay, proud and have helped other students along the way and that’s all anyone could wish for.
Petra is President of National College of Ireland's LGBT+ Equality Society.