Becoming a vet has been Aoife Quinn’s dream ever since she was a young child.
The eldest of five children, the Castleconnor, Co. Sligo native grew up on a suckler and sheep farm with one horse and had a desire to follow in the footsteps of two of her family members who are qualified vets.
With science being one of her strongest subjects in second-level, Aoife set her sights on veterinary medicine, placing the level-8 degree as the first-choice option on her CAO in 2016; she continued her sporting commitments throughout sixth-year.
“I will admit that I was quite disappointed with my Leaving Cert results. I had higher expectations of myself than I did achieve and was unfortunate not to get veterinary.” Aoife Quinn told Catherina Cunnane of That's Farming.
“My career guidance teacher told me to keep going forward and advised me not to repeat the Leaving Cert.”
Aoife, now aged twenty, opted for her Plan B and enrolled in a Level-5 Animal Care course at Westport College of Further Education (WCFE).
Upon successful completion of this course, Aoife progressed to undertake a Level-6 in Animal Science as she continued to research various degree programmes.
"I found the level-5 quite easy, but the level-6 that really tested me, but in the sense that I knew that I had to keep on top of everything daily; get organised and work".
“I believe that If I had gone back and repeated my Leaving Cert, I think I would have done better, but I don't think it would have made a massive improvement to myself," Aoife added.
In her early teenage years, Aoife earmarked Iceland as a country that she wanted to visit and this dream became a reality in January of this year when an opportunity arose through an Erasmus Programme at Westport College of Further Education.
The Sligo native spent three-weeks on a dairy farm in Iceland where she learned to adapt and work in a foreign country and worked with machines that she had no previous experience with, which enhanced her overall understanding of agriculture.
"My parents on mother's side are dairy farmers and I helped them as a child and teenager. I was getting the best of both worlds in the sense that I getting to visit a country that I wanted to go to and I got to do something that I enjoyed." Aoife said.
Just months later, in August, Aoife was offered both Agricultural Science at UCD and Veterinary Nursing at Athlone IT and she engaged in discussion with students and graduates in order to make an informed decision.
Aoife is now undertaking a degree in Agricultural Science at University College Dublin (UCD) and she is strongly considering specialising in Animal Science.
Aoife juggles her academic commitments and farming with sports including football; handball and horse riding.
Studying Animal Care and Animal Science gave Aoife a strong foundation in core sciences and this has enhanced her understanding of the core subjects covered in her current degree programme.
"I find the Animal Science module quite enjoyable and I find it very similar to what I have done in the last two years; it is nice to see the cross-over.”
Professional Work Experience (PWE) is an integral part of Aoife's programme and she hopes to explore other countries abroad, following her short period in Iceland.
"After seeing what it's like in other countries, I want to see what it is like somewhere else. I also I like working with Irish farmers, so I want to work on enterprises here and overseas."
Overall, Aoife has adapted to life in The Capital and is satisifed with her decision, as she acknowledged the support that she receives at the world-renowned institution.
"It is great to have a group of friends that all have a similar interest and who all have a passion for agriculture - it makes college life a lot easier."
Aoife stressed the importance of being open-minded; considering all options and not limiting oneself when it comes to carving out a career path.
"I never thought that I would do a PLC or a Level-6, I just automatically presumed that I was going straight from my Leaving Cert to a Level-7 or Level-8."
"The best thing that I ever did was doing a Level-5 and Level-6 as they made more aware of what I need to do and where I want to go in life," Aoife added.
She said that there is a stigma associated with PLC courses, despite the fact that they lead to awards that can provide entry to various level-7 and level-8 programmes, as well as excellent employment opportunities.
"PLC courses are almost frowned upon, maybe more so by an older generation. People say oh you're only doing a PLC or you're only doing a Level-6; everyone has different abilities."
"People should be more open to gap years and other courses and not go into a course where they are unsure of themselves. Plan B is definitely important."
The 20-year-old's short-term goal is to enjoy her time at UCD and to continue to work towards earning a level-8 degree.
"I have not set myself a long-term goal as in the sense where I will be working and when I will be working. I definitely would like to travel either in between the summers or after college."
She is considering a career in agri media or agri advisory, but she is not closing any doors as of yet.
"You never know what will happen. You think you have a plan but things can come in your way; similar to what happened to me with my Leaving Cert." Aoife Quinn concluded.
If you are a third-level student and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may be featured on That’s Farming next week.