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Tuesday, 14th November 2023

She never sat the Leaving Cert but Martina gets her degree anyway!

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Martina O'Brien from Tullyallen did not sit her Leaving Certificate but has just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business & Management. Martina started her third level education at the same time as her daughter Anna in September 2020. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson.

By Elaine Keogh

A local woman who never sat her Leaving Certificate has just been awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Management and is encouraging other mature students thinking about returning to education to, “just do it; if you don’t try you’ll never know.”

Martina O’Brien from Tullyallen said, “my journey started when I decided I needed to know more tech, I was so behind my children - Anna (21) and Sean (18) - and knew I needed to up my game! I began with an ECDL (computer driving licence) course."

As a result of that she became more confident about further studies and completed an office administration course with the National Learning Network in Dundalk.

“It was amazing and really gave me the learning bug” Martina said.  “My instructor put the idea into my head about doing a degree and encouraged me to apply to Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT).”

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“I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it but he really encouraged me to apply saying I would be well able for it.  I also didn’t think I would be eligible because I had finished secondary school after fifth year.”

Martina found out she was in fact eligible and she started first year at third level at the same time as Anna - in September 2020.

“My first day on campus was actually in second year because of Covid.  Myself and Anna were both studying from home at the same time and at times it was hard - the doorbell always rang during live classes and lectures and the dog would bark like mad!  We also had to make sure the WiFi was holding up especially when we were doing exams at the same time.”

Martina said she was “very nervous” when her first day on campus arrived.  “All the other students were much younger than me, in fact many were the same age as my own children! It was hard to get to know them but within a few weeks everyone made me feel just like one of the gang.  They were great.”

Martina O’Brien pictured at her graduation with her daughter Anna and son Sean. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson.

Reflecting on the last three years she said the hardest part was online learning and the best part was “the friends you make at college and the encouragement this has given me to believe in myself.”

“At DkIT I found every lecturer amazing and willing to go above and beyond to help their students. I would encourage anyone thinking of going to college or even just back to education to just do it because if you don’t try you’ll never know.”

“I really didn’t think I was eligible because I didn’t have a Leaving Certificate and at times I felt like just giving up but I kept going. There were times I’d start a module and think ‘I just can’t do this, I’m never going to get this’ but I did get it and I believe you get out what you put in.”

Her children were with her as she collected her degree last week and said, “we feel so very proud of her, it’s a real achievement for her and we always believed she could do it, she’s a real inspiration.”

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