Queen’s graduate Emma Shaw was awarded the George Moore Scholarship in 2020 to study an MA in Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Here, she talks about overcoming health problems and insecurity to follow her dream.
“I completed my undergraduate in International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s and graduated ‘virtually’ in July 2020 with a 2:1, and was also awarded the Best Improved Performance Award between levels 2 and 3,” says Emma, whose path to success was not easy.
“I returned to education as a mature student and a single mum with two children.”
Among her biggest challenges was just getting through the first year – a time when both she and her daughter experienced health problems. “First year was definitely one of the most challenging, both myself and my daughter had health issues, but I persevered and made use of the services offered at the University.”
Despite her ability, Emma admits she was plagued with self-doubt. “I had this feeling that I didn’t belong and that maybe I wasn’t good enough, I continuously doubted myself.”
Finding my confidence
By second year, Emma had made a conscious decision to engage more with campus life.
“In my second year at Queen’s I made the decision to run for HAPP School Representative and became more active on campus. I would go on to also be the AHSS Faculty Rep and Part-time Mature Student Officer,” she says.
If you are struggling with life at university, Emma has this advice
“University can be a lonely place and it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of it all. Some of the best advice that I could give to other students would be to find your tribe, whether it’s a small group of study buddies keeping you on track or becoming active in a club or society or even both, it’s important that you engage with your peers both for moral and mental support.”
Before being awarded the prestigious George Moore Scholarship, Emma began to pursue her passion for inclusive education. “In my final year, I conducted independent research seeking to understand the viewpoints of young people ages 11-16 on higher and further education. My focus was on schools based in my community of East Belfast and what the barriers were that young people faced when thinking about their next steps in education.”
Currently completing her MA at the University of Texas, Emma’s home community is at the forefront of her mind. “When I return to Belfast, my aim is to found a non-profit community based organisation that will tackle some of the barriers faced by the community in terms of educational underachievement.”
We’re confident Emma will succeed in whatever she chooses to do next.
To find out more about the George Moore Scholarship, don’t miss our information session on 4 November at 1.30pm.