Now is crunch time- so naturally the perfect time to write a blog post.
A few weeks ago (November 10th to the 14th) I flew to Dublin, Ireland to take part in the Undergraduate Award Summit. At first when I learned that I would be joining 149 other award winners/ highly commended people in Dublin (let alone fully paid for by my university) it was daunting. I was beyond excited that I had been selected, but I felt completely inadequate.
Suddenly I was going to be found out- I’m not as smart as they think I am.
I decided nevertheless to go, if nothing else it would be a great networking opportunity. When I got there I was completely surprised at how… normal… everybody seemed. The conversations that occurred were intelligent and passionate, but above all- they occurred naturally. Now of course when I say we’re “normal”– what is normal? We all have our quirks, I still consider myself a very strange person. When I say we are normal I mean I wasn’t faced with a daunting group of geniuses who I could never in my wildest dreams have a meaningful conversation with. You could say in a sense that:
You would think, that when you are spread across 25 categories, and you’ve spent the last 4 years of your life gradually developing your knowledge in one or maybe two of those, you are going to run into people with whom you have nothing in common with. *AWKWARD PENGUIN*
The thing is… that’s not the case at all. You have a ton in common with these people– for one thing, you’re all here (most of you for the first time). You all took a chance by submitting your work to this academic competition, and you all have been decided by panel of judges to be the top of your fields. I also noticed that I was not the only one that felt intimidated by the thought of meeting my fellow summit attendees… Maybe self-doubt is more common than we think in high-achieving people.
I think its important to acknowledge that that is how I felt (and how others felt)- and to reflect on why. However it is also important to acknowledge that I was wrong- I did fit in, as did all these attendees. I encourage people to submit their work- whether they think it will go anywhere or not, if its eligible- put it in. I submitted 3 pieces and the one that made it was not the one I thought might have a chance. Some other people submitted to three different categories and was highly commended in all three.
The Undergraduate Awards though is really an embodiment of that age old expression: “you will always miss the shots you don’t take”(Wayne Gretzky– there I’ll just say it because I’m Canadian). Normally I’m not one for sports metaphors, but it works. What have you got to lose?
As a bonus: who doesn’t love having their intellectual self basically get flirted with for four days straight? No seriously- you really feel the love from the UA team- if nobody else makes you feel at home, they will at least tell you how brilliant you are non-stop until the end of the conference.