Ella Bergin is a second-year DCU student in Mechanical and Sustainability Engineering. She was encouraged to pursue engineering by her Physics teacher, who was also an Access student. Today, the DCU Access programme is helping her to achieve her goals.
“I grew up in Whitehall as the youngest of three. I have an older brother and sister, and I’m the first in my family to go to college.
Eight years ago, my dad was diagnosed with COPD. He’s still waiting on a lung transplant. He had been a postman, and my mam worked in a warehouse, but they both had to give up work, and my mam became his carer. We had a lot of financial difficulties after that. I always wanted to go to college though, and my mam and dad were very encouraging. They knew that there were supports available to help me get there.
I went to an all-girls secondary school, Dominican College on Griffith Avenue. My Physics teacher always said that we need more women engineers, and she really encouraged me. I did my Transition Year work experience with my cousin, who is a civil engineer in Arup, and I was really interested in the work that they were doing. My Physics teacher went to college on a HEAR scholarship too, so when I was filling out my CAO, she answered all my questions and helped me to apply for Access. She was delighted when she heard I got in. It’s really important to have good teachers.
I remember when I first walked into my course in first year. There were 250 of us, and I could only see 30 girls. That was a bit intimidating at first, but it made me want to be smarter and show that I should be there.
I work in a café once a week, but because our course is very time-consuming, I don’t have time to work extra hours. If I didn’t have the support from HEAR and SUSI, I’d have to take out a loan, and I don’t think I’d be able to pay for that. The scholarship was a stress lifted and a real help financially. It helps with things like your books and copies, and I got my laptop through the Access scheme as well.
“The early orientation from Access really helped me in first year. It made me more comfortable going into college, and it meant I got to know people on my course before lectures started. It makes a real difference knowing that you have support.”
I can email my Access Officer, Colette, whenever I’m struggling. We study everything in first year engineering, so there were some modules, like coding, that I was less interested in, and those could get hard. Colette helped me find other students who could help me get my head around the modules I found difficult.
In second year, I specialised in Mechanical and Sustainability Engineering, and I’m enjoying the course a lot more now. I was always interested in sustainability because of everything that’s going on with climate change and deforestation. I really like learning about Physics and Renewable Energy, and we’re making a boat in our Thermofluids lab too. That’s really cool.
Next year, I’m hoping to find a good placement for INTRA. My mam recently picked up a few hours working in the ticket office in the Helix, so I can chat to her now when I’m on campus. I’ve joined the Style Society in DCU, and I enjoy reading and painting too. After college, I think I’d like to travel, do a Masters, and work in sustainability and engineering.”