April 27, 2018

Lifechanging Experiences

I’ve had an incredible eleven days.

Friday before last I flew to Toronto to represent Ireland in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Incredible is the only word to describe it - I really find it hard to believe how impactful the trip has been for me.

Student entrepreneurs from 54 countries all over the world gathered in Toronto to represent their country and present their businesses, their life experiences, and their visions of the future they are determined to make reality. These inspirational and uniquely interesting young women and men came from all over from - Argentina to Bahrain, from Costa Rica to Finland, from Sri Lanka to New Zealand, and just about everywhere in between.

There couldn’t have been more variety of backgrounds and experiences but everyone had at least one thing in common - the love of entrepreneurship - noticing a difference between the way the world is and the way they think they think it should be. And most importantly actually doing something about it.

I got to know almost everyone over the few days and it was an absolute pleasure, not to mention competing against them! I didn’t make it to the finals but I am really pleased with how I did. I made it to the global semi-finals and I know I could not have done any better and I am very proud of that. The winner of my semi final room, Axel Garcia Burgos, ended up winning the competition overall and was crowned Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year.

Axel grew up in Puerto Rico, persevered through some very difficult personal circumstances and got hired by NASA at 16. He’s now doing a PhD in MIT (yes, that MIT) and has developed an irrigation method which is going to change agriculture on Earth and beyond. It’s incredibly rare to meet such a passionate, intelligent, and humble person. Congratulations Axel, you deserve it.

From Toronto I went on to Niagara Falls, New York City, and Boston - meeting old friends, recent friends, and making new friends.

It really was a life-changing trip (I fell in love with Boston - the city and it’s people - and I’m planning on moving to Boston September). One story which I feel captures the spirt of the trip and the people I met well:

I accidentally got an Uber to the wrong address in Boston. My phone died, I had no cash, and I was in the wrong neighbourhood and needed to get my suitcase and leave the city.

There were five guys in their front garden enjoying a few drinks on the first sunny day of the year. I asked them if they could help me - they told me to grab a seat and then handed me a phone charger and a glass of whiskey. I called my uncle who was picking me up to let him know where I was, and then I called all my friends in the city. Two hours later there were about fifteen of us there singing songs and getting to know our new friends. Cork-Boston relations have never been stronger. I got that Uber to the wrong address but I definitely ended up in the right place.

I’m writing this on the bus home from Dublin airport. As I was waiting for my connecting flight from Boston to Toronto, I heard about the incident with the van and pedestrians which occurred in Toronto. Someone was angry with the world and took it out on innocent people. It is a terrible tragedy and waste of life. It’s easy when things like this happen to become overwhelmed with all the terrible things happening in the world but when I look back at the incredibly kind and positive people, cities, and experiences of my past two weeks I have to believe there’s more good than evil in the world.