TWENTY-TWO year old student, John Sheridan, from Florencecourt, studies at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
A son of John and Sylvia, the Florencecourt man spoke this week about his experiences at Harvard University, in Massachusetts.
It was in his last year at school in Portora Royal, in Enniskillen, that the option of attending such a college became a viable option.
“In terms of when I decided to apply, that would have been the previous October when my dad showed me an article in the Times about universities in the American Ivy League – they had not previously been on my radar, but this article, and some subsequent research, helped me realise that they were also great options to consider for university,” explained John.
At A Level in Portora, John studied six subjects: chemistry, economics, maths, further maths, music and physics – and secured ‘A’ grades in each. This was prior to the A* grade at A-Level. A keen rower and pianist, John noted the importance of a spread of achievements, not surmounting to exam results.
And, once he was accepted into Harvard, John became ‘very excited’ for the future.
“When I moved to America that August, it was a busy time. The campus when I got there was electric all the time between students, parents and tourists in general. In terms of adapting, it’s not something I paid conscious attention to – it just sort of happened, gradually. Since I didn’t know anyone in the US, let alone Harvard, my major concern was to stay energetic and meet plenty of people – to try to make some good friends, which I did.”
The first year for John, was a busy one. He had began studying mathematics, was rowing on the varsity crew team, and had chosen to take an intensive intro course in Mandarin Chinese, to fulfil a language requirement.
“There were also a number of students that were in the public eye because they were the sons and daughters of various notable people, like Michael Jackson’s niece and the son of the producer of ‘Lost’,” John explained.
“One guy from a Harvard ‘feeder school’ in Los Angeles had somehow become friends with Emma Watson, and I saw her when he invited her to a Harvard party that year in the ‘Hasty Pudding Club’ – one of those clubs that has a membership that included a few US presidents,” he added.
John has stopped the rowing as he moved further on in his college career, has worked in the tech department fixing computers for faculty and staff, and started teaching in the mathematics department.
“It has certainly been difficult to study here. The students are immensely competitive for the most part.
The Grade Point Average (GPA) is a sacred thing, and many students are totally governed by it.
Adapting to this intensity, with some of the world’s smartest undergraduates, was no easy task, but it eventually becomes routine. You learn how much work is needed – a lot – and, if you’re lucky, you learn how to relax and enjoy pursuing random interests outside academic life in your down time.”
In the future, John hopes to get accepted to a mathematics PhD programme in the US, a five to six year process, potentially working in research and teaching.
“I just have to wait and see what happens, and whether or not I can produce interesting and original enough research to attract the attention of the ?eld experts,” John concluded.
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