Impact & Opinions | Tionchar & Tuairimí

Investing in our Students  

Investing in our Students  

13 December 22
 | 9 MINS

Our donors play a vital role in enabling the university to support those students who need it most, and in continuing to support our life-changing research. While the number of students seeking support has increased in recent years, so too has the number of donors. 

Here, some of our scholars talk about the impact donor giving has had on their lives.  

Johanna Bernhardt started her journey at University of Galway through the access programme. She is now a third year Civil Engineering student.  

“The scholarship has made a big difference in my life, in terms of my studies and other responsibilities. I was raised by a single mother and one of five children. As a low-income family, things were always tight but when I was 14, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and, along with an unhealthy home environment, everything changed. I quickly realised that education was my way out of a life and a home that was very difficult to live in. At 19, I came to Ireland to improve my English, but instead of returning to Germany, I stayed in Ireland, got married and had my two daughters Mariela and Esperanza at age 22 and 25, respectively. When Esperanza was just one, I left the marriage to seek refuge in Waterside House, a refuge for domestic violence survivors. From the moment I regained control over my life, I started planning my return to education.  

In 2016, I was given the opportunity to take part in a scheme from the social welfare department, organised to help single mothers return to work or college. It was there that I learnt about the access course that University of Galway was offering for socially disadvantaged individuals to gain entry to university. I applied and undertook the course in 2018, which then gave me access to the civil engineering honours degree course. For me, it was a dream come true.  

“Being able to take part in a course that allowed me to follow my passions and give me the opportunity to hopefully make a contribution to environmental issues gives me the drive to strive to do my best. After my first year of the Civil Engineering course, I was awarded the Marie Brazil scholarship. It was amazing to have my hard work recognised. While the recognition really boosted my self-confidence and inspired me to do even better, the financial aspect of the scholarship makes a huge difference to our life. Due to my home situation, I could not rely on outside help in terms of finances. The scholarship money helps me to afford maintaining a car and helps with childcare payments. But the biggest reward of all is to see my two girls, now nine and seven, wanting to follow in my footsteps to go to university, believing that if they really want to and study hard, they can do anything they want. I want to thank you again for this incredible support and recognition.”


“Without funding from the Galway University Foundation, I would not still be in University of Galway. During my second year of medicine, my family support broke down. My grades deteriorated as I worked part-time, and I struggled to figure out a way to keep myself in college and deal with the stress of my home life. I worked over the summer, took out a bank loan and received funding from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), but I realised it still wouldn’t be enough to meet the financial demands. I then approached my year head at the time, after I failed exams, to bring to her attention how I was struggling. She referred me to the then Vice President for the Student Experience, who awarded me funding for my 3rd and 4th years, which made a world of difference. Without further worry of finances, I was able to fully concentrate on my learning and I’m very proud to say my exam results have improved significantly. I am very grateful to the Galway University Foundation (GUF) for providing me with funding, as I don’t believe I would have made it this far without it.”  

– Student Hardship Fund Recipient, Anonymous 


Investing in our Students  
Christina Gleeson, Ivan Browne, Emily Atkinson

“The postgraduate scholarship was a fantastic opportunity that rewards and incentivises the hard work it takes to achieve first class honours. The scholarship allowed me prioritise finding the right postgraduate course for me and to focus on my studies during my MSc.”   

– Emily Atkinson

“The Postgraduate Scholarship is reserved for those who achieve first class honours at undergraduate level, and therefore is a good incentive for hard work and perseverance, and I am delighted to be a recipient of it. It has allowed me to enhance my career prospects and to distinguish myself”. 

– Ivan Browne

“Without the postgraduate scholarship I was awarded, it would have been more financially challenging to take on an MSc after my undergraduate degree in Psychology. The scholarship was a driving factor to not only achieve my goals in getting first-class honours in Psychology, but also it stood to me financially, and in feeling confident in my level of education going into my MSc in Clinical Neuroscience.”  

–  Christina Gleeson 



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