New Miss Northern Ireland Emma Carswell says she will “relish every minute” of her experience – before heading back to her final year as a psychology student at Ulster University.
The 21-year-old from Gilford in Co Down, who volunteers at a suicide prevention charity, said she “did not expect to win the title” at a glittering event at the Europa Hotel in Belfast which was compered by UTV’s Marc Mallett and Zoe Salmon, the 1999 winner.
Some 17 former Miss Northern Irelands including Lucy Evangelista McCullough, Lori Moore, Rebekah Shirley and competition organiser Alison Campbell, applauded as 2015 winner Leanne McDowell passed the baton to Emma.
On Tuesday the stunning Co Down woman admitted the “reality of the win has not hit me yet”.
“Last night was amazing,” she said. “The past weekend has been the best of my life and last night topped it off.
“My phone has not stopped since last night.
“I have made so many new friends as all the finalists are fabulous and we will all be meeting up very soon.
“I have definitely made friends for life.”
The level-headed beauty, who is currently a volunteer with the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Programme in Portadown, said she feels “privileged to be able to help people”.
“I am in the office Monday to Wednesday and I provide support and therapies to individuals along with a psychologist as I am not fully qualified,” she said.
“I can’t take clients by myself yet. It is a wonderful learning experience for me to be put in that situation and see at first hand how psychology helps people.
“I hope to be an occupational psychologist helping people reduce stress in jobs when I qualify,” she added.
The beauty queen, who still lives at home with her parents and plans to “stay there for the foreseeable future”, said this year she plans to “put 110 per cent into everything to make sure there are no missed opportunities”.
“I am very excited but I am still shocked. It hasn’t hit me yet.
“I cannot wait for all the opportunities and in particular I am looking forward to Miss World,” she added.
Emma said she is currently training for an event taking place in Strangford, to raise money for the Children’s Hospice.
She will take part in the Gran Fondo Giro D’Italia Northern Ireland 2016 – Mourne Route – next month.
“I am interested in swimming and cycling and I’m currently training for the Giro,” she said.
“It is on a 32-mile route in the Strangford area.”