A good start is half the battle

My four years at the University of Limerick were among the happiest of my life. I made a diverse group of friends, immersed myself in student culture, took an active part in clubs and societies and wrote extensively for the college newspaper. Some of my best memories are of setting the world to rights over tea in Javas – a favourite hangout on campus, planning events in the clubs and societies office and walking to the pontoon by the River Shannon on sunny spring days.

All in all, I could never say I regretted my experience of university.

The “but” is coming.

I studied New Media and English. Not a bad choice for someone aspiring to a career in journalism, you would think. I thought wrong.

I was 16 years old when I made that choice, and though I read the prospectus, I had only a very basic understanding of what the course would entail.

The English side of the course, to be fair, was exactly what it said on the tin: English literature in all its forms from Shakespearean plays to Romanticism to SciFi. The readings, lengthy essays and tutorial assignments no doubt honed by writing and critical thinking skills.

The New Media side of the course, however, was a massive let down. While a friend studying in NUI Maynooth was learning the ins and outs of media production and another in NUI Galway was gaining practical knowledge of print media, I was primarily studying cultural studies. The New Media aspect of the course was dominated by feminist and race theories, with the occasional module in media theory. Aside from a basic introduction to technical writing, students gained virtually no practical skills that could be transferred to a workplace.

I felt cheated.

As a result, I skipped a lot of classes, preferring to spend the time working with the editors of the college newspaper. I knew I would need a portfolio once I graduated and there was no chance I was going to develop one in class. Interesting though it was, another lecture on third-wave feminism simply couldn’t tempt me back. I pitched articles to local and national newspapers at every opportunity and interned with any newspaper that would take me on. I joined the Debating Union and honed my verbal communication skills.

I’m glad I went to UL. My advice to students picking a course, however, would be to give these vague wishy-washy courses a miss. Alternatives like European Studies or History and Politics will give you just as good a grounding for a career in journalism – perhaps a better one.

I got an incredible education at the University of Limerick. It’s just a shame so little of it took place in the academic sphere.

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