Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘What lies ahead for us is uncertain’

This year’s journalism class at the University of Limerick began their course in 2008. Now, as they prepare to graduate, the students explain their plans for the future, and whether they will emigrate or remain at home.

Sat, Jun 9, 2012, 07:40


This year’s journalism class at the University of Limerick began their course in 2008. Now, as they prepare to graduate, the students explain their plans for the future, and whether they will emigrate or remain at home.

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Aisling Hussey

Clockwise from front: Jason Kennedy (suit), Deirdre Allen, Emma O'Brien, David Kelly, Sharon Whelton, Denise Calnan, Jean O'Donovan and Aisling Hussey with Neil Treacy centre. Photograph: Sean Curtin/Press 22

When we started our degree in journalism in 2008, the recession had just begun. “This is the best time to be in college,” we were told. “Everything will be OK by the time you graduate.”

It is 2012 now, and we finished our course last month. The recession has not blown over, and prospects are even bleaker for graduates now than they were when we started at the University of Limerick.

What lies ahead for the class of 2012 is uncertain. Many of us have already worked for newspapers or radio stations as part of our mandatory six month work placement, but only one person has a full-time job lined up for next year.

I will be starting a five-month placement in a national newspaper in August. The thought of moving to Dublin is daunting, but far less so that the alternative – emigration. Even worse is the thought of drawing the dole, as I have been earning my own money since the age of 15. I don’t know what will happen in December when my placement ends, but I have decided not to think about it too much until the time comes.

As much as I’d love to see the world, the option of taking a year out to travel is not a feasible or realistic one. I cannot risk leaving the country for a year, only to come back to compete against even more journalism graduates.

Ultimately, I see my future in Ireland, but only the best and the brightest will be able to stay. If I can’t find a job here, I will have no other option but to leave.

I have wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember. I know it’s not going to easy, but I am determined and willing to work as hard as I can to fulfil my goal whether it is in this country or not, as are many of my classmates.

The following are their views.


Deirdre Allen, 21

Yesterday my aunt told me she would be having her wedding in September 2013. I stared blankly at her; I had no idea whether I would be there or not. I don’t know where in the world I will be this September, let alone the following one.

It was an upsetting thought. I try to stay positive, but it is difficult not to worry. I will apply for as many media and PR companies as I can and hope for the best. I would love to get into radio or television, but it’s a competitive world, and there are many people out there who are more qualified and experienced than me. But, with a determined attitude, you can go far.

I want to succeed and I want to do well. I’ve worked so hard to get through the last four years and I’ve cost my parents a small fortune in the process. I refuse to let it all result in me drawing the dole.


Denise Calnan, 23

I haven’t shaken my head to leaving Ireland yet. I’ve had some wonderful experiences living abroad and I’ve yet to experience firsthand the Irish workplace for what it is meant to be.

I’m an optimistic person and the dream is to be a respected journalist. I realise there will be a “bit of slogging” at the start but there is only so much “work experience” one graduate can sanely do.

I think the mistake a minority of people are making is assuming it is a lifestyle choice that has young people leaving Ireland everyday. Flip-flops, sun and daily barbies on an Australian beach sound enticing, but a summer would be enough. It cannot be an easy choice to leave your place of childhood, and say goodbye to parents, grandparents, family and friends that you do not know when you will see next.

All Ireland’s young people want is the opportunity to succeed and earn an honest wage.


David Kelly, 22

I ran the marathon draped in an Irish Tricolour and dressed as a leprechaun. As I approached the waterfront, I felt dazed and nauseous. I stumbled on and crossed the line with my Canadian mate, buoyed on by the chorus of applause from the locals and some Irish folk that had gathered.

That was Beirut two years ago. It was a turbulent and lonesome time for me, I had never been so far away from home. I longed for Ireland as feelings of homesickness and regret consumed me day after day.

Christmas finally came and I swapped 25 degree heat for -17. It was a relief, although I feared I wouldn’t make it back because of cancellations. I went to Glasgow two months later, where I had the time of my life. I have since returned three or four times. I see my future there, the people, the pride and the sense of community is something unrivalled. I feel Ireland has become too embroiled in materialistic matters – where is that sense of communitythat we ae so famous for?

I envisage a stint in Australia to fund myself in the short-term. However, I know from past experience, whether it’s the guy following you to an Irish pub because he sees you wearing a GAA jersey, or walking into a bar in Cyprus to watch Tipperary and Kilkenny in the All- Ireland Final and being bought a drink by a couple from Cahir, there will always be people in your shoes. Be proud of who you are and where you come from.


Jason Kennedy, 22

Several years ago, I thought I would be instantly employable. I had experience in a number of national newspapers and had a bit of broadcasting experience. I thought that I would be one of the masses that would walk out of college and stroll into a dream job. Four years of college later and I know that will not be the case.

I am one of the lucky ones to have been offered placement in a national newspaper, but I am not sure whether this is a short-term or long-term position. Either way, I will milk it for all that it is worth. After all, I was convinced I would have to emigrate to find work.

I am not going to play the blame game and vent my frustrations on our lacklustre government. I will knuckle down, hit the ground running and hopefully prove myself to be a capable journalist.


Emma O’Brien, 31

If emigrating were an option for me and my family, then I would be on the first plane out of here. I have no option but to stay in Ireland and seek out freelance work, possibly do some online work and find a job that gives me a regular income to pay my bills.

I would advise anyone with the chance to leave Ireland to do it. There are very few prospects here, and the future looks grim. I’ll be advising my son, who is 13, to do the same, if it means he has a better chance at life.


Jean O’Donovan, 21

I don’t have any concrete plans for when I finish college but my main goal is to work in radio and gain more experience. Over the summer, I will work as a researcher for an opinion phone-in show at a regional radio station. Following this, I hope to secure work at a national station, so I have been applying to various places over the last few weeks.

Various other options have crossed my mind, like teaching English abroad or travelling for a year. I have also thought about emigrating to Australia or Canada but my fear is that I would not find any journalism-related work. While I know these would be great experiences, I feel it’s important to try to work in the industry I have spent the last four years studying, especially as the first group of graduates from the course.


Neil Treacy, 22

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the sports guy. It was all I ever did when I was young. I played it, watched it on TV, listened to it on the radio, and read about it in books and the paper. My playing career was tragically cut short though, through my lack of skills and basic coordination. Journalism became the next stop.

When I graduate this year, becoming a sports guy, whether it is in print or broadcast, is all I want to do. But more than that, I’d like to have the chance to do it in Ireland. I’m not holding my breath though. I’m continuing to apply to as many places as I can, but if nothing comes of it by the summer, I may have to go back to the drawing board.

But whether my future lies at home or abroad, I know for certain that I want to be a sports guy.


Sharon Whelton, 22

For me, it’s hard to look past the dreaded yet inevitable ‘E’ word – emigration. I wish things could be different, but we’re stuck in a country that is currently riddled in financial crisis. I am juggling between two options – to teach English in the United Arab Emirates, or to go to Canada on a working visa for a year. It’s not easy to think that the likelihood of guaranteed employment following graduation is pretty much slim to none, particularly in Ireland.

Therefore, I honestly feel that emigration is the only option for me. It would be tough, but it’s what is now deemed as the norm for fresh college graduates. The option of pursuing a postgraduate course is always there, but there is no guarantee of employment in the field of journalism after an extra year of studies. Who knows what the future will bring, but I can almost guarantee that come September, I won’t be in Ireland.


Kieran Foley, 22

I’m starting a job with The Munster Express in Waterford in mid-May. I’m absolutely thrilled to be leaving college knowing that I have a job waiting for me.

I am from Waterford, so the job is ideal as I don’t have to move away. I have just bought a car as well so it’s an exciting time! I’ve been in and out of The Munster Express for the past few years and I completed my six month work placement as part of my degree with the paper. I have also written a weekly column for them since September, so the experience has definitely benefited me.

My advice to other graduates and those starting college this year is to get plenty of practical experience. While having a degree is great, experience is much more important, regardless of your field of study.


Kelly Moran, 22

I just want a job! No sunny skies, no barbie on the beach, just a job. I was raised in Ireland, my family and friends are here, I don’t want to leave.

Emigration though, is something I have to consider, because trawling through job sites is soul destroying. Where is the booming economy that was a friendly light at the end of the tunnel at the beginning of my four year degree?

The jobs prospects and of course the sun in Australia are attractive but I just don’t want to go. It seems to be coming down to a choice between joining the queue at the dole or the line at the visa office. I wonder which is shorter?


Sarah Moyles, 22

On the 5th of May I’ll be finished my college education and luckily I don’t feel the need to hop on a plane to Sydney just yet. I know the majority of graduates and people of my age group are considering emigration, but I don’t feel that is an option for me.

I believe things in Ireland are improving, and I want to be here to see that happen. Jobs in journalism are notoriously few and far between in Ireland, but I believe if you are hardworking and passionate about what you do, you will eventually get your dream job.

Recently I was awarded funding by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund and in August I will travel to Uganda to make my radio documentary on the comedy scene in Kampala, Uganda. I hope that this is first step to my future career in journalism.


Rachael Power, 22

Finishing college is possibly one of the most daunting things I’ve had to face. There is no more safety net of education to hold me up anymore – I’m out on my own. Doing a postgraduate degree crossed my mind, but for the career I want – a journalist – I believe that experience is key.

Should I emigrate like so many of my friends? I have a good level of German which would get me somewhere in either Germany or Austria, but I know, as clichéd as it sounds, my heart lies in Ireland. This time next year, I would like to see myself with a degree on my mantelpiece and settled into a job or internship in a publication here. I think that with the development of digital media over the next few years in Ireland it would be an exciting time to work as a journalist here.


This article appears in the Weekend Review section of The Irish Times today, and on