Ciara Kenny

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

From graduation to emigration

My parents clapped proudly as I collected my degree, before having to say goodbye as I walked through the departure gates at Dublin airport

Sean Dunne with his parents at his graduation ceremony last month

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 02:00


Sean Dunne

Graduation is a day that unites families and friends to honour the academic achievements of a loved one. There should be a tremendous sense of pride and fulfilment for every third-level student, donning the black robes and smiling brightly.

This is how I remember feeling graduating from my undergraduate studies, but obtaining my Masters in journalism was different, because on my desk was a plane ticket and passport.

Cartoon by Eoin Kelleher

Like so many other young graduates, the decision to throw the towel in on Ireland and to seek work abroad was agonising. While every industry is competitive, the media sector is particularly hard to establish a career in. One needs to be cutting edge to survive and go the distance and this is why I have chosen to move to New York.

As the graduation ceremony commenced, NUI Galway’s graduating class of 2013 were reminded by the president of the university that as we began our working career, we would reinvent ourselves many times over the coming years.

Most young media graduates are faced with the reality of working for free at present in Ireland. They have to jump through hoops to get an unpaid internship and then be subjected to a six to nine month stint as an unpaid employee, sometimes working 40 plus hours a week. They live in hope of a contract at the end, but sadly most times there is no job and the company move on to the next intern.

While is can be a great foot in the door and hands on experience in an industry that is ever changing and competitive, there is one thing employers seem to take for granted, and this is how soul destroying being an intern can be.

A Facebook page Journalism and New Media Jobs in Ireland has attracted more than 400 members. One member writes: “I really wish that papers and magazines would give new journalists a chance. I know I went to college very late in life and that is a negative. There is unpaid work but how long can anyone either young or old work for free?”

This is the topic of conversation that dominated the morning of graduation in NUIG. So many students walking around in black robes holding degrees and as one student piped up “This piece of paper will serve me well in the dole office next week.”

My own decision to emigrate and live in New York brings mixed emotions. As a young journalist I am excited at the prospect of working in a media saturated city. I have been lucky enough to secure work with the which is the largest Irish American media site.

Having completed two very interactive and educating placements with RTÉ news and TV3 News, I feel I have gained as much experience as I can as a graduate intern. New York is offering the job I wanted in Ireland, so for now my career begins in the US.

So many people are being forced out of this country because they can’t support their families here, but for me as a single 24-year-old, emigration is a positive thing.

As 14 graduate journalists emerged in black robes and smiling for the cameras in Galway last month, by the time I arrived at Dublin airport to catch my flight to New York I was wondering how long it would take to bump into one of my fellow graduates in America.

It was a week which saw my parents clap proudly as I collected my degree on stage in NUI Galway, before having to say goodbye to the ‘baby’ of the family as I walked through the departure gates at Dublin airport. It is a scene that has been played out across every community in Ireland.