When I'm not in college studying . . .


There is life beyond the college walls. ANNA CAREYmeets some students with off-campus alter-egos


“I could be up at 6am, all dressed up doing a fashion slot for TV3,” says model Julie Kavanagh. “And then at 9am I’ll be in college with everyone in tracksuits.”

Kavanagh has been modelling since she was 15, and is about to go into her final year of Commerce at UCD. “It’s a good part-time job because you can pick when you work,” she says. “In first and second year I gave my timetable to [my agency], Assets, so they knew when I was free.

“In first year I did miss a few classes. I’d never miss a tutorial but when it’s a huge lecture hall you could get your friends to take notes for you. This year, though, I’m not going to miss anything.”


Most people spend the summer after their Leaving Cert worrying about their results. Not Dublin folk-pop duo Heathers, aka twin sisters Louise and Ellie Macnamara, who instead headed off to tour the US with folk-punk band Ghost Mice. Not everyone would bother coming home and going to college after that. But Louise, who is studying music technology at Maynooth, and Ellie, who began an arts degree in Trinity last year and is about to begin primary-teacher training at Froebel College in Blackrock, Co Dublin, went back to the books.

“At one stage we did consider deferring college for a year but then we felt we might never get back into it again,” says Ellie. “[Having] a lot more free time meant that we were able to do more travelling. However, because of the lack of structure in college and the fact that we had more time on our hands, paradoxically we found it more difficult to organise ourselves and make time for songwriting.”


Reading English at Cambridge would be enough for most of us. Ruth Gilligan managed to write two novels during her undergraduate years (her first, Forget, was written when she was at school). Having been awarded a scholarship from the O’Reilly Foundation, she’s about to begin a masters at Yale.

“I’ve always had a great belief in balance, and taking on things outside of academics. My busiest year in school in terms of extra-curriculars and socialising was definitely sixth year, and in a way I think that was one of the reasons I did so well in the Leaving, because it kept me sane,” she says.

“I’ve always been used to taking on almost too much, which, particularly this year when I was editing Can You See Me? whilst doing my Cambridge finals, certainly felt the case. But I’ve always said if you enjoy something enough, you’ll find the time to do it, and thankfully I adore writing, and am a closet nerd, so manage to squeeze in both.”


Sinéad Kennedy, presenter of RTE children’s show Icehas never been afraid of combining work with study. While presenting the Saturday morning show Sattitude, she began a part-time higher diploma in criminal psychology at UCC. “I had to go down there straight from work, and I used to arrive dolled up to the nines, looking like a right eejit.”

To fulfil her dream of working in criminal psychology, Kennedy is now doing a degree in psychology at Dublin Business School, where she’s about to enter her second year. Though she had to jump into a taxi straight after each exam and head straight to the studio, she loves it.


He’s promoted gigs, made a documentary film (the excellent Roll Up Your Sleeves), and curated exhibitions and debates. He’s just founded a new all-ages collective arts centre, Exchange Dublin. Dylan Haskins also fits in studying ancient history and history of art at Trinity.

“My lecturers are really supportive,” he says. “I had to miss some lectures last year, but once I explained that I was working and wasn’t just going on holiday, they basically said ‘life’s there to be lived, go and do what you have to do’.”

Haskins finds Trinity’s central location helps. “It’s easy to have meetings in town.” And his studies helped inspire Culture and the City, a public debate he recently organised in Temple Bar. “The idea of a public forum with citizens deciding about the city came from Athenian democracy in the fifth century.”


Harvard attracts some of the best students in the world, but most of this year’s freshers weren’t self-made millionaires by the time they were 18. One such is John Collison, from Monaleen in Limerick, who made headlines last year when he and his brother Patrick sold their company Auctomatic, founded when John was in transition year, for $5 million (€3.5 million). Some would be tempted to rest on their laurels, but not John.

“Right now, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than working hard in college. I don’t really see the fun in things if there’s not some challenge.” Which could explain why he’s also learned how to pilot a plane.

But is he a workaholic? “If I really enjoy what I’m working on – be it programming, flying theory or physics – then I find it very easy to work for long stretches. But since I enjoy what I’m working on, I can persuade myself that I’m not a workaholic.”