My education journey: Hazel Chu – Dublin City councillor and Green Party co-ordinator
‘Some people have very well-laid-out career plans and ambitions but I took a lot of u-turns and side steps along my career’
Green Party local candidates Patrick Costello and Hazel Chu with their daughter Alex at the local and European elections and divorce referendum counts at the RDS, Dublin, in May 2019. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins
“I went to several schools – I started off in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown because my parents were working so much they needed me to board and then I later went to the Institute of Education on Leeson Street.
I enjoyed school and had some really good teachers – particularly a German teacher I had in first year who was amazing and had the patience of a saint.
I took seven subjects – the usual three plus history, geography and German and biology. I was definitely not happy with my grades at the time. I think I got around 420 points. I had a typical Tiger mother who expected me to do a lot better! I ended up studying history and politics in UCD, which I really enjoyed.
After getting my degree, I went on to do the course in the King’s Inns but I never practised as a barrister. This was back during the recession and I couldn’t afford the fees so I ended up working and taking quite a circuitous career path in the meantime.
When I think about my Leaving Certificate and where it has led me, I would have to say I have taken a varied career path but in some way, it has led me to where I am today. All I can say is, nothing is ever set in stone. If you told me five years ago I would have ended up so involved in politics or being a councillor I would have laughed.
Career guidance teachers at the time would have told me to do something artsy or creative or advised me to go into one of the caring professions like nursing. I knew back then I wanted to help people in some shape or form, be it through advocacy or working in the community.
My career has taken me from communications to project management to running for election and has helped me to use all my skills I have picked up along the way and I can now be a voice for people.
Some people have very well-laid-out career plans and ambitions but I took a lot of u-turns and side steps along my career. My mother would describe me as a grafter and a Jack of all trades but master of none! At one point, to pay for my fees, I was working at Electric Picnic and working for a charity. I have learned that I am good at several things and politics rewards multi-taskers!
I think even up until recently people went to college and assumed they would take and stay on one linear path but I think this generation will not have jobs for life and will have various careers or a lot more change than their parents would have.
The Leaving Cert was a terrifying time and we felt it was the most important thing in your life. We can look back and laugh now. It really is not – that is not to belittle the Leaving Cert. So many people I know didn’t get the points they wanted and now have careers they love.”
In conversation with Áine McMahon