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Where Finbar taught let Munster Learn: Why you should spend a year studying abroad in the Rebel County- Living life to its fullest at UCC

Article by Rachael Fagan

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Rachael (author of this post) and her partner, David


After spending a semester abroad at the University of Limerick in 2010, I returned to University College Cork to work towards my master’s degree in Sociology of Globalization and Development. The challenging academics, atmosphere, and the wonderful professors made my year in Cork both exciting and rewarding.

After falling in love with Ireland on my study abroad course in Limerick during the spring of 2010, I decided to return in 2011 to pursue a Master’s degree. I was accepted in the taught master’s program of Sociology of Globalization and Development. It is a small program with only a dozen or so students accepted each year. I was nervous that I would not understand the professors and that the work load would be too much to handle. After an email mix up and a confusing first day getting lost on campus, I decided to meet with the head of the program, Dr. Niamh Hourigan.

20141121Dr. Kathy Glavanis-Grantham, Dr. Elaine Desmond, Dr. Aimee Brennan, Dr. Niamh Hourigan.

Dr. Kathy Glavanis-Grantham, Dr. Elaine Desmond, Dr. Aimee Brennan, Dr. Niamh Hourigan.

20141121Dr. Ger Mullally, Dr. Elaine Desmond, Dr. Kathy Glavanis-Grantham.

Dr. Ger Mullally, Dr. Elaine Desmond, Dr. Kathy Glavanis-Grantham

For about an hour we chatted and talked about how I was getting settled in Cork, what classes I should sign up for, and what ideas I had floating around in my head for my dissertation. From that day forward she took me under her wing and guided me throughout the year. She became my supervisor for my dissertation and pushed me to research, read, and write every day. Research on globalization, culture, and Irish society was of particular interest to me. One of my favorite modules of the year was one on the many effects of globalization on culture. The classes were interactive and heated debates would often spark between classmates. We were encouraged to delve deeper into issues and to look at things from several different angles. Inevitably I would leave the class with more questions and ideas on my mind than when I had entered.

Throughout the year we were encouraged to attend guest lectures on campus. While I was in Cork I had the privilege of hearing Mary Robinson speak on climate justice. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, is head of the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation. Her foundation works to secure justice for those disproportionately impacted by climate change. She discussed issues of climate change that related to empowering women in marginalized areas of the world; it was both inspiring and powerful. I am so glad I was able to hear such an amazing woman speak.

After several months of writing papers and listening to lectures, I was able to refine my dissertation topic and settle on the title of “The Last Male Bastion: Why Irish women still avoid sipping pints in the pub.” I was able to travel to different parts of Ireland to interview women and learn more about how globalization has affected Irish culture and women’s place within it. I interviewed women from Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and many places in between. Traveling around the countryside for interviews was an unforgettable experience.

The taught Master’s program gave me both the structure I needed and the freedom that I craved. I was able to attend lectures and classes while at the same time create my own dissertation topic and pursue it in a way that I wanted. In October 2012 I finally handed in my final copy of my dissertation headed off to Australia with my partner to live in Perth, WA. I worked for the year in several jobs before working as an electorate officer for a state MP, where I got to utilize the skills I learned at UCC on a daily basis. After Australia, I spent a summer in New York working for Cornell University Cooperative Extension where I worked with the Eat Smart New York (ESNY) program. I worked with community members, stakeholders, and local government to implement ESNY programs. This job allowed me to use my qualitative research skills and the knowledge I gained about globalisation and local communities. I am currently working for Wipro as a Payment Protection Insurance Case Handler in Shannon, Ireland.

My time spent studying at UCC not only helped me improve my research, reading and writing skills, but it allowed me to experience Irish culture to its fullest. It has propelled me forward into work all over the world.

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