Scared, disbelieving and excited: thoughts from The Gown’s former editor on graduating from Queen’s University, 2017 (Part Two)

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QUB Graduation. Photo Source: Queen’s University Belfast.

Bonnie Shawcross, Social Media Editor. 

The Gown’s Bonnie Shawcross spoke with former Editor Niall Ó’Colmáin following his graduation, about his time at Queen’s and his aspirations for the future

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Photo Source: Niall’s family and friends.

Niall Ó’Colmáin, English.

”After leaving Belfast Royal Academy in 2011, I made the rushed and ill-considered decision to study Law with Criminology at Ulster University. Very quickly I learned that this wasn’t for me, so I took some time out to rethink my options. I missed reading, and I missed writing even more. Ditching Law for English was a no-brainer; studying the subject that I always loved and excelled in was a natural choice. I met some great people throughout my study in the School of English – I genuinely felt inspired by lecturers, and very rarely became bored in lectures! I look forward to maintaining contact with staff in The School of English as I take the next steps into my career.

Graduation day was an odd feeling, and not a day I will ever forget. After years of delays due to chopping and changing courses, and a year on medical withdrawal, shaking those hands and walking across that stage felt like the ending of a chapter. To all of those people who have dropped out and don’t know where they are going – you will get there.

When I was told that your experiences in university shape you into the person you are, I took that mantra with a pinch of salt. But, looking over how my life has changed over the course of four years, nothing could be truer. Writing for, and managing The Gown Independent Newspaper undoubtedly forms the highlight of my time at Queen’s, and we had lots to write about in that time. From the Irish Unity referendum and Poppygate, to sit-down protests in the Lanyon and the occupation of the Admin Building, we had a lot of stuff to talk about. From the demolition of the Students’ Union to the threatened closure of Sociology and Social Anthropology, The Gown reported on it all. On a final note, I am delighted to have met a talented and committed Editor for 2017/2018, Gráinne Ní Ghréacháin, who will surely lead The Gown to new heights.

I couldn’t comment on my time at Queen’s without paying homage to my friends and comrades in the Socialist Workers Party of Ireland, which I joined during my first year at Queen’s. My activism with both the SWP and People Before Profit have been immensely rewarding, in the experiences and memories I have built, and the friends that I have made. Election after election over recent years, combined with looming essay deadlines and running a newspaper certainly left me with my hands full. Regardless, the ideas and experiences instilled in me have strengthened my resolve to continue my involvement with People Before Profit North Belfast and the Socialist Workers Movement.

My concerns for the future lie with young people who wish to avail of the same educational opportunities that I did. Students, lecturers, activists and politicians must keep up the fight to abolish tuition fees, and to oppose the marketization of education. Staff and students must unite to defeat the gender pay gap, and remove barriers to education for working-class people. Never before has the prospect of real change been so tangible, as growing numbers of young people are becoming radicalised to new ideas – and the next generation of students and young people must realise their role in affecting that change.

I am immensely fortunate to have hit the ground running in my career since graduation. Immediately after submitting my finals, I embarked on full time employment as Resident Journalist at Sync NI Magazine, the North’s leading news and media platform for technology and business news. Adjusting to the new career has been both exciting and challenging, and I couldn’t have asked for a better job. To any young writer seeking a career in journalism – ignore the naysayers. You can do it.”

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