As part of my BA in English and History at the University of Limerick, it is mandatory to do a cooperative placement. Although you have the option to do this placement in Ireland, I luckily was picked to go to Spain! There are many companies which collaborate with UL for placement, for all aspects of any Arts degree. Through the University, I was set up with a company called Meddeas. This company specialises in sending students to Spanish schools to be a language assistant.
So I’m now in the province of Cadiz, the sunniest part of Spain. Among my many duties at the school I am there to improve the children’s English skills. I work with children aged 1 -5 years old, they are enthusiastic about the language and are always trying to communicate with me. I have conversations with them in English and do activities with them.
I live with a host family which has made me feel right at home, although of course nothing beats the comfort of your own home (or dog). It is nice to have the support and dynamic of a family even when it feels like you’re a million miles away from yours!
The culture shock is perhaps the most interesting parts of my cooperative placement, no more potatoes or Cadburys and I am now a far cry from the coffee at the Eden café. The Spanish culture is one you have to immerse yourself in, the people; their way of life and their food are all things I hope to take back to Limerick with me. The most glorious aspect of placement is the Spanish weather, it seems like yesterday I was walking through the UL campus with a heavy coat from the rain but now the only worry I have is what pair of sunglasses to wear!
My Arts degree at UL has not only has given me the opportunity to make friends, travel and work with a language – which I love – but it has also giving me grounding for the real world of work. I am thankful for this opportunity which UL has made possible for me, it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My Co-op experience is one I don’t think I could ever forget. I can still remember going to the seminars and signing up for an international placement. This was very unlike me. I had never been abroad by myself before and knew nothing about booking flights or searching for accommodation. I don’t think I gave it a lot of serious thought just the idea of living and working in another part of the world seemed so sophisticated and amazing and I wanted it to be something I could do.
The whole process of Co-op was quite stressful but also exciting. Being interviewed by international companies felt like an introduction to the real world for me. I was kind of worried that it would take forever to get a placement or that I wouldn’t get accepted for one at all. However, that was not the case as I was accepted after my second interview for a magazine located in the south of France. I was delighted with this as it was the kind of job I was interested in and in the south of France no less!
As my placement drew nearer and nearer I began to feel the panic. I kept asking myself “what have I done?” I had little French and knew nothing about living alone without my parents being close enough to rescue me if something went wrong. Part of me felt that the whole thing was going to be a complete disaster and that I was going to hate it there. All my friends and family kept asking me what exactly was I going to be doing and all I could say was I’d know when I got there and the more they enquired about it the more stressed I got.
On my first day, I explored the city of Nice where I was going to be living for the next few months. At first, I was incredibly lonely which I thought was strange as normally I really enjoy time on my own. There was just nothing and no one familiar around me and this really knocked me for six. I can remember one night in my second week of Co-op and my mam sent me a snap of my two dogs. It only hit me then how alone and homesick I was. However, once I settled into my accommodation and into my placement I felt so much more comfortable and the loneliness passed. I also enjoyed my work with the magazine, Riviera Insider, too. It had content I was unfamiliar with as it was quite high-end like Michelin star restaurants, operas and luxury vacations. It was a broad range of topics so I really learned a lot about different ways of writing certain articles. It was stressful sometimes but it was still an amazing feeling to see my name printed under an article I had written.
I’m really proud of my time in France and although it had never been a place I was particularly keen to visit before Co-op it now holds a lot of significance for me. It was where I learned to live with people I wasn’t related to, where I learned to grocery shop for myself and where I did work that I enjoy and want to pursue a career in. Basically, it was where I learned about what I could achieve in life and that is an experience I’m grateful for.
Elle Walsh is a 2nd year Applied Languages student at the University of Limerick. She is currently off campus on her Co-cop placament in Cologne, Germany. Here she gives us a review of her first few weeks away from UL:
“Coop chooses you, unfortunately you don’t get to choose your coop. You select a host destination and the coop office organize interviews for you and you are placed wherever you are successful. For me, I was lucky and got my placement on my first interview meaning I had lots of time to prepare. I am working in a Kindergarten in the German city of Cologne (Köln) and thankfully I love it.
When I began the process of applying for coop I was adamant that I didn’t want to work in a kindergarten after having a traumatizing experience au pairing however I was successful in my first interview meaning that unless I wanted to find my own placement I was off to Cologne.
Come January first I was on my way to becoming a full time kindergarten teacher. After spending my first month here I am so happy that you are made to take your first offer. The job is so rewarding and I come home everyday feeling a bit tired but never stressed out or unhappy with how the day has been. The working environment is warm and friendly with a real family atmosphere.
For me the biggest thing that I have learned so far from my coop placement is to stay open minded and take every opportunity that comes your way. If I had had the opportunity to turn this teaching position down I would have but now that I am here I am very happy to be spending the next five months in this role!
If I could offer any advice for students thinking about going on coop to a foreign country it would be to remember to be open minded, for me I wanted to go to a bigger city like Hamburg or Berlin and wasn’t so keen on the idea of Cologne a smaller city that I didn’t know that much about. However after being here for the past month I really love it and even have started to prefer it to Berlin. Co-op is all about learning to become an adult and finding out how to take part in the world around you independently and although I don’t think I will pursue early childhood education as a further career I am very thankful to have this opportunity!”
Elle Walsh is a 2nd year Applied Languages student studying French, German and Politics at the University of Limerick. Last year, Elle took a gap year to improve her language skills and travel around Europe.
I did my Co-op in a secondary school just outside of Limerick City and it was the best six months of work ever. For many co-op is the first real experience of the working world, the first opportunity to prove yourself and show that you are capable of many things.
Co-op allows you to work in pretty much any field you like for Arts and Humanities students. The university can organise where and who you work for if you want them to or else you can organise it yourself. I organised it myself as it is a much faster process because the college have an enormous amount of other placements to organise each year.
To organise your own, you send out your CV to the places that you’d be interested in working for and then you might get called for an interview and you continue this process until you have secured a placement. If you do have UL getting you your placement it’s important to know that you have to accept the first job offer you get. Some Co-op placements are also not permitted to pay you. Because mine was a secondary school they did not have to pay me.
You learn so many valuable skills while on co-op such as, time management, people skills and teamwork skills. You get to experience a real working environment and all the pros and cons that come with it.
While Co-op is a break from college work for six months it does means you have to fill out a report at the end of it all. I’d suggest you begin this early enough and add in points as you go on in your placement because if you leave it until the week before it’s due it will become awfully painful.
The best piece of advice I could give you for your co-op is choose some place you’d really like to work in and not the place that is easiest to secure.
Jane Vaughan is in her fourth year studying English and History at the University of Limerick. She is 22 and from Limerick. You can read her personal blog here and follow her on Twitter at @_PaulaJane.
At age 12 I stepped foot in Paris and knew I would return. I was sure that the next time would be for more than 72 hours. Fast forward 8 years and I’m sitting in my Parisian office in front of my Mac emailing well established bloggers. Typical start to a Hollywood comedy right? Luckily for me it as a reality. This was my coop experience.
When it came to organising coop I was a bit all over the place. My first choice was to organise my own. I always knew it would be hassle to try to get a placement I either the psychology or law sector. After one failed attempt early in the planning stages I decided it was not worth the hassle as my heart wasn’t 100% in it. Option two was Grupos. I had studied Spanish in first year, it might be fun to live in Barcelona, but the placement really wasn’t for me. I am quite independent. The idea of working in a very large group of people who I already know did not appeal to me. So I moved onto option three: Argentina. This plan lasted all of five minutes before I decided I wanted to stay in Europe as I am very close to my family and going abroad for six months was going to hurt both parties a lot. Finally I made my decision. FRANCE. Why not? I studied French for the Leaving Cert. Surely I could dig deep enough to find a few ‘mots’ to get me by. I submitted my CV and hoped for the best. Considering I didn’t study French at UL there was always a possibility of them saying no. Luckily for me I sweet talked my way around the coop office and managed to secure myself in France. More importantly, in Paris.
Every day I think about how grateful I am to the coop office. I don’t think my placement could have been any better for me. I was working in a small start-up company called My Jolie Candle. The company made candles with jewellery hidden inside. While the company was based in France they shipped their produce to the UK. This meant my job was in English. I was their community manager. This included customer service and marketing. I managed the social media accounts, the website and contacted multiple bloggers throughout the semester to feature the product. Every day I was surrounded by sweet smells, trying on new jewellery and packing boxes with crepe paper and glitter. It was never a bad thing to get caught on YouTube or Facebook. What more could I have wished for? The workforce was also a dream come true. My boss was the eldest on the team at 28. There was a total of six of us in the office, including three interns. Three companies worked out of the one office spaces, all co-founded by the same people.
It became clear to me that not much research was done into the UK market before I arrived. My boss realised also. This led to him setting me many research tasks. I learnt so much about European economic, social media strategies, marketing, social media and the business world in general. With the hit of Bexit and the lack of funds to invest fully into the UK market my boss decided it was a waste of both of our time to make me focus all my days on the English side of the company. He decided it was up to me to figure out how amazon and eBay worked for businesses and to set the French company up on both. So if anybody has any questions on either, I am your woman!
After the six month I was sent on my way with a suitcase full of Swarovski jewellery and candles and a brain full of knowledge and experience. I got to see the ins and outs of a small enterprise. I saw what happens when it fails, and what happens when it succeeds beyond anybody’s expectations. I got to experience the heartbreak and excitement of the ups and downs. And I got to experience it all in a family like setting.
Paris. What can I say? I struggle to think of a boring day. I chose to emerge myself in the culture. From ballets to football games. I did it all. Every Thursday after work was museum day. Every chance I got I sat at Trocadero and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle or sat in front of Sacré Coeur and stared out onto the city. I met my friend for some wine and a baguette along the Seine or met her by her apartment near the Louvre. I know the metro like the back of my hand. I sang with the Irish for the Sweden match in Stade de France and fell to the ground on Champs de Mars for the Italy game. Being an Irish person in France during Euro 16 meant something special. I got to experience that. I got to enjoy art and explore architecture. I got to try different cuisines and improve on a language. I was even mistaken as a Parisian on multiple occasions. (Until I tried to speak French. My accent gave it away.) Paris gave me all I could expect and more.
None of this would have been possible if the coop department had not believed in me and my ability. They believed in my ability to not only take on a job that I was not trained for, they believed in my ability to do it in a foreign country where I could just about form a sentence. My coop experience gave me a chance to grow and improve and most importantly, discover where I want my future to take me.
About Cassandra Murphy:
I come from a little island off the South West coast of Ireland but moved to the big city of Paris for 6 months of coop. Normally I study psychology and criminal justice but at the moment I’m in France for Erasmus trying to string together a few sentences of French to avoid dying of starvation. It’s safe to say I like a challenge.
The transition from secondary school to University can be quite daunting, after months of studying and preparation for the Leaving Cert, you’ve finally got your CAO offer and its off to college you go!
But what happens when you don’t like your course?
To my complete shock, I was offered New Media and English in UL, having completed a Fetac course in Cork. I jumped at the offer without hesitation, finally getting into 3rd level education!
While most people in my course absolutely loved it, I couldn’t get stuck into it. I was never a fan of literature or poetry and dreaded the fear of failing! I decided to be 100% honest with my parents and told them I would end up really struggling or dropping out!
Fortunately, this happens now and again at UL, and they are very accommodating to students that aren’t happy with their course. No one wants to see you fail or drop out so know that there are other options.
I switched to Journalism and New Media in week 6 and absolutely LOVE it! Now heading into my final year of my degree, I’m glad I went with my gut and explored other options.
Journalism and New Media and New Media and English have quite similar traits, and a lot of the same classes. The journalism course, however, is more catered to those looking for a career in print media, TV or radio. It’s a very hands on course , with lots of projects and group work. That might sound intimidating but it’s a lot of fun if you’re an aspiring journo!
As part of our course, you’re taken to the court house to do real life court reports, you attend council meetings and pull the best stories from the bunch, you create radio packages, news bulletins and have a chance to get your work published in national newspapers!
Co-op is probably the most exciting element of this course, because you get the opportunity to work on the front line, hands on, knees deep in shorthand and editing. Whether you chose radio, print media or you’re lucky enough to secure a stunt in RTE, you’ll gain invaluable experience!
You never forget the feeling of opening the local newspaper and seeing your by-line in black and white for the first time! Or the feeling of accomplishment after putting together a three minute radio documentary that you spent hours editing. You get a thrill from deadline day and the 5pm rush, you cringe at the sound of your own voice on radio but are secretly proud nonetheless!
Journalism and New Media opens a window of opportunity for aspiring journalists. I am heading into my final year having worked as part of the Limerick Leader team for 6 months, with a hundred and one bylines under my belt, having being nominated for Journalist of the year – national press, in the Student media awards, and having won the Headline Journalism award 2016, for a two-page feature I did on suicide and mental health.
The journalism course requires a lot of work outside of class hours. To be a successful journalists you need to built a portfolio, and networking is essential! Most of my peers work within the media outside of college, whether it’s part-time on local radio, blogging, or contributing to online websites. While getting good grades is important, building up your CV is crucial to ensure you secure a job in media when you graduate.
The best thing is, you’re finishing with so many options, so many routes you can go down, whether you’ve a passion for the airwaves or a flair for investigative journalism. Never in a million years did I think I’d be confident speaking live on air, but now I have my own show on ULFM!
Doing assignments and projects isn’t all bad, when you love what you do!
Jennifer Purcell is a 4th year BA Journalism & New Media student at the University of Limerick. She was Nominated for Journalist of the year in the 2016 student media awards. You can read her personal blog here. Follow her Twitter account at @Jenniferpurc.
We find that Semester Two has sprung up on us, and the Christmas break seems like a distant memory at this stage. Having just entered week three of a fourteen week semester, time seems to be flying already!The Christmas exams went really well thankfully and no repeats so far!
Lets talk business. With my course, Arts Joint Honours, in the second semester of first year you can pick different subjects to those you chose to study in semester one. For me this is a brilliant opportunity to sample new subjects and to thread unknown territory.
This semester I am studying…
English- Renaissance Literature
Early Modern Irish History
Culture and Language Studies
Introduction to Sociology 2
Law- Criminal Procedure
Whereas last semester I took…
English- Academic reading and writing
Sources for History
Legal System and Method
Introduction to Sociology
Sociology of Media
Certain areas of my chosen subjects over-lap, something I find makes it easier to study as you can connect your learning in all subjects. Already, deadlines are being given and groups assigned for projects so its a matter of hitting the ground running.
Last Wednesday I got a little over-excited. Why so, I hear you ask? Last Wednesday we had a meeting about the option of going on Co-operative placement abroad A.K.A Co-Op. Semester two of second year allows AHSS students to gain experience either at home or abroad. The speakers representing opportunities in Spain and Argentina were enthusiastic and informative, with further meetings planned in the next few weeks. Having the process explained was real encouragement to get involved with such fantastic opportunities. I hope to do another blog with more in depth information and updates on my Co-Op endeavours soon.
Enough academic information for now. There are already talks about the upcoming RAG week (Raise and Give or Charity week) taking place the week of February 29th. Fundraising for four very worthy charities while having great craic? What more could you want. As well as that, Student Race day is being help in April so that will be a pre-exam boost. Like I said, this semester is FLYING! Maintaining the study-socialising balance is a constant struggle. Such is college life!
My name is Judy Sheehan (most people call me Julie-really annoying), I’m twenty years old and I am in first year Arts! Hailing from the beautiful county Cork, home is only down the road. Let me tell ye a bit more, if ye are brave enough to read on…
Some useless facts about me: I am the eldest of four, with three older step siblings, have 8+ cats, am from a little town in West Cork called Bandon, LOVE animals, laugh at absolutely anything even remotely funny,drink far too much hot chocolate and consume too much pizza and chocolate (not at the same time though).
For those of you who are still in secondary school, and are considering coming to UL in September, I can’t encourage you enough. Being from Limerick (but really from Clare), I wasn’t too eager or excited to come to UL because it was so close to home, but I don’t regret my decision for a second. UL is without a doubt the best university in Ireland. It has such a beautiful campus, a diverse variety of Clubs and Socs, a great student support system and an extremely friendly atmosphere – no matter where on campus you are. Because UL is the youngest University in Ireland it’s also the most modern. This applies not only to the architecture and the courses available, but also to the vibe around the college. The lecturers in UL are all down to earth, and the relationship between lecturers and students like that of peers. Although UL has more than 13,000 students, every single one of those students is a part of the UL family. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in UL who didn’t feel at home.
If you’ve been at UL Open Day, you’ve experienced just how great UL can be, and hopefully we’ll see your face next September!
Co – op:
As I said I’m on co-op at the moment, and although it’s great to have a break from studying and stressing about exams, it’s also kind of scary being out in the real world. I was working in a law firm during the summer, but I’m lucky enough to be back on UL turf again working as the PVA Administrator. The co-op programme in UL is honestly one of the best things about the university. I know that it causes anyone who doesn’t have a QCA of 4.0 a crazy amount of anxiety, but my advice would be not to stress, because it all falls into place.
I’ll be heading on Erasmus in January, to Radboud University in the Netherlands. Despite having lived in the Holland until I was 3, and downloading Duolingo, the extent of my Dutch is “De meisjes lezen de krant” which means “the girls read the newspaper” – an expression I’m sure I will use daily come January. I plan on writing plenty of posts while I’m there, so if you’re thinking of going on Erasmus, stay tuned to this blog to get the inside scoop.
Anyway, that’s it from me, keep an eye on the blog for more posts from my fellow ambassadors.
Hiya! I’m Ciara, and I’m a Law Plus Student at the University of Limerick. I’m in third year, and I’ve been on co-op since the start of the summer. This blog is just so you can get to know me a little better, but stay tuned for some more interesting ones about my life as a UL student! I’m from a small village in Clare but I tell everyone I’m from Limerick because I went to school there, and that’s sometimes too much for people’s brains to handle. I am a huge fan of Lana Del Rey and cheese, and my talents include watching entire seasons of series in less than 24 hours, sleeping through the 20 alarms I set every morning, and eating excessive amounts of cheese. In my spare time I volunteer, sing, go online shopping for things I’ll never be able to afford, and I eat cheese…
It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was wondering the same questions as many sixth years are wondering now, ‘Where to go to college?’, ‘What course to study?’, ‘What points do I need?’ and most importantly ‘When’s the next night out?’.
When I was filling in my CAO from the of 15 I had decided I was going to study medicine, after many years volunteering with the Limerick Red Cross I was sure that was what I wanted. Then sixth year came and I realised I absolutely hated studying with a passion. I really loved French for my leaving cert, it was one of the few subjects where studying didn’t actually feel like studying so I decided to study languages.
For those of you that don’t know how college works instead of subjects you study modules. So I study five modules- French, Spanish, German, French Literature and Language Technology. Do I love my course? Yes. Is my course hard? YES. My advice to people confused about what to do in college is do what you love and don’t think about the future, if you don’t like your course you’re not going to stay with it for four years in the hope that you will enjoy the job after.
I have to admit although I have my problems with U.L. (like standing for 15 mins waiting to use this computer) it is actually a great college. Accommodation is a lot easier to find here than in Dublin, Cork or Galway and the campus is beautiful. One of the main reasons I would recommend U.L. to incoming students is the fact that on Thursday I am going for an interview to work in Hamburg for six months on co-op. Co-op is basically work experience during college to make it easier to get a job when you have your degree.
My name is Róisín Leo, I am a second year student in Applied Languages in UL and hopefully these blog posts will help you to make a decision on what to study next year.