Another perspective on student emigration

I had a very interesting talk with the President of the university I attend this morning, to write an interview for the news website I run in Cork.

We talked about a wide range of topics pertaining to student life, but the one I thought would be of most interest to Irish Central was the whole theme of student emigration; the problem that Irish students are facing into whereby for want of any jobs going in Ireland, they're (once more) turning to emigration in an effort to try to forge a more prosperous future overseas.

Being perhaps not the most organized of persons, I realized as I walked in the door to his office that my trusty voice recorder was nowhere to be found, so for want of any precise verbatim quotes from the interview, I'll offer a general overview of what he said on student emigration, which I found interesting.

Prof. Michael Murphy, the President of UCC and the highest paid university president in Ireland, surprised me in that he said he saw student emigration as a largely positive phenomenon, which is an alternative and scarcely articulated perspective to the common dogma of student emigration being some sort of malignant "plague" of life for young people in Ireland. Irish college students and their student unions think that emigration is the great tragedy of modern Ireland, but maybe they're missing the point.

Yes, the sons and daughters of Éire are literally being forced out of the country by the doom and gloom of our economy, as they have been in previous generations, but student emigration could also, and perhaps as validly, be construed as a positive phenomenon rather than a 'curse'.

I think it all depends on your perspective.

The current batch of Irish émigrés are depressed and bitter because they see themselves as 'emigrants'.

The word itself is laden with meaning and connotation. 'Emigration' implies a state of no return; a severance of ties with friends and family; a change of identity; a change of culture. But maybe that needn't be so. Ireland's economy will eventually rectify itself, or so we hope, and those same emigrants now joining the throngs of people boarding trans-Atlantic flights out of Shannon Airport may one day return back home to find a more prosperous Ireland, a more stable Ireland, and - most importantly for our future - a better governed Ireland.

Not only that, but they'll also (hopefully) return as the beneficiaries of a wealth of experience gained in foreign climes, most often of course America, absorbing and learning how other countries do things, gaining experience in life, which they can then come home and inject into a new revitalized Ireland. The net effect, in other words, would be beneficial rather than detrimental. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it's an interesting opinion and one worth considering; perhaps a small change of attitude would indeed go a long way.

Perhaps this lesson needn't be limited to student emigration, though. Maybe, strange as it seems, the Irish could learn to take the positives out of the recession, however few they may be, and use that as a springboard to graft change for future generations.

Even those wild geese as far-flung as America must now realize that the Irish are currently being subjected to a seemingly unending inundation of negative news from the press and media; perhaps that's a large part of the problem and if we could only learn to view the whole fiasco as a chance to rectify failed policies, implement new ideas, and change government, maybe we would be better off for it. Wishful, stupid, naive, but it would certainly be worth a try.

It may be wishful, perhaps even naive, but at least it's not pessimism.