As with every other Irish graduate school student, the choices available to me after college were endless, but deciding which was the the right choice was extremely difficult.
A few weeks ago I moved to New York to pursue my life-long ambition of being a cutting edge journalist in one of the most media saturated cities in the world. Perhaps I had watched too many "Lois and Clark" TV episodes as a kid, but I knew this was the best decision for me at 24 years of age.
I decided near the end of graduate school that if I did not land a full-time contract in an Irish media company, I was going to move to America in the hope of further developing the media skills I acquired in Ireland.
Like so many other young graduates, I found the decision to throw in the towel on Ireland and to seek work abroad agonizing. While every industry at home is competitive, the media sector is an especially tricky industry to get a foothold in.
In Ireland I was being offered freelance positions across a wide spectrum of print, online and broadcast media, but there wasn’t a role available to me as a young reporter to satisfy my burning ambition.
Most young media graduates are faced with the reality of working for free at present in Ireland, in what can only be described as the dreaded “I” – internships.
I was unsatisfied at this prospect and decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided I was going emigrate.
I am taking my emigration as a positive. Many people are being forced out of Ireland because they have to support families. For me as a single 24-year-old, I chose move away to establish myself in my chosen field in the hope of returning to an industry which feeds upon experience.
Emigration has reached record levels in Ireland, with 75,800 people aged 15-44 leaving last year. Ireland once experienced the highest net immigration in Europe. Now it is experiencing greater levels of net emigration than any other European country.
The current situation in Ireland means young graduate journalists have to jump through hoops to get an unpaid internship and then be subjected to a six to nine month stint as an unpaid employee, sometimes working 40-plus hours a week. All this in the hope of a contract at the end. Sadly, most times there is no job and the company moves on to the next intern.
While interning can be a great way to get a foot in the door and provide hands-on experience in the ever changing and competitive media industry, often times young interns are exploited but too afraid to speak up in case they ruin their chances of one day becoming an actual employee.
I graduated in late November 2013 with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Graduation is a day that reunites families and friends to honor the academic achievements of a loved one. There is a tremendous sense of pride and fulfillment for every third level student donning the black robes and smiling brightly as proud parents and family members watch from a distance.
As the graduation ceremony commenced, NUI Galway’s graduating class of 2013 was reminded by the president of the university that as we began our careers, we would reinvent ourselves many times over the coming years. One student remarked, “This piece of paper will serve me well in the social security office next week.”
Is this really what Ireland has been reduced to for young graduates, a sense of "What’s the point?" in getting a degree if there are no jobs, and more importantly, no paid ones after four of five years in third level education?
My own decision to live in New York brought mixed emotions. As a young journalist I am, of course, excited to be here to work in a media saturated city. The buzz and adrenaline that comes from being an eager young reporter in a new city is outstanding.
There is another feeling of disappointment however, in Ireland as a country. I invested a lot of money to be educated and would have liked the choice to start my career in Ireland.
It is vital that he industry in Ireland take a long hard look at the graduate journalists we are losing to Britain and United States.
As 14 graduate journalists emerged in black robes and smiling for the cameras on graduation day on the west coast of Ireland, the scene left me wondering how long it would take to bump into one of my fellow graduates as an expat leading the Irish American lifestyle.
Graduation and emigrating in the same week brought mixed emotions for my parents. It was a week which saw them clap proudly as I collected my degree, but they then had to say goodbye to the “baby” of the family as he walked through the departure gates at Dublin Airport. This is a scene that has been played out across every community in Ireland.
As I walked through the departure gates, I felt a certain sense of achievement and sadness. But the knowledge that a job as a working journalist in New York was waiting for me made the pain easier to deal with.
As I sit at my desk in Manhattan overlooking this amazing city, I know I made the right choice.