Being a student and staff: My on-campus CoOp

Monday, 25th September 2017

Rebecca Laffan - 3rd year Journalism and New Media student 

For journalism students in UL, third year is generally spent off campus, with the summer and autumn semester on CoOp and Erasmus taking place in the spring.

Being from County Limerick, I didn’t expect to go far for my co-op in the first place. In my course, it’s the norm to keep it somewhat local to your hometown when seeking out placement, mostly to keep costs down.

The first couple of months of 2017 were a blur of CoOp applications, cleaning up CVs and perfecting portfolios. In the midst of all this, we had to decide where we would be studying on our Erasmus, with the globe-trotter in me choosing Cyprus.

For my CoOp, I thought I might be placed in a local paper or a radio station. So when I heard about the Marketing and Communications Division in UL offering a student role, I was more than intrigued.

I had always been interested in the public relations (PR) side of journalism, and to me this seemed like the ideal opportunity to get a feel for it. So I applied, landed an interview, crossed my fingers (and toes), and in June I was walking into UL again.

My course usually involves about 16 hours of class per week, so being on campus for 40 hours per week during the quiet summer months was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least!

At times it felt a bit isolating, I had become so used to having my peers around me.  Two of my closest friends were exceptions to the “keep-it-local” rule and went to London and Barcelona for their placements.

Despite the lack of students, I quickly learned that UL is the campus that never sleeps. Between four consecutive days of graduations, events such as the World Karate Championship, and countless conferences and launches, there was constantly something grabbing my attention.

I draft press releases for these events and generally see the side of journalism that most journalists never get to experience. I’ve not only learned what PR is, but also what makes good PR.

An aspect of the job I especially love is working with photographers to create imaginative shots for marketing campaigns, and of course, developing this new UL Links Blog.

I’ve come to realise that seeing my initiatives, such as the Go-Pro graduation video (click on the image below to watch), come into fruition, feels more fulfilling than scoring a good grade (though those good grades do help).

When September rolled around and the back-to-college excitement bubbled around me with chat of timetables and Fresher’s Week, I found myself caught in a limbo between my student and professional self- an identity crisis if I were to be dramatic about it. Despite this, I love engaging with students and feel like I am a useful link between the department and the student body.

During orientation week, I helped give out 2,800 t-shirts to UL’s new first years, I then conducted a marketing photoshoot for them. Soon, I’ll be heading back to the familiarity of the journalism classroom, but this time to help fourth year students with the Limerick Voice.

As I write this, a gaggle of students laden with books and bags pass my office door, very lost and very loud. I think back to when my days were filled with group projects, presentations and SULIS. Now, I have an email inbox to keep on top of, meetings to attend and very different kinds of deadlines. UL is now my workplace, it’s where I’ve learnt how to work in a professional environment.

In a way, I feel a world apart from the students and the rest of UL. But I know that in a year’s time, after my travels, I’ll return to campus with new knowledge and experience, and I know I’ll roam the corridors as a student again - maybe just not so loud and definitely not so lost.