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Postgraduate Student Profile: Liz Ryan, MA History

Liz Ryan is Limerick native undertaking the MA History. With a business background, she explains why she chose to study history at UL and describes her experience of the programme so far.

Liz Ryan, MA in History Student at the University of Limerick
Liz Ryan, MA in History Student at the University of Limerick

Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Liz Ryan, and I am a Limerick native. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of South Wales just outside Cardiff and graduated in 1992. However, I didn’t do a history course; I actually did a Bachelor in Business Studies. As a result of that, I worked in the UK for many years, both in financial PR and briefly in a tourism company. In 2001 I decided to move back to Ireland, so I moved back to Limerick, where I’ve lived since. I got a job working in a bank and I worked as a financial advisor up until 2013, so I always had a business background – a business career. But in 2013, I felt it was time to make changes, so I began working in the tourism industry. I now work as a tour guide for a touring company in Ireland and the UK. It is actually the company that I worked for previously! I have always loved history, but working as a tour guide has really reignited my love for it. You get quite curious in this job, always wanting to delve that little bit deeper and find out more. Studying history gives you the opportunity to do this and it is something I‘ve always regretted not pursuing. My passion for the subject, coupled with the practical benefits the MA would provide to my current career, made me think that now was the time to just go for it.

Why at UL?

Although I live in Limerick, I didn’t just pick UL purely because it was the local university. I researched the MA, and given the nature of what I do, I knew I wanted to study something broad. The flexibility of the programme is great as it offers a lot of diverse elective choices. It’s nice to not be restricted to a strict research area.

The flexibility of the programme is great as it offers a lot of diverse elective choices.

How did you find out about the course?

I had a colleague who did the course about 10 or 15 years ago. It’s not that unusual for people in my profession to go back to education to do these types of courses. My colleague who had previously completed the MA in history just loved it and I knew, given my previous degree, that whatever MA I did, it had to be something linked to my job, so the MA in History seemed to tick all the boxes.

What specific aspects of your course have impressed you the most? What is the best thing about the course?

For me personally, what has blown me away has just been the access to information. When I left school, and when I left college, there was no Internet. You went to the library, and the book was either on the shelf, or it wasn’t on the shelf. When I look back everything, you did revolved around what was physically present in front of you. To discover things like academic journals such as JSTOR has been amazing. The access to information is just phenomenal. Another thing that I have found impressive is the support from the staff and the University in general. It’s well known that with any MA, you have to do a bit more self-directed work than perhaps in an undergraduate degree, but I must say that the support and kindness of the lecturers are amazing. Even in an online setting, you would imagine it’s a lot more impersonal, but it most certainly isn’t. They always seem so interested and so thrilled when you ask a question because they can see you’re engaging. Whenever I have had a question, they have always been so patient and have always engaged with me in increasing my understanding of a topic.

The access to information is just phenomenal. Another thing that I have found impressive is the support from the staff and the university in general. It’s well known that with any MA, you have to do a bit more self-directed work than perhaps in an undergraduate degree, but I must say that the support and kindness of the lecturers are amazing.

What experiences/opportunities has the MA presented you with?

The guest speakers have been very interesting. We had one recently on a topic I would have never explored before, which was amazing because it opens your mind to new topics and research areas. After attending guest speakers ‘ seminars, I’ve often found myself googling topics I would never have known about before. It’s always really interesting to see what others are researching. There’s a real sense of community among my classmates on the course; everyone is always encouraging each other with their different research areas. The Glucksman library is another thing that I have been so grateful for. The facilities are amazing, and the resources available to us are invaluable. Also, I’ve found the faculty’s workshops throughout the programme to be really useful.

There’s a real sense of community among my classmates on the course; everyone is always encouraging each other with their different research areas.

What else (other than course learning outcomes) have you gained from the course?

The course has given me an in-depth understanding of how to research well. I think that’s going to be really important to me in the future in terms of the nature of my job. I felt I had a knowledge gap about the Stuarts but knew quite a bit about the Tudors, so I picked Stuart topics when submitting essays as I will in the future be able to reuse this research. I’m currently researching Belfast’s political murals as an essay topic for my module on the Long War in Northern Ireland. I fully intend to use this again when back guiding and have picked the topic deliberately so. The course has also been invaluable in understanding who the key experts are if researching related topics in the future. I will always have to know more, and I will always have to increase my learning and search for new knowledge and new information.

What are your future plans?

I hope to go back to work once the tourism sector reopens. I’m excited to return to work with my newfound knowledge and my even stronger passion for history.

Would you recommend the programme to others?

Oh, most definitely. I would especially recommend it to others in my industry. As our work is quite seasonal, I would absolutely recommend it if this is something of interest. I think it’s a wonderful thing to do and a wonderful opportunity. I feel very privileged to be a part of the programme.

I feel very privileged to be a part of the programme.

Any advice/tips for prospective students of the course?

I think this would apply to anyone thinking of doing a postgraduate course, but be aware that you should know a good bit about the subject before you come in. It is at a master’s level, and these modules are not going to spend a huge amount of time telling you what happened; there’s going to be an assumption that you know what happened, so it’s more the analysis of why. Another thing I would advise is to start reading as early as possible. When I was accepted, I asked Richard (the Course Director) if there was anything I should be reading between now and October? He recommended a few books on research concepts and methods. That was helpful, just to give me a little bit of a start as I wasn’t coming straight from an undergraduate situation. Also, although the lecturers usually prefer you not to have any preconceived ideas about your thesis, it can be very stressful to sit down as a new student in October and know that you’re going to have to have a topic picked by early December. It is worth a third of the grade of the course at the end of the day, so I think that vaguely thinking about it before starting the course is a good idea. And if there is an area of interest to you, perhaps start researching what’s already been done, what’s already out there, but the best piece of advice would be to just enjoy it. It really is an enjoyable course.