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In the people business

Last update - Thursday, September 10, 2009, 15:54 By Tara Fannon

My relocation to Ireland was mostly driven by the idea that I might be able to return to college for free. Anyone who is remotely familiar with how American higher education works knows that unless you’re a natural-born scholar, nothing comes for free.

When you’re exceptionally smart, universities in the US pretty much pay you to be there. Otherwise, the cost of a college education can be the equivalent of a sizeable mortgage. On top of that are the fiercely competitive admission requirements for most four year universities that almost always exclude the average student like myself.
With both factors combined, I had no other choice but to take the roundabout way through my local community college. I enrolled directly after graduating high school, as was typical. However, I?wasn’t living at home at the time and couldn’t see how to best fit work, fun and study into one life, so I dropped out of college shortly after commencing.
In the years that followed, a growing desire to pursue a formal college education resulted in only nominal attempts on my part (due to money and time constraints). I wasn’t one of those people who knew even as an adolescent what they wanted to be when they grew up, but I was someone who wanted a proper college education. Discovering that I could actually pursue and achieve it here in Ireland inspired me to consider once and for all what I wanted to do in my life.
I thought deeply and seriously about what interested me and realised that I am and always have been fascinated by people and understanding them. I still didn’t know what I would study, but I desperately wanted to get it right. I remembered that I enjoyed psychology in high school, but was not interested in being a psychologist. I knew that I enjoyed volunteering with organisations that empowered and supported troubled individuals, but was not interested in being in social care or social work. I also knew that I could watch people for hours and then happily talk about what I saw and discovered, but wasn’t sure what this meant.
With this in mind, I investigated my study options with the universities in Dublin amid saving money, applying for jobs and flat hunting. And when I came across sociology, it instantly occurred to me that what I had always enjoyed most actually had a name.
After four years of working full-time as an Irish citizen, I was finally eligible for free third level education. I applied to UCD as my first choice and, much to my delight, was accepted. I’m currently in my third year with a view to proceed immediately with my Master’s here in Ireland, and then with a PhD back in the US. My long-term plan is to lecture, research and write. The mere thought of this excites me!
I’ve always believed that the work we do is our greatest opportunity to make a contribution to society. This doesn’t necessarily mean one ends up in curing cancer or ending poverty for a living. What it does mean, at least for me, is discovering what excites and empowers you at least three-quarters of the time, because no job is perfect, after all. Of course this can change, simply because we change. In the meantime, though, I feel more than confident that I’ve chosen wisely and look forward to a long career in the business of people.

Tara Fannon is a Sociology student at UCD. Her column appears fortnightly in Metro Éireann

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