Education – investing in your future

lego-1044891_1280This was the sentiment that drove me through the past 29 years of my life and still drives me. My story is somewhat unusual, and as recruiters put it, “different”. I started my path to knowledge by pursuing a BA in Nua Ghaeilge and History.Truthfully speaking, I enjoyed studying this degree as much as someone enjoys a walk of a sunny day. It was great while it lasted, however I was still left in a sweat. After this degree, I found myself with very little career options.

In 2008, no HDip or M.Ed was necessary to teach, so I fell into teaching in an accidental more so than designed move. I taught for three years and worked all my holidays. All the time, I had a medical/science based career in mind. I didn’t enjoy teaching as I found that my knowledge base didn’t expand, I felt under appreciated and bored. I saved up my shekels and went to Hungary to participate in a pre-med programme. This was the ultimate test; was I able for further study? Was my brain stale after 3 years of the Aimsir Chaite?

I excelled at this course, however the prospect of getting a mortgage out on myself, in order to study medicine was unrealistic, and I wanted a challenging career where I was the one asking the questions and finding the answers. I loved genetics since my Leaving Cert and after a visit to an orphanage north of Budapest I started researching genetics courses. And so, another move was on the cards, as I couldn’t afford to return to Ireland; €15,000 a year on average for fees or else go on the dole for 2 years then try to apply for back to education!

Student finance in Wales provided a more affordable option. I found the course that suited my interest in Swansea. I was accepted and started a 3 year Medical Genetics degree. The course fuelled my inquisitive nature. The rarer the diseases the greater the challenge. I worked three jobs during my degree as no Irish financial institution would provide help. I graduated last July and since then I have applied for over 300 jobs and sat 3 interviews. I followed the advice of a recruiter and turned down a contract for a years teaching and took up a job in an abattoir. His advice was to pursue a career as close as possible to genetics and unfortunately in Ireland a quality role was the only one I could secure. This job was nothing short of demoralising and revolting. I watched animals die and washed bloody gloves and overalls.

After 6 months at this role I had my fill. I left the role and went back to teaching as it was the only avenue open to me. I applied for jobs in shops, factories, pharmaceutical companies and all came to no avail. I ask myself what is my future in Ireland? Is there a future here? What must I do to secure a position? I am left at a point where I must move again to another country and invest in further study further deepening my pool of debt. The current government are cutting back on vital funds for research opportunities. Masters programmes are only available to those who are willing to study a narrow range of topics within the field of genetics. Funding for masters and PhD programmes are almost nonexistent. I have worked to get through every level of my education and I ask myself for what? I am disillusioned and disheartened. The only prospect I have at the minute is an unpaid internship for four months. After that who knows?

This is the harsh reality I face. I must invest again but the problem is that Ireland does not provide the employment opportunities to allow myself to go back and study in the near future. If I continue teaching I will have money, however I will lose my skills and lose out on vital experience. I am at a point where I don’t see a future for myself in Ireland. I must invest in my future elsewhere.

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Miriam O'Hara

Miriam is currently an intern at the Department of Clinical Genetics Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin. She studied Medical Genetics in Swansea University. She worked as a secondary school teacher for three years before pursuing a life long interest in rare diseases. She is currently working with molecular diseases and would love to pursue a career in this area.