By Julie Brosnan (Studying for a MSocSc Social Policy)
Many years have passed since my first visit to UCC. One of my sisters was a student here and I was fascinated when she showed me around campus. It looked a little different to what you see today but it was impressive nonetheless. The world seemed like a different place back then. The Berlin Wall was standing, Gorbachev was coming to prominence in the USSR and Liverpool FC regularly won trophies in UK and European soccer.
If I knew then what I know now, I’d have been busy reflecting on the rise of neo-liberalism in many powerful countries and on how, almost unthinkably, it would ultimately spread to the Soviet Union. I’d have studied Liverpool’s role as a pivotal city of the British Empire, where goods and people were imported and exported. I’d have been busy exploring how and why those economic policies accelerated the decline of many great cities and how the division, inequality and social problems they created still exist today. But all that critical thinking and Social Science was in the future!
This autumn, I’ve begun working towards my 4th qualification from UCC, thousands of hours, years of study, many miles travelled. On returning in September, the worries are the same. Trying to get to know a new class group, will I remember all the names, where did I put that reading list, what books should I read first and more pertinently, what am I going to write 25,000 words about? Didn’t we cover social economy somewhere before, I could have sworn we had a handout about it from 2nd year, now where could I have put it?
There seems to be so much in my course that interests me, more social policy issues to debate and examine, research to plan and carry out, new and different speakers to engage with and more books to read and enjoy. Housing, health, education, welfare. Each comes with the word ‘crisis’ attached in contemporary Ireland. Why is this so? Does it have to be so?
The challenge of combining work with study continues. At undergraduate level I had a work placement throughout the academic year. Now as a postgraduate, I learn to set the work/study balance anew.
I see the effects of social policy everywhere. I note how decisions made at different levels touch many lives. I learn about my own strengths and weaknesses as I try to help people I work with and their communities. I like to write so I help people for whom writing is a challenge. I love to read so I guide those to whom reading doesn’t come so easily. I live a future that’s very different from what I imagined all those years ago. I’m often drawn back to a quote from John F.Kennedy, often used by Tom McGrath, a mentor and friend of mine-“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”