Mark Boylan, from Banagher, Co. Offaly, is a 4th year student studying BA in Journalism and New Media at the University of Limerick. Here he talks about his time in UL:
Why did you chose UL?
There is no campus in the country which can compete with UL’s brilliant base and the strong emphasis on sport throughout the city appealed to me.
What interested you about the course initially?
Throughout my childhood I had a major interest in becoming a horse racing journalist/broadcaster and this course appeared to be the first logical step to take on the way to hopefully achieving that goal. Having visited UL on the open day, I was impressed by the facilities at the campus and that confirmed my decision to make this my first choice.
What is the course like? Which modules do you enjoy most and why?
The course offers the necessary tools to enter the media industry but as is the case with most facets of life, you get back what you put into your work. The Current Issues in Irish Media seminar series module was especially enjoyable as it introduced fresh perspectives from highly experienced personnel in the industry.
What do you enjoy about the course?
While I sometimes cringe at some of the material I produced in my opening weeks in UL, I feel the portfolio of articles, video packages and radio features I have accumulated over the past four years is an important advertisement of our abilities ahead of seeking employment. I also feel that having the title of a student journalist allows leeway to be experimental and to make mistakes early on that otherwise may be criticised for someone starting off as a journalist unqualified. People are generally generous with their time for student journalists. The grounding I got in UL helped me to win the Sports Writer of the Year prize at the National Student Media Awards in 2018.
What do you enjoy about UL?
There’s a real vibrant feel to the campus and student life is extremely sociable here. One of the best decisions I made in my four years here was to joining Clubs and Societies and in second year I restarted the UL Horse Racing Society, which had been enduring a period of inactivity. The friends I made and experiences enjoyed are what I really think about when I reflect on my time in UL – it was extremely worthwhile.
Mark went on Erasmus to University of the West of Scotland, Ayrshire, Scotland:
There were some fantastic opportunities to explore beautiful rural areas in Scotland and climbing Ben Nevis was one of the high points of my Erasmus.
The experience was definitely enhanced by having two of my course mates alongside me. We made some lifelong friends who were also on Erasmus from France, Germany and Spain and it was a enormous learning experience in a personal and cultural sense. As a keen musician, I also enjoyed evening trad sessions in venues around Ayrshire, mixing with the locals.
Mark did work experience with The Racing Post while at UL:
Getting to experience a real-life newspaper environment was undoubtedly the most beneficial element of my education in UL. While I still have lots to learn without this Co-Op, I wouldn’t be half the reporter I am today. To get a hands-on opportunity in a national newspaper in Ireland and the UK was outstanding.
I worked alongside horse racing’s leading writers including RTÉ’s Tony O’Hehir, former Irish Independent horse racing correspondent Richard Forristal and leading sports writer David Jennings. The knowledge and time that these men – and many others in the paper – shared with me was tremendous and I am hugely grateful for their efforts.
Getting to experience a real-life newspaper environment was undoubtedly the most beneficial element of my education in UL.
I had always dreamed of a career in the Racing Post and my Co-Op certainly didn’t disappoint. Every day offered a new challenge, it was always exciting. Generally, one day a week I would head to the Dublin office to record videos or podcasts, two days a week I would be working at home either filing previews for the following day’s racing or generating news stories for print and online, and for two days I would report from racing meetings anywhere in the country. It was a brilliant balance and getting out to meet people as well as having the opportunity to study racing form from home was excellent.
There wasn’t a single facet of my journalistic skills that didn’t improve for this experience but in particular I learned plenty about how to get the best out of people for stories and how to tackle subjects which may not be the most straightforward. Every step of the way I had excellent guidance from my Irish Editor Richard Forristal. I couldn’t have received a better helping hand for my future career.
Since leaving the full-time Co-Op I have consistently been working for the Racing Post at the weekends and on my college holidays. I look forward to hopefully continuing to play a part in the paper upon graduating and several other opportunities involving racing media have arisen as a result of this placement.