Alan Owens recently joined University of Limerick as Communications Officer. He graduated from UL in 2004 from the BA in European Studies, and spent a year working as a German translator in Thomson Scientific. After a year of travel around the world, he returned to UL in 2006 and did a Masters in History.
An award-winning journalist and editor with the Limerick Leader newspaper, Alan has significant experience at local, regional and national level and was a regular contributor to radio throughout his career. He most recently held the position of Assistant Editor at the Limerick Leader. Alan talked to us about his time at UL:
Why did you choose your course at UL?
I was keen on an arts degree as I wanted to do something that was broad and varied and not prescriptive to one defined route of employment. I was particularly keen on the continental focus of European Studies. I had a keen interest in history, politics, law and languages – all of which I studied during the four years at undergraduate level. I was also very drawn to the idea of doing an Erasmus semester abroad.
What did you like best about your time at UL?
I loved the broad nature of the course. That it also included people from so many different courses studying together across different modules – ie from HPSS, Law and Accounting etc all under the arts banner, depending on subject, meant great variety. I was also in awe of the campus and still am. There are great memories around every corner. I am from Limerick and had spent time on the campus before I started in first year, but not to any great extent. So it was a wonderful learning curve. In time, the stints off campus during co-op and Erasmus were among the many highlights – as was returning to what is the most beautiful campus in Ireland.
“I was also in awe of the campus and still am.”
What have you been doing since you graduated?
Working! I spent 11 years in the Limerick Leader newspaper before coming back to UL to take up the job as Communications Officer earlier this year.
In what way did your course prepare you for your career?
I think having a broad knowledge of a lot of different sectors meant I was equipped to take on board information and assimilate it and distil it for what I needed it for – and still do. I learned everything from philosophy to law, history to German literature and more. It was the best kind of grounding in the humanities – all of which are applicable and vital in the world of communications.
“It was the best kind of grounding in the humanities – all of which are applicable and vital in the world of communications.”
Describe your typical day at work
There really is no typical day in the UL Marketing and Communications department: I could be devising a PR campaign or handling a media query; writing a story about a new piece of research; providing input into speeches and the planning of events or organising the visit of the Taoiseach or the world’s media. That or coordinating the flying of a drone over the campus to get aerial photography and video. It really is incredibly varied – as befits what is in reality a small town.
Any advice for school leavers?
Don’t assume that the first course of action you take on leaving school will lead to your final destination. If you already know what you want to do, fine, go ahead and pursue it. If you don’t, spend some time figuring it out and trying different things. When you do start study or your career, listen, take notes, work hard and have fun. The people around you are experts in their field; soak up their experience and utilise it in the best way you can. And write everything down – you never know when you might need that piece of information again.