A Worthy CAUSE

It was always my intention to volunteer with a local charity during my final year of university, I wanted to give some of my time to help in any way that I could. I got involved with CAUSE – a mental health charity focusing on providing support for the carers of those people with severe mental illnesses. The work they do is extremely important, and they are the only charity of their kind within Northern Ireland. 2020 is their 25th anniversary and so they wanted a Communications/PR volunteer to help raise awareness about their birthday year and so I quickly put my name forward to help.GD30

After a great first meeting with two members of the CAUSE team I was all set for my new role as a Communications volunteer. Fast forward a few months and I have been able to meet various members of the CAUSE team and they have all been so lovely and welcoming. I work mostly with the wonderful Anne Holland who is the fundraising manager for CAUSE. I was instantly drawn in by her bubbly personality and we get on very well, she is a very positive person and there is a never a dull moment when she’s around.

The first day that I met Anne she persuaded me to sign up for CAUSE’s biggest fundraising event – Strictly Come Dancing. This was one of the most memorable and exciting things I have ever done, I encourage any of you that have the chance to participate in a charity run Strictly to do it! I always fancied myself to be a good dancer but that was exclusively reserved for weekend dance floors, however I quickly learned after attending my first training session that I did not have one ounce of rhythm in me…

Everyone else was twirling, kicking and cartwheeling around me whilst I was like yes! I can do a star-jump! We started training in September with the goal of our big Christmas – themed show night at the end of November. I was like a fish out of water during the early training sessions as without any experience and 3 dances to learn my poor wee legs couldn’t keep up. My lovely partner and I got assigned the Cha-Cha to Snoop Dogg’s version of Winter Wonderland (I know lol) and we had one group dance to All I want for Christmas and one to Fairy-tale of New York. So, no pressure eh?

As the weeks of training went on, I started to grow more confident with the aid of everyone involved in my Strictly experience, they were all so kind and encouraging and they helped me every dance – step of the way.  By the time it came to show night in November at the glitzy Stormont Hotel I was a bundle of nerves and yet still filled with so much excitement and anticipation for the night ahead. I tanned myself up, got the lowest cut shirt probably ever worn on a man, and wiggled into my skinny fit velvet trousers – time to Cha – Cha! Our dance went great, I made a couple of tiny mistakes but sure the audience didn’t realise what I was supposed to be doing anyway! The judges loved the dance and most importantly my navy lace shirt was a hit. Our two group dances which book ended the night also went fantastically and it’s safe to say I was completely Mariah Carey’d out at the end of it all.


An amazing amount of money was raised for CAUSE which is the main reason we did the show in the first place and without the incomparable Anne Holland at the reigns there would have been no show to perform at.

Apart from my amazing experience with Strictly, I’ve had the best time volunteering for CAUSE. I’ve had the opportunity to see what goes on in the day to day running of a charity and how important promotional materials, communications and PR are for a small local charity.

Most recently I was given the chance to go to a recruitment fair at the Belfast MET Millfield campus and talk to various students looking for volunteering and placement opportunities. I highly recommended CAUSE to all the students I talked to and even promoted CAUSE’s latest Strictly event – Strictly Jigs and Reels. It was a really fun experience and great to see the amount of young people eager to volunteer.


I am currently working on developing some promotional materials for CAUSE’s 25th anniversary, having the opportunity to think creatively outside of an educational setting is really fun and rewarding; especially when it is for such a great charity.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with CAUSE and can’t wait to see what the rest of their Birthday year has in store! I cannot emphasise enough how important volunteering is, especially for small charities. So, I encourage anyone reading this to even consider volunteering, be it for CAUSE or another charity – I know that you won’t regret it!

Gareth Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-donnelly-1a6161196 , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__

Why I chose to study Part-Time

When I decided to leave my degree after my first year at University in Liverpool due to student finance problems in 2015, I felt completely lost and undecided on what to do next. The only thing I was sure of was that I needed to move home. At the age of 22, the majority of my friends had either finished their degrees, still completing their degrees or in full-time work since our school days, which made me feel even more behind.

I still find it surreal that young people at the age of 16 are asked to choose a career they want to do for the rest of their lives. I am 26 years old now and if I am completely honest, I am still not completely sure. At 21, after much consideration, I felt I had to complete a degree to achieve successful career prospects. However, I was never the academic type, I was a more practical learner. For example, if I was shown how to do something, I would pick it up much faster and a downfall throughout most of my school life, if I wasn’t passionate about something, I would lose all interest. Therefore, I knew whatever option I chose to study I knew my degree had to be something I was particularly interested in or even good at.

After my time studying in Liverpool, I realised my skills lied in the promotion and the marketing aspects of many of my module tasks. It was then when I got back home I decided to look into courses around, PR and marketing at Universities in Belfast. I looked into Ulster University’s website and seen the course Communication Management and Public Relations. I decided to apply and go to their open day at The MAC theatre in Belfast and it was there I got to speak to the Course Director, Kerry-Ann. I emphasised my interests and that I wanted a course that would be flexible around my part-time job, that was when Kerry-Ann suggested part-time studying.

My perception of part-time was night classes, where the majority of the people would be older than me and I wouldn’t exactly get the university experience. However, Kerry-Ann reassured me that I would be in classes with the full-time students during the day, although it would be up to me what modules I decided to do and how long It would take me to complete my degree. Although for me there were still both pros and cons, one con in particular. A placement year wasn’t included in a part-time degree, for reasons I didn’t understand. A placement year was something I was always interested in as many friends of mine had the opportunity of a placement year and always mentioned that it was some of the best years of their lives, whether they stayed at home or moved abroad. However, the idea of part-time still sparked my interest and I decided to look into it further.

After some research, I was shocked to find out so much about part-time studying and confused as to why I had not looked into it before. What I found was as a part-time student you can be eligible for a means-tested fee grant and also a course grant. I also found out to study part-time was much more cost-effective and realised you can save a lot of money in comparison to full-time. Therefore, if you decide you want to complete your part-time degree in within 5 years, that is just one more year than a full-time degree with a placement year. The part-time total fee can be paid either in an up-front payment which means if you pay the full cost of your annual fees at enrolment you can receive a 5% discount. Or you can opt for a flexible payment, to help spread the cost of your studies, this means tuition fees can be paid back in monthly instalments if you wish.

Fast forward nearly 4 years, it is November and this semester I have started my final year modules that will cover the rest of this year and next. This will be a total time of 5 years spent at University when I finally graduate.

Looking back since I started my university journey part-time, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout my time studying I have been able to balance my degree around my home life, social life and best of all my work experience. Throughout the past few years, I have been lucky enough to secure part-time paid work experience in marketing and Public Relation agencies. Therefore, when I complete my studies in 2021 I will have a degree behind me as well has over 2+ years’ experience in Marketing and Public Relations, which I know a lot of employers look for. Not bad for an extra year of university, and fewer student fees at the end, I must say.


Kirby Axon is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: Kirby-Axon and LinkedIn: kirbyaxon

Hasta Luego, Jago…

I’m currently studying Communication Management and Public Relations BSc (Hons) and have just approached week 8 of the dreaded final year, a stage that I never thought I could successfully (ish) reach and now plan and hope to successfully *touch wood* complete.


Throughout my whole university career I always said that I was 100% going to complete a placement year before going in to final year because it seemed to be the ‘norm’ thing to do, even though in CMPR it is optional whether you complete one or not. As I got further into second year I began to hear the words ‘placement’, ‘job adds’, ‘CVs’, ‘cover letters’ and so on more and more as well as hearing my friends and others around me talking about where they had applied to and what interviews they had coming up and subtly I ignored it all until exam season approached out of nowhere and that’s when panic struck, hard. I didn’t even know where to begin getting organised or where to start looking.


I ended up getting in contact with the company Jago Communications, a PR agency in Belfast City Centre. I went for an interview meeting with the company’s Managing Director Shona Jago and Communications Manager Fiona Hanna. Fiona presented a PowerPoint in one of our lectures in second year about the company and what they had to offer (so go to your guest lectures folks, the can actually be very useful!). I was then offered a month long internship in Jago, I started in June after my exams and didn’t look back, I loved it and all of a sudden 1 month turned into 4 and I continued to work with them until the bitter end and I had to go back to uni and start final year, hitting the ground running.

When working with Jago I was threw into the working world of PR and was trusted to do jobs I didn’t think I was ready for or never thought or expected to be doing. People hear the word ‘Internship’ and think ‘oh that’s just making tea and coffee or printing things out all day..’ it’s absolutely not (as long as you get in with the right company that care about the future of PR and upcoming graduates and want to provide you with the necessary experience you’ll need once you graduate). My summer internship gave me the opportunity to be able to see what working hands on in PR is actually like, giving me the chance to explore and figure out if I really enjoy that field of work which involved things such as being able to produce actual press releases that were then published in newspapers.

The internship allowed me to take part in jobs, produce work, and experience different opportunities that I would’ve also experienced if I had taken a placement year. I even got my own company headshot (check me out, big girl now), that’s when you know you’re getting old and will soon have to let go of your fresher like university ways that you’ve been living for the past 3-4 years :-(.


It allowed me to network and connect with other professionals and clients of the company which will be hugely useful for me in the future. Being involved with the hardworking, fast paced and positive team that is Jago, and being able to see actual success and results from that hard work has just made me more determined and eager to work in a team and field like that in the future (hence the title of this blog, hopefully).

Anyway, moral of the story here is that you absolutely do not and should not follow the crowd or do what all of your friends are doing or worry about not graduating with your friends, one worry which I dwelled on far too much. Do what you think will be best for you and you might find yourself in a position you never thought you would be in and one that worked out for the better!

After all, here I am starting final year without a placement year but still holding proper experience, knowing what to expect for the big bad working world ahead of me. Wish me luck! I’ll need it..


Claire Kearney is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/claire-kearney-835a68165 ; Instagram @claire_kearney ; Twitter @Claire_Kearney ; Facebook https://www.facebook.com/claire.kearney.98