Studying with UCD Planning, Geography & Environment - James Barry

‌My name is James Barry and I’m a final year student studying Planning, Geography and Environment (PGE). I had always been fascinated in how cities, towns and regions worked. The spaces where people lived and worked seemed like they had just grown up organically. It wasn’t until I found out about the PGE course that I realised it was a sophisticated coordination of dozens of diverse disciplines managed, and mediated, by professional planners.

My course is based in the Richview campus of UCD, a hub of Planning, Architecture, Civil Engineering and Landscape Architecture. The school of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy has a global legacy of excellence in research, education and practice spanning the last 50 years. There is always a buzz of activity around the place, with students going back and forth from their lectures and studios to the library and café. It’s not unusual at all to come across some project or other dotted around the place, everyone gets plenty of hands on experience to complement their classes. This is where I spend most of the time with my classmates working on our own projects, which have been showcased to the Irish Planning Institute.

The course is set up in a way that guarantees I will meet and mingle with other students from across the college. I love this because it means I have made fast friends with people studying Law, Engineering, Business, Medicine and any number of Arts subjects. When I was working as an Intern at Web Summit I realised that these friends will become my network when I graduate, and the support I’ll get from them will be top class.

I managed to land a once in a lifetime internship with Web Summit over the last summer. A lot of people have asked me what a Planner could do in a technology start-up, and I can always appreciate the confusion. The thing is, between the background I have from my course in public speaking, project management, economics, web and document design and the need for planning to be cutting edge, Web Summit seemed like a perfect fit for me. After a number of phone calls and rigorous hour and a half long interview process I was able to show Web Summit that they should feel the same way about me.

While working there I was lucky enough to talk to a few startups that were working in the field of Planning, using tech to improve and innovate on current practices. I also briefly worked on a team gathering together city leaders from around Europe to discuss how tech can work with city planning.

University isn’t all about work and study. UCD has some fantastic ways to kick back, and the clubs and societies have been an amazing way for me to relax and meet incredible people. I have been a casual surfer for a few years now, but living on the east coast has seriously limited my tubular activities. That’s where the Surf Club came into the picture, with lessons for all levels, regular trips to the West to catch the best Atlantic waves, and a trip to Morocco for the lucky ones who can make it for sun, sand and surf.  When cross country trips seem too much effort I always have Lau Gar Kickboxing to fall back on. A friend of mine insisted I tag along to one of the sessions in my second year, and since then I’ve made as many as I possibly can.

When I’m not catching waves or channeling my inner Ip Man, I hang out with the Japanese society (I studied Japanese for a semester thanks to UCD’s Horizons initiative) for cultural events, go to the German society Kaffeeklatsch coffee mornings or sit in on the occasionally off the wall, always thought provoking debates held by the Law Society or the L&H.

At this stage in my studies I am starting to consider what kind of Masters I want to pursue. The options are varied; Urban Design, Regional and Urban Planning and Environmental Policy to name but a few I have automatic access to from my course. My heart is set on following through on the Regional and Urban Planning Masters. From my earliest lectures I have been excited by the idea of developing and helping to manage an urban planning project with a team. I hope to intern with some of the major consultancy firms such as Arup or Arcadis this coming summer, and maybe work for them consulting around the world. A Planner can dream!