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Sophie Murphy Byrne - Politics

Sophie Murphy Byrne - BA Politics, International Relations, Classical Studies and Social Justice ‘17


What are your best memories of UCD?

My best memories of UCD lie in the small details of the routine I got into. I loved that we were such a little community, the girls in the coffee shop below the library knew my order off by heart and then you would meet your friends on the wall for a quick gossip before the day began. I loved James Joyce and how it felt like such a relaxed atmosphere even though everyone was usually stressed in there trying to study or reach deadlines! I loved sitting out for lunch by the lake and maybe having a cheeky pint after your last lecture before heading to your evening part-time job. I suppose what I loved most was that everywhere you turned, and each building you walked into, there was always someone you knew and could stop for a chat with. I loved that community vibe.

What first sparked your interest in Politics and International Relations?

My interest in Politics and International Relations stems from my participation in Model United Nations conferences throughout my school years; I became fascinated with the work of international organisations such as the UN or WTO. It felt inspiring that there were higher authorities outside of Ireland who sought to make a long-term positive impact on the world as a whole, rather than simply sticking to one life at the same desk in a job in Ireland where I might enjoy the work, but I'm not really changing anything about the world around me. I decided that it could be an interesting career path, and figured that this course was the most logical next step to take.

What career path have you taken since graduating?

Since I graduated last September, I have taken up a traineeship with the External Policies department of the European Parliament General Secretariat in Brussels which will finish up tomorrow actually. I am currently in the middle of applying for a Masters in European Studies as this traineeship has truly sparked my interest in the work of EU diplomats as a career path. I am still very interested in eventually working further abroad with Irish embassies around the world through the Department of Foreign Affairs, or with the UN, but the Brussels bubble can be addictive!

How has your degree helped you along the way?

I feel that the diversity of the courses I studied has made me a more dynamic candidate for jobs such as this traineeship, particularly given the wide range of topics that I have worked on. Throughout my months here in Brussels, I have worked on trade relations with Southeastern Asian countries as well as internal impacts on the EU from Brexit. Seeing as the courses I studied ranged from 'Conflict in Northern Ireland' to 'Asian Politics' to 'Comparative politics', I felt that I had a broad enough understanding of current affairs and the political side of history to work with.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

My favorite part about my work as a trainee has been the variety of subjects I work on, as well as the international environment that I live in; both in the trainees' office and in the city of Brussels as a whole. I love interacting with people from different countries and cultures, and living abroad will always be my favorite part of any employment or future studies that I take up. 

What is your proudest achievement to date?

My proudest achievement to date is probably getting this traineeship at all, as I am one of the youngest here (often I am a decade younger than my colleagues) and by far the least qualified (many of my colleagues have two or at least one Masters under their belt) with just an undergraduate degree. Within this traineeship, my proudest achievement is that I was elected the General Coordinator of the Schuman Trainees' Committee by a democratic vote of my 250 other intern colleagues, a fantastic opportunity to gain a dual responsibility to the Parliament and meet as many fellow trainees as possible by organising career events, parties and trips for them. It was my role to be the face of the Committee, and represent our Parliament trainees when it came to negotiations with the Commission or Council trainees' committees. Through this role, I acquired leadership skills and feel that I truly managed to get the most out of my short time as a trainee with the Parliament.

What advice would you offer current students considering a similar career path?

I would advise to not give up, and apply for anything and everything, no matter how out of reach something may appear. I am desperately under-qualified for the traineeship I have just undertaken, and by a stroke of luck I got in. Now, I have the holy grail of traineeships under my belt, as well as an impressive record after working with multiple supervisors on wide-ranging areas, not to mention being elected the head of the Committee. A year ago, I was panicking about my upcoming graduation, knowing that I wanted to be a diplomat and fight Ireland's cause on the world stage, but having absolutely no idea how to get there. It can be tough to receive rejection letters from everywhere you apply, and you might feel exhausted after sending out 100 applications; but the 101st place that you apply to could be the one that says yes! So don't give up, and remember that if you don't make the effort to apply for everything and anything, then it is YOU who is standing in the way of your own future.

UCD College of Social Sciences and Law

UCD College of Social Sciences and Law University College Dublin Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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