Casey McHugh is in her second year studying the BA in Communications Studies at DCU. She is from a small village in Co. Donegal. The route to university was not an easy one for Casey and she explains the challenges that she has overcome to attend third level education and how she is thankful for the support of the DCU Access Programme.
“I grew up in a small village known as Cranford in Co. Donegal. Throughout my younger years, there was a lot of change. Before I turned 13, I had moved home five times. Each move was within the same town and because Cranford is such a small place, it felt like I had lived in every house in the area.
Initially, it was just myself, my older brother and my mam. That was until my mam met my stepdad, which led the arrival of my younger brother. I’m close to my brothers, despite all three of us having different dads and the fact that there is an 8-year age gap between myself and both of them. Sadly, we are now once again without a father figure in our lives, as my mam and stepdad are no longer together. My mam is doing her best to support all three of us. She works two jobs, one in a café and the other as a barmaid to keep us going.
Education was never a massive deal for my family. My parents didn’t receive a third level education. Some members of my extended family did, but they mostly went to Letterkenny IT in Donegal.
I think because I really disliked living in Donegal, I wanted to get away. Secondary school wasn’t a particularly enjoyable part of my life. A lot of bad things happened during my time there and this made school an unpleasant environment to be in. By the time my Leaving Certificate came around, I was desperate to leave and go to college.
Our careers teacher brought us to multiple open days in DCU and this is when I fell in love with the place. Having worked as the editor for the school magazine, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism. When I became aware of the Communications course in DCU, I was determined to go there, even though I fully understood that living in Dublin was not something my family could afford.
I’ve just completed my second year in DCU and I have to say I could not be happier. DCU is unbelievably welcoming and everyone is so nice and friendly. I never realised education could make me this happy.
I’m very proud to be a DCU Access student. I can safely say that Access has given me opportunities that no other programme could have ever offered, particularly in the field of employment to financially support myself throughout college.
In the past, I have worked as an Access ambassador for DCU and more recently, I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the DCU Access to the Workplace programme. This is a new programme that gives DCU Access students the opportunity to work in established companies over the summer, something that may not have been that easy for me or others to find, had the programme not been in place. I’ve just started my role with Pigsback.com (Empathy Marketing Limited), which I am thoroughly enjoying. My course doesn’t offer work experience, so to be able to get the chance to work in the media sector, while I’m still studying has been the highlight of my college years to date.
Aside from the working opportunities, the financial support as part of the Access scholarship has been a massive help too. I live in Santry with some friends, and in order to afford this, as well as the other costs associated with attending college, I’ve been taking out loans and working at the weekend. Thankfully now, the money that I get through my scholarship goes towards paying off a good portion of my loans.
“The scholarship has been the most essential part of the programme for me being from a rural area in Donegal and coming from a very strained family situation with a low income. Without the generosity of the DCU Access team or the donors of the Access Programme, I wouldn’t be in college today.”