Michael recently swapped Belfast for Capitol Hill as he takes part in the Washington Ireland Programme over the summer. The politics graduate will miss his graduation ceremony but luckily for him he will get to experience another kind of party as he celebrates the 4th of July in the US.
The first of his family to graduate from university, Michael orginially wanted to study in Scotland but later realised that the additional costs meant this would not be possible. Unsure of what to do, on A-level results day Michael and his family drove to Jordanstown to find out whether he could study politics at Ulster University. After a quick chat with the course director and check of his grades he was successfully enrolled.
Michael describes himself as a ‘politics junkie’ so a degree in politics was an obvious choice. For him politics and legislation is a means of making a real difference in people’s lives.
“I studied politics because I am really interested in how we can improve people’s lives, especially families and those in poverty. There are lots of professions that can make a difference but ultimately I believe that real change is made through policy and legislation.
That is also why I applied for the Washington Ireland programme; to gain leadership skills and first hand experience of working in policy. This summer I am working with the Centre for Democracy and Technology which is currently lobbying to protect digital civil rights. It has been an amazing experience so far and I have been able to put into practice the skills and knowledge I developed during my studies at Ulster.”
Although not a part of his degree programme, Michael was very keen to do a year’s work placement to ensure he gained as much professional experience as he could before graduating. Michael completed a year long placement with the PSNI, working in the corporate communications department.
Living in the US has made Michael think about his “five year plan”. First up is a masters degree in September hopefully followed by a job in policy. He isn’t sure the life of a politician is for him but he will definitely be there behind the scenes, advising and helping to make positive change.