With the CAO deadline fast approaching, students across the country are asking themselves that daunting question: “What do I want to be?” If you are thinking of a future in development work then read Ciara Hogan’s story. In this two part series, Ciara shines a light on the twists and turns that took her to where she is, working as a Programme Support Officer on the ground in Niger, far away from her home in Ireland.
My role here with Concern is as a Programme Support Officer in their office in Niamey, Niger. This role offers me the opportunity to gain insights into each of Concern’s programme areas and develop a broad overview of our work in Niger.
My studies: from undergrad to Masters
I finished my undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014 and in my naivety started applying for jobs with NGOs to no avail. What I hadn’t realised was just how competitive the sector is!
In 2014, I participated in the SUAS Global Issues course and the following year, I attended almost all of their documentaries in the 8x8 film festival.
My interest in development grew and so did my insight.
In order to get into the NGO world I would need a Masters. After some thorough research, I applied to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2016, a small school with a big reputation in public health and development. One whirlwind year later I graduated with an MSc in Nutrition for Global Health, having met the most inspiring like-minded people and made friends from all four corners of the world. I learned as much from my peers and extra-curricular activities as I did from my academic studies.
Friendships were founded on a strong sense of justice, we studied hard to deepen our understanding and broaden our skills.
Rather than wishing for a fairer world, we wanted to be part of the movement towards this reality, so that all children can grow up to fully enjoy life, without surviving on one meal a day.
Finding the right job
As the year drew to a close I started applying for overseas development jobs.
I wanted to do work that served others and was based on principles I stood behind.
I saw my skills as most valuable in Africa and Asia as this is where the burden of malnutrition is the greatest. When I was offered the position in Niger, a Francophone country, I couldn’t turn it down. The opportunity to develop my language skills was also bonus. My dreams were becoming a reality. It was hard to believe and also terrifying.
What if, after all my dreaming, the reality wasn’t for me? I was about to find out.
“The first two weeks were the toughest”
At the start, I didn’t sleep well, I questioned my decision, 24/7 French was exhausting, and if I’m honest, I felt a little isolated. None of this surprised me though, adjusting to any new situation takes time, in Niger I would learn to be patient. My friends at home offered the best support too, they understood and listened.
The right choice
It’s now two months later and I’m confident I’ve made the right choice. I’m surrounded by supportive and dedicated colleagues, my social circle is growing and my French vocabulary has caught up!
Every day is an opportunity to learn something new and be challenged. I’m applying my skills and developing new ones.
I’m doing work which interests me and which I’m passionate about. This work serves the most vulnerable in society. I’m excited for the months ahead and hope you’ll follow me on my journey!
Still to come
Find out all about Ciara’s first day working with Concern in our second blog next week and read more about Concern's work below.