Aoife Rafferty – BBS (Hons) in Tourism and Event Management

Name: Aoife Rafferty

School: Gairmscoil Mhuire, Athenry, Co. Galway 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choose your course: 

I had always known I wanted a career in an exciting and fun industry, something a little bit different. I knew I wanted to be able to travel in the future, and so to work in an industry that would allow me to. Completing my Leaving Cert at the age of 17, I studied a one-year course in Music Technology at Galway Technical Institute. I enjoyed it, as it was ticking the box for ‘something different, but it wasn’t grabbing me. I then made the scary but exciting decision that it was time to explore other places apart from Galway, and so turned my sights to ATU Sligo, where Tourism and Event Management caught my interest. 

What specifically about the course did you particularly enjoy? 

I enjoyed how hands-on this course is and how many different types of projects there are. It is not always report writing (which is also a very useful skill to have learned); there are solo or group presentations, planning and running real-life events, and even using Photoshop to create a poster for a film! With this course, you never know what might be asked of you for each module, but each task is different from the last which keeps the course interesting.  

What is the best thing about the course that you think new applicants should know? 

The best thing about this course, in my opinion, is that you learn so many different things which can open up so many options to you in the working world. From this course not only have you a range of options for a career in tourism or events, but you can go forward and branch out into business management, marketing, accounting, and law, to name but a few. It is one of the most versatile courses I have come across, and this bodes well when finding your career path.  

Any favourite modules during your time studying? 

As someone who loves exciting experiences and activities, the modules such as Adventure Tourism, Cultural Tourism and Event Management were the real highlights for me. We got to visit museums and cultural centres, try activities such as surfing and SUPing, and carry out real events which ran successfully. Each module brought something different to the table, but they all complimented each other well, helping to create a broad skillset and knowledge base. But for me, my favourite modules were the Work Experience module and Ecotourism. The work experience module allowed me to live and work abroad. I chose to go to Edinburgh for 4 months, which I never would have gone ahead and done if it weren’t for this course! That was an experience I will remember forever. And as for Ecotourism, I had such a passion for this subject that I enjoyed going to each class, and this passion guided me towards writing my dissertation on the subject. When you enjoy the topic, it makes such a big project fun and interesting – something to keep in mind for when the time comes! 

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that have influenced your career? 

One of the key skills that I learned during my time at ATU Sligo includes putting together presentations and pitching ideas. I did not realise at the time how important this aspect of college would be in the working world, but it helped with communicating in both business and customer relationships. While working at Sligo Tourist Information Centre, I had to ‘present’ Sligo and the Wild Atlantic Way to visitors, and I had to pitch workshops and other business related matters to a range of tourism stakeholders. Another key skill was learning how to work with other people, through the wide range of different group projects the course offers. Learning how to collaborate with others, organising time amongst different projects and group members, and learning how to make the best out of each person’s different abilities was so important as in almost every job you will have you will be part of a team, or maybe multiple teams. These are skills that you may not even realise how much you are gaining from but they are invaluable.  

Can you share some detail of your career path to date? 

I was still studying when my lecturer James Hanrahan told our class about a position opening for Seasonal Travel Advisor in Sligo Tourist Information Centre and urged us to apply for it. I thought it sounded like such an interesting job – getting to promote the town I had come to love while meeting people from all over the world. I applied, and to my delight, I was offered the role. I began working one week after finishing college, and I loved it. It was a 6-month seasonal position, and so I filled the off-season by working in the Eir call centre, and I created some posters and flyers for Beo Centre for Mindfulness and Integrated Health. When applications opened again for the following season, I applied again and once more was offered the position, along with another girl from the same course in ATU Sligo, from the year below me. It was again a seasonal role, but I was lucky as there was an opening for a year-long position straight afterwards, which I also applied for and was accepted for. Unfortunately at the end of this, living in a COVID19 world, tourism jobs became limited and I also moved back to Galway. However, I now have my sights set on moving to Barcelona this year, and thanks to my experience working with Fáilte Ireland, there are many tourism job offerings available to me. I feel that my time living in Edinburgh has given me a taste of what it is like to live abroad, and I am very much looking forward to the challenge, and seeing where this path takes me in my tourism career journey! 

What does your current role involve? 

My role within Fáilte Ireland as a Travel Advisor required a great amount of customer service, professionally answering phones and emails, using a booking system, compiling databases, stocktaking, composing documents and using the Microsoft package. My main role was to ensure visitors get the very most out of their visit by providing them with my extensive knowledge of tourism offerings. The administration was also a large part of my role such as liaising with other departments within Fáilte Ireland or business owners via email, Teams, or over the phone. I created and continuously updated many documents such as event listings, tourist attraction listings, restaurant guides, accommodation guides and posters to promote tours or attractions for which we sold tickets.  Due to Covid-19, my role changed when I began working from home. My new role involved the creative writing of ‘local content’ on attractions, activities and destinations within Sligo for use on the new Discover Ireland website, putting to use yet more skills I had learned in college.  Following the completion of this project, I transferred to the Grants department where my new role involved the reviewing and processing of grant applications for the Fáilte Ireland COVID-19 Adaptation Fund based on particular guidelines we had to adhere to.  The number of different tasks and roles I had during my time in Fáilte Ireland put to use many of the different skills and knowledge I had learned in ATU Sligo, showing that the versatility of the Tourism and Event Management course is something that allows you to be versatile and adapt to whatever career path you follow. 

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field? 

My advice is to go for it. You never know what path you might end up following, where you might end up working, and what country you might end up working in. The tourism and events industries are ever-changing, which makes it one of the most interesting fields to build a career in. Both tourism and events are so broad, that you are not limiting yourself to any one type of job. If you want a career that you will never be tired of, then absolutely this is for you! 

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo? 

The best thing about studying at ATU Sligo for me was how modern the campus was, the facilities were excellent and still ever-improving. I was never longing for anything! Even the supports available and extracurricular activities were fantastic, and there was often some sort of student event held on campus – never a dull moment! Also, the lecturers were always friendly and willing to give you that extra bit of attention or assistance if you needed it and were very understanding.   

What advice would you give a first-year student starting in IT Sligo? 

My advice would be to put the time and effort into your few short years in college as it will pay off in the long run. A work/life balance is important – absolutely have your fun but not at the cost of your grades or your classmates’ grades! You will want to be standing up on that stage at your graduation knowing that you put your best foot forward and that you did yourself proud! 

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