Darragh Brennan, former Media Studies and Digital Arts student at South West College and then University of Ulster, discusses how his experience at South West College put an end to the stigmas he’d heard.
I came to South West College after I didn’t really fit in at secondary school. The way I was being taught at school didn’t really suit. Everyone in the room was being taught the same way, at a pace I was struggling to keep up with. So I decided to make the change and come to South West College. It wasn’t a straightforward decision, because at the time, even just a few years ago, there was a bit of a stigma. Some people thought that only lesser students would go there, or that it was very much an inferior option, just for anyone that couldn’t cut it at school.
Personally, however, I knew South West College had something to offer me, and I started media studies because I loved films. I did a lot of writing in secondary school based on what I had seen in films. I would take an idea and twist it into my own, so my creative writing was always about coming up with my own little stories, and when I realised I could have the opportunity to bring those stories to life I knew that media was definitely what I wanted to do.
South west college was a completely new setting and environment for me. It wasn’t necessarily a shock, but it definitely took a bit of getting used to, because it was completely different to school. The lecturers are a lot more immersive with the students, they approach you as an individual. Yes, they’ll talk about what they have on the board and what the overall lesson is, but it’s always very easy to ask a question. There’s not that same intimidation as there can be with teachers at school.
Things just clicked for me here, I knew it was where I wanted to be. The lecturers were a big factor in that regard, because I was learning what I wanted to be learning and it was happening in a way I connected with and at a pace I felt comfortable with.
In media we learned a variety of different things: radio, music, film, television. Then we got to choose which medium we liked best and focus on that. Film was most appealing to me and I was able to focus on it as I moved on to study the Foundation Degree in Digital Arts at SWC.
I think the reason I stayed at the college to study the foundation degree is because I knew I wasn’t quite ready to go on to university yet. I was still a bit uncertain about what exactly I wanted to do. But when I had spent a bit more time at South West College, sticking with the media and film studies, I knew i wanted to go to Magee in Derry to finish the degree.
Looking back now, studying media is the best decision i ever made. it’s how i met some of my best friends, and ultimately it was me finding something that i loved doing. There was also the benefit of my time at the college preparing me for university. The way things are taught, where you’re handed a brief and told “do it like that”, I don’t think secondary school necessarily prepares you for that. Likewise, the focus here at South West College, or studying your chosen subject and focusing on it, prepares you for the similar dedication and demands of university.
whenever i was leaving school there was a kind of stigma about South West College. It was said that only lesser or unmotivated students would go there. And to be honest, that hampered my enthusiasm at the time. But as soon as I started I realised that it was nothing like that. Everyone was talented, wonderful and thoughtful. Far from only being for lesser students, the place turned out to be full of geniuses. South West College is definitely another chance for people who find that school isn’t necessarily for them. Everyone finds their way eventually, you just have to find the right path. South West College is definitely where I found mine.