Where are they now? Ceriann Rush

Ceriann with her mumJournalism graduate Ceriann Rush talks to the Development and Alumni Relations Team about her University experience and what she is doing now.

What attracted you to study at the University of Sheffield?

The University’s journalism course was rated the best in the country when I applied. I had wanted to work in local newspapers since I took my first work experience placement at The Scunthorpe Telegraph, aged 14. So there was no other choice for me – it had to be Sheffield. I remember being nervous beyond belief the night before my A-level results – I just had to get in. If I hadn’t got the results I needed I would have probably taken a year out to improve my application and then re-applied. That’s how set my heart was on studying journalism at Sheffield.

What is your fondest University memory?

It’s probably not the most common answer – but it would be during my final exams. I wasn’t your typical student. I don’t drink alcohol and although I do love to go out for a dance every now and then, I’m definitely no party animal. The weeks leading up to my finals were so crazy and stressful. I had lots of coursework and revision so I was in the Information Commons from 6am to 10pm most days. One night I came home late and was exhausted. My boyfriend, who I live with, had left me a note saying “I’ve put your pyjamas on the radiator so they’re nice and cosy for you. I’m so proud of you, keep going, you’re nearly there. I know you can do it!” I kept the note and even though at the time I was full of self-doubt, I got a first-class degree. So my fondest memories don’t involve dressing up as zoo animals and staying up until 5am, they involve the love and support I got from my friends and family while I was working towards a life-long goal.

What bit of advice would you tell your first-year self?

Don’t worry, it will all be ok, and to have more confidence in my own ability. I think my overly conscientious nature stopped me from enjoying myself as much as I should have done. I would also tell myself to get out and explore the city more in my free time. I think it’s great that the student community has so much going on, but Sheffield has so much to offer outside of that. It’s only now at the beginning of my fourth year in Sheffield that I’m discovering brilliant gems like Whirlow Hall Farm, Forge Valley Dam and the local theatres. Sheffield doesn’t revolve around Meadowhall!

What else were you involved in when you were at the University (clubs/societies etc)?

I don’t think there are many departments in the University that I didn’t work for during my three years. In first year I worked in the Union selling hoodies in the newly named Our Sheffield, and for Accommodation Services doing campus and halls tours. In second year I worked for the Development and Alumni Relations team as a student caller on their fundraising campaigns, and in their office doing admin. I also worked for Outreach in local schools mentoring for the Aim Higher scheme. In third year, I worked for Sport Sheffield as a media intern – writing news stories for the website and creating content for their social media. Through the summers I worked for Registry, helping to advise international students on the registration process. If you need to earn some extra cash while you’re at university like I did – there are so many opportunities at Sheffield. I don’t understand why anybody would leave university with an empty CV.

As an alumnus of the University yourself, do you think it is important for the University to keep in touch with its former students?

Of course. My university experience, although stressful at times, was amazing. The tutors in my department gave everything and more. My personal tutor was one of the first people I told when I got my first job. I’ll always stay in touch with them because they have helped me to achieve so much and I’m so thankful. I also made brilliant friends in all of the departments I worked in and often catch up with them over a cuppa or on Facebook. Sheffield will stay with me forever, no matter where I go.

Tell us a little bit about your current job.

I was asked to work for The Children’s Hospital Charity a couple of months before I finished my course. I had a grand total of one day of unemployment. The charity is very special to me because it supports the work of Sheffield Childrens’ Hospital where I was treated from the age of 2 to 20 for brittle bone disease. I began writing press releases for them to get some PR experience during my third year, and also to give something back to the wonderful hospital that got me on my feet and helped me to stay there. A usual day involves speaking to doctors, nurses, patients and fundraisers to find out about the brilliant work that goes on inside and outside the hospital. I then write press releases and send them to local newspapers such as the Sheffield Star. My highlights so far have included interviewing a radiographer who had x-rayed me many times growing up, about some new state–of-the-art equipment that the charity funded, and finding out how it will massively benefit other children with brittle bone disease, just like me. Also, I interviewed one of our patrons, cricket star Michael Vaughan, and his autograph is now on my fridge!

Why did you decide to take the career path you did?

Throughout university I was determined to become a local newspaper reporter. I did a 6-week placement at the Hull Daily Mail during the summer before my third year and managed to get myself a front page scoop! I loved every second and really thrived in the fast paced environment. However, when I was offered the job at The Children’s Hospital Charity, it just felt like completely the right place for me. I love coming to work every day knowing that I am part of something that makes a difference. I’m a big planner and have always had big ambitions to become a reporter, which may still happen somewhere down the line. I feel really blessed to have fallen into a brilliant job that I love, even if it was never part of my plan.

Did your degree help you with what you are doing now?

Absolutely. There is no way I would be where I am today if I hadn’t studied journalism at Sheffield. There are so many media courses out there and a lot of English Lit students who hope to go into journalism, but they don’t realise that most news organisations expect you to come with a full set of skills and a packed portfolio of published work. My course was very practical from the start, which required me to “be” a journalist, instead of spending all my time in the library reading about what journalists do. It shocks me how many PR graduates don’t know how to conduct a simple interview. In my current job I work in the communications office with two other women – both are journalism graduates from the University of Sheffield who graduated years before me. The course has a brilliant reputation and prepares you for the job, instead of just telling you about it.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would love to continue working for The Children’s Hospital Charity for as long as they’re willing to have me! I love Sheffield and feel very at home here. I am a very anxious person by nature and have spent years fretting about the future. Now that I have a first-class degree from the University of Sheffield, a phone full of contacts and a host of work experience under my belt, I know that despite the “jobs crisis” we’re terrorised with every day, I have a fairly good chance at fulfilling my ambitions.