By Natasha Millar, bursary recipient 2011-2012
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a simple question and one which thousands of children will be asking themselves up and down the country.
Since the age of six, I have wanted to be a journalist.
For many years, I worked as a radio presenter for a network of local stations in Northern Ireland. I loved the immediacy, the buzz and the unpredictability of radio. I loved listening to people, interviewing them and retelling their stories. However, after six years, I realised that I needed a formal qualification if I was to become a fully fledged journalist, so I left this full-time job in 2009.
Last summer I secured a place on the MA Journalism course at the University of Ulster, but after two years of undergraduate study, I had no means to pay for the cost of a graduate course. I was devastated at the thought of rejecting the offer. So I applied to the Journalism Diversity Fund, and after an interview with a panel of industry experts at the Financial Times, I was told I had been successful.
The bursary has allowed me to focus on my studies and develop my skills as a journalist. I can now write for print, online, TV and radio, which is vital in an evolving media market. I have extensive media law knowledge and will soon master the all important 100wpm in shorthand.
As well as the financial assistance, I have found the support services from the fund to be invaluable. The team are on hand for advice, reassurance and further resources if you find you are struggling with the workload.
As I edge closer to my final exams, I am eternally grateful to the fund for giving me the support to fulfil what has been a lifelong ambition. Not only am I a matter of months from graduation, but I have a contract with local broadcaster UTV to begin as a trainee cross-platform journalist in September.
At 26, I will finally be achieving my childhood dream. My passion for the job has never waned and for over ten years I feel I have been knocking on the door of the industry. It has finally been opened thanks to the Journalism Diversity Fund.