Friday 23 August 2019

'I went to college to study Performing Arts but I diverted, and I ended up doing my final thesis in Irish dairying and the EU'

Grace Vaughan, NUI Galway

Grace Vaughan with her brother Ashley at Campview Farm, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal Photo: north west newspix
Grace Vaughan with her brother Ashley at Campview Farm, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal Photo: north west newspix

With a CAO journey that started with Performing Arts and ended in a thesis on farming and a degree in Psychology and Irish Studies, Grace Vaughan is testament to how flexible the higher education system can be.

The 21-year-old is now bringing her various skills to bear on an innovative agri-tourism business, with a new focus on social farming, at the family's Campview Farm, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.

When it came to filling out the CAO in 2016, Grace plumped for Arts as she was unsure which career path she wanted to follow.

Her passion for performance attracted her to the BA Performing Arts in NUI Galway, taking Psychology and Irish Studies as well. "After first year, I enjoyed Irish Studies and Psychology far more than Performing Arts," she says.

So in second year, she dropped Performing Arts: "It was absolutely the right move and it also meant a year less in college. Had I stayed where I was, it would have been four years."

If Irish dairying and the EU seems an unusual thesis topic for a student of Psychology and Irish Studies, Grace says it shows the "broad nature of Arts and how you can align your own interests and background to the degree itself.

"It was great, you could approach your thesis from wherever you wanted and coming from a dairy farm that is where my interest was," she says.

The changing nature of farming has also been playing on her mind. In 2018, the family - her parents Drew and Elspeth and brother Ashley - decided to diversify and get involved in agri-tourism and social farming. Andrew recently finished his five-year degree course in agriculture in the UK, so with both of them graduating in the one year, both are now back home full-time.

The agri-tourism business kicked off last year with tours of Campview and insights into farm life for students attending language schools and other groups, such as Men's Sheds.

Now it is evolving into social farming, where they will invite groups of people with mental health issues and learning difficulties, to visit the farm and get in touch with nature.

"This is where my Psychology will tie in," says Grace.

Irish Independent

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