Staff Spotlight: Holly Cowman

Director of the International Office


Holly Cowman is a native of Limerick City and was a student at Mary Immaculate College herself, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level. She has a BA in Media & Communication Studies and Philosophy and an MA in Philosophy and Literature from MIC. She also has an MA in Film Studies and is a big fan of the movies. As well as being an eternal student, she loves to travel and so running the International Office at Mary Immaculate College is the perfect job for her.

What position do you hold at MIC? What has been your career path so far?

I’m the Director of the International Office at Mary Immaculate College. I’ve been in this role since 2013. I’ve had an interesting route to this position. When I graduated, I worked as a dispatcher for the Fire Service here in Limerick with around 70 fire brigades in the region.

I was doing my MA at MIC and started to dream about working there. One night I was looking on the website and spotted a vacancy in the President’s Office but the closing date was the next day. I worked hard on my application and luckily got it in on time because the job I got was fantastic and varied, drafting speeches and coordinating events. I then worked for about two years as the Acting Marketing Manager before moving to the newly-established International Office, which is my favourite role to date.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I did indeed! I studied at Universitá degli Studi di Firenze, in Florence, Italy. It’s still my favourite place so far, outside of Limerick, of course! I was there for a year, studying History of Cinema, History of Philosophy and History of Art. I had such a great year that I can confidently encourage others to study abroad. It won’t always be easy but the challenges change you and make you more independent.

I chose Italy because I had always wanted to learn the language and was fascinated by Italian art, history and culture. Also the Italian students in my classes at MIC had encouraged me to go. I still often think about my time studying abroad and talk about it all the time, years later. I got to go back two years ago and meet up with many of the lovely friends I had made. It was comforting to see that very little had changed about that beautiful city. I hope to go back again soon for a visit.

What is your favorite study abroad memory?

While I studied abroad I did part-time marketing for language courses, I was an extra in the movie Hannibal and I worked in an Irish pub. That was where I really learned Italian as the owner was Italian and never spoke English to me. He had never been to Ireland but realised that by calling it ‘The Dublin Pub’ he would have lots of customers! He was a fantastic boss.

I also loved that, because I lived there and wasn’t just passing through, I was included in everything and got discounts in all the shops. One of my favourite memories is of the party that the locals threw for me when I was going home, which was bittersweet because I was so sad to leave.

I can really understand when our international students are so sad to leave MIC and the friends they have made. It’s even easier to keep in touch these days though and it’s so wonderful to have friends for life in another country and an excuse to return!

What does the future hold for MIC - any exciting new programs to share?

MIC has a bright future! The College recently expanded its footprint to Thurles, Co. Tipperary with the incorporation of St. Patrick’s College which is located in a vibrant and prosperous town nestled in the heart of the Suir Valley and surround by beautiful mountains and hills. This incorporation adds four new post-primary Education degrees to the undergraduate program offering and offers an alternative to studying in an urban environment. The MIC Research and Graduate School continues to expand with new graduate programmes expected to be offered for the 2016/2017 academic year, including additional structured PhD programmes.

What unique qualities does your university possess?

As Mary Immaculate College has a relatively small student body and is compact, with all buildings located on one campus, staff quickly get to know each student, allowing for excellent pastoral care and academic provision. The welfare and flourishing of students is a top priority for all staff and a professional, sincere and friendly atmosphere pervades the College campus.

International students take part in a tailored orientation programme, can join the International Student's Society which organises super trips and events, and have the support of the staff of the International Office for assistance with any matter.

Limerick city, where MIC is located, is also a small, compact city, with every necessity available within walking distance. The historic, riverside city is youthful, vibrant and rich in culture and in the final running for the award of European City of Culture for 2020!