By Charlie Doherty, Traveller Movement Intern
In August 2022, our blog featured a short piece from our intern Charlie Doherty on his first month with Traveller Movement. This month, after 6 months in the role, we spoke to him again to see how life has changed after enrolling in education and getting stuck into the internship. In a wide-ranging chat, Charlie spoke about the impact of a lack of visible Traveller role models in an educational setting, the pressure of conforming to traditional cultural roles, his plans for the future, and the challenges facing other young Travellers in similar situations.
Tell us a bit about your background and your original experiences of education?
I come from an Irish Traveller background and like most boys from my community, I left school at a very young age to work with my father.
What would you say your motivations were for returning to education?
I never really liked doing groundwork but I did it anyways because it paid the bills. During covid, I got sick for a few months and every time I would return to work I would get sick again due to the wind, the cold and that type of work being physically hard. I spent about 4-5 months not being able to work, and because of this I decided that I wanted to do something that I would enjoy and that wasn’t so physically hard.
You made the choice to go back to college to study – would you say that it’s a decision that the people around you have understood?
With the exception of my immediate family and a few friends, I haven’t told anyone about my going back into education due to knowing that I would most likely be mocked and ridiculed. I will probably tell people, once I finish.
A lot has happened in the past 6 months for you. From college, to your internship, to other opportunities and experiences along the way. How do you think it’s gone? Does it feel like more or less than 6 months ago that you started on this journey?
Honestly, the last 6 months have been a blur! My life has changed quite a lot in a very short amount of time. If I could have seen my future self 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to recognise myself.
When you started college, did you have a clear idea of what you eventually wanted to study at university, or even what career you wanted? Has that changed at all in the past 6 months?
When I started college, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do but since then my plan has evolved quite a lot. I have been given loads of different opportunities that were not available to me before and because of these opportunities, my plan has developed accordingly.
And lastly, is there anything you’d say to other young Travellers who are thinking about going into education, or aren’t sure what to do with their future?
I would say that educating yourself doesn’t mean that you have abandoned your culture. I understand why people would think that because most of the educated Travellers that I have met don’t really behave like Travellers because they have grown up detached from the community, which is what most likely led them into education because they didn’t have any social barriers to overcome. A lot of young Travellers would be hesitant going into education because they haven’t had any role models to show them how it’s done. To that, I would say don’t wait for someone to show you how it’s done but be the person that is showing others.
Another concern that they would probably have is that education is incompatible with the Traveller lifestyle. To this, I would say that there are multiple forms of education that you can choose from, you could go to a university, you could learn a new trade to become a plumber or an electrician, you could get an apprenticeship so you can earn money while you educate yourself or you could do something else altogether.
If there is something you want to do in life and it’s legal and moral then by all means go for it!