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John C Friend-Pereira
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Tell us about yourself?
Well, my name is John C. Friend-Pereira which is quite a mouthful so throughout my time in Mary I, I just went by John C. or that fella, ya know your man. (After all there were only about 100 men in the college back then)  I received my B.A. in History and Media & Communication Studies in 2004 after starting in 1998 and taking a couple of extra years to fully immerse myself in the college experience via the Students' Union.

In ‘00-‘01 I had the honour of being the Students' Union President - an experience which certainly shaped my future career direction and studies. I then took another year away from studying (in Fennessy's) to work with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the European Students' Union (ESIB/ESU). Eventually, returning in 2002 to finish my degree, much to the relief of parents and the college authorities both of whom probably thought they'd never get rid of me.

In 2005, I completed my Masters in International Human Rights Law in the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway. I then got a ‘real job' with a real pay check, as an Adult Education & Training Facilitator with the National Learning Network in Tullamore and Portlaoise.

Tell us about your time in Mary Immaculate College?
My time in Mary I. was the most formative experience of my life, both in and out of the lectures; I learnt lots about myself, others and the world. I remember all the different elective subjects we did and realise now this was a truly ‘liberal' education. I made great friends both with staff and students alike, not something that can easily be done in other colleges. Overall on my time in Mary I., I can say I probably spent too much time there and not all of it in the library but it was worth every minute.

One memory that stands out in your mind from your time in Mary I?
This is a tough one as there are many memories but they are all kind of blurred together. I vaguely remember the rollercoaster of first year, RAG week and running for election for the first time. Having some issues while in Scotland and getting a phone call from Peadar Cremin. The clearest memory though would be the demonstration the Students' Union had against fee's in 2000. Over 800 Mary I students taking to the streets of Limerick, we totally out numbered UL, LIT and LSAD and the fee's were not introduced.

A member of staff who had an affect or made an impression on you during your time in Mary I?

There were many staff who had a positive affect on me. Most importantly, I remember developing very good relations with the canteen staff who ensured I didn't go hungry. All the staff of the History Department made a particular impact on me, especially Maura Cronin who was always so encouraging during my FYP and Liam Irwin who's sense of humour was second to none.

What changes would you like to see within Mary I?
New buildings, I have wanted that since the first day I arrived in Sept. '98 and they are finally being built. An end to the B.Ed / B.A rivalry (and the related superiority and inferiority complexes) and a change to the B.Ed course to allow them have more time to participate in college life e.g. club, soc's, the union etc.

Do you maintain a relationship with MIC today?
I certainly do, whenever I am in Limerick which isn't as much as I would like, I enjoying calling into my Alma Mater and taking a look at all the changes and talking with old friends and colleagues. I think it would be hard not to maintain a relationship with place and people who have had such an impact on me.

What is your current occupation?
I am currently the Advocacy and Management Adviser to the Cambodian Independent Teacher's Association (CITA) This is the only teachers union in Cambodia and they are working very hard for teachers' rights and on the right to education in Cambodia.

What are the high points in your career to date?
Well, there certainly have been some low points such as being a trainee manager with Dunne's Stores but the highs have been far more numerous. The first was being President of Mary I Students' Union and occasionally mistaken for the President of the College in emails. Editing a book on Quality Assurance in Higher Education was another and working for three months as a Human Rights Observer in Israel/Palestine with the World Council of Churches in 2007 was great too.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?
Until November 2012, I shall work in Cambodian with CITA and hopefully continue my studies. My major plan would be to complete a PhD in Education Policy and Practice, do some lecturing and continue my advocacy work in the area of the right to education.

If you were President of Mary I for a day what would you do?
Ah, that's easy! - three things:

1. I would ensure that Wednesday afternoons are kept as free as possible from mandatory lectures and allocate the time for students and staff to get involved in clubs, societies, sports and informal learning. In essence, use the time to create the sense of community which has been key to Mary I.'s success so far.

2. Establish a Students' Union bar and entertainments venue and I hear this has happened so well done to all involved on that front.

3. Get out of the office as much as possible and wander around the corridor talking to unsuspecting students who don't know who you are and soliciting their ideas about the college.

If you could quickly sum up your time in Mary I or have any advice for Mary I students what would it be?
Live it to the full, whether it is the B.A, B.Ed or one of many post-grad courses. Make sure your get the most out of it because it will be over before you realise it. Also I would encourage all students to find the balance between fun and study and say that you need to have both. Talk to the staff, they are great and they will help and advise you through any difficulty. Finally, I would say the experience is what you make it, if you give yourself over to it you will enjoy it a lot more so get involved and stop moping about.

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