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Our guest blogger this week is alumna Siobhan Doyle, a Spanish with International Development Studies graduate. Since graduating last year, Siobhan has embarked upon a new adventure with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s (CAFOD) Step into the Gap programme. In her blog, Siobhan tells us how her time at the University of Chester has influenced her career path since graduating…

“Hi, I’m Siobhan! I am currently taking part in CAFOD’s (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) Step into the Gap programme, which is a young leadership development programme including volunteering at a UK placement and an international trip to meet CAFOD’s partners. My placement is in the Chaplaincy at Newman University and my international trip is to Sierra Leone.


“I have been interested in international development since secondary school where I began to learn more about it in geography lessons. My A Level geography teacher had lived in Ethiopia and she gave me a different perspective on development. We are so used to seeing poverty and devastation in developing countries that sometimes it can feel hopeless. She taught us about the potential there is for developing countries, and although it is not simple, there is aid that can give communities the opportunity to be self-sufficient.

“I then decided to study Spanish with International Development Studies at the University of Chester. I loved learning about international development, we had many guest speakers which was inspiring. In my final year, we had a compulsory trip to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. We spent three years learning about the organisations within the UN, the millennium development goals and the sustainable development goals. It was a privilege to see and hear first-hand from the people working there. My course also involved spending five weeks in Costa Rica and one week in Nicaragua to learn Spanish. For most of the trip we stayed with homestay families, giving us the opportunity to learn more about the culture. I also did a year abroad where I worked as an English Language Assistant in a primary school in Huelva, and then as a Student Support Assistant in Granada.

“Throughout my time at the University of Chester, I was involved in the Catholic Society (Cathsoc). In my final year I was the Vice President of the society and we chose CAFOD as our national charity. We organised several events for CAFOD, including an open mic night and we held a stall where we asked students at Riverside Campus to write messages of hope for refugees for the month of wellbeing.

Cathsoc Pilgrimage to Rome

“Last February we went on a pilgrimage to Rome with the Lampedusa cross. The Lampedusa Cross is made from the wood of the boats of refugees fleeing Somalia and Eritrea that were washed up onto the Lampedusa islands in Italy. This inspired me to apply for the Step into the Gap programme so that I could put my faith into action, learn how CAFOD works and see first-hand the impact it has on people’s lives in developing countries. I am so passionate about global justice and I am really looking forward to raising awareness of the amazing work CAFOD does and helping to promote its values.

“Chaplaincy was an important place for me during my studies. Moving away from home and starting university can be a challenge. I have always been quite shy and reserved, but Chaplaincy was an excellent place to meet new people and get involved in different activities. It was also a nice place to just sit, have a cup of tea and get away from the stress of university life. My role in the Chaplaincy at Newman University involves creating a space for students to come together, or just to provide a listening ear.”

Team Sierra Leone

This month, Siobhan will be working in Sierra Leone with the Step into the Gap programme to see the work CAFOD has done in the post-war environment after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the landslides last year.

If you would like to be a guest blogger, let us know by emailing or dropping us a message on social media.

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