Paige Atkinson, Ireland, Irish Parliament Internship (Environmental Studies)

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  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

 My biggest fear was not fitting in with my host country and standing out as a tourist or someone who doesn’t belong. While the first few days were a little crazy, I soon acclimated to my area and began to feel really comfortable. The locals were so helpful whenever I got turned around and my home-stay family were awesome in showing me and my roommate around our village before the start of our stay. Getting used to a new environment will take some time, but isn’t something to be super worried about.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

 I wish I had more clear expectations of where I wanted to travel, that way then I could have planned more places I wanted to see rather than trying to figure it out once I got there. At the same time I was happy with my ability to disperse my travels internationally and within Ireland.

  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

 My favorite class within this program was the Irish Society class; with my program the classes were preset so I didn’t have the ability to choose my classes. I was happy with the areas that the classes covered. I came in with no prior experience in Irish culture or history but left having a much greater understanding. The classes were set up similarly to those I took at UCSB but had limited grading opportunities so students have to be conscious of keeping with up the readings and studying for the midterm and final. Each class met once a week for an hour and a half, and all of the professors were easy to contact over email to schedule appointments for after class or at other times.

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  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

 I think one of my best memories from being abroad was attending the Christmas staff party for the Fine Gale party with some of my friends. After spending so much time working for members of this political party, it was nice to have a night to talk with them on a more personal basis and reflect on all the things we had done. The Irish Prime Minister was also there and thanked all of us US interns for the work that we do, which was an awesome moment as well.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

 My biggest challenge abroad was dealing with the time difference between where I was studying and back at home in the US. I tried to stay in contact with my family and friends back at home but the 8 hour time difference made it hard at times to connect with people. What made it a bit easier was that I could still message people through WhatsApp and iMessage, but sometimes missed being able to talk to them without having to think about waking them up or being woken up.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

 My favorite aspect of the Irish culture is just how friendly the people are there. My home-stay family, the cab drivers, and people that I worked with all were just genuinely nice and willing to help. My home-stay family let me stay after my program ended as I waited for my family to come visit me and showed me around the country as well.

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  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

 I was able to intern with a member of the Irish Parliament while I was abroad working with a Senator based in Cork. I had an amazing experience and was able to work on some amazing projects and research. Most of my time was spent doing research that Senator Lombard could use when addressing topics on the floor of the Seanad. I also started working on material that he could use for his next campaign.

  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

 Weirdly enough, I miss the Pad Thai food that was sold down the street from where I interned. It was a hole-in-the-wall place where you could get great food for a great price. My friends and I would go every Thursday during our lunch break and then hang out at a local park and eat our food. I will also miss one of the local pubs known as Kings Inn that we would visit often for trivia night and live music.

  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

 I think that I have become more independent and grew in confidence while I was abroad,  academically and personally. I also developed skills that I will take with me once I leave college and can take with me into the work place or apply to future studies as well.

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  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

 My advice is to just dive into your host country, explore what makes it unique and try new things. It is so easy to just to stay with other UC students or not participate in new things, but I challenge you to get out and try something different. It is impossible to know what you might enjoy unless you go out and try it. I recommend attending club fairs, talk to people in your classes, try new foods, and take classes on subjects that relate to your host country. It can be intimidating at times but it also can be some of the most rewarding experiences you can have. My favorite memories of Ireland came from when I was just exploring the local community that I was living in and other parts of the country as well. Ask locals for their recommendations and then go do it!



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