Academics and Internship
I applied to the Irish Parliament Internship, where I would be working for a member of Parliament 2.5 days a week and studying the rest (with Fridays off!). The first week we were in classes, we had the chance to talk to the program director to influence the member he would assign us to, like if we preferred a particular party, person, or focus. I figured that I was pretty flexible, so I decided not to say any preferences when talking to him. The first two weeks in Ireland were pretty laid back, we had classes a couple days a week, but since we weren’t assigned a member yet, we had the chance to explore the city. Thursday of my second week there, Michael, the program director, started pulling people aside in groups depending on what party you were in. He pulled me aside alone, and I was pretty happy because I thought I was gonna be the one intern in the green party, but he told me that I was chosen to be interning with the Taoiseach—the Prime Minister of Ireland. After that, everything was a whirlwind. I worked in an office next door to him, attended meetings with the American Chamber of Commerce and the Heads of Mission, and traveled to his constituency. It was an unbelievable experience, and I can’t wait to go back and visit!
The Institute of Public Administration is a building on in Ballsbridge, a neighborhood of Dublin. Most people won’t know what you’re talking about if you say that’s where you study because it’s a pretty small program. Every time you go into school, you’ll be sitting with about 25 other students. You take the same classes as everyone else, so you’re with the same people the whole time. Around 10 will be from Arcadia schools, another 10 from UCs, and then 5 or so from random schools. The classes were pretty straightforward, you only get graded on a midterm, final, and an essay. While the classes aren’t too hard, the work can creep up on you, so don’t push the essays off until the last minute! There aren’t any clubs/student orgs associated with the school because it is so small, but I knew a girl that wanted to keep playing water polo while abroad and managed to join a club through Trinity College Dublin. You’ll be in class Monday and Wednesday, with Wednesday as a half day and ending around 3:30 on Monday.
Dublin is a city that’s relatively big, but you can make it feel small. Generally, work and class are around the same area, but I would highly recommend walking between the two locations and expanding to the other side of the river as well. It’s really easy to get around with your LEAP card, which you use to get on all the public transportation, and there is a cap at 7 euros/day and 28 euros/week, so you’re never spending too much. You’ll never feel unsafe in the city, but still make sure to use the buddy system at night.
Throughout my stay in Ireland, I traveled to 13 different countries. It’s so easy and cheap to move around Europe once you’re already there. I will say I regret not traveling to more cities around Ireland, but I managed to make it to Galway and Wicklow, and I saw the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland is incredibly beautiful, it’s worth it if you have the time to take the train a little bit further than home and visit Bray (and eat at platform pizza) or go north and visit Howth. I cannot describe the way the rain fell on the lake when visiting the Wicklow mountains, or the way the sun sets over the beach at Dalkey, but all I can say is take advantage of where you’re staying—it’s worth it.
There are a lot of things that made staying in a homestay the best option for this program. The biggest thing is that everyone in the UC program is also staying in one, so everyone has certain expectations (like texting your host family you won’t be home for dinner) to live up to. It made the whole process a lot more comfortable. I was staying with a host grandma who was a pastry chef—she’d been taking students since 1967, and had so many crazy stories to share. Most of my meals came from her, and it’s important to note that even though you fill out a form with dietary restrictions before you go, they don’t usually make it to the host family, so be prepared to tell them again when you meet them! I didn’t have Maeve (my host grandma’s) contact info before I got there, but she was so personable that meeting her with no context was easy. The host families stay in Dalkey or Glenageary—about 45 min south from the city center by train. Because of the commute, once I got to the city center I stayed there, and if I went home I stayed around those areas.
The food in Ireland was surprisingly delicious. Any place you went out to had a ton of typical Irish options (like shepherd’s pie or pasties) that were absolutely amazing. However, I had to get used to eating a lot of potatoes and carrots, because the food there isn’t super diverse. You can find a Thai place or on a rare occasion a Mexican place, but just be prepared that in Ireland these are not their specialities. Most of my meals were spent in my homestay, so be sure to tell your host family what you like and don’t like—they’re in charge of your meals! (Also, they don’t add salt to anything). I will say that I’m a vegetarian and didn’t find it too hard to find options in the city or in my homestay, but I did keep getting comments from my host grandma saying I was missing out on a lot of nutrition.
Studying abroad was one of the best experiences I’ve had. The people surrounding me pushed me to go outside my comfort zone every day. I think I’ve become a lot more confident with myself knowing that I’ve cliff jumped in Morocco, hiked in the Wicklow mountains, and went 4 months with no Mexican food. I loved my time abroad, and while it was hard missing my boyfriend and family, I think I came out a better person on the other side, and with more wanderlust!