Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Sullivan


Lisa is an English major on the Creative Track at the University of Iowa. She hails from a small town in northern Illinois that is not Chicago, and her go to dance move is standing on the sidelines and watching other people dance.

Why did you pick this program?

The IES Abroad Writer's Program was the one program that had everything I was looking for. I was set to graduate a semester early, but instead I decided to take that time to study abroad, and I knew if I was going to be spending an extra semester on tuition, I had to make sure I was at least getting some experience that I could apply to my future job. Therefore, I really wanted a program with an internship option. Most programs I looked at either didn't offer internships in the fall, the internships weren't guaranteed, or the internships they offered didn't interest me. IES was the only program that both promised me an internship (and an amazing one at that!) and had an internship related to what I wanted to do after college. It was also one of the only programs offering a specific writing program (not to mention Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature), so it was perfect!

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I tell them they have to do it. Before I studied abroad, I was not sure about whether or not I actually wanted to do so, but now that I'm back and I've had the experience, I can't imagine how my life would be if I had never taken the opportunity to go abroad. I've changed so much, learned so much, and experienced so much that I find it funny I once questioned whether or not to take this opportunity. Don't let anything else stand in your way. Do it!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Leave time to explore the city. Dublin is a beautiful and relatively small city with so many places to visit and explore. Go on walks, take the bus to somewhere new, take the DART to a seaside village, and just see the city. It'll be hard for Dublin not to become your home. Many people when they study abroad take the time to travel to other countries (which is one of the coolest things about studying abroad!) but it's also important to get to know your host city as well! You'll be surprised how much you'll learn just by getting to know the place.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

My friends and I once rented an AirBnB in The Burren in County Clare. Anybody who knows Ireland knows how easy it is to be in the middle of nowhere, and being in The Burren, we definitely were in the middle of nowhere. To get cell service, we had to walk up the hill in the backyard of our AirBnB, and the closest grocery store was in the next town over, about an hour away by foot. When we arrived at our AirBnB, our host drove us to the grocery store to get food and wine for the night. We had only gotten two bottles of wine to share between five of us for dinner, and seeing as it was nighttime in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do, we went through the wine quickly. We considered renting a taxi to get to the nearest grocery store, we looked up a delivery service for more wine, but it was too late to get anything, so we had to give up. For the rest of our time in Ireland, and still now, my friends and I still joke that our biggest regret was not having enough wine in County Clare! We got to see the Cliffs of Moher the next day, though, so everything turned out okay in the end!

What are your recommendations for must-see sights in Dublin/Ireland?

In terms of historical/cultural/touristy places to go in Dublin, my favorite thing I saw was Kilmainham Gaol. If you know anything about Irish history and the Easter Uprising (and even if you don't) touring the jail is really fascinating and significant. My other favorite historical place in Dublin was Glasnevin Cemetery - it's difficult to comprehend the size of it until you actually walk around in it. Over 1.5 million people are buried there, many of whom are significant to Irish history.

My favorite outdoor space in Dublin is either Phoenix Park (where the zoo is located, the president of Ireland, and many other important things) or Dalkey, which is a seaside town outside of the city. Both are beautiful and offer amazing sights.

In Ireland, my two favorite trips out of the city were to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and the Ring of Kerry in the south of Ireland. I was fortunate enough to have beautiful weather when I visited both locations, and the sights there are absolutely astounding. If you get the chance, the city of Cobh is cool as well, though I didn't get to spend much time there.