Alumni Spotlight: Irene Van Ryn

Irene is originally from upstate New York. She is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis studying business and English. She spent the spring semester of her junior year at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

student peace wall belfast ireland

Describe your program socially and academically.

Irene: Socially, I really liked the structure of the IES program. There were 16 students on my program attending Trinity. We all lived in apartments near each other, which made it easy for us to get to know each other. There were also some students doing the General Studies program at the Dublin IES Center who came to IES field trips and events with us.

Academically, the Irish system requires you to be more independently motivated. Other than reading, there’s no homework or assessment until finals. Most classes at Trinity are assessed by a single exam and/or paper. You also spend much less time in class. I took four courses, but I only spent seven hours in class every week. However, they move through material at a much faster pace. For all my English classes, we discussed a different book every week.

What did IES do for you and what did you need to do on your own?

Irene: All the IES staff were very helpful during my entire time in Dublin. They help you get all of the documents you’ll need to enter the country, like the letters certifying that you’re a student. They also work with Trinity to get you registered as a student there. However, it’s your responsibility to sign up for your classes at Trinity and register with immigration once you’re in Ireland.

The IES staff was always supportive whenever we had a problem. When I sprained my wrist, they picked me up in a taxi at my apartment, brought me to the urgent care clinic, and walked me through the insurance process. They also had coffee hours with us every month to get to know us better since we weren’t in the IES center as often as the IES General Studies students.

monastery County Wicklow Ireland

If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?

Irene: I wish I had been more outgoing at Trinity and gotten to know the Irish students better. I really like the friends I made through IES, but I wish I had been more involved in societies (clubs) at Trinity. I also wish I’d made more of an effort to get to know the people in my classes. It can be a little harder in the spring since most new students enter in the fall term, but I think it would have been worth the effort. However, it is very easy to get to know other international students. Most are from America, Australia, and other European countries.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

Irene: My favorite thing about studying abroad was traveling around Ireland and the rest of Europe (there are a lot of cheap flights from Ryanair and Aer Lingus). My friends and I took a weekend trip to London where we were able to sightsee, go to the Tower of London, and see a show on the West End. I also went to a lot of places I had never considered visiting, like Lisbon and Krakow. I highly doubt I’ll ever be in another situation where I can travel as easily or cheaply, and I’m really glad I took advantage of my time in Europe to see some places had I known nothing about.