Alumni Spotlight: Dana Thornquist

Dana studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland for a semester her junior year. She is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but attends college at Indiana University in Bloomington. Dana is a senior graduating in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. She hopes to find work with human resources or as a child life specialist in a hospital setting.

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

two girls biking phoenix park ireland

Dana: I loved every single aspect of my study abroad experience in Dublin. One of the first things that made this unique was the fact that I was in a school with only 25 people. All of my classmates were from different colleges in the US, and we all attended classes together in the IES abroad building. I loved having a small program because I truly feel like there is no other way to become close with your peers.

The staff members at IES were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They were genuine, helpful, and truly cared about making this the best semester of our lives. All of my classes were centered around Irish culture, history, and language. It was very special to learn all about the new country that I called home - all the while I was exploring it on my own! In Dublin I loved walking around St Stephens Park and enjoying the ponds and flowers, bike riding through Phoenix park, stopping in all the pubs and restaurants, shopping at markets, and visiting every museum and library I could find. Ireland is an amazing country with so much natural beauty and opportunities for any person ready for new adventures.

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

Dana: One of my favorite experiences was a field trip the IES staff scheduled to Causey Farm. We got to live like Irish folk for the day and experience all sorts of amazing things. First we baked our very own Irish soda bread, and then got to eat and taste the bread with Irish stew. Then we learned a traditional Irish jig and played the drums along with the dance.

three students learning the sport of hurling

We got to play and hold little puppies, lambs, and farm animals, which was definitely a crowd favorite. We also got to go on a tractor ride that ended with a walk through a bog. Last but not least, we got to learn how to play the Gaelic sport of Hurling! This experience was one I will never forget.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Dana: I was fortunate enough to be able to travel a ton of places around Ireland. My favorite place was the Dingle Peninsula, which is located in the beautiful County Kerry. Ireland is filled with all sorts of natural beauty, and one of my favorite activities was to sit on the edge of cliffs.

I know it sounds weird, but some of my most memorable moments of Ireland took place sitting on a random cliff with my new friends. This particular view was breathtaking on a chilly sunny day in April, and I will never forget the way I felt exploring the cliffs and staring out at the bright blue water.

three students sitting on a cliff dingle peninsula ireland

Describe a goal you set and how you went about accomplishing it.

Dana: A goal that I set before I went abroad was to find a way to really fit in with the locals, whether it was an internship, volunteer experience, or joining a club. I ended up volunteering twice a week at a place called Fighting Words. It was a creative writing center for elementary aged children. I was able to lead writing workshops as well as work individually with children by helping them create their very own children’s book!

This experience not only allowed me to work with children, which has always been a passion of mine, but it also pushed my comfort zone. I was one of the only American volunteers, and was able to create relationships with the staff and other volunteers my age. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community, gain experience in a new setting, and meet amazing new people.