Give us an intro!
I'm a chemical engineer from Minnesota. I love being outside and doing things but also hitting the books.
What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
You don't have to spend time with the people you first meet. Before I went abroad I heard lots of stories about how somebody's roommate became their travel buddy and BFF. As common as this story seemed from people I talked to, I wish somebody had told me it didn't have to be that way.
I didn't feel that I had very much in common with my flatmates or the other people on the IES program and was very discouraged at first. Though I did become close with several people on the program, I met my best travel buddies and friends at events I went to on my own. You may have to put in some effort to find a niche, but as long as you put in the effort you should be fine.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
If you're thinking about it, do it! Before I went abroad I would back out of a lot of things because I didn't think I had the time or the skill. I have always wanted to learn how to fence, to spend the day hiking, and to see the places I've read about in books.
In the states I didn't join any of the clubs that would have let me do this but once I got to Ireland I realized that doing these things would be a great way to meet Irish students with similar interests. Sometimes my studying might not have been as intense as it could have been, but there was definitely time and opportunity to do all the exciting stuff that came my way.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
My friend and I went on a nice walking trail from Bray to Greystones and is lovely for a relaxing day out. We enjoyed the drastic drop of the cliff we were walking along, the bright blue ocean and the tantalizing glimpses of the abandoned railway below. Towards the end of the walk, though, the path turned inland and went along farms and semi-developed land before ending.
We were disappointed when we saw this, especially because we could see that the cliffs continued (although considerably more dirty than rocky) and went down to a rocky, crescent shaped beach. Instead of continuing along the path, we decided to try to make our way down to the beach. Slipping, sliding, and squelching along a ravine, we made it to the bottom with all our footwear reattached to our feet-the mud had sucked our shoes right off our feet on the way down.
The beach was lovely and we were quite impressed with our climbing skills. I did get some funny looks at fencing practice that night when I showed up with my shoes still sopping wet from the washing I had to give them.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Everything in Dublin is much more accessible than at home. On my last day in Dublin I walked the width of the city, from Phoenix park to the Poolbeg Peninsula. I spent my morning in the park wandering around memorials, gardens, fields, and forests.
In the afternoon I walked along hundreds of meters of exposed sand before walking to the end of one of the longest seawalls in the world. I wrapped up my day with a nice pub meal and a guided musical pub crawl. At home it would not be feasible or safe to walk the entire width of a large city, nor would it be possible to see so much variety.
The culture and history of Ireland is incredibly tangible in it's capital city, from the remnants of the Viking wall to the bullet holes from the 1916 Rising, and the culture is sparkling all around you. Everyday I could go out my door and walk to an entirely new experience.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Make an effort to go to the IES center. Even though it may seem out of your way, the people there are wonderful and the center is a great place to hang out or study. There's also an Aldi and a LIDL just a five minute walk away from the centre, so you can buy cheap groceries, pickup your mail, print stuff for free, and have a nice chat with the IES staff all in one trip. The staff love hearing about what you've been up to and if you have any questions or concerns they'll all jump to help you.
The IES center is also great if you need a quiet place to study. There is lots of comfortable seating and much fewer people walking around than in the Trinity libraries. The center also has reliable Wi-Fi and whiteboards (a rarity in historic trinity) to help with studying.