After accepting my position in the Dublin programme I didn't think much of it until Christmas crept around the corner. My programme began in the first week of 2018 and ended in March. I had never been to the northern hemisphere nor had I ever imagined living in Dublin for 8 weeks. At first, the prospect of working as a legal intern was exciting and enticing, I'd have the chance to not only learn from professionals in my field of interest but I will also get a taste of what I will hopefully be doing for the rest of my life after completing my law degree. This excitement was, however, shortlived as my nerves soon got the better of me. I had never travelled farther than the Pacific sunshine and warm beaches were the norm for me so life on the other side of the world in a city and country I knew little about was going to be a new challenge and adventure. After my 30-hour journey from New Zealand, I was warmly welcomed into the city of Dublin. My first steps out of the airport were memorable. I was prepared for the winter and assumed it would be like winter back home. We've had really cold winters with some freezing mornings and nights as cold as -11°C but stepping outside the airport the cold air hit me unexpectedly and taught me a harsh lesson. A wooly jumper will not suffice. Granted it was summer in New Zealand and I had just left behind 30°C weather but this was a different kind of cold, it was icy and it cut right through my skin. My first impression, Ireland is bloody cold.
The people, on the other hand, are friendly and warm but this too brought another challenge, communication. Not only did I have trouble understanding the locals they were also struggling to understand me. Nevertheless, after shouting what they were trying to say and speaking more slowly they always tried their best to help you out. The struggle of attempting to understand the accent and the vernacular made simple tasks unnecessarily difficult but I soon got into the groove of how the locals speak.
To ease us into life as a Dubliner the programme staff ensured we were well prepared sending us an abundance of information well before our arrival and were always available to answer our numerous questions. On my day of arrival, a programme staff met me at my accommodation which I really appreciated. She really made me feel welcomed making me feel less home-sick and anxious. Our first group meeting was that same night at the Porterhouse pub in central Dublin. It wasn't too difficult to find even while jetlagged. The place was lively and was a great choice to break the ice with the other interns and the staff. I didn't stay long as my eyes were threatening to close every few minutes but the ambiance was pleasant and it seemed like a real Irish pub. We have pubs in New Zealand but from those that I've visited, they weren't as lively or popular with the younger patrons. The programme team always kept us informed of what was happening around town and constantly updated us on popular events through the group facebook page where they posted events and places of interest like where to get the best falafel in Dublin. They also had other methods of keeping in contact with us and always made sure we were comfortable and happy.
At beginning of the programme we had orientation where we learned about the working culture in Ireland such as how to interact with colleagues and workplace etiquette. I learned that the workplace culture wasn't universal and learned from other interns what work life was like for them from their part of the world. After orientation, we went on a city tour which I found extremely helpful. It mostly taught me to look for the Spire (the pointy statue in the middle of O'Connell street) when I got lost and that Dublin's city centre wasn't as big as I thought it would be. It was only a 15-minute walk from where I was living or for when I was feeling lazy a 5-minute bus ride. As an aside, I'd recommend having a street map with you or the name of a street you're looking for written down. I struggled many times trying to pronounce place names so having something to point at when asking for directions would ease your struggle.
The programme staff organised many events for us and provided a monthly and weekly schedule of events. I found this helpful as it allowed me to plan out my own trips. Our first major group event was a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. It was relaxing and had some nice scenic views. I had gone out drinking the night before to better acquaint myself with my new flatmates so the early rise of the trip wasn't ideal though seeing the countryside of Ireland and appreciating the natural scenery was refreshing and calming and it also reminded me of home. What captivated me the most was the colour of the grass. It may not seem impressive but it was so green and lush and I knew then why Ireland was known as the Emerald Isle.
The programme staff also kept us busy during the week with smaller events peppered throughout the week ranging from dinners, to pub crawls, to seminars. As one of the older interns I preferred relaxing at home after work but during the weekend I made the most of my free time to explore. There are many historic jewels in the city all within walking distance of each other. You'd be spending most of your day walking so a good pair of shoes is highly recommended. Travel out of the city is just as simple with their Dart and Intercity Rail lines. I took the train one weekend to a small sea town called Howth which was only a 15-minute journey. The programme staff organised a trip there one weekend as the town is known for its Saturday markets. It's a quaint little town and could be easily explored in an hour. The salty air is refreshing and there are plenty of spots for pretty pictures. Or if you'd like to get a feel for the UK vibe without breaking the bank a 2-hour train ride to Belfast is an inexpensive way of seeing a bit of British culture. Travel around the country wasn't too difficult either. I'd recommend bus tours as a good way of seeing other parts of Ireland it's an easy alternative to organising a rental. Working during the week doesn't leave much time for exploring so I always planned a trip for the weekend though I was fortunate enough to have most Fridays off. The programme staff planned events for the weekend but as a bit of a loner and the only intern in her thirties, I preferred a more quiet way of exploring and bus tours was an ideal option for me. I went on a bus tour to Blarney Castle and during the trip, we stopped at Cork and other small towns in between. I found tours were also a nice way of learning about the history of Ireland. Living in Dublin also means cheap fares to other parts of Europe or the UK. For a cheaper alternative to taxis there are a number of buses that travelled to and from the airport though where I was living was only 20 minutes away so the taxi fare wasn't too expensive.
If you're into the nightlife then Dublin has you covered. The Temple Bar district is the liveliest part of the city and is rampant with tourists though if you prefer a more quiet scene there are plenty of other pubs around and probably a better way of getting to know the locals.
My internship was my favourite part of the programme. I learned a lot from my supervising lawyer. Seeing firsthand the amount of time and work that goes into a case was eye-opening. I knew going in that lawyers work a ridiculous amount of hours but witnessing the dedication and drive these professionals have really emphasised why I chose to pursue this career. I was fortunate enough to visit the Four Courts and sit in on a couple of High Court and Supreme Court cases. Like New Zealand Ireland follows the Common Law system so it was interesting to see how things run there.
Overall, my time in Dublin was enjoyable and a once in a lifetime experience. I learned a lot from my internship which has helped me strive for my goals after university. I also made many friends across the globe. I became good friends with my flatmates and even spent a weekend in London with one of them. But I don't think I would have enjoyed myself as much if I didn't have the support of the Intern team. Being a long way away from family was difficult enough but being in different time zones as well meant regular contact was scarce so having people there I knew I could rely on really helped. Lastly, had I not taken the opportunity to complete my programme in Dublin I wouldn't have ever thought to visit such a wonderful place as Ireland. The main lesson I learned is that being pushed out of your comfort zone can do you some good and I definitely achieved that with my time in Dublin.