I spent the last semester in Dublin through the IES General Irish Studies Program. I found Dublin to be a wonderful city, but the staff at the IES center fostered the transition from tourist to student. They were extremely supportive and generous with their time. Whether they were discussing in greater detail a topic brought up in class, or giving advice on the events and festivals happening that weekend, they were excited to help me gain a better understanding of my host country through my experiences. They created an incredible support system that encouraged us to visit and take advantage of the many places and experiences Dublin, Ireland, and Europe had to offer.
The classes I took focused on Irish literature, history, culture, language, and politics. They gave me the background to have meaningful conversations with people living in Dublin and around Ireland about topics that were important to them. What further helped me gain a better sense of Irish life was my Service Learning placement. I volunteered one a week at the amazing Solas Project, working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I worked with permanent volunteers and other students to help children with homework, and engage in activities with them such as Gaelic football! In addition to my time at Solas there was a seminar where I was able to talk about the experience I was having with other students in the Service Learning course, and we reviewed topics and issues that affected the children I was working with.
At the end of the semester I did not want to leave. I am trhilled to have the new friends in Dublin and in the Sates to share this with, and we are all so excited to continue to travel and (of course!) go back to visit Dublin and the center!!