Blog post and photos provided by Kelsey Reynolds, Business & Technology ’12
There is no better way to describe the Irish people than with this saying, which means “100,000 welcomes”. From our first time stepping onto the AirCoach (or Blue Bus as the locals call it) to our last walk through the airport security, the experience was something that I would never trade or forget.
From day one we were constantly busy, immersing ourselves into the daily lives of the Irish and experiencing as much as we could. UCD orientation was great, city centre walking tours and shopping trips allowed us to meet other students and become more comfortable in our surroundings before classes started. Classes are much different than here at Stevens, mostly the sizes! Here we are used to classes of 30-45 students (except those few lectures freshman year), but in Ireland there could be up to 200 students in your class! There is much more lecturing and theoretical application than we are used to, but with our analytical minds it was easy to apply the lessons to my own life and even classes we are currently taking.
The Quinn School (their business school) did a great job organizing events and trips for the study abroad students in the program. We had trips to the Guinness Factory, Glendalough and Belfast as well as a dinner to the Arlington Hotel for traditional food and entertainment and a farewell dinner (again with traditional food and entertainment). Along with our Irish History class we had even more opportunities to go on trips as well. We visited a museum in town, Christ Church and Dublina to tie together our in-class learning with the history available within the city. One of my favorite trips was to Kilmainham Gaol, which is Ireland’s most famous prison. During the rebellion years (which were less than 100 years ago), the leaders of the IRB and other famous rebels were held in this prison. Seeing the cells and getting to walk around the grounds was really interesting. Fun fact, U2 filmed a music video there and many films have been filmed there as well.
Dublin is the largest city in the Republic of Ireland by far, although the smaller towns such as Galway and Cork are just as fun and exciting. One of my favorite things to do in Dublin was to sit in St. Stephens Green with coffee and a bagel (or on warmer days an ice cream). There are so many great places to lounge out but the area near the playground was my favorite, watching the little kids playing and having the group of people next to you playing music and singing is something that was calming and quickly became my favorite part of any week. Through friends we made, we also discovered a fair on Thursdays and Fridays along the river that served amazing food (if you can’t already tell, I loved the food there). We would go every week for the paella, steak sandwiches and amazing desserts.
Europe has a large sporting world that revolves around football (soccer to us), hurling and rugby. There were many important events while we were there including the 6 Nations Rugby tournament between Ireland, England, Scotland, etc. Watching the match with the locals was one of the greatest times I had during the four month span, this is where I got the greatest sense of nationalism, everyone was supportive of the nation (especially since I saw the Ireland/England match!). The local rugby team is Leinster, they practice once a week at UCD and their home field was a short bus ride from campus, so it was common to run into a player. A few of us went to a match in February, and then we became hooked on the game. These games were always fun and we always had a fantastic time. This is something that I have kept up with upon my return to the states, just a little reminder of the fun I had while studying abroad.
One thing that we all definitely took advantage of was the ability to travel. With our class schedule we were able to take a fair amount of trips to other parts of Ireland and continental Europe. Having the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures is one of the draws of the Study Abroad program; I got such an appreciation for others and have great memories from all over the world.
Going abroad was one of the best experiences I could have ever asked for. Not only did I learn in the classroom but by meeting new people and doing things I never thought imaginable, I found that I have a new appreciation for things and have a greater understanding of the world.
Slán go foil! (Goodbye for now)