Maddie Prause - 2015 Program Participant

Visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

I'll always want more time at the Cliffs of Moher

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided that in order to prepare myself for a successful future ahead, I should search for an internship that would better my skills and knowledge. In addition to these valuable skills, what better way to enhance an internship than an internship in a foreign country. I dove into a "new" world, as it sometimes seemed in Ireland; it taught me so much more than the same internship in my motherland would have.

Why did you choose Connect-123?

Connect-123 had wonderful reviews and they honestly could not have matched me at a better internship than they did. The leaders did a fantastic job placing me in Dublin at a underprivileged children's summer program on short notice. There were many socials to participate in with the other interns in the program, from karaoke night to kayaking in the Liffey. I couldn't have imagined a better program such as this one. The memories made were unbelievable and once in a lifetime, thanks to Connect-123.

What was your favorite part about Dublin?

There are far too many things I loved about Dublin to pinpoint one exact thing. Simply put: the camaraderie was exceptional. First off, the summer weather varied from warm sunny days to cozy rainy days. Something I loved about Dublin was seeing the city in all types of climates. It was quite different than my hometown in Texas, where it is hot nearly everyday. I find myself longing for Ireland's varying weather. The magnitude of museums both new and old, from the Tiny Museum of Dublin to the National Library, promoted a sense of patriotism to the city's past and present. Its remarkable campuses, institution, and galleries serve as a distinct symbol to Irish culture, which all the kinfolk I've came across sincerely embrace.

Yet, the most spectacular part of Dublin, I must say, is the people I met. As I traversed the cobblestoned streets to the smooth sidewalks at UCD campus, the entire community welcomed me usually with a big hug or a mug of Guinness. The most kind and jolly people, I must admit, are the Irish. I've visited a fair share of cities, but none I will say compare to what Dublin has to offer.

A mural made by students in Dublin, Ireland

Upon completion of one of our murals the kids and I created

What made your program one-of-a-kind?

Connect-123 offered what seemed like an endless list of internships. I met friends, fellow interns, that worked at the children's hospital to accountants at banks, and so many more with unique workplaces and experiences. Connect-123 embraces your internship abroad and promotes engaging in relationships with the other interns in the program through various activities and socials. It's an amazing program to be a part of and you certainly will leave with reality being way above your highest expectations. I loved every minute I was there and I wouldn't trade my experience for the world.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The Connect-123 staff held orientation for us upon arrival with smiling faces anticipating our arrival. They coordinated socials for all the interns, varying from across campus to across the country. If I ever needed to contact someone for help, my advisors would be my first call. They steadfastly ensured us they were there to help in any way. Sincerely the staff worked diligently to ensure the best experience for each individual. Their expertise was exceptional, about the city and its internships, events, and housing; I cannot write how much I appreciate them.

What's one thing you wish you could change about your program? 

One thing I wish I could go back and change is my length of stay. Time seemed to move so fast; as the old saying goes, “time flies when you're having fun”.

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

Rising shortly after 6 a.m., I quickly gobbled up breakfast and hustled to the bus stop on campus to city centre, which brought me to Ballymun. I hopped off and walked a short way to the "club," as the kid's called the Aisling Project. A few other interns and I then prepared for the day ahead, which could vary from exploring the Aviva Stadium on a guided tour to an arts and crafts day tye-dying and learning guitar. We would prepare meals in the kitchen with the kids and clean up after ourselves, a big responsibility the kids would learn.

Each day promised to be new and exciting, and I'm not quite sure who was happier to be there, me or the kids.

Everyday I got to develop new relationships with the youth, learning about their schools and other football teams, or my boss, whom I admire and have learned a great deal about character from. When the day was done and the last lassie left, I returned to the city and explored museums, parks, restaurants, or book stores, until it came time to travel home back to Hyde Square, in which I lived in Building 19. Most nights the other interns would stop by and we would chat about our day while enjoying dessert or coffee (who am I joking, usually both).

Community feeding fundraiser in Ireland

A few girls serving the community to raise money for their fundraiser

What was your favorite thing to do on your free time? 

Some of my favorite days were days I got to explore the city wandering around Phoenix Park, attending a musical crawl pub and watching river dancing and live music, or simply getting on the wrong bus for entirely too long and getting a wee bit lost. It was a whole new world to see and visit and work and learn.

Each moment was grand, and all the little moments, something to treasure.

Running into a stranger and learning about life in Howth for the past 70 years, having a glass of tea with my co-workers from Italy and England, and so many more occasions made this experience and plane ride worthwhile.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

Among the University College Dublin's castle were many lakes filled with ducks, many tall and architecturally refined buildings, loads of beautifully made statues, and nestled on the edge, the dormitories. Coming from a huge campus, Texas A&M, I felt at home with such a large campus filled with gravel paths that winded through the thick forests and led past the bus stops and occasional game occurring on the pitch. It was so convenient for the bus stops to be just a short walk away as well as having the Centra always handy for snacks and other necessities. The campus and its employees were so lovely to collaborate with. They welcomed me just like the fellow Aggies did back home in College Station, Texas.

Coastline in Howth village, Dublin, Ireland

My sister and I blissfully soaking up the sun in Howth

How has your time abroad impacted your life at home?

Not a day goes by I don't think about my summer in Dublin. I am a better person with a mind open to different cultures, especially those from Ireland. I worked in the Ballymun area in Dublin, a location well known for its troubled past. Although lots of money has been poured into this stretch of the city, many people still live with the struggle of early childhood dropout in school and a lack of adults with jobs. My eyes and heart became aware of the unfortunate predicament many people found themselves in. I sought to join the Aisling Project's effort to provide a safe haven and enriching after school/summer program for the youth. It's true that this old building was revived with its old peeling paint and glossed over with a new bright pink just like their futures would soon be.