Colleen Kinninger - 2015 Program Participant

Biking around the Aran Islands, Ireland

Biking around the Aran Islands

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel as far and as wide as possible. I got my first taste of Europe after a post-high school graduation trip with some classmates and teachers. Ever since then, I wanted to return. The country that has always captured my soul has been Ireland. Originally, I wanted to study abroad through my university, but after changing my major late in the game, I realized I wouldn't be able to graduate on time, which has been important to me. After some thinking, I realized I could fulfill my mandatory internship requirement abroad and get the best of both worlds. Immediately, I began looking at Ireland and came across Stint Ireland.

Why did you choose Stint Ireland?

I originally looked through some intern abroad programs that my university works with. They all seem pretty constricted and they would choose my internship for me. I then went to the internet and found some other organizations that help college students find internships. The one that stood out to me was Stint Ireland. I loved what they promised in helping my find an internship tailored to my needs, as well as the fact that they provided housing, excursions, and support throughout, as their office was located a short distance from the housing arrangements.

Near Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

What was your favorite part about Dublin?

Overall, I fell in love with Dublin. As I mentioned, traveling to Dublin and Ireland has always been the dream. As far as location of where I stayed, it was wonderful. The interns lived in a quiet neighborhood, right along the Grand Canal, within a 20 minute walk to the City Centre; it was close to Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, with plenty of grocery stores, churches, and entertainment options right around the corner. The public transport options were also incredible and allowed me to travel throughout the entire county of Dublin very cheaply.

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

Stint Ireland really ensures that you have a great experience, not only with your internship, but also with your time abroad. From the very beginning, they are so supportive and truly try to understand what you are looking for, always being available to answer any questions. I had a great pre-program experience, and after arrival, I knew I made the right choice.

During my time in Dublin, they provided programs for the interns to do things, whether dinner trips, going to a pub to hear live music, or even longer trips to Kilkenny and Prague. I also had support sessions along the way, to make sure that I was enjoying the experience. They truly felt like a family, always available for support and providing that sense of home away from home. I didn't feel like just another participant, but an actual person that they truly got to know, as I got to know them.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

As I mentioned, we had support sessions, once a month. We would meet in the office, with a cup of tea in hand, and chat about life. They would make sure that the internship was going great, ask questions about what adventures I had been getting into, and see if there were any problems with the housing situation or roommates. They always asked what they could do better and to provide a better experience. The support sessions didn't feel like a business meeting but more of a catch up with a friend. They also provided plenty of events, including a huge Fourth of July party, as there were so many Americans interning in the summer.

The Hapenny Bridge on the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland

Enjoying the Ha'penny Bridge along the River Liffey

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I built up Ireland so much before I got there. I had this ideal version of what my experience would be and when it didn't fit my plan to a T, I was frustrated. I spent way too much time looking for perfection. Eventually, I came to live in the moment, taking each day for what it was, but I wish I would have done that from the beginning!

Describe a day in the life of your program.

I worked at an organization called Common Purpose. The goal of the nonprofit was to provide leadership training for emerging and senior leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. As an intern, my tasks varied each day. I worked with a small team and was more of a team member than an intern. Some days I would be doing research for potential new businesses, other days I would work at a program we were providing, acting as a coordinator to make sure the event ran smoothly. Some days I entered information about participants into the system and organized materials for the programs, other days I travelled to Cork to either help with their programs or to attend an all-Ireland team meeting.

After working, most days were 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., I would return home, make dinner, and talk to my roommates. Sometimes I’d venture out to experience Dublin nightlife, whether by going to a pub, listening to live music, or sneaking in a treat from a local bakery or gelato shop.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

I had all weekends off, as well as nine days of holiday from my internship. I had plenty of time to travel across Ireland, as well as I took a six day trip to England by myself.

Getting to travel so much really brought peace to my soul, as I got to experience so much more of the world.

My favorite trip was a three day trip to the West coast of Ireland over a bank holiday weekend, allowing me and my two roommates that came with me to see Galway, walk along the Cliffs of Moher, bike around the Aran Islands, and get rained on in the Connemara region. Having the time to travel was absolutely wonderful.

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

I stayed in a townhouse in the neighborhood of Portobello, which was just south of the River Liffey. The house was pretty big, allowing lots of people to live there, all coming and going at different times. I loved the location the most, as it was so close to so many wonderful attractions that Dublin has to offer.

Port in Liverpool, England

Loving Liverpool, before I ventured to London

Now that you're home, how has interning abroad impacted your life? 

Interning abroad has given me a new appreciation of the world. After returning home, I did feel a little lost at first as my hometown didn't feel quite like home, as it did before. I also learned so much more about myself, realizing how much I can do when I put my mind to things and giving me an incredible confidence boost.

After being bitten by the travel bug, I am now looking at opportunities to travel more, as well as seizing the day as much as possible. I have a much greater sense of adventure and I long to meet new people and see new places as often as possible.